It is important to establish a relationship with the Police who are nearest to your farm. They know all the characters.
One of the smarter decisions we made was to engage the cops and ask them about our potential employees. The police live and work in the community and can share the people’s tendencies.
We had engaged someone to be a part of the land clearing team. We had a total of 3 people. The original 2 man team cleared 2 acres while this newcomer cleared 1/4 acre. Now clearly this guy wasn’t there to work but to pretend to be working.
We had given him a signing bonus and intended to settle the balance once work on at least an acre was done. After discovering that he would in fact owe us money, based on his low work rate, we decided to give him a severance. He stole the coconuts on the work site and bagged them for himself for sale. The cops told us he was a thief but he was cable of honest work. They got one part right.
We went in search of this under performer today with the intention of giving severance but could not find him. We stopped by all his frequent hangouts and asked for him, to no avail. We were going to be in the area again the next day so we shrugged and called it a day.
Then he shows up at our home base unannounced asking for his money. He quoted a figure which was different from what we had anticipated. Now…this is just a basic intimidation tactic. He knows we were looking for him, our number isn’t a secret, but he goes the five to ten kilometres to demonstrate that he can find us.
I think we made it clear that we never want to see him again. Tomorrow we are going to let the police know what happened and get their advice. We are also going to pay him a visit and reinforce the message.
Don’t make our mistake. If they don’t have a phone then don’t hire them. Before making the hiring decision get an opinion from the local police. We got the opinion after engaging him, since our land lord vouched for him.
Oh, don’t trust your landlord. Trust your process.
In my native industry (Telecommunications) and perhaps in the city generally you work and then get paid.
Maybe you get a deposit to start, but most people don’t get a signing bonus or any kind of pre-work incentive. When work is complete then you get paid. Some companies work without contract or before it is finally approved because of the nature of the relationship they want to foster. Therefore they see the big picture, know the work needs to get done, and get it done while expecting the payment on the back end.
In the rural setting I learnt that the view is different. The big picture is nice but people are living day to day and are thinking short term, to the next meal. Sometimes an incentive or deposit is needed to get started, but every time you come around money must be presented. If you are coming on Thursday then they expect money on Thursday. If you don’t show up on Thursday the work is on pause- despite your deadlines.
Having a good relationship with rural farmers is critical to your success. You will fail otherwise. You already have thieves to worry about, you don’t need the farmers to turn a blind eye, especially if you don’t live in the community. Fundamental to the relationship is keeping your word and meeting the payment expectations on time. Mind you I never knew those expectations existed.
That lesson almost put us in an unfriendly spot. We agreed on a price, shared the big picture and let the work commence. We missed a visitation date (I still don’t own a pickup, poor Scubby) and work effectively stopped. We didn’t know work stopped and paid over some funds in lieu of seeing the finished product. Work didn’t continue until we visited the land, expressed our displeasure and put additional hands on deck.
Work is much further along, and I think the decision to fan the fire may have been the right one given how bad things were two weeks ago. However this could have been avoided if I understood the link between incremental visits, payments (incentives driven micromanagement) and work progress.
I understand now, and not a moment too soon.
There is a whole back story which is pretty dramatic but the cliff notes is that I did a calculation for what it would take to be the middle man and made some plans. I worked with a Gov’t Ginger Expert (GGE) in a private venture to make those projections turn into dollars. However, later in the year I realized I made a mistake. I should have divided by 5 and not 2. That’s a huge mistake.
Became I’m not a dick I decided to try to buy some of the stock from GGE to preserve the relationship. Ginger’s farm gate rate is $50/lb. I was quoted as low as $65/lb for plant material. Somehow he thought it was okay to push 6t on me at a rate of $90/lb. Let’s just say that we renegotiated.
I have set some milestones that have to be met before gets paid in full.
1) Land clearing must be finished
2) Lease must be paid
3) Plants must be in the ground
4) I must see shoots.
Seeing shoots means that the ginger is good, the climate conditions are good- the soil is good and I am able to reasonably look forward to a harvest. When all those signs are realized then I can settle my accounts.
It may seem like a dick move, but, have you ever done B2B? No one gets paid on time. I have essentially lost him as a mentor at this stage because business seems to have left a sour taste in his mouth. However, this is the difference between a farmer first and a business man first. The business man first has tight financial management, strict rules for accounts payable and decides using head, not belly.