Matt Sisam is the fifth generation to farm his family’s Eastern Bay of Plenty farm. After studying agriculture at Massey University, Matt returned to the farm around 10 years ago to work alongside his father, Richard and uncle, Bruce. In 2017 it was time for Richard to start to step aside as Managing Director of the farm, while continuing to support the business through this period of transition.
The Sisam family has farmed this land for over 100 years. And while traditional principles of farming have played a huge part in its continued success throughout the generations, the Sisams’ ability to adapt and innovate is what has guaranteed the farm’s growth and succession.
For his part, Richard set in motion a modernisation of the farming operations. He introduced technology, expanded dairy operations, modernised stock policies and put the right infrastructure in place to better handle enterprises across farm. Because of this, the farm is now comprised of four dairy herds, two sheep and beef blocks and 600ha of forestry.
Innovation for success
While it’s a family farm, Richard and Matt recognise their responsibility to deliver dividends to shareholders, and therefore know this means continuing to seek and implement the right technology. “There’s a lot of technology out there, but you have to be careful about what you adopt. Look at what’s available, but choose what is relevant for your property”, says Richard.
With Richard leaving his management position after 30 years in the position, it was time for a new approach. This is when Brett Bennett and his team from FARMit introduced Xero and Figured to the Sisams.
“Richard has a strong financial background, but with him stepping out, there was an opportunity for the farm managers to be more responsible for how they run their own parts of the business”, explains Brett.
While this approach helps to ensure ongoing profitability and good management decisions, it also means that people are growing in their roles, and fosters progressive and proactive thinking where staff are more inclined to pick up on opportunities.
“We’ve been upskilling and educating those members coming through the management of the farm. With Xero and Figured in the cloud, everyone has access to the platform and to the same data, which means that everyone can own their budgets. There’s a deeper integration with the management team, and it delivers responsibility back through the organisation”, says Brett.
Financial clarity through collaboration
And it’s not just the farm managers who have greater visibility of their budgets, but also the Sisams’ accountant and bank manager.
“Previously, our bank manager would get our accounts and have to transfer them all over into his own system. Now it saves an enormous amount of time. He can just log in and he gets all the information that he requires,” says Richard.
“With Figured, we’ve got a system where our accountant has access instantly. He knows what we’re up to, and we can even communicate directly about that with him through our reports. It means that our accountant is fully involved in our business, and having a specialised rural accounting firm makes all the difference”, says Richard.
Valuable industry insight
That specialised knowledge, says Brett, is what makes his practice unique. “When we started FARMit around five years ago, we knew we wanted to be focused on the rural sector. It’s where our passion lies. It’s important for us to not just focus on profit, but also being responsible for the land and how it’s being used.”
“Therefore we believe that to really deliver value, accountants need to be more commercially aware of what’s going on. The realities of farming in 2019 are that, as an accountant, you can’t just crunch numbers, you have to take in to account wider issues - margin pressure, environmental factors, mental health. If you silo decision making, it can have an impact on other things in the business. Because we have that understanding of the industry, our staff have the training and commercial awareness to really help our clients”, says Brett.
It’s this approach, along with the insightful data from real-time accounting technology, that is giving the Sisam’s confidence that their aspirations for future generations are met through a strategic plan and a more collaborative approach.
“We’ve been around a long time. We’ve got a good reputation, we support local and we’re proud to be a part of this community. Not only have we had five generations of Sisams working here, but five generations of local families. It’s good to know that this legacy will continue”.