Making a difference

John Ladley will go down in history as the person who took a broken Doug Avery to that life-changing lucerne workshop where he first met Professor Derrick Moot.
Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Over the years, John has watched with interest – and immense satisfaction – as Doug has transformed his business and life, raised awareness of mental health issues in rural communities and written a best-selling book.

“It has made me very aware of the influence you can have on one person’s life.”

For John, helping others become the best version of themselves is what gets him out of bed in the morning and as B+LNZ’s South Island General Manager, John sums his job up in just three words – “it’s all about people.”

By enabling the members of team to do the best job they can, he is by default, delivering value for sheep and beef farmers.

He sees his role as supporting farming excellence, but also making sure that this links back to the health and prosperity of rural communities.

John knows about rural and regional communities because he grew up in one.  Nelson was his home province during his formative years where he spent a lot of time on the farms of extended family and was an active member of Young Farmers.

As an extravert, he was a natural to go into sales and service career and working in the rural sector, he took a very personal interest in his clients’ businesses.

He recalls one farmers asking him why he didn’t aspire to farm ownership- and he responded that he actually had 200 farms into which he invested his skills and knowledge- without a lifetime of debt.

A job with Wrightson’s Seeds brought him and his family to Christchurch where he worked in the sales as well as the operational side of the business.

“This gave me insight into the other side of the business.”

He subsequently worked for AgriSeeds as their national sales manager for nine years. This role was about managing teams and key accounts- in essence it was about relationships which is very much part of his GM’s role.

As well as looking after the extension and economic teams, he looks after the organisation’s Farmer Council, Innovation Farm programme and chairs Kaikoura’s post-earthquake recovery governance group.  He is also responsible for stakeholder relations, such as those with the Ministry for Primary Industries, DairyNZ, Federated Farmers and agricultural-related commercial entities.

Coming from a commercial background, he admits there are a different set of expectations within an industry-good organisation in that their activities have to meet the needs of a wider audience.

This, he says, will be one of the challenges with his role.

“We have finite resources so we need to choose what we take on to benefit our levy payers.”

This will mean taking an objective view of B+LNZ’s activities to determine which are the most effective – rather than just doing the same things over and over again.

Guided by the organisation’s strategic priorities of supporting farming excellence, unlocking market potential, enhancing farmers’ environmental position and government and public engagement, John aims to empower his team to deliver on all of these.

“I want to support and reassure people to enable them to do their job to the best of the ability.”

His role as supporter also extends to his family’s sporting endeavours and he has managed representative and school hockey teams and manages to squeeze in the occasional mountain-bike when time allows.