by BETTER FARMING STAFF
A Guelph-based agricultural think tank is transferring its management training programs to an independent business.
Larry Martin and Heather Broughton are in the process of establishing the company that will offer the programs developed at the George Morris Centre. “We will probably have the company formed by next week,” says Martin. They are still searching for a name: “We’re not happy with any of the names we’ve come up with so right now it’s a numbered company.”
Martin says he and Broughton have discussed the idea of spinning off the programs from the centre and forming their own company for the past three or four months. Martin has managed the programs under the centre’s banner for several years. Broughton, an Alberta farmer and chair of the Alberta Agriculture and Food Council, was brought on board last year.
Martin says the major reason for spinning off the programs “is that really I’m the only person in the centre who has got much interest and expertise in actual management stuff; most of the folks in the centre are economists.” Concern about establishing succession for the programs was the reason for hiring Broughton, he adds.
Bob Seguin, the centre’s executive director, agrees that concern about succession for running the program played a role in the decision to let the programs go. So too did “a tighter financial squeeze” that the centre has faced in recent years.
According to its 2012 annual report (fiscal year end for the centre is April 30), its net assets dropped more than $500,000 to $1.7 million compared to $2.2 million in 2011. Seguin attributes the financial challenges to reduced demand in the market place for research analysis, more competition and a brief period of reduced awareness of the centre. While it has an endowment fund, much of the centre’s income comes from memberships, market analysis subscriptions, its value chain centre activities and revenues for services such as research reports, specialized educational programming (other than management training) and public appearances.
The centre is looking at ways to reduce internal spending and find new sources of revenue, Seguin says. In a news release issued Wednesday by Martin, Broughton and the centre, the transfer of the management training programs is described as a signal of the centre’s “refocusing on the core priorities.”
To date, the training program had only faced limited constraints. That could have changed in the future, says Sequin. Working independently of the centre, Martin and Broughton might have “greater capacity to maybe do some changes in the future, take some different risks but also move the program in a slightly different way than if they were within the leadership of the centre and some of our cost constraints.”
Martin notes management training traditionally turned a profit for the centre although the section suffered a setback last year when a program designed to serve the country’s landscape industry failed to fly.
According to the news release, transfer of the training programs, registration and other details will be handled “in a seamless manner for the benefit of the current, future and past students.” Seguin explains there will be no changes for those who are already enrolled in programs already underway or set to begin before Oct. 31 — the target date for completing the transition.
The programs include the Canadian Total Excellence in Agricultural Management, Canadian Farm and Agri-business Management Excellence, CTEAM Alumni and commodity futures and options courses. BF