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Succession planning key to success

Succession planning key to success

Sirref has grown to become a significant business in just over a decade. And two of the company owners, John and Karla Ferris, want other farmers to know the secrets of the successful family business, which now includes a number of dairy farms and support blocks.

They list a series of key ingredients that have proved the recipe for their growth and success: hard work, sacrifice, succession planning and passion.

John is from a farming family in the North Island while Karla was a townie and is a chartered accountant.

After achieving university degrees and up-skilling themselves working for other businesses the pair started Sirref with family members in 2008.

Karla says the family was united by a common goal of growth as well as preserving the family dynamic.

Succession planning from the outset was a key part of this. “If you don’t do this early you will hold people back from what they want to do in life,” says John.

“For example not every family member wanted to be actively involved in farming, which is fine.” “It’s imperative succession planning is done in a way that’s open and accepting,” adds Karla.

“The relationships were at the heart of everything.” Financial management has been a key aspect with a strong understanding of the finances of the business necessary.

The family has all had to make collective and individual sacrifices with Karla mentioning budgeting and limiting unnecessary spending as crucial.

A personal sacrifice she and John made was to move to the South Island away from family to take on an opportunity, which was not available in the North Island.

But while financial management has been an important key to success it is not only understanding the financial position of the business that has been key but understanding every aspect – personal, mental, physical etc – for the family and every team member

. They say they have achieved this by getting alongside people with John always taking an active hands-on role in the farms.

As the business has grown this has now meant that key staff members have expanded into these roles as well. Another important factor has been that Sirref had firm goals and philosophies entrenched in the business from the outset.

This is backed by key values centred around the letters in their company name: safety, integrity, responsibility, results, energy and future: “Our aim is to be one of New Zealand’s leading rural businesses creating futures and opportunities for our people,” says Karla.

“We have worked hard to develop this vision and our values as a business and when we employ people they must understand these things and be prepared to commit to them. We have always had a focus on people as we couldn’t have got to where we are without them. We have a young family now so we are focused on our children and on developing people in our business to take on greater roles and responsibilities.” “It’s also our passion to help people,” adds John.

“You can get a lot of cows and scale in your business but there needs to be a greater purpose. Developing other people and helping them to get where they want to go for both themselves and the good of the industry is our goal.”

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