By Leigh Catley
Within weeks of starting his new role as Federated Farmers’ chief executive three years ago Terry Copeland knew he was going to have a serious strategic development challenge on his hands.
Terry came to Feds from the top job at New Zealand Young Farmers, so he understood the forces that weigh on membership organisations and associations, especially those that are supposed to appeal to a very specific group of people.
He knew about how hard it is to reach members, how hard it is to explain what an organisation does and in particular, how hard it is to get new members.
So with specific instructions from the Feds National Board ringing in his ears about developing a better strategy to protect the future of Feds, Terry set out to understand how Feds ticks and how it could be made to tick faster, louder and stronger.
The first step was to understand where the pressure points were and see if the staff and Board could agree on what they actually are. Terry facilitated several workshops to identify if there were areas of common agreement on what Feds needed to do most, and where opportunities might lie for its future.
Everyone quickly honed in on the issue of membership, and the need to keep membership growing. The number of farms in New Zealand is quietly reducing, so how do we stop the membership of Feds from doing the same thing?
Other issues came out in the discussions too. Things like communication – how do we get members to know more about what we are doing? How do we help our members become better leaders and employers? How do we do more to acknowledge the relationship between farmers and the land, and help them be more resilient into the future?
A couple of things were clear from the start. Feds is an independent, ground-up organisation. The members choose to belong, for their own particular set of reasons. Their commitment to the organisation is voluntary and it works best for members when the organisation’s outcomes are focused on providing value, and a united voice.
To boil all that down in to one phrase, the purpose of Federated Farmers is summed up as ‘Empowering Farmers’.
Terry’s work with the national council, board and all staff showed up three key areas which cover the organisation’s strategic objectives. This is what Feds ‘wants to be’ for farmers now and in the future.
- Be the respected voice of farming
- Foster an inspired leadership network
- Support vibrant rural communities
It’s hard enough to get a couple of dozen people to agree on three simple little lines of text, without having to then go away and figure out how the organisation would actually make those goals a reality. How would Feds actually make those three objectives part of its ‘BAU’ – business as usual – applying those goals day-to-day to what it does for its members?
The board and Terry identified five areas of work to achieve these goals:
- Optimise our influence: Feds is recognised as an independent, pan-sector, farmer-driven voice. Be the first port of call on rural issues for farmers and the community. Feds’ media influence in 2020 had over 11,500 direct quotes worth a corresponding advertising value of $24 million.
- Grow and promote industry leadership: Influence depends on industry leadership. Feds needs to identify, nurture and promote leaders in the rural sector. Local leadership is key.
- Develop our reputation as a trusted network: To be New Zealand’s leading advocate for rural issues, Feds needs a credible and trusted network.
- Build community resilience: By supporting farmer and family wellbeing, Feds helps members to manage and mitigate risk. We keep members informed through effective communication.
- Weave guardianship into our existing values: Achieve more recognition for the way farming thinks long-term, to find solutions for issues that affect farmers, the land and the wider community.
As Terry says: “to achieve this change, we need to be bold in everything we do. Being guardians of the land is an essential part of who we are, and we need to weave this concept into all aspects of our organisation. To support our foundations as we shift, we will maintain momentum in growing leaders, in being credible and trusted, and in building community resilience.”
A critical area of change for the organisation is in the work it produces. The board and Terry have challenged the ‘Feds of the Future’ to shift from being a content-led organisation to an insights-led organisation.
Anyone who has tried to find something on the federation’s website quickly realises how much content the organisation produces. Hundreds of pages of submissions, thousands of words in media releases and member advisories. Feds sends out more than one million emails a year to members.
The aim is to be able to pre-empt and guide members through any impact that current law and rule changes may have on their businesses. The challenge is to be more interpreter, and less reporter.
General Manager – Strategy appointed
Delivery of an ambitious shift in strategy and direction requires a dedicated resource. The board has decided to invest in the delivery of the strategy by making an investment in a 9-month fixed term contract for someone to drive it. This person will work with the Board, Terry, the senior management team and all staff to identify ways to being the new Feds strategy and objectives to life.
This new role, General Manager – Strategy, will be filled by Craig Pattison. Craig joins Federated Farmers from Norwood, where he held the positions of General Manager – Sales & Marketing, and more recently, Executive Leader Global Relationships. His responsibilities included the strategic management of Norwood’s global supply chain and connecting the needs of agricultural customers back to global supply chain and world trends. Prior to this he held roles with Inland Revenue, Deloitte New Zealand and ACC.
Terry is delighted to see Craig come on board, to take the strategic work further and bring some direction, and action, to the big plan.
As Terry says: “Craig can draw on a global perspective, networks, partnerships, and frameworks to apply to local agricultural challenges. He has a wealth of business development, strategy and managerial experience and a flair for building teams and sector wide partnerships.
“He is the next step in the journey to take Feds into the future.”