We are so excited here at RuralScope. We turn 20 years old in 2020. We are celebrating by sharing 20 stories across 20 months. These will include highlights, lowlights and learnings. A unique insight into our development - personal and business for you. Our aim is to share learnings to support others who live and work across rural Australia.
This is our tenth story in the series. It’s all about how we got to work in the Australian cotton industry and what it’s like.
I’m often asked how we got to work in the Cotton industry, what’s it like and is it different to other sectors? I think these questions are super relevant for others in business as we had no prior experience with Cotton and didn’t know what a boll was (we pronounced it ball) when we first got started. And it’s fair to say that we didn’t specifically target Cotton as an industry we wanted to work in, now 18 years on we are super glad that our work led us to this fabulous sector of Australian agriculture.
Way back then I worked on a program with the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA). They asked me to facilitate a personal / professional development program for women in rural, regional and remote areas. And it had to be available to all no matter where they worked or lived. It was our first all ‘distance learning’ program that we developed and delivered. Pretty sure we worked with about 18 women and one of these was a cotton grower from northern NSW.
Upon reflection, I can clearly see there’s a big difference between ‘doing the work’ and ‘telling people you can do the work’. We started to work in the Cotton industry because others recognised the value of our work and spoke about it. Maybe because we were not from within the industry we were seen as different / objective / no ‘baggage’ etc. As I look back, it was definitely about the work and bringing a fresh approach to facilitation. We didn’t pitch our services as appears to be very common these days. Instead one person from a program we facilitated shared who we were and most importantly what and how we did our work with others. And we didn’t even know this had happened. Before long we were invited to submit a proposal for a project that fitted our leadership wheelhouse.
The first project was on an industry membership evaluation project with Cotton Australia. Again we completed the project completely via distance via phone consults and an online survey. It provided everyone across the industry with the opportunity to have their say and not just those who were able to attend a local, regional or city-based meeting. The result was a more realistic and valid set of outcomes for a more cost effective investment. Since then we have facilitated a number of industry projects including facilitation of the first formal industry strategic plan the merger of three organisations to enhance service to the Australian cotton industry and a favourite – facilitation of an international cotton conference where we linked 5 hubs around the world via technology from Dalby, Queensland. We also completed a project for the industry that saw our team call every cotton grower across the country when drought hit hard to identify current and future needs and ways of supporting individuals, businesses and the industry as a whole. And since 2008 we have facilitated the Australian Future Cotton Leaders Program, next one kicks off in 2021.
We love working in the Cotton industry. It’s a young and progressive industry in Australia with a solution seeking and future focussed outlook. We get to work with amazing people supporting their leadership development. We currently utilise mentoring more in the cotton industry than we do in other sectors. We find it to be a time and cost effective way of developing networks and sharing knowledge and skills. It’s my view that this strategy, with individual accountability , can accelerate learning and development exponentially. Commitment from all parties is required to make it work well.
And as for the question is the cotton industry different to other sectors? Of course it is. Every industry is different, you wouldn’t want it any other way.
- “Always be open to new experiences.”
- “Let the quality of your work do the talking for you – there is nothing better than someone else talking about your business, products or services and what you’ve achieved for others.”
- “Know what you are good at and stick to it”.