Awards a nod to firm’s strategic plan

Awards a nod to firm’s strategic plan
Alex Shaw is all smiles displaying a cut of meat in the Blue Sky Pastures processing room.

Clear objectives, measurable outcomes and a robust strategic plan have culminated in well-deserved accolades for Southland ovine meat processor Blue Sky Pastures (formerly Blue Sky Meats) at the recent Westpac Southland Business Excellence Awards.
Winning the Findex Primary & Primary Services Sector Award, Blue Sky Pastures went on to take home the Westpac Supreme Award.Now in its third year of implementation, CEO Todd Grave says Blue Sky’s strategic plan has been instrumental in the rapid turnaround of the company’s business fortune.
“The award is very much about recognition for the people in overalls on the floor doing the work because they’ve struggled through years of uncertainty, business under performance and hardship. To get recognised for that period of hardship has been great for the business, creating a real sense of momentum in the plant. It’s also made seasonal recruitment of staff that much easier. People like to be associated with a winning company.”
Integral to the plan’s successful implementation was a significant cultural shift across the whole business driving good business outcomes.“We had been quite insular and focused around industry constraints,” explains Todd.
“The strategic plan compelled us to think beyond those constraints and outward as company. When you do that you bring in fresh ideas and new ways of looking at the existing business. Essentially what we did was look at our business and found opportunities right through the value chain.”
In setting the strategic plan, Blue Sky faced a number of challenges including achieving ambitious targets to turn the business around within a year with limited resources and constraints around aging infrastructure. Adopting a philosophy of ‘Fuller for Longer’ and addressing peaky seasons in South-land, Blue Sky Pastures expanded its catchment into Central Otago and Canterbury.
“Central Otago and Canterbury are incremental sources not the core source of supply,” says Todd. “They help smooth out our procurement throughout the year. We’re operational most of the year now and closed for five weeks only, to increase productivity.”
Employing 375 people at peak, Blue Sky Pastures operate two shifts, each processing approximately 2500-lamb units equivalent.In terms of cultural transformation, focus shifted from managing a plant to running a business, which Todd says was challenging because it required outward and expansive thinking.

Awards a nod to firm’s strategic plan
Blue Sky Pastures’ BOD meeting at Melrose Station, owned by the Wilson family.

“Processing will always be at the core of what we do but you have to consider all ancillary functions that any normal business must excel at. Fuller for Longer as a philosophy has to be built upon and the publicity we’ve had around winning the awards and the good financial results over the last couple of years has had a really positive effect on momentum out there in the paddocks. That brings in a new supply and credibility, generating more volume from our farm supplier base.”
What Todd is describing is a virtuous business cycle where one successful element feeds into the next and the next till the cycle starts again, building momentum.
“Once you start getting fuller for longer you start making more profit which you invest back into your people and business to create more throughput. Achieving success – however that might be measured, financials or awards – confidence is built within the business and key stakeholders like farm suppliers. They bring in more volume and you go around the cycle again.”
Todd’s journey with Blue Sky Pastures started October 2016 having spent seven years co-founding a high-end cycle-wear business in Thailand.Prior to that Todd spent 10 years with Fonterra in the consumer branded goods side of the business, ending up as Global Marketing Manager.
“Blue Sky has a team of red meat specialists and I’m simply augmenting and broadening out the skill base – bringing skills and abilities which I think helps to facilitate the industry as a whole which is in transition from a commodity dependent model to reaching further down that value chain into finished goods that reach the consumers hands.”
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