Building better books – The varied life of a Farm Business Secretary

By Laura Davie

We’re on the hunt for new Farm Business Secretaries. It’s a busy and varied role. Get a taste for the job with this quick Q & A with Laura Davie, one of our experienced secretaries.

Q: So Laura, what’s it like being a farm business secretary?

Laura: For me, it’s the best job in the world! I grew up on a farm and always knew I’d be involved in farming, so with my agricultural degree and my organised nature this job is perfect!

Q: As a Farm Business Secretary for the Southwest of England, when does your working day begin?

Laura: Early. We cover big areas – mine includes Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall – so I often hit the road really well before rush hour, to make sure I’m on-farm by 9am. Sometimes I can work from home and often my client is close to where I live, so it’s not all about pre-dawn alarms.

Q: What does your work entail?

Laura: It’s very varied. In short, I’ll do VAT returns, cashflow monitoring, bank payments, accounts management, payroll, livestock records, and I’ll provide admin support at times of inspections. I don’t do all this on every visit, it depends on the time of year and the farm’s needs.

Farms vary a lot. Some will present me with paperwork perfectly organised into neat stacks of income and expenses and others will give me piles of paper and unopened post.

Generally, I’ll be on farm for several hours, so there’s plenty of time to clear the decks, which means I won’t need to go back for several weeks. This is great for the client – they can get on with the farming safe in the knowledge that things like VAT and livestock records are all filed correctly.

Not every visit runs smoothly. Often there will be missing invoices and records that don’t balance with a payment. It’s my job to ensure everything reconciles by taking the time to go back through past statements and invoices, or to phone suppliers and chase up missing invoices.

Q: What parts of the job do you find most satisfying?

Laura: For me, it’s the problem solving. It’s great when I puzzle over a payment that doesn’t match a statement and work out that the farmer has overpaid. My work has just saved the farm a hefty sum of money!

It’s also very satisfying when I know I’ve ensured livestock records are all intact, and I’ve provided peace of mind for the client.

Best of all, I’m usually offered lots of tea and coffee, plus tasty treats. Farms really are generous and welcoming places to work.

Q: You also provide Management Reports. Can you tell us a bit about those?

Laura: These are customised to an individual farm’s requirements although we do provide a standard reporting pack for customers. They are based on agreed targets, which are set according to the farm’s overall aims.

Management Reports can include things like cashflow records, profit-and-loss details, and in-depth debtors/creditors statements. Our new Agstute service makes it a lot easier for customers to view or print out the information they need even when I’m not there.

Q: Being based on your own, is it hard to feel part of a team?

Laura: Not at all! We have monthly team meetings with our Promar Consultant colleagues and other Analysts to catch up on gossip and discuss work ideas. That’s always lively! We also meet for training at least once a quarter, to get to grips with software updates and keep up-to-date with legislation, including HMRC updates.

Also, it’s extremely rewarding to have contact with so many farms and farmers. It’s great to know that my work helps my clients to concentrate on what they excel at – farming.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Laura: Annual reports time! We process most of these between April and July. Preparing these alongside maintaining regular visits means that it’s extremely important to stay organised.

The annual report consists of a business summary, which shows financial performance and gross margins for each of a farm’s enterprises. This information, along with cloud access to the underlying data, can be accessed and used by accountants to access the figures they require to process tax accounts. Also, it can be analysed by the client’s consultant or bank.

Q: So, you’d recommend your job to others?

Laura: Without a doubt. And with Promar’s Agstute service being rolled out it’s getting even better, since it speeds up data collection and analysis to help farms make sharper, more confident business decisions. They can access their accounts anywhere and at any time via the cloud with a computer or a mobile phone.  

But above all, working on a farm is unbeatable! Warm Agas, tasty snacks, friendly people. What’s not to like?

We’re hiring

We’re currently looking for new Farm Business Analysts. Check out our careers page to find out more details and if you’re up for the challenge please send your CV with a covering message by email to emea.recruitment@genusplc.com