Kevin Green sacrificed nights out and alcohol to start his farm business – he was once homeless, would beg for leftover chips from lorry drivers and sleeping rough in the woods. He then became a farmer and now he’s a millionaire
When did you start farming?
In 1987 and I still have the same farm today. I grew it in terms of size and cow numbers.
I cleared all my debt and now I own a farm with no borrowings. I rent it out for six months’ summer grazing and four months’ winter sheep grazing, with two months’ rest.
What inspired you to become a farmer?
My father was a farmer in Dorset, and I milked and managed cows for three herds. I ended up managing farms so I could build up revenue and start up myself; it’s very hard to get on the ladder in farm ownership.
How can agricultural entrepreneurs wanting to buy farms get funding?
Go to mainstream banks with a track record, have a strong business plan and exit strategies in place. It’s important to have experience of farming ventures before having your own farm.
How did you finance your business?
I had to work elsewhere first. I built up cash reserves in order to put down a 30% deposit, and I took a commercial bank loan of 70% against that.
I ran my business very tight for the first three years, so I wasn’t unnecessarily spending. We adopted a low-cost, high output system of milking cows.
I used a New Zealand model of utilising graze grass to its maximum, after a trip to the country to study its methodology.
This experience helped me massively. If you’re going to start up a new business you’ve got to research it inside out.
What are the biggest problems you’ve faced?
The main frustration in this business is related to delivery men not delivering on time, or contractors not turning up on time – it’s all timing problems.
How do you address such problems?
Cash is king: by paying them on time – even early sometimes – the stock would always come to me first. Farmers are notorious for being slow payers.
Pay contractors immediately and get a good name for payment, then you’ll have first call on them.
How much can an entrepreneur expect to earn by going into the farming business?
It depends which sector of farming you go into. You’ll make more money from the capital, land and buildings than you will from the actual business itself.
In relation to revenue, the best percentage return on capital is around 9%.
To increase revenue entrepreneurs should consider doing a joint venture. This is starting to become common in the UK for people who want to start farming with a farm owner who wants to give up farming.
What has most surprised you most about running your own business?
You, as a business owner, are responsible for everything, the good and the bad. You have to be held accountable, from something small to larger problems that can occur – it’s all down to you, which is good practice for business.
Which do you prefer: running a farm or running a property business?
It’s harder dealing with property, for the simple reason that you’re dealing with people instead of cows, and cows don’t answer back! [laughs]
Any tips for entrepreneurs building a business plan?
Always have a plan B – I was taught this on my business training course.
You should always have an exit strategy. I brought mine in at the time when the environment was forcing me to go down the wrong road.
Any advice for entrepreneurs?
Find something you absolutely love doing, whatever that might be, and make sure you plan. Then you’ll do extremely well, because you will put in the extra hours, the extra effort, and make it work.
Also, be sure to make some sacrifices in the beginning.
What sacrifices did you make?
I gave up alcohol altogether! I didn’t go out, I didn’t drink and I didn’t spend because I was so dedicated to making the business work. When I looked at my out-of-pocket expenses they were larger then I thought, so I changed this.
Manage your cash flow tightly, make sure you budget and monitor.
Any more tips…
Know your business and know what you’re getting into – you must do your research. Would you let a doctor do open heart surgery on you without any qualifications?
It’s the same with business, you must learn it. All the information is out there, you just need to go and get it.
By doing that you will form a very strong and sure business plan. I do exactly the same today on any new business start up.
Also do prior planning for the worst-case scenario, because you will get problems.