FARMERS DON'T DESERVE STEREOTYPICAL LABELS FROM THEIR ADVISORS

Originally published on January 10, 2002

 

At the end of December, a colleague and I met with three bank lending teams. We were asked to talk about our accountant-client relationship and to explain the various accounting reports that are attached to the front of our clients' financial statements.

In short, bankers look to us in the accounting profession to ensure that the financial information that crosses their desks is reliable and objective. To do this, accountants use procedures to compile, review or audit specific financial information.

While a portion of our presentation focused on the theoretical aspects of accounting communications, the real fun started when we began discussing client-banker and client-accountant relationships.

It turns out we have a lot in common.

Bankers and accountants are focused on clients and both seek relationships with clients who ultimately want to succeed. It is our greatest job reward.

Every banker we talked to reiterated our position that the best thing about our jobs was being involved in our clients' successes.

How do you find that winning client? We agreed there was no quick and easy test. We all recounted real life stories about the client we thought wouldn't make it but did. 

From an agricultural perspective, several old farmer generalizations resurfaced:

You'll never get farmers interested in numbers.

You'll never get farmers to accurately measure or manage their farm inventory.

Farmers will always be producers and never businesspeople.

You'll never get farmers to balance their bank accounts, let alone budget.

You'll never convince farmers about the benefits of accrual filing.

You'll never get farmers interested enough to pay for advisory services.

Farmers will always run their farm businesses out of their back pockets.

 

It's obviously not fair to say that all bankers and accountants think like that, but they are out there. To counter these stereotypes, we provided stories of an alternate reality:

There are farmers who push their pencils as hard as they push themselves.

There are farmers who reconcile their ending inventory with beginning inventory, production and year-to-date sales.

There are farmers who manage their operations like a business and evaluate their progress with directors and family members at least once a year.

There are farmers who not only balance their bankbooks, but who also evaluate on a monthly basis their budget-to-actual results.

There are farmers who accrual file simply because it gives them better information from which to manage.

There are farmers who pay for advisory services and who in the process quickly distinguish the "chaff-service" from the "wheat-service."

There are farmers who know their debt service ratio and numerous other ratios in order to obtain a "feel for risk."

There are farmers who, if they were not farming, could manage any shop in town.

It became obvious during our banking presentations that not all farmers fall into the stereotype. It also became obvious that successful farmers did not become good managers overnight.

Successful farmers have several people in their management team contributing to their success.

If you feel you are being stereotyped unjustly, don't let your accountant or banker sell you short. Expect more.

Sometimes all it takes is a little guidance and a pat on the back for a job well done.

Use visualization to get to where you want to go and expect more from your advisers. J.C. Penney said it best: "It is the service we are not obliged to give that people value the most."

 

Allyn Tastad, certified general accountant, is a partner in the accounting firm of Hounjet Tastad Harpham in Saskatoon at 306-653-5100, e-mail at allyn@hth-accountants.ca or website www.hth-accountants.ca. He is also involved in the family farm near Loreburn, Saskatchewan.  The opinions expressed in this column are for information only.