Reflections – Ross Burling Stahmann Farms

Ross Burling Stahman Farms

We recently invited Ross Burling, Managing Director of Stahmann Farms to tell his story to a group of business owners as part of Owner Manager Program 11. Ross previously completed Owner Manager Program 4 five years ago.

Ross noted that the business had generally done the same thing for 47 years until he undertook the Owner Manager Program. Then his thinking changed. He realised that with the right partner they could scale significantly and become a world leader. Stahmann farms started a process to find a like minded partner to provide the capital for the business to expand significantly. They are now the largest Pecan grower in the Southern Hemisphere and are working towards sustainable and profitable exposure across a number of other types of nuts.

Here are some the lessons that Ross shared:

  • Buy good assets, build good assets and they will last a lifetime
  • Make sure you have an unfair advantage. What is yours? Go looking for an unfair advantage, then leverage it, leverage it, and leverage it again. Stahmann’s unfair advantage is that they’re in the opposite hemisphere from the US nut growers and there are no natural pest for Pecans in Australia
  • One of the things that the Owner Manager Program drove me to do was get a real understanding of the numbers. If you know your numbers, it makes a big difference in building your business
  • Ross shared how he loves employing people. He couldn’t imagine a business without people. Some days they just make you want cry, but overall people make business both interesting and rewarding
  • When he undertook the Owner Manager Program he was primarily supplying Coles and Woolworths. He realised that he wanted to be a global retail supplier and that if they could meet the standards of Coles and Woollies, they could supply anyone! They are now supplying the 5th largest snack food company in China – the company is 270 times larger than Woolworths!
  • He really enjoyed the panel sessions as part of the Program. I received advice from people who know nothing about nuts and my industry which forced me to question why I do what I do. If I couldn’t explain it to four other business owners, how could I execute on the plan.
  • When I did the Owner Manager program it was all about me – I came to listen and get as much as I could out of the speakers, facilitators and other participants
  • If you’re looking to save money, find someone on a low salary, they will very quickly point out waste in your business. They are much more mindful of waste than someone who is on an executive salary
  • Build really sustainable supply chains and a strong balance sheet. This will give you the foundation to scale your business

Overall some great reflections from a fantastic local business leader. More information about Stahmann Farms

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