Farm Yarns with Jack Cresswell of Farms Advice

Farms Advice

We’re thrilled to share the transcript from a compelling podcast featuring our founder, Matt Meehan, Armidale-based accountant, financial adviser and farm business coach, on the Farms Advice Podcast hosted by Jack Cresswell. As an authoritative voice in agribusiness and financial planning, Matt lends his extensive expertise and personal anecdotes to this insightful conversation.

Transcript: Matt Meehan and Jack Cresswell.

Jack Cresswell: 
Welcome to this week’s segment of farm yarns where we dive behind the audio to find out who inspires our guests, what motivates them, what they would like to debunk, and also what resources they lean on to get the most out of their agribusiness. So let’s get down to it – Farm yarns.  We like to find out what drives the person we’re interviewing, what motivates them, what their favourite resources are, and hopefully get a couple of book recommendations in the end, so let’s kick it off. 

Matt, there must be something in the water in Armidale (literally), because there seems to be a lot of people swimming out there. I know a bit about your morning routine, but maybe you can tell the listeners. What does it look like?

Matt Meehan: 
Well, I swim with the High Cows three mornings a week. We kick off with a 6am swim and we’ve just started back in the town pool. It’s pretty fresh when you’re out of the water, but the pool is nice. 

I say I go swimming for the coffee afterwards because we always get together at one of the local coffee shops and have a coffee and a few laughs. I enjoy it – it’s the way you start the day that will determine how your day plays out. 

Jack Cresswell: 
What’s the go-to cafe in Armidale these days?

Matt Meehan: 
My office is right next door to the Goldfish Bowl which is always good. They have woodfired pizza on Fridays, so it’s a very handy spot. After swimming we often go to Era which is just down the road. There are plenty of options when it comes to coffee in Armidale, that’s for sure! 

Jack Cresswell: 
I would have passed your office quite a few times back in the UNE days. Matt, everyone’s got one memory from an experience they had on a farm. What’s your memory? 

Matt Meehan:
I didn’t come from a farm, we grew up in Melbourne, but my mother was from a farming family and my father was a doctor. We ended up buying a portion of land up in southern New South Wales and that was my first introduction to farming. I loved the open space and getting outside. We’d go rabbit trapping and my grandmother would cook up a rabbit stew. It was good at the time, but I couldn’t get my head around it now. 

Jack Cresswell: 
Matt, who is the most influential person in your life, either personally or professionally? 

Matt Meehan: 
I’m in a coaching program from America called Strategic Coach by Dan Sullivan. He’s originally from a farm in Ohio, USA, I believe he now lives in Canada. I’ve gotten so much value from the program both personally and professionally. I’ve binged a number of the podcasts he’s on and I’ve read his books and all sorts of things. Strategic Coach is something that’s had a big impact on me in recent times. 

Jack Cresswell: 
We were talking about Strategic Coach last week and then the next book I’m going to read rocked up in my mail. Does he have a book called Traction?

Matt Meehan: 
No, Traction is by Gino Wickman who has a business called Entrepreneurial Operating System. Strategic Coach with Dan Sullivan is about you as an entrepreneur and as a business owner, whereas Traction is about you as the owner running the business – how you work with your team, weekly meetings and vision – all that sort of stuff. 

Jack Cresswell: 
I think they’re great books, so there are two early book recommendations for the audience to take home! The next question I want to ask you is about a myth you’d like to debunk about farm business success and financial planning. 

Matt Meehan:
I think financial planning can cop a bit of a bad rap in the media sometimes, but ultimately, there’s a place for it. 

When I got into financial planning, I was working at Rabobank and I thought it was about the latest stock tip, but I ended up doing a lot of personal risk protection (life insurance) instead. 

It sounds a bit boring, but if you were a farming client with significant debts and you were also a key person on your farm, you required a level of protection. Risk protection for farmers in this situation is a really important element of financial planning. Even now, I continue to work around personal risk protection, which also has a business protection element as well. 

Say you have children on the farm and you want to have some sort of protection in place in case one of them passes away, having life insurance can fund that situation so that the farm isn’t put into jeopardy. 

Jack Cresswell: 
How do you look at risk in life? Are you risk averse?

Matt Meehan: 
No, I’m not. When it comes to investing, I’m willing to take on a bit more risk than others. However, when it comes to financial planning and investing for a client, it’s not about me – it’s about them and their attitude to risk. I want you to sleep soundly at night because that’s important. I’m not one of those advisers who’ll say “Well, why don’t you just do what I do?” Because it just doesn’t work that way.

Jack Cresswell: 
Yeah, we can’t all adopt the Warren Buffett risk capabilities. 

Matt Meehan: 
Yeah, it’s funny you say that. Over 10 years ago I went to Omaha, Nebraska to the Berkshire Hathaway AGM. For those that haven’t been to it, I can thoroughly recommend going, especially because there probably won’t be many more opportunities given the age of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.  (Update: Charlie Munger passed in late 2023 at age 99).

I’d say that the AGM isn’t actually about investing. It’s about you as a person and what you get from listening to two people who are so knowledgeable and so ethical. Charlie Munger isn’t as well known, but I recommend reading his book, Poor Charlie’s Almanack. 

The reason Warren and Charlie are such good investors is that they read so much and they know so much about what’s going on in the world.

Jack Cresswell: 
I read up until the early hours of the morning and I read Warren Buffett’s Snowball Effect. I think it took me 12 months to get through it with its 800-plus pages, so, it’s outstanding that you got to go to the AGM.

