There are many good people out there who are trying to do something about the woeful state of the strong wool industry. Synthetics have spanked wool in the market place in price and promotion, yet wool as a natural, sustainable, fire resistant and warm should be doing well as these types of products are gaining a presence in the market place where precious resources are being looked at more carefully than ever before. So what is going to make the difference? I believe that effective governance with effective and realisable strategies will make the difference. We need governance people who have a passion for the industry and to be true innovators if coarse wool is to be a valuable resource once again.
The problem with coarse wool in New Zealand seems to be that the industry is very fragmented, the farmers are spread out and they farm sheep for different reasons. This means that the wool that is grown is not necessarily good for manufacturing into products such as textiles or clothing, but is more of a bi-product of a meat animal. It is not easy to get farmers to agree to or pay for new innovation, research and development or marketing. They have seen it all before and it was not favourable for them. Wool did well when there were price floors for farmers, but with the removal of subsidies. Because wool is worth so little, enlisting enthusiasm is very difficult, money is a big driver in the farming business and not all farmers are prepared to play the "long game".
Finally, what goes on in a remote farm and what goes on in a board room are poles apart, there seems to be little effective feedback and evidence that work that goes on in board rooms of wool organisations is and can make a difference all the way back at the farm gate.
It seems to be that the gaps between board rooms and farmers, as I mentioned, seems to be large. However, if there is to be any real change in this industry then I believe that it is the task of governance to set some realisable, illustratable and understandable goals that everyone can access and understand in the industry. Fling the doors open and let some fresh air in and some information out! Strategies do not need to be complex and large, keep them simple and unintimidating to read - who ever wanted to read an inch of strategy when you're at the coal face?? Show me one person and I'll be amazed!
The strategy that I have in my head has the following goals:
- Marketing - What do we offer? Who are our customers and what are their needs? Where are the gaps in the market?
- Innovation - How can gaps in the market be filled? Where is there a need that is unfulfilled, for instance, since wool is a protein is there anyway that it could be used as part of a food source?
- Communication - communiction plan set up to tell the industry what is going on, build trust and keep some momentum
Then measure quartely, find the gaps and report.
By conducting some good marketing and thinking outside of the square, it may be possible to lift the demand of wool, which is the goal - raise demand and increase profits.
With good communication about strategic goals, trust would increase in the farming fraternity. Increased trust would mean that good communication and information would flow back into board rooms.
Innovation in the industry would be embraced not treated with scepticism.
Get the right governance board together. Cast the net wide and ensure that they understand the industry. Having members who can understand and contribute to international and national strategies is important, people who understand farmers and our farming environment. They would have to have a genuine passion and drive for the industry and be motivated by the realisable rewards for the industry, not motivated by self interest or representing a clique within the mix.
Deveolp a vision which is about today, tomorrow and togetherness then build your strategy around that. Keep on asking "are we there yet" when measuring progress against strategic goals. Look for bottlenecks and red herrings through a thorough risk analysis and either deal with them or eliminate them.
Keep it simple!!! Look at things for what they are and treat problems as if they are gifts that can take you beyond your expectations on the way to finding solutions if you can manage to think outside of the square.
Make sure that your analysis does not paralyse you. Find a balance between being careful and standing still till you have everything perfect.
Finally, incremental but progressive changes would be better in this industry than a big bang approach. Our farmers have been burned too many times overnight with a stroke of a pen!
These are my own thoughts based on gaps found in a literature review.