AUSVEG Business Health Check

The Business Health Check Project was set up under VegNET SA, a South Australian research and development extension and business capacity building program, funded by Hort Innovation from the National Vegetable Levy.

AusVeg SA CEO, Jordan Brook-Barnett manages the program which also includes a Vietnamese Extension Officer as part of the VegNET SA team. The role of the program is to provide growers with research and development support to address on-farm issues and deliver a series of workshops and learning events for growers.

RBS’s Business Financial Counsellor, Trevor Linke was fortunate to be the project facilitator working with ten South Australian vegetable growing businesses that elected to be part of a pilot Business Health Check Project.

Initially, growers were given a Business Health Check survey which covered business operations, finances, market outlook and self-development activities. This encouraged them to self-review their operations with a series of questions, looking at their business strengths as well as areas where they felt they needed to improve.

Trevor then visited the growers individually on-farm to assess their Business Health Check responses and to review those issues that the growers considered important.

“Meeting the growers and seeing the farms provided an invaluable insight into common issues faced by the horticultural industry and how the individuals and businesses were operating,” Business Financial Counsellor, Trevor Linke said.

He found that a significant benefit of this initiative was that growers took the time to reflect on how they were managing things and what gaps existed between what they are doing now and what they considered important going forward.

VegNET SA’s goal was to help the organisation develop a broad, current assessment of grower skills and capabilities in the industry while providing an opportunity for the individual growers involved to identify areas of improvement for their own businesses, and encouraging them to access the support available to address their specific business issues.

Key findings

The main issue identified across the assessments was that most owners see themselves as ‘growers’, and that is where their skills set and their passion lay. They see ‘managing the business’ as an important, but secondary task.

In addition, some of the bigger businesses had expanded, however, the growth often surpassed the grower’s management expertise resulting in new challenges for their manager and therefore control over key functions within their business.

Related to this was that most growers found it difficult to delegate these key functions to others. In many of the businesses, the grower had been in control of all aspects of the business and found it difficult to let go.

Most, if not all, were missing reporting procedures that accurately represented the businesses’ financial position. In addition, it became evident that a lack of financial planning and risk planning needed to be addressed across many of the individual businesses.