Frances Coles knows all about dealing with increasing
business administration demands.
She was, as she put it, ''a townie who married a dairy
farmer'', which was a story familiar to many women in the
dairy industry, she said.
As the South Canterbury farming operation started to grow,
she gave away her job as a journalist to concentrate on the
Now Mrs Coles, a mother of three, is helping to show other
dairy farmers that effective business administration has as
much potential to contribute to their businesses'
profitability as milking cows.
DairyNZ modelling showed there was an opportunity to improve
the industry's profitability by more than $1 billion a year,
or about $1000 per hectare, by improving management
capabilities and financial literacy.
The Dairy Women's Network is running a series of workshops
this month which, in the South Island, will be facilitated by
Her husband Aaron's entry into the dairy industry began when
he started working for well-known South Canterbury dairy
farmer Alvin Reid.
He moved through the ranks into a sharemilking partnership,
then he and his wife went 50:50 sharemilking before
progressing into farm ownership.
They were now milking about 3500 cows over various properties
that encompassed farm ownership, equity partnership, 50:50
sharemilking and contract milking.
When it came to dealing with the paperwork, Mrs Coles said
she initially asked ''plenty of silly questions'', which was
necessary, particularly given she did not come from a rural
Not long after the birth of her eldest daughter Georgia (7),
a part-time office administrator was employed to help in the
office as the business had grown to the point where Mrs Coles
could not keep up with it herself.
The couple have two other daughters, Emily (5) and Katie (3).
A second part-time administrator was employed about a year
ago, with the business having grown to cover about 30 staff
and about seven different companies.
Farming was different than it used to be for the previous
There was more compliance and paperwork and operations needed
to be smarter, Mrs Coles said.
Reassessing the couple's approach to business administration
included whether the home office was still the right place to
be doing that work, because there was no boundary between
home and work ''when you live at your office''.
It was also about presenting a professional image.
Running a large-scale business around a kitchen table while
toddlers were ''tearing around in the background'' watching
cartoons on the television was not ideal.
But, it was the children's home and they should be able to do
that, so it was about finding a solution that worked for
Coles Farms now has a purpose-built office, separate from the
house, complete with boardroom.
Mrs Coles said many women in the dairy industry managed to
fit in book-work around family commitments and their roles in
The workshop would give tips on how they might be able to
improve, and also value, the role they played in what was
often a multimillion-dollar business.
The Otago workshop will be held on April 10 at the Papakaio
Hall, near Oamaru.