The Skills You Need to be a Top 5% Farmer

The Skills You Need to be a Top 5% Farmer

As the year comes to a close, it is fitting that we look back and reflect on an aspect of our business here at Farm Owners Academy that we are incredibly proud of and love doing – and that we know so many of you are avid listeners of!  

Our podcast The Profitable Farmer has made a significant difference to the success of our business, and the businesses of so many of our farming clients. In 2022, The Profitable Farmer was in the top 5% of most listened-to podcasts across 47 different countries! Unsurprisingly, its popularity grew by 81% just this year alone and increased in followers by 80%. We’re so proud our podcast has reached so many people, particularly this year, when there have been so many challenges thrown at the farming community. 

These incredible figures really show us just how valuable these conversations are, as well as the importance farmers are increasingly placing on improving their business skills and learning how to best manage their farms. We know all too well how precious time is when you’re a farmer, so seeing the growth in The Profitable Farmer podcast is really affirming for us as business owners and coaches ourselves.

It’s also incredibly pleasing to see that of all the 109 episodes of the Profitable Farmer, which first started back in 2017, it is our very first episode, The Skills You Need to be a Top 5% Farmer, that continues to rate as our most popular. This episode also provides some interesting context for understanding my own background and motivation for starting The Profitable Farmer podcast, and Farm Owners Academy. 

To end another great year, we hope you find this summary of Episode 1: The Skills You Need to be a Top 5% Farmer helpful, motivating and thought provoking as you consider the goals and direction of your farming business in 2023.

The goal is to work smarter, not harder

The central goal of the Profitable Farmer podcast, and Farm Owners Academy, is to provide practical and theoretical knowledge of the skills required to make your farming business as profitable as possible by working smarter, not harder. 

I grew up on a cattle and sheep farm on the outskirts of Uralla in New England, where I watched my Mum and Dad work incredibly hard for twenty-five years. Before that, my father had learnt the ropes from his father, however upon his early death my Dad was really thrown in the deep end as he had to quickly learn how to be the sole operator of their business. My parents borrowed money to put all three of us boys through boarding school and I watched my Mum work a second job so that they could make ends meet. This is not an uncommon situation for many farming families.

I vividly remember money being a constant source of tension and worry for my parents throughout those twenty-five years. The day they made the decision to sell our property was one of incredible, immense relief as the stress and hard work of running a farm had really taken its toll. It was this experience, shared by so many, that motivated Greg Johnsson and I to start Farm Owners Academy. 

Business skills are just as important as technical skills when you’re a farmer

My Dad was an incredible technical farmer, just like his father before him, however he never learnt how to run a profitable business, and this is the missing piece of the puzzle for so many farmers; we need to take the great technical skills of farmers and merge them with great business skills so that you have the ability to operate in that top 5%. 

Understanding the details of your farm by taking ownership of the planning, understanding your finances (including balance sheets), key ratios and using them to make decisions, and building a team around you that includes finding, inducting and leading members, are essential business skills you can and should learn. Marketing and sales skills, and implementing operational structures that keep the day to day running smoothly are skills required in order to maximise the profits of your farm.

At Farm Owners Academy we define a business as a commercial, profitable enterprise that works without you. Our goal here is to teach you the business skills needed to allow you to step back from the day to day running of your farm, whilst increasing your profit so that you have more time to spend with your family, increase your work-life balance, and have the ability to easily leave the farm whenever needed. 

With this increase in profit and time, you could then consider using your solid business skills to invest in and run another business that’s either separate to or complements your farm, or expand your own farm. With the right knowledge and willingness to learn new skills, all of these things are possible for you, your family and your farm. 

First 3 steps to improve the commercial side of your farm

1. Get really clear on your goals and where you want it to go, so that you can build very strong foundations that will eventually support a business that runs without you.

2. You must have clarity over both money and time; meaning you know exactly how much money is going in and out and exactly how you are spending your time. Many farmers spend huge amounts of time on activities that keep them very busy, but could realistically be performed by someone else. Instead, you should be focusing on the top 20% of activities that produce almost all of your profitability and be spending your time, as CEO, on those.  

