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SBDC: Agriculture has same needs as other local businesses to develop

Aug. 31, 2010 at 3:31 a.m.


NEED MORE HELP? Contact the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center, 3402 N. Ben Wilson St., at 361-575-8944, or visit www.sbdc.uhv.edu.

This morning, I was finishing planting my fall garden.

For the end of August, it is a cool, humid morning. It reminds me of many I had growing up on a farm in Wharton County, where we primarily farmed row crop and some aquaculture.

Most farming activities are solitary by nature and give you lots of time to reflect.

As I enter my fifth year as a business adviser with the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center, I get to work with mostly traditional businesses, retailers, service providers and some manufacturers - but not many agriculture producers.

Most of our counseling sessions with clients revolve around several main topics:

The need for capital, whether short- or long-term. Oftentimes there is a need to restructure debt for cash flow improvements or an expansion.

The desire to create a business plan, sometimes because the entrepreneur is interested in starting or diversifying a business. Most of the time it is because a lender requires one as part of a loan package.

Cash flow analysis or cash flow planning.

Basic bookkeeping for their business. I get to work with pencil/pad, spreadsheet systems, and QuickBooks or Peachtree systems.

Research on a new idea or venture to plan for the feasibility of a diversity plan.

Most of the topics above would also apply to agriculture businesses. Accounting or bookkeeping is one area most agriculture producers, as well as your traditional businesses, could use some help.

Whether a business is agriculture or traditional, the need for accurate, timely and consistent statement of the financial condition and information is vital.

For example, if you will keep up with your income and expenses on a monthly basis, you can create a very accurate cash flow statement to show cash needs.

Because most agriculture business have most of their income produced in one or two months, some might see little use in producing monthly statements, preferring to do the bookkeeping at the end of the year - or just after the first of the New Year to file income taxes.

It is my personal belief that some of the new regulations and enforcement policies we see now from Washington are going to affect all small business, even the agriculture producers.

The ability to produce accurate, consistent and timely reports will help with any audits.

Employee audits could be a big issue and record keeping will be vital to avoiding additional taxes or penalties because of inaccurate or careless systems. As with most things, the sooner you complete a task, the more accurate your information will be.

We offer a service to businesses, without cost and in a confidential setting, to help your business grow and prosper. Our mission statement is, "To help the Texas economy grow, one business at a time."

I invite our area agriculture businesses to take advantage of our services. We serve Victoria and 10 surrounding counties: Aransas, Calhoun, Bee, Refugio, Karnes, Jackson, DeWitt, Lavaca, Goliad and Gonzales counties.

When harvest season is over, and you would like some help or just to talk about your business, give our office a call. We'll be happy to meet at our place or yours.

Joe Humphreys is the associate director of the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center. Contact him at humphreysj@uhv.edu.

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