You Bought the Ranch or Farm, Now What?

As we have evolved from a manager of a few foreclosed properties in the early 1980s to our current role as a representative of, more often than not, “non-resident” owners of ranches or farms, it has become increasingly clear that our position with landowners has evolved.

Our role, providing resource management services, ranges from simple overseeing such as establishing budgets and paying bills with periodic reports to full-scale, day-to-day management of a ranch or farm. Overseeing has changed over the years and is very different from the traditional farm manager role that is typical in the Midwest where properties tend to be owned by “pure investors” who rarely visit their farms. In the Rocky Mountain West, Southwest and Texas, ranch owners tend to derive a good portion of their “return on investment” from the pleasure they receive both from visiting their ranch and from their personal involvement in the management of it. That is where our services thrive.

THE OVERSEER ROLE

The overseer role begins with identification of the owner’s goals, the development or adoption of an overall ranch or farm management plan and a corresponding budget. Whenever possible, we include improvement and enhancement of the property in addition to the practical day-to-day operations. We try to separate issues related to the overall improvement of the real estate asset from the more down-to-earth practicalities of the daily routine. Both are important but carry different priorities and funding sources.

ADVANTAGES OF THE OVERSEER ROLE

It is a fair question to ask “why should one invest in additional overseeing?” Perhaps that question is best answered by outlining the advantages of this relationship.

  1. Inherent conflict between manager and owner – On many properties, the owner of the farm or ranch is often not aware of what a ranch manager has to go through on a daily basis to deliver a happy experience for the owner. Balancing the requirements of the livestock, wildlife/fisheries, and/or farming operations with asset management concerns, enhancement of the property’s resources, dealing with the owners & guests, and ensuring their personal enjoyment of the ranch all factor in at differing levels. Cash flow and profitability can become secondary priorities. The ranch manager’s role becomes more complicated, which can lead to overstaffing and too much or too little equipment, both of which may not be in the owner’s best interest. In our overseer role, we help the owner and manager discover the best mix. Often we are able to identify and remedy problems before they become insoluble.
  2. Flexibility – As noted earlier, our role can range from simply establishing budgets and paying bills with periodic reports to full-scale day-to-day management of a ranch or farm. Depending on the owner’s goals and objectives, our involvement may be scaled back as the on-site manager becomes more comfortable with the owner’s expectations.
  3. Cost savings – Beyond providing peace of mind, we earn our keep in many ways:
    1. We are often able to allow an owner to hire a less experienced ranch manager or farm manager that has certain holes in his or her resume at lower cost and we can fill in the holes. Typical “holes” would be things like budgeting and/or financial skills, wildlife/fisheries and habitat knowledge, and lease development, management, and administration.
    2. In the area of marketing crops, livestock, and wildlife or working with outfitters and buying equipment, we are active in these marketplaces for other clients and can save a manager time and money by providing input in these areas.
    3. In the area of hiring high-quality contractors to perform work on the ranch, we have relationships with proven top people who have an incentive to provide high-level services to our clients because they know they will have other opportunities if they provide good service at a competitive price.

There are three underlying themes which speak to our overseer role.

  1. The first one is helping owners identify their goals and objectives for the ranch or farm. Whether the ranch or farm goal is agriculture, recreation, return on investment or something else, we help identify those goals and get all parties pointed in the same direction.
  2. The second theme is a matter of pure economics. The most expensive issue in ranch ownership is management turnover. It is both stressful and time consuming to have to deal with replacing a management team. Our overseer role is specifically designed to avoid this.
  3. The third underlying theme is that, for most absentee ranch owners, a significant part of their “return on investment” comes from what we call the “psychic return” which basically means the pleasure they derive from being on the ranch. The fact that we solve problems for owners allows them to have greater peace of mind and enjoyment of the property. Our role as overseer – more than anything else – is designed to maximize this aspect of ranch ownership.

 

RANCH MANAGERS AND STAFF

Ranch or Farm Management | You Bought the Ranch or Farm, Now What?

On newly purchased properties, one of the first steps is often the hiring of a suitable caretaker or manager. The concept is that we represent the owner at all times. In a perfect world with a great manager, our primary role would be to develop budgets, pay bills, and provide monthly or quarterly reports. In addition, we would schedule a predetermined number of visits to the ranch to check on progress or provide whatever level of overseeing is required. Naturally, we are available at all times to the manager and owner to consult on issues that come up; crop and livestock marketing, advice on obtaining various services, changes to the production plan or negotiating leases, wildlife/fisheries and habitat projects. At a minimum, we provide an extra set of eyes and ears for owners and, more importantly, we are available to step in immediately should it become necessary.

