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  • Writer's pictureDarren Bainbridge

Unlocking the Potential of Your Beekeeping Business: Building Value and Living Your Dream Lifestyle


Darren Bainbridge.

I see this a lot: very knowledgeable operators with decades of experience, hundreds of hives, maybe even a few thousand, extraction plant, and a few vehicles, making an income some would dream of, yet feeling exhausted, worn out, and disenchanted with the perpetual grind. They want out or to retire, but face the harsh reality of no interested buyers knocking at their doors.

I ask you to ponder what makes one business worth more than another, why one is more desirable and worth more than its peers? An important thing to keep in mind is, unless you are selling to another beekeeper, the very reasons you want out are the same deterrents for potential buyers.

Most buyers aren’t going to value the types of assets you have amassed. Typically, those financially poised to make a purchase have been successful in a previous business. The second time around, these types of people don’t want to work in the business they're purchasing. They're looking for something that can operate passively, effectively an automated money-printing machine, or they know how to turn your business into an ATM.

To realize the dream lifestyle you yearn for, you need to adopt the mindset of a discerning buyer and strive to build the business these types of people are looking for. ‘Easier said than done’, I can hear you say. And yes, I am well aware the challenges many beekeepers are going through just to keep their business anywhere near in the black. Despite those huge challenges for many, it is still very worthwhile to keep long-term outcomes in mind, such as business succession planning, when making decisions in the short and medium term.

With that in mind, here’s three things to think about in your business which I have learnt from my dealings with many beekeepers over the years.

1.    Cultivate a Strong, Stable Second-tier Management 

Businesses boasting a robust, ideally stable, second-tier management team inherently hold greater worth than those tethered to their owner's constant presence.

Regardless of your scale, a lack of managerial depth – no seasoned apiary manager, adept honey manager, or a staffer primed to assume such roles – puts a ceiling on your business's potential value and is key to freeing you to be able to live your dream lifestyle.

A buyer doesn’t want a business where the owner is the business, and nor do you. This limits revenue growth and is what leads to burnout. Consider this litmus test: Could you go away on holiday for four weeks without calls and emails from panicked staff?

Instead of relying solely on your own efforts, learn to delegate tasks to capable employees, starting small, and gradually entrust them with more significant responsibilities to free up your time for strategic activities.

Invest this time in developing efficient systems and procedures that can be replicated and scaled. This might include standard operating procedures, record-keeping tools, and delegation strategies.

Start to empower your team to make decisions and take ownership of their roles, which fosters a culture of responsibility and accountability. Your goal here is to develop key employees into managers whom you can eventually hand responsibility for apiary and honey operations over to.

Despite being obvious, this is one of the hardest things to do and can instantly make your business more valuable and give you more free time.

2.    Diversify Your Revenue Streams

Lay the groundwork for your team's growth by securing diversified income streams. Refrain from placing all your bets on a single facet of beekeeping, be it a specific pollination crop, or producing one type of honey.

The market and environment can change quickly; from frosted kiwifruit orchards cancelling pollination contracts to the tumultuous honey markets.

Explore opportunities to broaden your service and product offerings. Seek out niches where you can command a premium – whether through speciality honey variants, organic certifications, or alternative pollination contracts.

Increasing the value of your services is the key to being able to build and develop your team.

To help you with this, cultivate strong customer relationships by elevating your service quality. Listen to their feedback, address their concerns promptly, and maintain open lines of communication to build trust and loyalty over time.

3.    Foster a culture of Innovation

Foster a culture of continuous improvement and adaptation within your organization, encouraging employees to identify opportunities for innovation and efficiency gains, capitalizing on their diverse perspectives and insights.

You will be amazed at what they come up with.

Look for productivity increases, perhaps some proprietary way of operating that keeps you ahead of your peers.

Stay agile and responsive to changes in the market landscape, and be willing to adapt your strategies and operations accordingly to maintain a competitive edge.

No silver bullets

These concepts could mean significant changes in management practices, but they needn’t come overnight. If nothing else, they should at least be kept in mind as decisions need to be made, whether they can be practically introduced or not.

If they can though, you might find your beekeeping business moving from a lifestyle business with you at the centre, to one where you can fit in as just another gear if needed, with one hand on the wheel steering it in the right direction, all the while building something more valuable.

Darren Bainbridge is founder and director of MyApiary, beekeeping management software and consultation. He has travelled extensively in the role, getting to know beekeeping business the length and breadth of New Zealand, as well as in Australia, USA, Canada and Europe over the past eight years.


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