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The high wire balancing act

David Kohl shows how to walk the fine line between being a producer and a marketer

Many of you feel that you are part of a high wire circus act attempting to find a balance between the time and effort spent on producing crops and livestock versus marketing. Some of you tire of hearing the so-called experts saying that you have to market what you produce.

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Seven habits of effective agribusiness managers
by David Kohl

A few years ago, Steven Covey authored the best seller book and seminar series on the Seven Habits of Effective Managers. This book did an excellent job segmenting the habits with supportive anecdotes. Letís focus on the agribusiness sector and develop a list of seven habits that are often observed in an industry that is always changing.

Objectivity

A characteristic of peak performers in agribusiness is being able to step back and objectively assess their business and themselves. They are constantly doing SWOT analyses (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of the business and fine-tuning strategies to adapt to circumstances.

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Kohlís rulebook

Facts and figures condensed into food for thought by RBC Royal Bankís David Kohl*.

It was a near-fatal encounter with a first-calf heifer that made David Kohl truly appreciate his disability insurance coverage.

That was the origin of his "cow 7" rule, one of many in his "rulebook" for farm managers. You wonít find it on bookshelves; itís just a collection of facts and figures gathered from surveys, news reports, research, personal experience and anecdotes that he uses to underscore key messages in presentations to students and farm managers.

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How high is the hog?

Living expenses for a North American farm family of four run about $40,000 annually Ė plus $3,600 for each additional family member Ė notes agricultural economist David Kohl.

"Thatís an average of almost $3,500 a month," says Kohl, currently special advisor to RBC Royal Bank agriculture. Kohl is on leave from Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg where he is a professor of agricultural finance, and small business management and entrepreneurship. "Depending on personal circumstances, $3,500 a month may or may not be living high off the hog, but itís always worth knowing where those dollars go," he says.

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Profits = E + W + G + I

Thereís no formula for success, but RBC Royal Bankís David Kohl* has one that emphasizes management strategies essential to farming more profitably in todayís economic environment.

Just as E = mc2 symbolizes the incredible potential of atomic energy, Profits = E+W+G+I lists the factors that are vitally important to your farmís bottom line.
The formula was developed by David Kohl, an agricultural economist currently serving as advisor to RBC Royal Bank. His formula says: (P)rofits = (E)xports + (W)eather + (G)overnment policy + (I)nterest rates. These factors have always been keys to farming profitably, but he believes they will be even more so in the future.

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A matrix to trouble-shoot tough times

How many ways are there to deal with a negative bottom line? Here are some suggestions from RBC Royal Bankís David Kohl.

"How much are those maps?," inquired a lost tourist to a clerk behind the counter.
"Theyíre $5.95," the clerk replied.

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Plastic stretch marks

Credit card debt is easy to get into, difficult to get out of. David Kohlís tips on successfully managing the plastic.

Many of you know the feeling. Itís after the holidays and the long winter days have set in. You step on the scales and your face becomes flush. You have put on those extra five to 10 pounds. Oh, itís so easy to put on but so difficult to take off. The same thing can happen in credit and debt, particularly with todayís easy access and convenience.

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What your lender wants to know

Understanding your financial position means better communication.

Are you considering making plans for future expansion? Maybe you are working on establishing or re-establishing lines of credit. Obviously, lenders are going to want to review your financial records but what criteria do they base their decisions on?

According to Dr. David Kohl, an agricultural economist currently serving as a special advisor to RBC Royal Bank, lenders generally perform a three-to-five year analysis on five specific areas of financial performance:

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