Supplier consolidation, tight margins and increasing price transparency are challenging our agricultural retail supply chain. Continuous improvement in our operations and supply chain management are now more important than ever to maintain our competitive position and create additional value for our growers.
As our competitive landscape shifts, it demands that we sharpen our business acumen and hone our leadership skills to manage the challenges ahead. The 2019 ARA Management Academy will bring together ag retail managers, agronomists and sales professionals in an intense program that provides an opportunity to examine current issues that organizations and customers face. The focus of the discussions will prioritize how managers contribute to organizational and customer success in an ever-evolving industry.
The academy, which will be held Jan. 29 to Jan. 31, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz., will be led by Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business in partnership with the Agricultural Retailers Association and the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (ASU).
Our Changing Marketplace
Marketplace disruptions can be seen in areas of business ranging from supply chains to technology and even human talent. Supply chains that have previously focused on efficiently delivering standardized commodities at the lowest possible cost are now reconfiguring to deliver added value and satisfy differentiated consumer needs. Just as the nature of supply chains is changing, technology is altering the way farmers interact with suppliers. Farmer-customers are attempting to keep up with the technology treadmill. Many customers are considering high-tech technologies with promised payoffs, but fewer are adopting such technologies when the price tag is hefty.
Beyond this, many agricultural retailers are girding for a generational shift in the workforce as farmer-customers do the same. Farm ownership and decision-making are changing at a rapid pace. Simultaneously, baby boomer employees are contemplating retirement, and millennials and Generation Z are joining the workforce and influencing how firms operate. These disruptions are close to retailers’ daily operations, and they are influenced by global disruptors such as trends in consumer preferences for differentiated food products, altered global trade patterns and political uncertainty in parts of the globe.
To set the stage for thinking about ag retailers’ changing environment, Michael Gunderson—professor and director at Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business—will lead an opening session on marketplace disruptions. Participants will have an opportunity to explore impacts for their businesses and the industry.
Driving Toward Profitability
Management capabilities drive an ag retailer’s profitability. Everyone in an ag retail organization has an impact on profitability and success. Disruptions and innovations in supply chains, technology adoption and human talent, combined with volatile commodity prices, create uncertainty with respect to ag retailers’ financial performance. Leaders at all levels of an ag retail firm need to have a solid understanding of profitability and value drivers, including those that impact revenues, expenses and the cost of capital. This is particularly true in the presence of an increasingly risky market and policy environment.
On the flip side, it is equally important for ag retailers to understand the key profitability and financial performance metrics of their customers in order to better meet their customers’ needs. The products and services provided by ag retailers play a critical role in the ultimate financial success of their customers. Successful customers lead to the success of ag retailers—it’s a positive feedback relationship. Therefore, understanding what drives financial performance for both the retailer and the customer is critical.
Mark Manfredo, professor and director of the Morrison School of Agribusiness at ASU, has spent his career applying financial and risk management principles to answer questions in the agribusiness sector. In his session, he will guide participants in developing an intuitive understanding of financial performance metrics useful in decision-making.
A key benefit of the program and its location is that it brings together retailers from various agricultural facets—from commodities to produce.
Attendees will interact with retailers who have different experiences and perspectives. As just one example, agricultural retailers who serve farmers growing crops closer to consumption, such as peppers, have been dealing with some of the challenges of consumer preferences and sustainability longer than retailers working with commodity producers.
In addition to Gunderson and Manfredo, presenters include Thomas Kull, associate professor of supply chain management at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business; Scott Downey, associate professor of agricultural economics and associate director at Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business; and Suzanne Peterson, associate professor of leadership at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management.