My first country base as a young consultant was at Katanning in Western Australia with the R&I Bank in the early 90’s. Not surprisingly, many of my early stories and lessons emanated from this region in the grain and wool belt.
One thing you are taught early on by the very wise consultants around you is that you can tell much about a farmer by driving on to his place. You did that all the time. You drove on and you said ‘things are pretty neat and tidy here’ and you got the feeling pretty quickly whether this fellow was organised, focused, knew what he was doing😊 – or didn’t☹
On this day, the bank manager took me to visit one of his clients at Kojonup. We were well-dressed in those days, tie and all, found the property, and drove in the front gate.
The front drive was over 1km long and as we approached the house and sheds I could see old machinery scattered around left right and centre.
It was pretty evident right from the start that this was a ramshackle event and the reason I was here was to share my immense wisdom on how they might change the situation – hopefully for the better, and possibly, save them from imminent financial disaster.
We were welcomed at the front door and into the house. The house by contrast was very tidy and neat and the elderly couple were quietly spoken, friendly and polite.
I was shortly to discover that these were clients of very significant means who didn’t have any great need to borrow money to finance their operations, thank you very much.
They ran a very profitable low-cost business and had amassed a range of off-farm investments.
This was very much an interview where they were going to work out how much they were going to lend the BANK – to keep the bank going for the next couple of months!
So, an early lesson not to judge a book by its cover! Sometimes, even in farming, what you see is NOT what you get.
After that I made it my business to understand the purpose of my visit before arriving on farm, and then to appreciate the people themselves before going too early to judgement.