Our people: Andrew Gibbs
Deloitte partner, Andrew Gibbs, spends his weeks traversing the country, supporting and advising agricultural businesses. Bite-Size News spoke to him about the unique qualities of farming organisations, and how he helps leaders to plan for the year ahead.
How long have you been at Deloitte and what is your role?
I've been at Deloitte since 1986. I started at Wellington in Audit and now I'm a partner in the Corporate Finance and the Private teams, focusing on the agribusiness sector, so I share dual roles.
What is unique about working in the agribusiness sector?
Farming businesses are often inter-generational, so you frequently find yourself talking to second or third-generation owners. In fact, I was recently in a board meeting where there were three generations in the room, all with their own personal stake in the business.
The other thing you see in rural New Zealand, is that these farm owners are managing quite large assets, with very little working capital to go with it. So the financial management of them is quite tricky, given the seasonal nature of the business, as every year is different.
When it comes to planning ahead for a new year, what would be your recommended approach?
The first step is to actually encourage a discussion before getting too far into the details of a plan. Often an initial role we have with our clients is to facilitate a rich conversation amongst the key stakeholders of the businesses. It gives them the time they need to chew through the options before getting into the details of a plan, which has to be results-oriented and clear.
Also, it’s a time for them to share their own personal aspirations. It’s key that owners and managers express their own personal goals, or their goals for their family, to ensure that the business is stacking up to deliver against that as well. That’s because these farming families often give up a huge amount of time to run their businesses, and if it's not achieving your own personal objectives, then you've got to ask yourself why you're doing it.
What do you find companies often forget when they plan for growth?
Sometimes they’re missing measurable performance indicators that will tell them how they're progressing with their plan. For example, if they want to grow milk production, they have to be clear about how they will achieve this and then monitor it. It’s really important to set those milestones and performance indicators.
How do you think businesses can prepare for the unforeseeable?
You just can't sweat the detail around this stuff. However, if something comes along that is completely unexpected, the way businesses behave and react as a consequence of that event can set them apart from competitors.
When something unforeseen has come along in the past, like the PSA outbreak in the kiwi fruit industry or MBovis in dairy, the businesses that will quickly recover will do so because they were pragmatic about what they could do and how much they could control, communicated really well with their people and stakeholders like their bank and industry body, and had the resources available to that allowed them time to make the required corrective actions. Rather than blaming others, a proactive approach will set any small New Zealand business apart in a crisis.
Where has your career with Deloitte taken you in the world?
My career started with the firm in New Zealand, then I was seconded to London for nearly two years. Then, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was asked to go and set up a new office in Poland and was out there for four years. After that, I spent some time in Russia, before coming back to New Zealand with my family to settle.
Working in these different offices has been great, as I've been able to bring all those experiences back here and keep those international relationships. I still travel a bit to the Middle East and the Pacific too, so those skills from working in different nations have been utilised well.
That sounds like a lot of travelling! Where is your favourite place that you’ve been to?
My favourite is probably Oman - it's a lovely country and culturally the Omanis are not elitist, but down to earth. It's got beautiful architecture, topography and beaches, and a great climate. It's a challenging place to do business, although they welcome foreign investment, but it's a lovely place to go – so the pros outweigh the cons!
How do you like to spend the weekend?
Definitely on the farm as much as possible - my parents have a sheep and beef farm. Often we’re doing stock work, cutting firewood, or just cruising around the farm on the bikes. It's great being out in the fresh air and I get a personal reward from growing things. I can honestly say, with all the experiences I have had travelling that there is no better place than spending time with the family in rural New Zealand – you just can’t beat it.
Jen Scouler works in the Deloitte clients & marketing team across digital content and social media. She also works closely with Deloitte Private.