See if this sounds familiar: You’re at the sidelines before the game starts and the usual greetings are exchanged. The person in the seat next to you asks you where you work and what you do. You’re stumped for a moment. Sure, you’re a farmer, but you didn’t spray the corn or milk the cows today. Today, you read up on the latest program from USDA, checked the farm’s online banking, received job applications for seasonal truck drivers, sent documentation to your milk processor, registered the semi with the DOT … the list goes on.

If you’re the person who leads your farm office, do you ever wish you had a clearer description for the “little bit of everything” you do every day?

How much do your fellow owners, or your boss, know about what you do on a day-to-day basis?

If you started a new business line for your farm and decided to pay someone to fill your shoes, how would you go about setting their wage?

Many people working on farms have a title that clearly says what they do: milker, herdsperson, cropping specialist, mechanic, equipment operator, etc. Historically, management owners (of people, data and information, or production) as well as future owners, learned by watching, then doing, and by asking trusted advisers and fellow owners. Your neighbors also farmed, so they understood that ownership meant doing administration, records and data management tasks.  

The professional and on-the-job training necessary to keep up grain marketing ledgers, prepaid input price contracts, feed delivery quantities, cash balances, nutrient management plans, employee job descriptions, emergency response plans, wills, and all the continuous learning demands of office tasks are on par with continuous learning demands from production areas of farming. It’s a lot of work!

Today, owners and their families expand their duties all the time. Some of you manage businesses besides your farm’s primary revenue source. You learn new, specialized tasks to do yourself rather than outsource them. You assume more tasks to be more efficient. Naming and quantifying office responsibilities takes on key importance for a smooth-running farm. Naming your responsibilities helps you network and find peers, either on farms or at local businesses.

As you seek to describe the many hats you wear at your farm, review these four titles and associated areas of responsibility.

1. Payroll and Bookkeeping Clerk:

  • Process weekly payroll
  • Maintain and monitor employee time records
  • Reconcile monthly bank statements
  • Maintain information for the payroll system: hourly rate/salary, address, deductions, etc.
  • Enter financial and numerical data to produce financial records

2. Office Administrator:

  • Oversee all administrative operations. (Maintain records, documentation and files, particularly for employees, proprietary contracts and regulatory requirements)
  • Oversee telephone,  IT services and mail distribution
  • Oversee scheduling and travel for executives

3. Treasurer and Controller:

  • Responsible for budgeting, financial planning, investment decisions and other financial matters
  • Complete financial analysis
  • Provide leaders with information on pricing decisions and changes to financial performance
  • Implement accounting and budgeting policies
  • Collaborate with external accountant

4. Manager of Government Compliance:

  • Oversee supporting information and reporting for all government programs, filings and permits
  • Research and implement best practices for government program elections and regulatory compliance, presenting budget information to owners or the treasurer/controller regularly
  • Communicate any new or revised regulations to other managers

These examples should give you ideas for the next time someone asks, “What do you do there?” Use it as an opportunity to share with pride your personal daily contribution to your farm’s successful operation!

People who successfully keep these files organized, up to date, and have the eye for detail on each and every bill sent and invoice owed command the highest level of respect. Remember ... “attention to detail” is often cited by bankers of all kinds – not just ag bankers – when we are asked about key attributes of successful farms and businesses.

Written By Elsa Condon

 VP - Ag Banking Officer, Investors Community Bank

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