Getting Disruptive

Graham Sherman’s inspiring and motivating talk was the perfect presentation to open the final day of the 2019 CAAR Conference. Sherman is the co-owner of Tool Shed Brewing Company, an Alberta brewery that took an approach to creating policy change that can truly be described as “disruptive behaviour.”

A law that was impeding the startup of new breweries, including Tool Shed was in litigation, but no headway was being made. But what couldn’t be accomplished through the courts was handled with a lot of disruption. Not only did Tool Shed’s inventive and unconventional approach to overcoming their roadblock highlight lost economic opportunity in the province, but it was something that had never been done. And in about one year, their efforts led to legislation change.

“We made noise to everybody and anybody who would listen,” Sherman says. “Litigation didn’t work. What worked was spreading our story and making that collective noise in the media.”

Sherman encouraged the audience to remember that by speaking collectively, industries have the power to really make change and support growth and vibrant livelihoods in their regions. But to do so, he says that everyone, including competitors, must speak together – even when it isn’t easy.

To anyone who thinks this kind of cooperation couldn’t work in their industry, Sherman challenged them to try out a little disruption for themselves.

Panel Discussion: Mergers and Acquisitions.

CAAR Executive Director Mitch Rezansoff moderated this panel and described it as a “Power Panel” of industry heavy-weights. The following business leaders took the stage to share their personal experiences of working through the most recent wave of industry consolidation:

  • Al Driver - President and CEO of Bayer CropScience Inc.
  • Jason Newton - Director, Market Research at Nutrien
  • Brad Orr - Marketing Leader, Corteva AgriScience
  • Jonathan Sweat - Vice President, Agricultural Products, BASF Canada

Each panelist shared the ways in which their company prepared for these mergers and acquisitions and what their role was. After establishing some context, the participants shared a diverse range of takeaways for ag retailers; including how their business could be impacted in the coming years, and lessons from these high-level activities they can apply to their own companies.

“Communication really is key in any time of change,” said Orr. “If there are voids in communication, people will start making stuff up. But even if you think you’re saying the same thing over and over again, remember to ask yourself, does ‘Message Sent’ really equal ‘Message Delivered’?

Touching specifically on some of the emerging opportunities and challenges for Canadian ag retail, all participants agreed that it’s better to be a leader of change than to let change lead your company. The panel also addressed the need for ag retail, and agriculture more broadly, to hold itself to an extremely high standard to reduce the burden of regulations which are driven by non-ag stakeholders.

“When you can control and demonstrate responsible use of products whether its pesticides or biotech, then pressure isn’t going to come down as quickly as if we were seen as not being responsible,” said Driver. “We need to show that we don’t need help, and we don’t need other people to regulate our business.”

Watch for a full transcription of this candid and perceptive discussion in the “Perspectives” Department of the April 2019 issue of The Communicator magazine.

Does Your Lender Understand Your Business Needs

Dean Klippenstine, partner and business advisor with Meyers Norris Penny’s Agriculture team delivered some practical strategies to help ag retailers more effectively communicate with their financial institutions.

According to Klippenstine, banks do not possess the level of specialized knowledge for ag retail that they do for farmers. Because of this reality, he says to get the best service to meet your company’s goals, the ownness is on ag retailers to help their lenders understand as much about their businesses as possible and make their transactions as efficient and impactful as possible.

“You are unlikely to ever have a banker specialize in the ag retail sector,” says Klippenstine. “I wish there that wasn’t the case, but unfortunately you have to come to terms with it.”

Acceptance was the first of four key takeaways Klippenstine shared to help retailers realize better value from their interactions with banks:

  1. Come to terms with the lack of ag retail specialization,
  2. Have good information readily available,
  3. Make your banker’s life easy.
  4. Don’t give your bank any surprises.

“You all know that customer. Don’t be that customer to your bank, he says.” Klippenstine also offered insight into how understanding your customer’s current financial position can help you understand where your business sits and influence your financial decisions.

Keynote Presentation: The Future of Canadian Agriculture

Canada’s newly updated Food Guide has been a hot-button topic since it’s unveiling last month. Who better to speak to this complex and divisive than The Food Professor himself, Dalhousie University’s Dr. Sylvain Charlebois?

“Is food dividing Canadians?” he asked, as he started his presentation. Throughout his talk, Charlebois highlighted how the recent food guide is a perfect example of the sometimes-enormous divide between rural and urban Canada. “The Food Guide has gone urban,” he says.

According to Charlebois, an “urban” Food Guide is the result of urban communities having much more influence with Ottawa than their rural counterparts and identified a critical need to level the playing field.

“We need to give a voice to our rural communities as much as possible,” he says. “It’s really about giving a voice to reason.”

But even with a strong unified voice speaking on behalf of rural Canada and agriculture, Charlebois cautions that the food value chain cannot remain content to look at commodities in isolation. He says Canadians are not interested in lobbying that tells them to consume as much of a single commodity “as possible,” but instead suggests that promoting ag commodities as balanced ingredients that fit together in a consumer’s lifestyle may have more success at resonating with an population that is removed from agriculture.

“Your clients are growing an ingredient that is part of a much larger nutritional profile,” he says. “We have to understand work with what the end consumer wants and expects.”

The presentation spurred the conference’s highest number of follow up questions, and likely could have continued all afternoon. Thank you, Dr. Charlebois, for offering up great food for thought!

CAAR's 2019 Exhibitor Award

The conclusion of the speaker presentation left only a couple of important announcements to be made before the official closing of the CAAR Conference. Perhaps the most important announcement of all was naming the winner of the 2019 Exhibitor Award!
Congratulations to our Platinum Level conference sponsor Hi Tech Installations for being named CAAR’s 2019 Exhibitor of the Year!

Hi Tech Installations used their booth on the tradeshow floor not only to promote the company and their products, but to raise awareness and contribute to two important organizations: The Never Alone Foundation, a nationally registered charity dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by cancer, and Siloam Mission, a Winnipeg-based charity providing shelter and support to those in need.

“We are humbly blessed this year to present our booth in connection with the Never Alone Foundation and Siloam Mission,” said Hi Tech Business Manager Sara Michaud as she graciously accepted the Exhibitor Award from Mitch Rezansoff.

“It’s just a humbling experience. We’re all here for the same reason, connecting with our customers and our fellow exhibitors as well, but its so humbling to be able to give back.”

Thank you Hi Tech Installations for all that you bring to your communities, and for your presence and enthusiasm as a CAAR Conference exhibitor! We would be honoured to welcome you to the conference again in 2020.

See You Next Year!

2020 will mark the 25th year of bringing the ag retail industry together the CAAR Conference! We look forward to seeing this year’s delegates again, and many more in Saskatoon, SK, to celebrate this milestone year for CAAR and ag retail in Canada.

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