3. Once this strong foundation is established with a team you trust, you need to consider the key systems that are in place in order for your farm to run smoothly without you so that you can focus more specifically on being the CEO of your business and further increase profits.  


If these steps are thoroughly undertaken, then over time you should be able to use your increased profits to build wealth outside your farm through investment, or expand by buying more land and taking your operation to the next level. Again, the aim is to work smarter, not harder!

So, there you have our central goal here at Farm Owners Academy; to teach you the business skills required to enable you to make greater profits from your farm and therefore have greater happiness, fulfilment, work-life balance and time for your family and yourself. 

This IS possible for you, and it is worth putting in the time and effort required to make it happen. 

Thank you for the support you have shown of The Profitable Farmer Podcast this year. We are so looking forward to continuing the learning process with you in 2023!

By Andrew Roberts, Co-Founder of Farm Owners Academy. You can listen to Andrew on Episode 1 of The Profitable Farmer podcast.

My Biggest lessons from 2022

My Biggest lessons from 2022

Reflecting on 2022, I wanted to share with you my biggest lessons… 

  • Parenting is challenging. I have a four and a two-year-old, and it’s been hard. I have found myself often playing the victim (thinking ‘poor me’), so it’s been good to catch these thoughts and remember that someone is always doing it tougher. I take my hat off to all the mums and dads out there running a business on top of this.  
  • Change always starts with me. If I am not happy with something, it’s up to me, and only me to change it – not anyone else.  
  • The ego is naturally restless and constantly wants to be kept busy. It thinks by arriving ‘somewhere’, it will feel peace. But the real me wants peace right now – which means slowing down and enjoying life more. So, find your peace, and then everything will fall into place instead of thinking it will happen later (this is a work in progress for me).  
  • Be okay with everything not working out and failing. Worrying about failure doesn’t serve anyone (it takes away present peace), so we might as well just enjoy life and be okay if it doesn’t work out. Learn to enjoy trying things that don’t work out (this way, we remove the fear of failure).  
  • We have far less control over our future than we think, so it’s smarter to stay focused on the present moment. The only thing that matters is now.  
  • If you make a lot of money and have great success, but you live in your head, you are still broke. There is nothing more valuable than living in your heart.  Many people on their deathbeds realise this and agree that the only thing that matters was heart and love.  
  • It takes a lot of energy being a somebody, and no energy being a nobody. So be comfortable being a nobody going nowhere. The ego wants to be somebody, but deep down, your higher self wants you to rest and enjoy the moment.  
  • It’s our unwillingness to slow down and feel that stops us from healing. Many humans are broken, and stay super busy (or use alcohol and drugs) so they don’t feel the suffering created from the past (or false negative projections of the future). 
  • What is stressful to you is someone else’s bliss. 
  • Never postpone anything. DO IT NOW. 
  • All things come and go. Good and Bad. Don’t get attached to any of them.  Attachments are what make you suffer. Learn to surrender and let go. On the journey to success, people can create a new set of fears once they have what they want (because once they have it, they don’t want to lose it). Be comfortable with losing everything, and you will let go of this fear. 
  • Let go of being right. This causes so much conflict, so learn to be okay with being wrong (even if you are convinced you are right… it’s not worth the drama).
  • Most people are held back purely because of their belief systems or limiting beliefs. Be open to challenging every belief you have. These may be getting in the way of your happiness.
  • The mind creates all of your suffering. It’s never the world. It’s because we judge things as good or bad. Learn to treat everything as ‘just is’. Do your best not to label it. This is hard, but it’s a stepping stone to living life as though it’s happening for you, not to you.
  • What is the point of living your life to leave a legacy? So many people do this but forget to love their life (because they are doing it for something after they retire or die). Find out what you want (not what your ego wants), and just do that.  
  • Life is just a game… keep it simple, and don’t take it seriously.   
  • Being alive in today’s world is pretty damn good.  

Have a great 2023  

Robbo & the Farm Owners Academy Team 

What is it to be Resilient?

