Brad Lillie (our in house financial guy) and I have been crunching the numbers for the last two calendar years and though we have made progress financially (after the disastrous 2008 season, we made a reasonable profit in 2009) changes must be made for us to maintain a competitive edge. Other than bidding out and forward contracting (locking in) our feed, we have limited control of feed cost – our #2 expense. We also lock in our propane cost. But our biggest expense in running our operation in labor.For us to be competitive and profitable in a flat demand environment, we must become more labor efficient. Our plan is to again evaluate our labor efficiency by breaking down all the processes involved in raising a pheasant, from the time it is hatched, through the brooder barn, to the pens til the point the bird is loaded onto the shipment truck. We know of (and now employed) many innovations from the industry, some of which we have found to help reduce the labor cost per bird.
Again, some of our expenses are difficult to control (property taxes, health care costs to name two). I believe there is a lot of room for improvement in our labor expenditure per bird (i.e. we can become much more labor efficient here). At the same time, we want to maintain our level of service with our customers and continue to be both accessible and able to answer questions. It also is of paramount importance that we keep the core value of humane treatment of birds in our minds at all times. It is my belief that we can become more efficient and still continue our level of customer service and treat our birds with respect.
I think the challenges we are facing are probably being faced by most small business owners in the current economic climate in our country. It was easy to hide our inefficiencies while our gross revenue was rising year after year. It will be more a test of my leadership and my managers effectiveness if we can maintain profitability as our gross revenue curve stays flat.