Closing the Gap: creating amore profitable business

  Closing the Gap: creating a more profitable business
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 In 2016, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s (AF) Explore Local implemented a two year project with local farm direct marketers to increase the efficiency of their businesses by applying productivity principles.
Productivity principles (the ongoing effort to improve products, services or processes by identifying and eliminating waste) are commonly practiced by businesses in large-scale processing, manufacturing, distribution and retail industries.

Increased demand for local food has put greater pressure on small-scale direct marketers to expand, improve their processes and collaborate with other producers. Explore Local felt that, like their larger cousins, these local businesses would also benefit from applying lean principles.

Thirty-two participants engaged in an introductory workshop where they were encouraged to discuss their concerns, collaborate with one another and share their findings—all in an effort to better understand how to improve their business bottom lines.

Participants who completed the introductory workshop and all pre-workshop assignments were then eligible to apply for acceptance into the Advanced Workshop and Coaching Program.

Advanced workshops, offered in year one, were scheduled one month apart, giving participants time to apply what they had learned to their businesses and report back to the group on their results.

The workshops covered diverse continuous improvement topics such as finance, leader standard work, mission and vision identification and standard operating procedures.

Prior to the workshops, participants reported limited to no understanding of these critical and sustainable business tools.

During the second year of the program, each business was allocated two one-on-one site assessments with the consultant and AF project team members in order to work on issues specific to their businesses. At the conclusion of each visit a list of action items with time lines was created to help the operator address specific issues.

Regular contact, including monthly phone coachng sessions, with each client was maintained to keep them on track.

“Participating in Closing the Gap has helped put our business in a position where we are more efficient, able to understand our true costs of business and develop a better quality of life for ourselves. The changes we have made in one short year have been so impactful and continue to benefit us during each day of operation”. Morgan Nesom, The Farm Truck

Additionally, as an indication of the synergy, engagement and cohesiveness of the group over the three workshops, every participant indicated they would like to continue to meet as a group after the program


“I highly recommend this program to any small farmer or food processor looking to improve not only their business but also the quality of their lives.” Joey Halter & Lisa Kennedy, The Meadows

Evaluations from 2017-2018 project year activities including on-site assessments, workshops, and phone coaching sessions have also been exceptional:

• 100% of respondents would recommend this program to others

• 100% of respondents, as a result of participating in this program, have businesses that are now in a position to be more profitable (decreased costs and/or spending, and/or increased revenue)

• 100% of respondents, as a result of participating in this program, have businesses that are more efficient (less wasted time, material, efforts)

• 100% of respondents have increased their understanding of the value of continuous improvement concepts to their business.

• 100% of respondents have applied productivity tools and practices within their organizations.

The project demonstrated successful client engagement throughout. Participants fully engaged in the process, investing considerable time and money to attend workshops, perform the on-site assessments and implement the action plan changes.

Additionally, many businesses have hired a productivity consultant to work with them as they continue to improve their business practices.

Through the project’s activities, client businesses have developed more focused, strategic and cohesive operations with predictable and more formalized processes and procedures, becoming more efficient with less wasted effort, time, and material.

This, combined with improvements in marketing, operations, logistics, and strategic management has increased revenue, decreased costs and resulted in higher profitability and improved long term sustainability.

“We have benefitted greatly from the hands-on training, consultation and coaching that was tailored to our company’s needs. Without a doubt, we would not be as organized, efficient, and productive today were it not for participation in this program!” Graham Nichol, The Organic Box

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Eileen Kotowich.
This information published to the web on June 5, 2018.