In the early years the company’s growth was on the back of pension schemes investing in farm land, and in the early 1980’s the company commenced contract farming for private individuals. In 1986, following the sudden death of the President of the American insurance company, Sentry Farm Management (along with all the company’s non-insurance activities worldwide) was put onto the market and a management buyout was undertaken aided by city equity houses and a merchant bank.
1990 saw the company merge with Associated Farmers plc in a reverse takeover, and Sentry Farming Group plc began its journey from the third market, via the USM, to become the only farming company with a full listing.
However it soon became obvious that the growth and profit expectations of a fully listed company were incompatible with a farming company, and in 1999 the Plc divested itself of all of its assets, with employees, customers and machinery transferring through a management buyout to Sentry Limited, with the employees having control of the company.
The new Sentry utilises an Employee Benefit Trust to safeguard the ownership and give stability and direction to the company, giving all current and future employees the opportunity to acquire shares.
The company has established a proven record of profitability, which maintains a dividend stream but retains the majority of profits to provide re-investment for growth and maintain a successful career ladder.
Sentry Limited – Structure
The company has a board consisting of executive directors with significant experience within the farming industry, and non-executive directors who have great business experience to give support and guidance. We have an established management team with significant practical farming experience, each responsible for maintaining and developing their individual aspects of the company as well as running their own farming businesses.
Managers and assistant managers manage their farming businesses (as below) with access to our Advisory division which provides both internal and external support. The company farms through FBT’s (farm business tenancies), full contracting agreements, and a range of managed farms and estates on behalf of others. There is a great emphasis on training (both internally and externally) and development, and this includes organised management development groups and specific internal and external training. All training is openly discussed with employees regularly as part of our comprehensive appraisal system.
Sentry – Farming Operations
Sentry’s farming operations consist of 26 farm business units that operate largely autonomously, albeit within a financial framework and under the company umbrella. The average size is growing, but stands currently around 829 hectares and is made up of a number of local agreements. They have their own business plans and budgets as well as management and machines.
As a company we are producing around 90,000 tonnes of cereals, 5,000 tonnes of pulses, 14,000 tonnes of oilseeds and 50,000 tonnes of root crops. The farm business units are supported internally by the Farming Development Group, and the more specialist Business Support team.
Farming Development Team
Our objective is to internally communicate experience to the wider business units, developing and challenging our operating procedures and decision making process. It provides a good career step for proven farm business managers wishing to take on additional responsibility and a wider role within the company. The team maintain their full time roles managing one of the farm business units.
Grain Marketing – Robert Kilby
- Strategic marketing/market information/consolidated marketing deals/market requirements and varietal choice
Agronomy – James Mayes
- Yield targeted input strategies/agronomic discussions/internal field trials/low input trials
Seed – John Hall
- Farm saved seed/seed dressings/seed rates/variety choice
Recruitment/Trainees – Steve Farrar/Linda Linton
- Recruitment of harvest casuals/selection of trainee managers/trainee manager programme/manager development groups
Procurement – Richard Peck
- Machinery/wearing metal/tyres/fertiliser/agro-chemicals/seed
Provide alternative perspectives and additional business management skills at farm business unit level. Managers are given autonomy to produce their own strategic plans with guidance and are challenged by both the senior management and their peers.
Business Plans – short, medium and long term strategy setting the goal in the following areas:
- Produce Marketing/Business Image and Marketing/Human Resources/Financial/Operations/Agronomic/Input Requirements/Non Farming Income/Communications/Farm Structure
- Budgets/Cashflows/Sensitivity Analysis/Machinery Planning/ROCE
- Volatility and Risk Management/Margin Locking
- Benchmarking and Management Focus Reports
- Management Information and Efficiency Measures
Sentry Advisory – Rebecca Arkley
Sentry also provides its expertise to a wider network of clients (approximately 80) by its professional services. Farmers and clients can chose to benefit from Sentry’s practical experience, knowledge and skill set from the following areas (with examples of the work we carry out):
Management/business advice – John Hall/Alec Smith
- Business management advice to clients including full business reviews, regular business advice, alternative income analysis, agreement management, machinery collaboration and farm benchmarking
Land and estate management – George Thomas/Alec Smith
- General estate management, Basic Payment Scheme, valuations, planning advice, compensation claims, environmental schemes and drafting legal property agreements
Accountancy/bookkeeping/payroll – Rebecca Arkley
- Budget preparation, cashflow forecasts, enterprise profit reporting, management accounts, full bookkeeping service, payroll and VAT
Associate Membership – Alec Smith
We currently have over 50 farmer associates and 4 corporate members who can receive the benefits of our scale and our advisory services above for a small annual fee.
All of these services enable the company to build ongoing relationships whilst customers gain the benefits of being involved with a larger professional farming business.
Sentry is committed to continually developing its business. We have a focused team of managers and supporting staff and want to expand our company and develop our long term business – we believe there are growth opportunities in the future, and we want to be part of that growth.