Comparison benchmarking: Don't overlook this valuable member service 

Ag members who use it cite insights useful for decision-making and continuous improvement

Land O

“You’re always wondering how well you’re doing compared to others. Isn’t that just life?” Heather McClean of Reddy Ag and Ross Soil Service in Wisconsin reflects on the essential — and existential — practice of comparing your own business to others in the industry.
Right now, Heather and representatives from about 100 other retail owners are in the process of packaging select financial data for analysis across industry benchmarks. Fortunately for these owners, Land O’Lakes Member Relations Ag staff assists in this benchmarking analysis to streamline the process, ensure it complies with applicable laws and regulations and offer insights that the owner may not have otherwise.
In Heather’s words, “Before, we were left to decipher and analyze the information on ourselves, now we have access to industry information that can help us make decisions.'"
After retailers share their data with Land O’Lakes, the team members analyze it and create comparison reports. The reports show the retailer’s own financials side-by-side with industry averages.  The reports aggregate data that retailers couldn’t access at the individual level and help answer retailers’ questions about where they stand in the industry and can help them identify areas for improvement.
Says Heather, “It allows us to compare our own performance versus the industry.  So you're not just saying, this is our total expense, but you're actually looking at what is your expense is to sales, or to margin, and you can then compare that to the norms for the industry.”
Garden City Co-Op is another participant in division benchmarking. Their CFO Kelly Drees appreciates the additional perspective that the benchmarking reports offer. She says that for her, the reporting process goes beyond a simple exchange of data and reports with Land O’Lakes. It involves a conversation and critical perspective taking.
“The benchmarking gives you an independent perspective of how to look at your financials, to give you a better idea of where you're at and where you can grow,” Kelly says. “The conversation with our member relations representative is like having another individual sit in the room with you to analyze the aggregated financial data in the report. It’s really relational, and we get a lot of feedback from that process.”
Kelly, Heather and Land O’Lakes want to encourage more members to take advantage of the service. After all, there is no charge for the service — it’s part of the value of being an owner of Land O’Lakes Inc.
Naomi Mangold, who leads the member relations ag team explains the teams’ mission is to demonstrate the power of ownership to all ag owners at Land O’Lakes. “This tool is available to every one of our ag retail owners. The ability to look outside of your own organization through these industry benchmarks can be very insightful and we encourage everyone to consider enrolling in the division benchmark platform.”
Getting started can be the first step in an important journey toward continuous improvement. As it was for Heather, who sums it up: “The important part is using that information to make decisions instead of just using it to keep score. We're learning and interpreting the available information to make important decisions to grow our company.”
If you are interested in learning more about this service, please contact your member relations ag manager.