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Applications for leading farm business management program

Media release March 14, 2016

Applications open for leading farm business management program

Applications are open for the 2016 Rabobank Executive Development Program, tailored for progressive farmers to develop and enhance their business management skills.

Now in its 18th year, more than 500 New Zealand and Australian farmers have graduated from the intensive two-week program, which covers all aspects of business management including strategic goal setting, negotiation, risk management, leadership and technology.

Announcing the opening of applications, Rabobank general manager Country Banking New Zealand Hayley Moynihan said “interest in the program was perhaps stronger than ever, even taking into account the current downturn in the dairy industry”.

Ms Moynihan said farmers were recognising the need to proactively prepare their business for the future in an increasingly complex and commercial environment.

“Good strategic business management is key to running a successful business,” she said. “While commodity prices, weather and other external factors significantly affect the business, it is the way the business is managed – that human capital – that in the majority of situations ultimately determines its long-term success.”

An intensive residential program consisting of two modules, the Executive Development Program provides course participants the opportunity to not only learn from industry and business experts, but from other like-minded farmers through hands-on discussions, work groups and case studies.

“The Executive Development Program aims to equip farmers with the skills and confidence to make more informed business decisions, and much of this learning comes from networking with the other course participants – who represent New Zealand and Australia’s most progressive farmers,” Ms Moynihan said.

Graduates of the 2015 Executive Development Program, Willie and Sue Macdonald from “Middlehurst Station” in Marlborough said expansion of their business and future growth plans were the impetus for attending the program, with the couple running a merino sheep and beef operation on their 16,650 hectare high country station.

“Since completing the program, we now approach the business with greater strategic direction, and are not so focussed on just the day-to-day operational-side,” Willie said.

For example, he said, the Macdonalds had set up an office in their yards so Willie could spend more time in the office, while still being accessible to staff. “It is a really simple initiative,” he said, “but one that has been a really positive change for our business.”

Urging other farmers to attend the course “sooner rather than later”, Sue Macdonald said the couple wished they had done the program “five years earlier”, but are pleased they attended the course together.

“It was quite amazing what we each took away from the sessions, but by attending the Executive Development Program together, we were able to bring those different perspectives back home – while still being on the same page,” she said.

“We are now both exploring different ways to grow the business, to not only expand the farming side of the business, but to look at potential tourism ventures, and these scenarios formed the basis of our management projects.”

The Executive Development Program management project, completed between the two one-week modules of the course, is designed to give participants the framework to put into practice and develop the skills, tools and ideas from the program – with the project essentially forming the strategic plan for their business.

With each completing their own management project, the Macdonalds analysed the financial ratios associated with each new venture, to see if it was a “crazy idea” or one they could look to pursue.

The couple say the program has proved to be an “ongoing investment” due to the network of farmers they met on the course, who have become not only great friends, but also business contacts.

“We also have the contact details of the presenters on the program, so we are able to get in touch with them, which is invaluable,” Willie said.

Applications for the Rabobank 2016 Executive Development Program are open until May 27, with applicants accepted from across a range of commodities and geographical locations in New Zealand and Australia. Held in Sydney, the first module runs from August 14 to 19, with the second module taking place in July of next year.

Producers interested in an application form or any further information on the Rabobank Business Management Programs should visit or contact Rabobank Business Programs manager Nerida Sweetapple on +61 2 6363 5910 or email

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