NAB senior leaders take a closer look at Australia’s trade and export sector – providing all-important insights into how regional and agribusinesses can best respond to today’s challenges and opportunities.
We profile Robert Radford from Radfords – a Gippsland family-run meat processing company with an annual turnover of $30 million.
What are the traits of an effective – and profitable – agribusiness leader? We ask Robert Radford, Agribusiness Leader of the year 2011 and Managing Director of Radfords – Gippsland’s only large-scale domestic abattoir.
Established by Robert’s father in 1946, Radfords processes 80,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and lambs each year. In the two decades since his appointment to the top job, Mr Radford has grown the business eightfold.
To be an effective leader, know your variables so you can make knowledgeable leadership decisions, notes Mr Radford. The critical element that differentiates agriculture businesses from others, for instance, is weather. “During a decade of drought, agribusiness had to contend with numerous supply issues – lack of water, de-stocking, rapidly escalating feed costs and so on,” he points out. “Insulating your agribusiness against unreliable weather and longer-term climate change are stay-in-business strategies.”
Walking the talk, to accommodate climate change, Radfords has slashed electricity consumption by 4 percent, gas by 30 percent, fuel by 19 percent and water by 44 percent since 2005.
The rise of globalisation has altered the organisation’s leadership strategies over the years. “Since I assumed leadership of Radfords, changing economic circumstances – for the better or worse – have been a constant, mostly driven by Australia’s ever increasing participation in, and exposure to, international markets,” he says. “This has intensified my essential strategies of keeping informed, valuing the good advice of others and adopting innovation to facilitate business growth.”
Building and maintaining good relationships with external influences, particularly bankers, is essential to offset risk, says Mr Radford, as is making hay while the sun shines. “Be aware that there are particular times for expansion, profit maximisation or conserving resources until the business cycle peaks again,” he says.
Continually research, too. Know what’s happening in the market, he adds.
Along with organic growth, Radfords has developed products to win niche market share. The business is exploring entry into Tier 1 exports (essentially offal products and halal markets) but its continuing assessment of the market indicates that the timing is not yet right to activate its plans.
Business sustainability ultimately depends on environmental sustainability and this philosophy has been at the forefront of the organisation’s decision making, particularly in the past seven years. Steps taken to improve environmental sustainability have attracted both grants and accolades, such as NAB Agribusiness Awards.
“Over the past decade or so, 10 of the 12 meat processors in Gippsland have closed, while Radfords’ investment in innovative technology, people development and environmental sustainability has seen our business flourish.”
Winning both the NAB Agribusiness Leader of the Year and NAB Environment and Energy Management Awards has attracted significant media publicity, which Mr Radford says has led to increased sales and international inquiries.
Taking out the awards have been pretty good for staff culture, too, he adds. “Working for an abattoir isn’t perceived to be the most glamorous job in the world and winning these awards confirms for our employees that Radfords is a good business to be part of. The award wins also enhance our efforts to create a workplace culture where every employee looks for ways to improve our performance.”
Consider implementing the following in your daily working life, suggests Mr Radford.
Find out more about the NAB Agribusiness Awards
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