Reinventing Your Business

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This year’s Agricultural Re­tailers Association (ARA) Conference & Expo, December 5-7, will be held at the historic Re­naissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, FL. The ARA Conference Planning Committee selected the theme, “Re­inventing Your Business,” based on the significant industry changes underway by virtue of the technological advances and industry mergers and consolidation. It is recognized that today’s ag retailers are having to produce more with their resources than ever before.

Managers of the 21st century need to be technologically savvy and current on the scientific developments in agronomic traits. As a result, today’s ag retailers provide highly technical expertise to their customers that allows the grower to yield higher crop returns — all of which result in a more wholesome food source for Americans nationwide.

A Packed Agenda

This year’s conference program focuses on providing ag retail business executives and/or managers the tools necessary to rethink their business plan, customer base, sales team, service package, and product line. Playing off of this year’s theme, “Reinventing Your Business” sessions include:

•  Market Plan. This session features Dr. Dave Downey, executive director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University, addressing the importance of developing a strategic plan and how it can help retailers achieve their sales goals and objectives.

•  Marketing Environment. In this seminar, Richard Gearheard, senior vice president of retail for Agrium, one of the largest retail operations in North America, will discuss the retail market’s outlook from his vantage point.

•  Customer Segmentation. What do ag retail customers of the 21st century need? Understanding your customer segments is vital to meeting their needs and keeping your business profitable. In this session, attendees will learn from Tim McArdle, general manager of Brandt Consolidated, Joe Spinler, general manager of Highway Ag Service, and Jay Akridge, professor of agricultural economics and director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business for Purdue University, on how to market to the different customer types and how to overcome segmentation challenges.

•   Service Package/Product Line. Here, visitors will learn about new products and services that can generate added revenue streams for their businesses. Steve Watts, vice president/general manager of The McGregor Co. will discuss how to match the product/service mix to the different types of customers in the marketplace.

•  Asset & Fleet Optimization. In this seminar, attendees will learn from Steve Be­craft, U.S. crop input manager of Cargill, on how to optimize their system for justifying, purchasing, managing, and operating assets.

•  Sales Team. This session will be the “how to” of selling and communicating your business’ value. It features Dr. Larry Steinmetz, the author of the book How to Sell at Margins Higher Than Your Competitors.

In addition, there are numerous special events planned, such as the ARAPAC golf and deep sea fishing tournaments; the ARA “Comedy Night & ARAPAC Auction,” a dinner theatre featuring the Capitol Steps musical/political satire ensemble; and the Mosaic phosphate mine and port facility tours, sponsored by The Mosaic Co. For the spouses there are a few events planned as well. There will also be the traditional spouse breakfast, followed by a tour of the historic Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club. Also, spouses will have an opportunity to go on the “Dolphin Sighting Cruise & Luncheon” or go shopping.

For more information on the 2006 ARA Conference & Expo, visit www.aradc.org.

Eberspacher is president/CEO of the Agricultural Retailers Association, Washington, DC.

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