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Transforming Regions Development Program

Helping regional businesses develop skills in business and people management.

This project was completed in 2020.


The Transforming Regions Development Program, hosted by Riverine Plains, was facilitated by Dennis Hoiberg of Lessons Learnt Consulting.

The program was designed to assist farming and regional businesses acheive long-term profitability and sustainability. It commenced in March 2020 with two face-to-face sessions. After a pause in the program in response to COVID-19 restrictions, the program resumed in an online format with six sessions being held during August and September.

In short: This series of workshops and webinars aimed to help farmers and business managers from rural communities develop skills in business and people management. 

Project focus

The weekly modules provided participants with the opportunity to hear from guest speakers, who shared their business and personal experiences.

Modules included:

  • Keeping your head in the game: emotional preparedness and passion in your business
  • Positioning your business to thrive
  • Shaping your future
  • Managing Finances
  • Managing relationships
  • Managing change
  • Benchmarking
  • Operational planning and management.

Project outcomes

A number of learning modules were created as part of this project:

Module 1: Keeping your head in the game

If you lose your “why”, you lose your way. 

This session involved a targeted discussion to challenge participants to identify why they are doing, what they are doing and whether they have both individual and shared values to achieve their “why”.

Participants had their values and strengths profiled as part of a journey towards self-discovery. The “beliefs-values-behaviours” spectrum were identified and applied for lives and businesses. Participants were given a framework for maintaining healthy physical and emotional habits to ensure they are able to play the “long game.”

Participants obtained a clearer view of their individual and shared values and strengths profiles and were guided as to how to positively apply them to their lives and businesses. Participants identified their “why” and asked themselves “do we want to?” and “if we do, how do we do?”. Participants identified their life mission statement and behaviours for well-being and resilience.

Module 2: Positioning your business to thrive

If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.

Participants were asked “Can your business keep doing what you have always done? What are the options for your business and how can they be assessed and achieved?”.

This workshop module helped participants examine the analytics of their business and to identify possible alternatives, as well as considering how such alternatives can be achieved.

A detailed environmental and situational analysis was conducted by participants on their own businesses, with participants also asked to think outside the square in terms of business options. This module was designed to help participants start asking different questions of their farming and financial advisors to imagine a future “what is possible” business.

Module 3: Shaping your future

Vision without action is waste of time, action without vision is filling in time, but with vision and action you change change the world.

Participants were asked to consider “What is the most appropriate strategic planning framework for rural and regional businesses?”

This module used a recommended and tested planning model to identify the aspirations of the business and the linkages required to achieve them. Participants investigated all aspects of business operations to ensure the business moves from people running a business to a thriving business being run by people – individuals, families, and co-operatives. This requires a change of mindset and thinking process.

Participants began developing their strategic and tactical plans, with templates provided to assist participants begin the process of transforming their businesses. Participants saw how stronger questioning and a curious approach to their why, what and how can help drive better business choices

Module 4: Managing finances

The devil is in the detail – understanding and using the numbers.

Participants were provided with another way of looking at the numbers and detail.

This module helped build the business and financial literacy of the participants, with the aim of achieving clearer aspirations for participants by asking more informed questions of their advisors and providers.

Participants “deep dived” into their businesses using a template to help adopt strategies that may better serve them and their businesses. In this module, participants were also asked to identify strategies to achieve their aspirations.

Module 5: Managing relationships

At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships.

Effective relationships are the fuel that keep small business alive. What are the strategies that keeps these relationships alive and thriving? It is more than just communication – it’s about shared values, goals and having a clear understanding of accountabilities and expectations.

Managing relationships is about understanding the key relationships and applying these strategies on a needs basis. It’s also about managing the difficult times, negotiating and collaborating to achieve a shared outcome.

Participants completed an “Opinion Leaders Analysis” for external stakeholders and developed strategies for various stakeholders. Strategies to manage internal relationships were also developed by participants, including a needs analysis, managing conflict, change and difficult situations.

Module 6: Managing change

No real change happens unless there is resistance – it’s about harnessing that energy to bounce forward.

How do you change behaviour of people? What are those triggers of change that people will either use as a motivator or a blockage to progress? How do you ensure all people are on the “same page” while allowing for individual difference?

Participants developed their own change management matrix. Strategies to overcome resistance behaviour and attitudes were developed and implemented.

Module 7: Benchmarking

Benchmarking is a valuable tool – as long it provides the key comparisons and in a way that may be used for business decision making.

This session focused on using benchmarks as a management tool. It identified the key benchmarks for business and assisted participants in achieving these (as identified during this process).

Guest speaker Mike Krause of P2P Agri, shared his experience, gained over his many years of assisting businesses improve and achieve business profitability and sustainability.

Module 8: When the rubber hits the road

When it’s all said and done, there needs to be more done than said.

This session built on the decisions  made during the previous modules, providing strategies to both measure and sustain change within the business. There was a focus on operational planning processes and management mechanisms to ensure the business is effectively managed and continuously works toward its agreed objectives.

Accountability, from internal and external sources, is powerful in keeping people focusing on doing what they say they are going to do.

An operational plan covering all elements of the agreed business plan was developed, evaluated and measured, ensuring strategies and behaviours are consistent with the aspirations of the business. Management mechanisms and reporting lines were included to ensure the vision is turned into reality.

Find out more

For further information on this project, please email info@riverineplains.org.au

Project investment

This program was funded by the Australian Government’s Drought Communities Program, in conjunction with Federation Council.

Focus areas


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