What is it to be Resilient?

As farmers, our professional and personal lives are usually intertwined far greater than any other profession; our every day is spent on the land, often working with multiple generations of family members and therefore having to navigate the highs and lows of combining work and personal life so irrevocably. On top of this, as farmers we often deal with substantial challenges that affect our incomes and livelihoods that those living in cities can’t truly understand. As such, being able to manage, strengthen and build our resilience is incredibly important, not just for ourselves and our own mental health, but for our families as well. 

This is something I have really had to work on myself as I was plagued with poor self-esteem, low confidence, anxiety and at times, depression, in my younger years. By doing the deeper work that I will discuss here, I have really been able to change my psychology and build my resilience, which in turn has helped me immensely both personally and professionally over the past twenty years.


How you ‘label’ yourself is important

Firstly, it is important to understand that labelling yourself as someone with anxiety or depression can be incredibly unhelpful for your own mental health if it is ‘situational’; that is, something that just about everyone goes through at different stages in life when faced with adversity, or feeling that we are not performing or providing for our families. These feelings are moments in time, unlike long-term anxiety or depression, which require professional help and should not be ignored. 


For me, resilience is all about how quickly we can bounce back when faced with adversity, how quickly we can deal with it productively and move on. These kinds of challenges could be difficult conversations with family members, death, drought, flood, economic stress or any other long-term challenge that deeply affects your farm and family. 


Understanding our ‘fight or flight’ responses under pressure

As farmers, we tend to be naturally more resilient than others and much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. However, by working on our resilience and doing the deeper psychological work required, we have the ability to benefit from what I call “post traumatic growth”; like a tree that’s burned and miraculously sprouts new leaves, we have the ability, from adversity, to really recover, grow and move forward. Recognising our fight or flight responses under pressure and working hard to understand how we react so that we can consciously engage our brain to stay calm, composed and critical helps us to build resilience, particularly when you are burnt out and in an almost constant fight or flight mindset. The ability to do this will set you up as a leader and role model for your family and staff on the farm.


Using the ‘Iceberg’ metaphor to build resilience

I believe that you are best able to build resilience when you put in the time and effort to do the deep psychological work required in understanding yourself, your goals and what you stand for. Using the iceberg metaphor is useful in achieving this. What others see of you when they first meet you is the tip of the iceberg; they see your actions, decisions, results and behaviours. What they don’t see is the 90%+ of the iceberg that’s under the surface- and it is this 90% that we have to genuinely consider and work on in order to build our resilience, and in doing so achieve incredible results for ourselves, our families and our farms.  

Improving our Skills

At the shallowest level of the iceberg is skills. Farmers tend to be highly technically trained, know exactly how and when to act and know their farms extremely well. However, we often have had no experience or training in important leadership skills that are needed to be a great business owner, as you may take on the roles like being the Managing Director of your farm business. These require big picture right and left brain skills that emphasise the importance of imagination, relationships, communication and analysis to achieve effective leadership. Being mindful of how to manage our ‘mental state’ when under pressure and respond to challenges requires constant work on these skills.


Making our core values the pillars we live by

Our next level down is Values. The people with the strongest sense of core values tend to be the most resilient. Sit down and write out what your core values are, those that you live your life by. Most people know implicitly what they are, but very few have written them down and made them the pillars by which they live. It is so important to do this because right next to our core values are our Priorities. Write these down as well, in order of importance, and consider; do they accurately reflect my core values? We are able to feel strong and powerful every single day if we live by our core values and this requires conscious thinking about how we spend our time and what is actually most important to us. In turn, this helps us build resilience as we feel that we have some control over our daily reality. For example, if health is a core value but exercising is not on your list of priorities, are you truly living your life according to your core values? Something in your day to day living will need to change. 


