There was a large attendance at the annual conference this year. Both members and non-members were well represented. The delegates were presented with an array of speakers speaking on a range of diverse subjects designed to promote and further the aims of the conference and association – Towards a Sustainable and Professional Farm Machinery Industry.
FTMTA President Garry Daly addressed the delegates to open proceedings. He outlined the progress of the association over the past year and outlined some of the many issues facing members companies. Proposed VAT increase, the impending finish of the VRT temporary waiver and proposed changes to sick-pay regulations were highlighted as areas where the association would have to continue lobbying on behalf of the membership. While there is improvement in trading conditions Trade-in valuations and Credit Control were highlighted as areas where member companies will have to exercise more vigilance in order to maintain or increase profit margins. The President reflected on a successful Machinery Trade Show and looked forward to a successful Grass & Muck in May 2012.
David Mc Donnell – David gave an interesting presentation focusing on his dairy operation in West Limerick. Along with his dairy business David has diversified into the areas of power generation through Wind and Bio-energy electricity generation. Striking in his presentation was the approach to all enterprises – each operated as a rigidly monitored and controlled business. Innovation and willingness to change were highlighted as important facets of business success. It was clear that companies must “be the best at what we do” before thinking of diversifying into other areas, markets or agencies. In follow up questions David highlighted support from dealers and efficient parts departments as important factors in his selection of suppliers to his businesses.
Media personality and chairman of the Insomnia Coffee Co. Bobby Kerr gave an inspirational talk. He outlined his career to date with some candour and spoke of both the highs and lows he has experienced in business. Though delivered with a degree of lightness and humour the core values of Pride, Passion and Professionalism were clear throughout his presentation. These core values are central to the aims of the Association and all member companies.
Eamon Dillon & Joe D’Arcy of Dillon Darcy solicitors gave a technical yet clear presentation on contract law. In clear concise terms, and with some splendid examples, they outlined the possible issues that companies that ignore proper paperwork can face. They highlighted the differences between selling to “consumers” as distinct to selling to “business” and the companies responsibilities and obligations to both. In short ,it is important for all companies to insulate themselves against problems by getting it in writing. The use of the FTMTA Invoice/Order book is an ideal solution for all members.
Jack Murray, of Mediacontact.ie shattered some of the myths and outlined the potential of the Social Media explosion on the Internet. Jack outlined simple steps to help companies maintain or increase their presence online in the social media world. The simple message that seems to pertain to all online activity whether it be Social sites or “Standard” websites is: Content is King! Sites must be updated regularly if you are to give your customer reason to come back to visit your site again.
Succession planning is an area that many members do not give much thought to until it is nearly too late. Jim O’Hara, taxation consultant, outlined the taxation implications of business and asset transfer. He stressed the need for “proper planning in good time” and the need to take professional advice in what can be a momentous event in any company’s or directors career.
Insight HR is a company that already work with many FTMTA member companies. The feedback from these customers is very positive. Liam Barton delivered a presentation in a no nonsense style that outlined the obligations of the employer in terms of current employment legislation. He also outlined the possible implications of non-compliance with current regulations. It is clear that compliance is not an option and member companies need to conduct an audit of where they stand now and if necessary to urgently move to a fully compliant position.
It is always important to get the views of our customers. Paul Hyland gave a superb presentation outlining the operation of his dairy operation in Co. Laois. It was clear that running a farm in a business-like fashion is the way forward. Paul is a farmer at heart but a businessman in operation. Paul presented the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) by which success is judged in his business. Grass is treated as a commodity and the implication of this to farm machinery is critical. In follow up questions Paul highlighted the reasons why his business chooses some dealers over others.
Farmers Journal Editor Matt Dempsey is a regular contributor to the National Conference. Matt outlined the position of the Agricultural Sector with reference to the goals set out in “Food Harvest 2020”. With an excellent presentation and excellent delivery Matt outlined what is generally positive progression towards the goals of FH2020. The implication of this was not lost on members who hope to reap the benefit of more mechanisation to increase productivity on farms.
The final speaker for the day was Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine Mr. Simon Coveney TD. The minister outlined positive progress within the agricultural sector and painted a picture that was encouraging for members despite tough trading conditions. He promised that the government would address the issues facing SME’s with respect to accessing credit. The minister displayed a good understanding of the issues facing agri dealers. The Minister engaged with individual members after his address and stayed longer than he was meant to in order to listen and address different concerns.
Feedback about the conference from the attendees was hugely positive and confirms the FTMTA National Conference as a “not-to-be-missed” event in the annual calendar.