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January 9, 2019

How to Create a Long-Term Business Plan for Your Farm or Ranch

Discover the steps to writing a business plan designed to help you reach even the loftiest of goals.

Whether you’re launching a farming or ranching business or interested in taking your existing operation to the next level, it’s smart to create a long-term business plan to ensure you’re on the right track – after all, if you do it right, your business plan will be your roadmap to where you want to go.

You can use a template or start from scratch, but before you get started, take a few moments to read some of our tips for creating a strong, solid business plan that’s likely to yield the results you’re looking for.

Creating and Executing a Business Plan

An ideal business plan is realistic, simple, specific and complete – and it begins with a clear mission statement that reflects the overarching purpose for your business. As you’re writing your mission statement for your farm or ranch, consider the following questions: Why does your operation exist? What purpose does it serve? What does the future of your farm look like?

Next, identify your goals utilizing the SMART method to ensure they are specific, measurable, attainable, rewarding, and on a timeline. It’s best practice to create short-term goals, which can be completed within a year, as well as long-term goals that will take more than a year to achieve.

Your business plan should also include an inventory section with information such as your operation’s history; where you’re located; how many acres you operate presently; how you’re currently operating; and your general practices for such things as conservation, tillage, environmental impact, and marketing.

Once you’ve examined the past and present, it’s time to look forward and formulate your strategy that will take your farm or ranch into at least the next five years. To do this, you’ll want to investigate and analyze industry trends, identify competitors and define buyers, as well as complete a SWOT analysis – that outlines your operation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Conducting these types of analysis will allow you to create alternative strategies based on the information you’ve acquired, positioning your operation for future success.

From there, you’ll write the following:

  • An implantation plan: the steps required to make your strategy a reality;
  • A marketing strategy: detailing how you plan to market and advertise your operation for business development purposes; and
  • A management summary: describe your operation’s business structure and include everyone who is involved in the management of the business.
  • Finally, complete a financial analysis that lists your current finances in detail, including all income and operating expenses, and refer to your new plans and strategies to forecast what is required for future growth. Be sure to also include what you anticipate your future operating expenses to be for budgeting purposes.

Read More: Key Farm and Ranch Metrics to Measure and Analyze

Common Mistakes When Developing a Business Plan

Although creating a business plan for your farm or ranch may seem simple and straightforward, there are common mistakes you’ll want to keep in mind (and avoid).

For example, most mentors and investors are more likely to take you seriously – and give you the help you’re seeking – if it’s clear you’ve done your research and have strong data and evidence to support your plans. Be sure to examine your target demographics, how well your competitors have performed, and projected growth rates in your industry, focusing on hard facts that cannot be refuted.

In addition, avoid creating your business plan in a “closed system” – rather than keeping your plan solely to yourself before presenting it to a potential investor, share it with trusted colleagues, family, or friends and take in their opinions and feedback. Chances are you’ve failed to address something that didn’t occur to you but will be important to someone else.

Lastly, take the time to make your business plan as engaging and interesting as possible. Let your personality and passion shine through, and when appropriate, write colloquially and informally to form a more direct connection with your audience. This is another great reason to share your plan with others – if they’re bored or disinterested, it’s likely your potential investor(s) will be, too.

Having a business plan in place will help shape and guide the future of your operation, allowing you to pivot and adapt to changes in the marketplace, while still remaining focused on your outlined goals.

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