Challenging our beliefs & being our own biggest advocates

The third layer down on our iceberg is Beliefs. Many of us picked up positive and negative beliefs about ourselves as children that still govern us as adults and have, unconsciously, never challenged or changed these beliefs. As such, we continue to assume certain ‘truths’ about ourselves that are not, in fact, correct, and these assumptions, particularly negative beliefs, significantly limit our ability to deal with adversity, try new things or change our mindset. In essence, they truly hold us back from growth, positivity and success. The self-deprecating culture that we live in here in Australia can even further discourage self-affirming beliefs and attitudes that are essential to building resilience. We must learn to be our own biggest advocates. Mindset is absolutely fundamental to resilience and therefore how you view the world; everything can change when you live according to your values, priorities and beliefs.


Who am I striving to become?

The deepest layer of the iceberg is our Identity. By asking yourself “Who am I striving to become?”, according to your core values and beliefs, you will be better able to navigate moments of adversity and demonstrate true resilience during challenging times. If you do this deeper work, the benefits play out on the surface for everyone to see; your behaviour, actions and decisions all improve, leading to different and often quite profound results that are currently beyond our comprehension. Building the iceberg, from the shallowest levels to the deepest, are absolutely imperative to achieving this. This in turn benefits you as an individual, your farm, your business, your employees and your family.


The stronger our foundations, the better we can handle tough environments

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is our environment. If you do the work to build your iceberg, no matter how rough the external factors are, you will be able to withstand them because you have such internal strength and purpose. The better we set down our foundations, the better we are able to handle tough environments. 


For us farmers, apart from the weather or the price we receive for our stock, we are able to control and choose our environments. So, consider your values and priorities and whether your environment supports them. For example, if friends are a priority, have you scheduled a weekly tennis game to see them? If personal and professional growth is a priority, have you booked in to see a coach? If health and fitness is important, have you scheduled a daily half hour walk in the mornings? 

Small daily changes can make a huge impact on our environment and personal growth. If you are feeling that you have no control over your daily life or how you spend your time, check in on that; there is so much that we can control which, when aligned with our values and priorities, really impact our mental state, what people see on the surface, and our ability to be genuinely resilient.

The power of building resilience

In summary, if we choose to live within the limiting beliefs of our past, we will not achieve the personal or professional long-term results that we are hoping for, not just for ourselves, but for our families as well. It is essential that we do the inner work I have described in order to really identify what is important to us, and to turn this into small, daily actions that support our values, priorities and beliefs. It is only by doing this that we will have the inner strength to face adversity with resilience, to be able to push forward and grow from the challenges that we face often as farmers. 

We can’t control nature or the economy, but we can control how we choose to spend every pocket of time in our day, both mentally and physically. Doing this work will not only benefit you and your personal capacity to deal with hardship, but will inspire and motivate those around you, greatly enhance your leadership skills and provide the best possible results for your farm, business and family.

By Jeremy “Hutch” Hutchings, Managing Director at Farm Owners Academy. You can listen to Hutch share his thoughts further on What it is to be Resilient on Episode 104 of The Profitable Farmer podcast.

The #1 Skill

The #1 Skill

I co-founded Farm Owners Academy 9 years ago with Greg and Deb Johnsson – today is a shout-out to them. 

They recently celebrated an incredible milestone – 40 years since they opened their Veterinary Practice on Kangaroo Island. While they sold the business 2 years ago, the new owners organised a surprise party in their honour (here is a photo of the occasion). 

Greg and Deb Johnsson

10 years ago, I was lucky to have Greg in a Mastermind I was facilitating, along with 10 other vets. 

Greg was working long hours and had hit a ceiling with the Vet Practice (generating around $900k in annual sales). 

He really took on the advice the mastermind group gave him, recruited some new team members, and began handing over the business to his team. 

Because of these decisions, his Vet Practice grew significantly in just a few years – to over $3m in annual revenue. 

It was also around this time that we launched Farm Owners Academy. Deb & Greg’s lifetime passion project. 

For Greg and Deb, it has never been about money. Their financial needs were met through their vet clinic. 

They have always operated from a desire to give back and have always been passionate about helping farmers. They get a huge kick from seeing farmers and their communities thrive. 