Matt Meehan: 
Yeah, I went with six other people and it was fantastic. I first read The Warren Buffett Way back when I lived in Sydney in 1995. I think a lot of people try to emulate it but when it comes to buying shares, it’s not just a price that’s getting quoted, you’re buying a business. If the business fundamentals are sound, the management’s good and it’s got a bright future, then that’s the key thing – in that way, it’s really no different to farming.

Jack Cresswell: 
Definitely. There are a lot of billionaires who lost a lot of money due to COVID-19, but interestingly enough, Warren Buffett was one of the few who made money throughout that time because he invested in stable businesses. 

Matt Meehan: 
Yeah, that’s right. One of Warren’s famous sayings is, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” And that means that often the time to make serious investments can be when everything is looking depressing and the signs aren’t good. I often ask farmers, “When would you prefer to buy steers? When they’re $800 or $400? Now I have to say “Would you prefer to buy them at $2,000 or $1,500?” 

Jack Cresswell:
Exactly. For the next one, we will get into a bit of a DNM or a Deep and Meaningful, for those that don’t know what it is. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would that be? 

Matt Meehan: 
At the end of the day, it comes back to impact. So, how can you and your family have a positive impact on those that you’ve brought into this world? And what are you doing it for at the end of the day? That’s important. 

Swinging into the work side of things, I find that you have a personal connection with your clients, and so, what’s best for them? So, the impact then is that it’s not about me, it’s about what happens to others. Back to Buffet, Life is about what you give, not what you get, and that’s self-fulfilling anyway. 

Jack Cresswell: 
Okay, so if you were given $10 million tomorrow, what would you be spending on?

Matt Meehan:
A Holiday? I’ve got a small hobby farm and I have my aspirations to have a bit more country because I’m not from a farm, so I’d use some for that. And then my wife and I have been looking at Coastal real estate because we spend a bit of time at Yamba, so that’d be nice. Then obviously, the Superfund could do with a bit of a top-up. I’d also like to invest back into the business with the likes of team, technology and training – the three T’s. 

Jack Cresswell: 
Throughout your professional career, what’s your favourite productivity hack?

Matt Meehan: 
That’s a challenge for everyone. I can say that the thing that I’ve got to work on is not looking at my emails first thing. 

I was listening to something earlier this week and they said, “If you could just split your day in half, and in the first half of your day just focus on those high-value activities that you know you need to get done, then all of the other things like emails and fixing up messes could be done in the second half of the day.” I’m still a work in progress when it comes to that because my day gets taken over with phone calls, emails etc.

I like this saying “My attention, my property” which means that you need to focus your intention on what you know you need to get done to move the needle. A book recommendation for productivity is the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Jack Cresswell: 
Exactly, and we’ll put. The next one is a bit of a tongue twister for everyone to join in on: if you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?

Matt Meehan: 
So as you know I grew up in Melbourne. When I was younger I was either going to be a DJ or I was going to go Jackarooing and I chose to go Jackarooing.

Funnily enough, in the last five or six years I’ve been doing a bit of DJing so I’ve got back into it! I’ve done several weddings and functions and all sorts of things – it’s a lot of fun. I go under DJ MatMan. 

Jack Cresswell: 
What’s the go-to Song for requests? Surely it has to be Horses by Darryl Braithwaite? 

Matt Meehan: 
Oh, Sweet Caroline is good. It’s funny you know, I’ve done quite a few events and there’ll be a song that someone comes up to request and I’ve never had requested before and I think to myself “Oh, that’s quite a good one!” There are classics that come up all the time like ACDC and KISS – all the 80s. Every generation loves those sorts of tracks.

Jack Creswell: 
It’s always good to be creative and have an outlet. What are some of your favourite resources you’ve learned from? 

Matt Meehan:
I’ve recently been listening to a lot of Podcasts. I like getting in the car and listening to someone who has shared the same sort of challenge as I have. Audiobooks are good too. I find listening to an audiobook while having the actual hard book in front of me can be helpful, that way I can listen to it as I’m reading through it. At the moment, I’m reading a book and I’m taking notes as I go. That’s quite a good thing to do as well. 

Jack Cresswell: 
It’s like multitasking. Same thing.

Matt Meehan: 
Well, there’s a school of thought that says if your brain’s connected to your hands and your hands are what separates us as human beings from other animals in the world – it’s our hands that have made us what we are, in terms of where we sit. So that’s why people can learn better when they write things down. 

Jack Cresswell: 
Yeah, absolutely. And one of the last book recommendations. What’s your go-to book? 

Matt Meehan: 
I mentioned The Warren Buffett Way and you’ve read Snowball. There’s the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey. Another one I’ve read recently is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It’s a very old book but a lot of people mention it. Finally, Principles by Ray Dalio. Ray Dalio is the biggest hedge fund manager in America and while it’s not an investing-style book it’s about principles and you can get a lot out of it. He’s just put out another book called Changing World Order. There’s also a summary video on that book. 

Jack Cresswell:
I think a lot of these books apply to agriculture, you just translate it into ag terms and how that could relate to your own business. From the books I’ve read, from investing to personal development and everything in between.

Matt Meehan:
Yeah. Lifelong learning is what it’s about – you get a lot from reading books, but I like reading fiction as well, too. You have to be able to switch off, you can’t just be business all the time.

Jack Creswell: 
Thank you very much for coming onto the Farm Yarns segment. It’s been great to get to know you and what drives you. 

 

To learn more about Matt Meehan and how he can help farmers create a bigger future, click this link to find out about our Farm Business Success Program, Lifesolver’s signature program for farmers wanting create a pathway to success. For all accounting or financial planning queries, book a free 15-minute appointment with Matt here. 

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