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Finding Trusted Advisors in the Ag Industry

Dr. David Kohl
Educational Opportunities: 
Grain, Dairy, Swine, Beef, Timber, Young, Beginning Farmers, Women in Ag
Home > Education & Events > January 2019 > Finding Trusted Advisors in the Ag Industry

Hi, I'm Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus and Academic Hall of Famer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The year ahead is setting up as another year of razor-thin margins with extreme volatility. One of the things it's going to do, is test the business IQ of our agricultural producers, and in many cases, our trusted advisors who provide products and services. Risk management will be extremely important, and the delivery of risk management services will be important to keep the business on a focused and a straight line. Recently, I was asked by an agricultural producer: "What are the characteristics of a trusted advisor as it pertains to crop insurance or any other of the related services that are often provided?"

Number one: Do they have a good understanding of the product? Today, there's a lot of complicated nuances, whether it's with crop insurance or other related services, and having that good product knowledge that can keep you out of many traps. Second: Are they capable and do they know your business? Are they able to customize those products and services for your specific situation? In other words: Is it cookie-cutter, or can they be more flexible? I think another element that's very, very important is: Do the trusted advisors understand you and your partners tolerance for risk? And again, sometimes that requires an understanding of the business, in addition your personal needs. One of the things that is important is a good trusted advisor has two ears and one mouth. In other words, they listen twice as much as they speak.

We often find that we will get these cookie-cutter approaches, but being able to bring it down to fit your situation is critical. And then finally, when providing insurances or related services is: Will they sit down side by side and monitor along with you as game conditions change? And as agricultural producers say, "His crop insurance agent saved him $30,000 by getting him on schedule and following up to ensure that he was following all of the dates, deadlines, and documentation." Reactive or pro-active, that's your choice. But selecting a team of advisors is extremely critical in navigating these business white waters that have a surprise around every corner.
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