Over the past 9 years, Farm Owners Academy has grown to a team of over 15 and serves approximately 400 farm owners as part of the Platinum Mastermind Program (including the Alumni members who continue on after graduating). 

The business has had well over 1000 farmers complete one of the online coaching programs (Take Control and Farm Financial Framework) or attend an TOP Producers event in person or virtually. 

Greg & Deb have managed to achieve all of this while also launching another company called BreedELITE. And most recently, launching their newest project, Kangaroo Island Wool. 

They would not have been able to achieve all of this if they didn’t master the #1 SKILL, though… 

To lead from the back of the ship, not the front 

I have enormous respect for Greg and Deb. 

They give so much to their local community on Kangaroo Island, and it’s a real testament that the new Vet owners went out of their way to surprise Greg and Deb with a 40-year anniversary party. 

If they didn’t have the courage to take outside advice all those years ago, they might still be working IN their Vet Practice, and Farm Owners Academy may not exist. 

Again, it was never about the money, but their companies (before they sold the vet clinic) went from annual sales of under $1m per year to over $7.5m each year.  And the companies they are involved with now are still growing quickly because they have let go and allowed other leaders to grow them. 

Greg and Deb get to live their passion and dream by partnering up with other experts and skilled team members (then getting out of their way). 

Many farmers involved with Farm owners Academy have gone from struggling and doing everything themselves to now running highly profitable businesses and contributing back to their local economies by spending more money and hiring more people. 

Watching the roll-on effect when a farmer grows their business is really exciting.

All of us from Farm owners Academy get a kick from seeing this, but an even bigger kick when we see the farmers taking responsibility and ownership and changing their lives for the better.

Thank you, Greg and Deb. We are so grateful for your mentoring, passion and contribution.



P.S. Remember. A great entrepreneur needs to be comfortable being the ‘liftee’, not the ‘liftor’, if they want to maximise the potential of their business.  It starts with leading from the back of the ship and not being the one at the front, making all the decisions and doing everything themselves.

Leadership Lessons from a Wallaby Great

Leadership Lessons from a Wallaby Great

Phil Kearns is without question one of Australia’s greatest ever Rugby Union players. With sixty-seven tests as #2 for the Australian Wallabies, ten as Captain, and seventy-three games for the NSW Waratahs, Phil was a key contributor to three successful Rugby World Cup campaigns, including the memorable 1991 and 1999 victories over England and New Zealand, respectively.  

I was lucky enough to meet Phil recently when he opened the new clubhouse at the local Cootamundra Rugby grounds. The time he openly shared with my family, the kids of the Club and their families was incredible. His passion for Australian Rugby, grass-roots footy, local communities, and youth development is inspiring and his contribution to the game of Rugby and its future in Australia is significant. 

Beyond Rugby, Phil is a thoughtful, composed and genuine leader and a true gentleman of sport, business and philanthropy. The team and I at Farm Owners Academy were thrilled to interview Phil for our 100th episode of the Profitable Farmer Podcast, where he shared his insights on effective leadership and building community, which I’ll share here.


“A fish rots from the head down!”

Phil’s premier reflection on the last twenty years of Rugby Australia, and his overall philosophy on effective leadership and communities, can be described using the old adage “a fish rots from the head down!”.  By this he means: if you don’t have your administration right, from the chairman down, your team, business and community are going to struggle. Using Rugby Australia as an example, Phil believes that in many ways they’ve forgotten the importance of their roots; country rugby teams and city rugby clubs, and how to effectively communicate with them. It is these grassroots clubs that truly encapsulate Australian Rugby and what it’s fundamentally all about; community. 


The importance of community & the unity of sport

It’s the community that builds and runs the clubs and the community that pitches in to save them in times of stress or financial struggle. Particularly now, with our increasing multiculturalism in both country and city areas, sport almost literally replaces the church as our place of community. Sport unites all people regardless of race or religion, and its importance cannot be underestimated. 

