This cooperative will focus on what matters now and in the future
Your cooperative has made remarkable financial progress the past two years. Yet, there is more hard work ahead for us. The drought affects all of us in agriculture. There have been poor crop yields across the board, little to no grain to merchandise, scarce water and forage for livestock, liquidation of herds, and drops in prices.
In this situation, all of us (our customers and MFA) must focus on pre-determined targets (financial and marketing) with the desire to meet those targets. Our focus should be intense.
When I interviewed for this position in 2008, I had seven key elements I wanted the company and the employees to embrace:
• Build and maintain a financially strong company.
• Develop and communicate a well-defined strategic direction for our products, services and marketing efforts.
• Develop a plan by division and region for sustained growth.
• Expand MFA’s presence into new markets and new geography.
• Develop a comprehensive training program for developing the entire MFA employee group.
• Provide a working environment where employees want to excel and function as a team.
• Ensure that MFA maintains and improves upon an outstanding corporate image.
I do not pretend to be a wise person. These elements are long standing principles every business should subscribe to. I formulated these elements from my experiences and the college of “hard knocks.”
We set targets for working capital, current ratio, net worth, member ownership, EBITDA and targeted return on assets, sales and equity. The targets were outlined through year 2014.
MFA is one year ahead of the plan developed three years ago. We are developing targets into 2015 by operating quarter. These quarterly forecasts into 2015 are detailed and consist of annual earnings, inventories, investments, acquisitions, debt and payables—everything that impacts the balance sheet.
Compared to other companies, we are in the middle of the pack. That is not good enough.
Our vision statement and our mission statement clearly define where we want to go and the road map to get there. Each division and region has well-defined sales targets, marketing targets and action plans to accomplish the corporate goals. Results for this year are pre-tax profits in excess of $20 million. These business plans are a rolling three-year forecast and will be updated annually.
We are moving forward with expansion into new geography through plant food sales, crop protection sales and additional full-service locations.
We’ve focused on employee training and development. This is more than product training and sales training. The expanded training will take three years to be fully implemented.
We want MFA employees well schooled in the business of agriculture (economics, public policy and global reach). We want them to understand the required financials to operate a company. We want them to build business relationships, understand personality differences, embody leadership and understand human behavior in an organization. And yes, compliance, logistics and credit.
At MFA Incorporated, it is our goal to have the best trained employees in our industry.
Teamwork and cooperation are essential in today’s agriculture. We want to be your partner. When our customers succeed, we succeed. By functioning as a team, employees and customers can meet goals and turn in remarkable achievements.
Today’s MFA has a great company image as measured by feedback from customers, vendors, stakeholders, the general public, governmental agencies and competitors.
We have, and always will have, challenges. We have a corporate strategy that says “we will manage the company in a businesslike manner that will enable the company to meet market dynamics and opportunities, withstand the economic cycles of agriculture, maintain profitability and best serve the interests of the farmer-owner.”
This, we must and will do.
Here’s what I can promise you. Going forward we will stay focused. We will be persistent. We will exceed expectations. We will embrace change. We will constantly improve. We will build a powerful, enthusiastic team. We will keep score and build on success. We will not be a member of the “ain’t it awful club”, i.e., no negative attitudes. We will be a class act.
Bill Streeter is President and CEO of MFA Incorporated.