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NZ farmer wins Australasian award

New Zealand farmer wins Australasian business management program award

New Zealand contract and silage farmer Tim Ridgen’s successful efforts to turn around his management style have seen him increase his business turnover by 25 per cent and take out the 2006 Best Project Award in Rabobank’s Executive Development Program.

Mr Ridgen, equity manager and director of prominent agriculture contracting business Ellesmere Agriculture, employs 11 staff to mow, harvest, transport and store high quality feeds for the dairy and pastoral industries at Southbridge on New Zealand’s South Island. He is also a director and manager of a farm which specialises in providing high quality silage for sale to large scale dairy farms.

Mr Ridgen was one of 36 leading primary producers from around New Zealand and Australia who recently graduated from the Rabobank Executive Development Program (EDP), a business management program designed to further enhance the skills of Australasia’s leading agricultural producers.

Run in two modules held nine months apart, the EDP sees each participant undertake a management project in the break between modules, applying the business and management skills they gained from the first module to their own business, with the aim of obtaining tangible results.

Tim Ridgen took out the prize for the management project he completed during the program, focused on changing his leadership style.

Prior to undertaking the EDP, Mr Ridgen says he had often been “an unapproachable, abrupt and sometimes dictatorial manager”, regularly working 18 hour days in order to set an example and gain the respect of his staff.

An EDP presentation on leadership, presented by Dr Melinda Muth, a leading organisation development consultant and Harvard Business School graduate, included the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality preferences indicator, it was one of the turning points that made him realise the negative impact his management approach was having on staff and family.

After completing the first module of the EDP, Mr Ridgen went back to his business to develop and implement a management project that, he says, has helped him to reserve more time and energy to make better management decisions.

“After the first module I felt that my leadership style had to change or we weren’t going to have a business. I was working “in” the business instead of “on” it - working 18 hour days is not sustainable. My energy is better spent now, focusing on how to make the business better,” he said.

Mr Ridgen’s project involved investing more in his employees, increasing their responsibility where appropriate and appointing an operations manager to take on more of the day-to-day business operation.

Since implementing these changes, Mr Ridgen has seen huge improvements in both his business’s working environment and productivity.

“This past season we have generated more throughputs with less effort. The full time employees are working in a better environment with responsibility for their own areas of the business and they are thriving. I have learned to listen instead of interrupting and directing. All this has helped to contribute to a 25 percent increase in turnover in the last 12 months,” he said.

Established in 1999 as a joint initiative by Rabobank, the world’s leading agribusiness bank and a major lender to rural New Zealand and Australia, the EDP is akin to a condensed MBA, aimed at the rural sector’s progressive and highly-professional operators.

Speaking at the EDP graduation dinner held this month, Rabobank’s general manager for Rural New Zealand Ben Russell said that the management project is a very important element of the EDP.

“One of the difficulties in most types of professional training is in applying the theory when you get back to work to make some tangible changes to your business,” he said.

Mr Ridgen was presented with the award and a cheque for $5000 at the dinner, held in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.

Now in its eighth year of operation, the Rabobank Executive Development Program has to date assisted more than 300 farmers to develop business skills to enhance the management of their farm operations.

Topics covered include marketing, human resource management, best practice in farm business management, financial management, business strategy, negotiation, presentation and communication, succession planning and leadership.

Mr Ridgen said the EDP provided a rare opportunity for farm business managers to be exposed to the latest thinking and practices in business management.

“It would be terrific for more people to do a course like this – the quality of the presenters is fantastic and you just wouldn’t get access to them outside this program,” he said.

For information on Rabobank's EDP contact your local Rabobank branch or call the programs manager at Rabobank, Kobie Tesoriero on +61 2 8233 8241.

Rabobank New Zealand is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 100 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank has a AAA credit rating and, in recent years, has twice been awarded the title of the world’s safest bank by Global Finance magazine.

Rabobank operates in 35 countries, servicing the needs of more than nine million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1500 offices and branches. Rabobank New Zealand is one of the leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the New Zealand food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 29 branches throughout New Zealand.

ENDS

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