Christopher Padfield - Post Formal Education - nurturing and growing talent?
I live on work on a 4th generation family farm on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border. It is a mixed farm consisting of a Beef fattening joint venture and growing combinable crops. We have been direct drilling all crops including maize for the last decade. The farm is entered into an HLS scheme which is central to our focus on creating wildlife habitat around the enterprise. We also run some stubble to stubble contracting.
After working abroad in Ghana, Guinea Bissau and France, I worked for a local agricultural college mainly assessing NVQ qualifications. I also achieved qualifications in Internal and External Verification and a PGCE (adult education). I then set up a small training company where we offer training services, mainly LANTRA and City and Guilds qualifications, aimed at the land-based skills sector.
When not working, I love riding motorbikes and drinking whisky. Not a great combination though a recent biking trip to Islay managed to get the best of both worlds.
I would like to thank all those supporting my Nuffield Scholarship, not least the Central Region Farmers Trust for their sponsorship, and my wife and parents for their support and backing.
Sid Patterson kindly agreed to talk to me about his farm equipment business - Hepson Equipment run in partnership with Paul Hepworth
Hepson Equipment - The most expensive people are the cheapest. July 6th
Sid Patterson kindly agreed to talk to me about his farm equipment business - Hepson Equipment run in partnership with Paul Hepworth. They sell and service a wide range of machines including Versatile tractors, Kubota, Claas forages, JCB etc. It is a strong and growing business and it was useful to learn why. They aimed to create a good working atmosphere with hands on, approachable management. The aim of the business was to offer the highest levels of service.
When recruiting staff (there were 18 employees) the attitude and work ethic was more important than the training the employee had received so far in his/her career. Indeed the best ones were often those who had come onboard at the start of their careers and had been trained in the 'Hepson' way of thinking. The pull of the oil money in Alberta has meant staff retention is a problem common across all the farms and business visited. In addition wages had risen fast even up to $30 / hour but that was around half what could be earned in the oil fields for very basic jobs. However Sidney did not have a problem with high wages - "the most expensive people are the cheapest."
Interestingly the conversation then turned to one of their biggest problems which is training farmers. They estimated around 50% of farmers actually took time to read operators manuals and learn from the mechanics / sales people. The rest would jump on and drive and then phone if it didn't work properly. Hepson Equipment would like to have a dedicated trainer to assist farmers, though the cost has to be borne somewhere, and in addition, the distances to travel are vast - maybe 6 hours drive to service a machine. The need for training materials such as video downloads developed by manufacturers and the acceptance by some farmers that they dont know it all, echos directly a conversation I had in the UK with a machinery distributor.
Points to ponder:
The right team member is key to recruitment and strengthening the business - attitude and work ethic can trump paper qualifications ?