Chalk and Cheese – There Are Major Differences Between the Distributors

It’s only once an agronomist actually makes a change of employer that they realise that things are actually quite different between the distributors. Having spent over a quarter of a century recruiting agronomists, on behalf of a range of employers, I have heard the argument many times that “It’s not worth moving as things will be just the same”.

The agronomy market has polarised, in the distributor sector there are really only six serious employers with any scale, interestingly half are corporates with shareholders where financial return is their only reason for participation. The other half are privately owned and they demonstrate a greater focus on customer performance, employee satisfaction and long term investment. After all, along with the other privately owned businesses, there is no influence from institutional shareholders.

It is easy to understand therefore why the agronomists within the privately owned sector have greater levels of job enjoyment, generally their ideals which are around delivering good “independent” advice, and economic benefit to the growers, are supported throughout the organisation with no conflict from the drive for ever increasing margin and profits. The good agronomists, employed within the corporates, tell me to a man that they are successful as they are sorting the solutions themselves; rather than be swayed by the marketing hype delivered through their technical departments. Imagine the benefit of working for a distributor still run and owned by agronomists. I can only see this gulf as widening with the overly high cost base of the corporates increasing pressure on product choice to deliver shareholder return.

In recent years I have been involved in moving a high number of agronomists; in all cases the individual feels a level of concern as to whether their growers will follow them, I guess over the years that the relationships develop and are never challenged. In all cases the level of support has been high, in most 100% of customers follow. After a move it is common for the customer to tell their agronomist that they are pleased that they took the plunge and moved, after all it is easy to see that the big corporate attitude does not sit well with the farming community.

It will come as no surprise that my agronomy clients are privately owned, I like the fact that, like the agronomists employed within the business, I deal directly with the owners or senior management. Decision making is short and sharp; there are not layers of management which not only add cost but slow reactions, additionally they provide the successful guys with greater rewards.

Rather than stay in a business that you probably would not have joined, there is a real opportunity to move to a business where you will be valued, your customers will be delighted and you can be rewarded well for doing the job that you really want to do.

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