RETAINED SEARCH – HIRING RANCH MANAGERS AND CARETAKERS

While this is separate and distinct from our overseer role, it is an important part of our management role. It most definitely addresses two of the underlying themes mentioned in the previous section – i.e. minimizing the cost and maximizing the return on ranch ownership.

The retained search process begins with a job description – an absolutely critical part of the process. It is critical because one of the biggest causes of manager turnover is unmet expectations on either side. We force the owner to be very specific about what his or her expectations are of the ranch manager or caretaker we are hiring.

The next step is to accumulate candidates through our internal database, our many contacts throughout the industry, and advertising. Through preliminary interviews and our ability – because of our many relationships throughout our region – to check on people, we narrow the field down to a manageable number and then work with the ranch owner to further narrow down to around three candidates.

These finalists are interviewed on the ranch with the owner. The interview process is quite rigorous. It is our role to ask the hard questions and make sure that everything is covered. Often an owner will tend to gloss over important issues that need to be addressed in the beginning.

The end result is that, when we make a final selection, everyone’s expectations are out on the table and both parties are fully invested in making the relationship work. We insist on following up with periodic reviews. Our experience has been that, on the rare occasions where people’s needs and goals change, the communication has been well-established and the transition to the next manager or caretaker is a relatively painless one – contrary to the situation that occurs when there is a real management breakdown.

SUMMARY

Over the last 25 years, as our ranches and farms under management have increased to over 800,000 acres, we have continued to refine our ranch or farm management overseer and search processes to reflect the unique needs of farm and ranch owners in the Rocky Mountain West, Southwest, and Texas. Our goal has been to assure our clients that their ownership experience will be enjoyable, problem-free and productive.

Property Personnel Recruitment and Management

Property Personnel Recruitment and ManagementA property is not a static landscape. The ever changing attributes require attention. If the property is running as a business operation, such as recreational hunting or livestock, the property personnel and management can determine the difference between ROI and loss. Hall & Hall has vast experience in recruiting high quality property personnel and management. From job advertisement to interviews, let Hall & Hall put together a team of successful individuals to maintain and grow your investment.


Strategic Planning, Budgeting, and Accounting

Strategic Planning, Budgeting, and AccountingAn efficient property investment must run like a successful business. From planning daily chores in the livestock fields to projecting budgets for large land improvement tasks, Hall & Hall has the expertise to guide your property investment toward your goals. Through meticulous accounting and budgeting, with strategic property planning, Hall & Hall can create an efficient business out of your property investment.


Wildlife Habitat Establishment and Management

Wildlife Habitat Establishment and ManagementEnsuring the future of the land resources for generations to come is one of the most gratifying experiences of land ownership. However, without proper planning and accurate execution the success anticipated will fall short. With decades of high-qualified experience, Hall & Hall’s group of wildlife and land management experts are seasoned in growing your natural resources based on your goals and region. Contact them today to discuss your property’s potential.


Stream & Pond Restoration and Development

A quality water source on the property can provide both adequate resources for livestock, agriculture, and wildlife. Proper planning with hydrology, soils, and Stream & Pond Restoration and Developmentsurroundings in mind will determine success of a stream and pond establishment. For many properties, water is the heart of production and success. Let Hall & Hall’s experts assist you in creating a valuable and sustainable water source on your land investment.

Livestock, Crops, and Equipment Procurement and Marketing

Livestock, Crops, and Equipment Procurement and MarketingKeeping accurate books on resources and equipment, as well as the development of a solid marketing strategy can create a revenue source to make the most of your investment property. Hall & Hall’s network of experts in agriculture will make sure that your assets are tracked and marketed in a way optimized for your property goals.


Lease Development, Management, and Administration

Lease Development, Management, and AdministrationA productive investment property, is a successful investment property. Leasing out some or all of your property for activities such as crops, livestock, or hunting can create a reliable and predictable revenue stream to begin to help generate a return on your investment. Hall & Hall’s land and lease experts can not only make sure your property is justifying the greatest cost for the leasing activity, but also handle everything from management to paperwork on the leasing activities.


Property Maintenance and Management

Property Maintenance and ManagementA well-maintained property creates a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. When you have time to enjoy your property, you want to do just that. Hall & Hall can make sure that your property is well-maintained and in the condition you expect when you arrive to enjoy the great outdoors. From hunting to relaxation, our team will create the type of experience you expect.