It’s important to have input from someone on the outside

5th May, 2017

Matthew, who is 24 and a former Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year finalist, is building up his own pig and suckler unit in Morpeth, Northumberland, alongside managing a farm on behalf of a trust, consultancy work and contract farming for a private investment company. He credits his mentor - independent consultant Hugh Fell - with helping both his personal and business development. The two men are in regular contact by phone and email, and meet every quarter. When they get together, the conversation is wide-ranging, but tends to focus on reviewing performance, along with financial and strategic planning. "When you are running your own business it is all too easy to fall into the trap of seeing what you want to see," says Matthew. "It's really important to have the input from someone outside. "For example, when I first met Hugh I only had a couple of sows, but he pointed out that pig production was a lot better for cashflow than cattle. If you time it right you can be selling every month, so I've recently expanded to about 80 sows." Matthew says Hugh doesn't always agree with what he says and vice versa, but having him there as a sounding-board has added value. Advice on how to present and sell himself when speaking to potential clients or customers has been particularly useful, he says. Hugh has also opened doors in terms of contacts. "I've got a lot of good contacts through this. I get to speak to people who would have been hard to get hold of without help."

The mentor's view

Hugh says he is "happy to put something back into the system" and working with someone like Matthew, who is full of energy and enthusiasm, gives him a real sense of satisfaction. "I've always been really interested in people and the role people play in the success of a business," he says. "My approach is to try and help people understand what they are really good at and then explore with them the opportunities to fulfil their potential. "It's about helping them to think about the right direction for them."

Matthew Sharp, Morpeth, Nothumberland.

With thanks to Farmers Weekly, publishing date 21 April 2017