Rugby, as a sport, truly encapsulates this as it is a game built on respect. Respect for yourself and what you bring to the team, and respect for each different member and what they individually contribute to it. This is one of the special things about rugby as opposed to most after sports; it doesn’t matter what you look like or how fast or slow you are, there’s a position on a rugby team that’s meant for just about everyone. Every teammate has a role and a time to shine during a match, and this in itself reflects community.


Giving the team the opportunity to lead and shine

Phil recently experienced this rugby-team mentality first-hand as he helped lead our bid for the 2027 Rugby World Cup. Working with an amazing group of people with a wide set of skills and experience, including John Howard, Sir Peter Cosgrove, Sir Rod Eddington, Hamish McLennan, Elizabeth Gaines, John Coates, and Gary Ella, everyone had their chance to lead and shine during the bid process. An incredible opportunity that Phil is very proud to be part of, he believes the Rugby World Cup will bring phenomenal tourism to our country, encourage younger players to set their sights on competing, and bring joy to people’s lives as we (hopefully) rise out of economically tough times by 2027. 

Whilst competing against the All Blacks in 1989, Phil remembers the blur of running out and not thinking too much about the significance of such an event at the time as a 21 year old. As the third biggest sporting event in the world, the 2027 Rugby World Cup will hopefully inject increased interest and love of the game back into Aussie communities. 


Being yourself, genuine, and authentic are mandatory leadership qualities

Phil experienced his first test of leadership in 1992 while touring Ireland and Wales. The team’s skipper Michael Lynagh had been injured and forced to return home, so Bob Dwyer asked Phil to step in. When Phil asked him what he needed to do, Bob simply told him to be himself, be genuine, and to lead through his actions. These are words that have guided Phil in his leadership style and in mentoring others ever since, both in sport and corporate life. He believes that being genuine and authentic is absolutely essential in leadership. People are astute and can pick a fake quickly. 

Further, as in rugby, it is important to show respect to everybody, regardless of their position, and to understand that success means different things to different people. For some, success could be turning a profit or getting a certain share price, whereas for others it could be paying the mortgage or providing three meals a day. As Bob would say, if your focus, attention and energy are right, success will happen. 


Everyone has a role to play, a time to shine and skills to bring to the table

The common sense, hard work and good judgement of Sir Peter Cosgrove has also been inspiring to Phil, as has the quiet astuteness of Sir Rod Eddington, and the integrity and no-nonsense manner of Christine Mcloughlin, Chair of Suncorp. Everyone has something important to share and learn from, if you’re willing to listen. 

This also runs true for inter-generational farming families whose older and younger generations may be struggling to understand each other’s decisions. Phil believes that both have to be willing to adapt; for the older generations, to accept that they will not win against technological advancement and that it really can be the most efficient means of doing business, and for the younger to appreciate that their forebears know their stuff and are pretty good at what they do. As in rugby, every person has a role to play, a time to shine and skills to bring to the table. We must be open to acknowledging and listening to them.


Understanding your core values is fundamental to success

Finally, in business as in rugby, being crystal clear on your core values is fundamental to success. Knowing them, writing them out and sticking them up on the wall for you and your family to see are great ways of reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and what is important. This creates a point of difference for your family’s business and gives you something to be incredibly proud of. Phil reflected that as a rugby leader, he would remind the team of the people in the bush who were watching and supporting them, and how important it is to give them a ‘lift’ by winning. Our values are absolutely critical to our businesses, our families and ourselves.


Final Reflections from a Wallaby Great

Reflecting on what he would say to his younger self if he had the chance, Phil would simply say exactly what he’s said to his own kids and those he works with; be yourself. Don’t try to be something that you’re not; people will see your authenticity, be drawn to you and want to be around you.

As Brené Brown says, there’s a difference between belonging and fitting in. When you try to fit in, you reshape yourself according to what others expect you to be, but when you belong, you create a space for others to want to be around you because of who you are. This is natural, genuine leadership; know your values, live them as best you can, and be yourself. 

By Jeremy “Hutch” Hutchings, Managing Director of Farm Owners Academy. You can listen to Hutch and his interview with Phil on Episode 100 of The Profitable Farmer podcast.


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