Belfast Telegraph

Lessons we can learn from positive farming culture

A cow and its calf at this year’s Balmoral Show, sponsored by Ulster Bank
A cow and its calf at this year’s Balmoral Show, sponsored by Ulster Bank

By Nigel Walsh

Culture has become something of a buzzword for businesses in recent times. Leaders know they have a responsibility to instil a 'good culture' within their organisations, they probably know that this should be done collectively and be reflective of their teams, but do they know exactly how to do this?

Inspiration can come in the most unlikely of places and, having spent four days at the 151st Balmoral Show last month, of which Ulster Bank is the principal sponsor, I came away with a renewed sense of how a positive culture can improve the business environment.

Walking around the showgrounds, you are struck by the passion and commitment that local farmers and producers bring to the agri-food sector as they proudly display their wares or exhibit their livestock.

It's plain to see that months of hard work and preparation have led to these four days, with neighbours and family members drafted in to ensure everything is just as it should be before going under the scrutiny of show judges and visitors alike.

Yet only a few trade or livestock exhibitors will return home with a coveted rosette or ribbon. Only one trade stand can be declared 'Best in Show' just as there is only one 'Champion of Champions' and yet this doesn't detract from anyone's efforts. To me, this is the crowning example of a positive culture and one which I am keen for my own team to emulate.

Across the bank, we are trying to create a culture which enables our customers to be successful. To do this, our staff need to feel a sense of recognition, have the space to improve and appreciate their self-worth.

This isn't feasible if they feel it's only a job, something to occupy the space from one weekend to another, so we have a responsibility to ensure the working environment is an enjoyable one. This is where we can learn a great deal from our farming customers who have modelled the way so assiduously.

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The work of any farmer is tough but it is also enjoyable and when you see your livestock being exhibited in a world-class arena it's bound to be hugely rewarding, thus softening the burden of late nights, early starts or missed family holidays. It's days like Balmoral that encourage the heart and make the sacrifices worthwhile.

So, in my view, this is where our positive culture should come from; tap into what rewards your business or team and encourage them to understand what a winning week looks like. The likely answer to this is a week where staff have the room to improve and the confidence to open themselves up to be vulnerable. Eventually, you will be surrounded by colleagues who come to work each day not to chase a pay cheque but rather to work as part of a team, doing something they enjoy.

As our interviewees from Kenako Biltong and Kennedy Bacon will attest, taking the time and resource to exhibit for four days at the Balmoral Show is a sizeable undertaking for any business. But the opportunity to be part of such a significant event for the local agri industry coupled with the sense of reward come the Saturday evening, provide the exhibitors and farmers alike with the strength and motivation to return in 2020.

  • Nigel Walsh is director, commercial banking, at Ulster Bank

Belfast Telegraph

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