by Shawn Strasburg
In the class Introduction to Entrepreneurship, we have been tasked with conducting several interviews with entrepreneurs. I have chosen several different small business owners to interview and found great insight. The following article is a summary of an interview with a young man that has taken risks and has been rewarded in the process. At the bottom of the article is some wisdom that he has learned in his journey.
I interviewed Zack Baird of VicNor Farms, he is en-route to being a majority share holder in the corporation he formed. Right now he and his grandmother Norma Baird are the major shareholders. Other Family members have smaller interests in the corporation to satisfy inheritance. VicNor farms is spread along several miles of county road near Colby Kansas. The business is a for profit corporation which sells crops, feed, and cattle off of 1200 leased family owned acres and approximately 1000 acres rented pasture along the Beaver creek. Various ventures spring from this corporation base, such as a 200 head rebreed joint venture and a terracing project that is in the first phase of three with the first phase consisting of a large USDA contract. Custom farming also springs from the corporation along with other smaller ventures. Most of the crops are marketed to the local elevators depending upon prices with much of it being sold prior to production. The feed side of the operation is sold to the Colby Community College farm with remainders being sold to local cattle and horsemen.
Farming has run in Zack’s blood as his lineage is tied to homesteading and farming on the location of the corporation. He has been involved in farming from early in life and went to college with a business major. His interest in business and entrepreneurship along with the opportunity to lease his grandmother’s land led to him forming the VicNor Farms Corporation. Victor is his deceased grandfather and Norma is his grandmother, hence VicNor. He started off with an enormous debt load and a few pieces of equipment that were in poor shape and a few tractors under loan by bank. Equipment was sold, traded, and fixed and new equipment has been purchased when possible. In the 6 years the corporation has been operation Zack has refinanced some loans with the FFA and reduced the debt load while increasing the profitability of the corporation. Today the corporation’s value after debt was paid off would be over $100,000, while it operated in the red for several years because of the inherited debt load it was servicing.
Zack has plans to further the business by implementing the next two phases of the terracing project, installing feedlots on the farm, purchasing irrigated ground with a first time farmers loan, lease farmland, custom farm, purchase a semi to haul hay and to do custom shipping, and perhaps when possible get a harvesting outfit to harvest corporate ground and local custom harvesting. He also plans to build a heated shop soon, as mechanical bills could be reduced and the building could pay for itself in several years.
Zack has been helped in setting up the corporation and running the corporation by his Grandmother, the FFA, his accountant, his attorney, his banker, and his father. He felt that the uniqueness/appeal of his operation is proven by repeat customers. He feels that with his diversity, training, marketing, and quality products allow the corporation to consistently to operate well above the goal of a 10% profit margin for the last three years.
The future of the business he sees is that while he is a proponent of organic production, he only sees it being feasible in the far future. The primary demands he see are; money, banking, and marketing.
The struggle that he faced in starting this Corporation was mainly of time. He spent 40-60 hours on the farm while finishing a full schedule of college that was a three hour round trip from the farm. He felt that his biggest mistake was, from a farming standpoint, he realized his time was very valuable, yet in saving money he found himself stepping over $300 bucks to save a nickel and he found that in business one of variables is timing. He has found that to be successful he must make time for a money making idea even when he is super busy.
His advice would be…
……. To have a good attorney and CPA, He said my job is farming, I pay them to keep up on tax codes and laws….you got to be smart enough to pay people to help you.
…….Failure builds success; you can learn more from failure than success.
……..People never make money on a “no” decision; it will never work if you don’t try it.
………It is very important to be well rounded, you need to think about the $10 jobs and the 100$ jobs, if you need a hired man don’t give him the $100 an hour job for them to screw up. Likewise do not waste skills on low paying aspects of a task.
…….You need the complete package as much as possible just because you are really good in one area the other 20 areas may break you. And you need to hire people to work in the areas you are weak.
……. Be careful with money keep things separate and don’t dump money from a good venture into a bad venture and without good bookwork you will never know what’s good and bad.
…….One thing that kills small business is that some people are not ready to handle growth.
…….Get a good dog that howls all night so that you can’t sleep, but seriously the dog is always nice to you even when the banker isn’t.