DIY Attitude & Desire To Learn Saves Thousands of Dollars

22 June 2020

'Every Minute & Every Cent’ Spent on Diploma Well Worth It

Setting up your own business is a complex and daunting process for most farmers but Taranaki couple Briar and Marcus Yarrall found an inside edge that saved them thousands of dollars in professional fees.

The couple are now in their sixth season contract milking 820 cows on a 252ha farm in Eltham, 10km south of Stratford, and recently formed an equity partnership on a nearby property with 200 cows.

Luckily, the new business arrangement coincided with a major assignment Briar was completing for her Diploma in Agribusiness Management through Primary ITO.

“For every budget I was producing for this report, I was doing a budget for our new farm,” she explains. “We were buying cows and interviewing contract milkers… It was so good that I was learning about financial and resource management because it all tied back into everything we were looking at.

“I knew how to work out operating profit, what kind of things to look for in my resource consent and how to look at the bigger picture for infrastructure which made it all so much easier.”

Briar says she found herself in a ‘sink or swim’ situation dealing with lawyers and accountants but could use what she had learnt in the Diploma to hold her own.

“To me, every minute and every cent that I spent doing that Diploma has paid for itself in the six months that it took to set up our business.

“While it felt manic at the time to be studying and leasing this new farm, it was so good because I could just refer to my Diploma notes and think ‘that’s right, I need to remember to add this’ or ‘actually that aspect’s not relevant’. It was so helpful for us in getting set up and understanding the process.”

Briar was able to work alongside the accountant to decide how the new business should be structured and question some of the assumptions that were made. Without her newly acquired financial management skills, the couple would have been entirely reliant on accepting their accountant and lawyer’s advice.

“Professional services would have cost us thousands of dollars more, especially with the accountancy side of things. Setting up budgets and term loans and understanding debt structure and things.

“Then you also have to assume the professionals you’re dealing with have got your back and they know what they’re doing.

“I personally like being able to understand what my business is doing. I don’t want to just trust I can hand over my shoebox of receipts at the end of the year and think ‘she’ll be right’. I like to know where we’re at and what’s happening.”

In addition to her new business making “a lot more sense” from a financial perspective, Briar’s Diploma study has given her a good grounding in human resources, resource management and sustainability.

“I found the resource management module quite fascinating because you examine your farm’s infrastructure. We were in the process of updating the effluent system on the big farm and it meant I could talk to my husband and the farm owners and have some input into what the design was going to be, how we were going to do it, and making sure we had an understanding of what needed to be done.”

Over 18 months, Briar attended fortnightly classes in Stratford with breaks over the calving and mating season. Being surrounded by fellow contract milkers and farm managers threw up lots of new ideas and changes that could be made on-farm, she says.

“I find talking to people in the industry and getting different ideas on what works and what hasn’t worked, really informative. You can take what you needed away and discard the rest. I found that really valuable.”

Now she has her Diploma safely tucked away, Briar has already set her sights on her next Primary ITO course and has begun studying towards her Level 5 certificate in Production Management to broaden her knowledge.

“I put a lot of stock in education. I think it’s really important and thanks to the Diploma, our business now runs very smoothly.”