Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Fisheries Business Management

  • Integrate various internal and partner systems for increased efficiency
  • Better manage relationships and speed communications with materials vendors through online supply chain management systems
  • Reduce material delays through enhanced supplier communications
  • Analyze vendor reliability in real time to improve outsourcing decisions and product quality
  • Optimize process execution by integrating online applications with key ERP modules
  • Monitor process execution to identify additional areas for process improvement
Does all this sound like what you see in the Alaska seafood industry? If not, maybe that's why ex-vessel prices are so low. I'll use just one company as an example of what kind of Business Management services are available for free.

They offer free downloadable training materials with White Papers and Prochures, Data Sheets, Case Studies, Solution Briefs, and Webinars. This kind of information cuts to the chase, no Business 101 stuff. This kind of information can be used by fishermen and fishermen groups to write business plans that will have substance. And that is necessary if other fishermen, government officials or banks are needed to help make the proposed venture a success.

You just can't do things by the seat of your pants in this day and age. The competition out in the marketplace is just too keen. East Coast and Global seafood operations are using business models and strategies that are 21st century.

Sure, there are a lot of people in the Alaska seafood business that have survived to create good businesses, but there are ten times as many that have failed. The survivors were unique individuals, the circumstances and assets that they leveraged were unique, and they most likely had good help. We've all heard of guys like the S.E. Regional Vice President, of the company I worked for once, who told me he didn't think the President knew he had a college degree. It just hasn't been historically important. But that company went from canning 25% of the Alaskan canned pack to zero within a decade.

There are some really sharp fishermen. One study showed they have a high percentage of degrees and other higher education experience. But there is particular knowledge of business systems that is needed. They will either have to train themselves with resources such as the above or hire help that has this knowledge.

Some of the great operators that have made it look easy, like that "Floater King," Ivar Reiten, worked up the ranks running progressively larger boats. He had a lot of experience working in a company with deep pockets too, and with people who were innovative. That allows you to surviving bad decisions or short packs.

Many fishermen's groups may decide that it's just not tenable to be business partners with a traditional shore plant and want to get floaters. Equipment is a lot more compact and efficient these days, and coming technology has the potential to run high volumes through these floating factories. Large hold capacities aren't necessary with good lightering. A lot of things make these kinds of operations feasible. But experienced management is still necessary.

I told my brother, who got involved in a floater once, that managemet was a key factor. He thought about that, and maybe it raised a red flag for him. Later that summer his floater rolled over and sank in the channel in front of Ketchikan while processing full bore. The operator was a flamboyant accountant who knew a lot, but not enough as it turned out. The point is that you can't cut corners on bringing experience to bear. As the old saying goes, "in a multitude of counselors, there is wisdom and safety."

Fishermen who see that it is necessary to vertically integrate, and others that want to position themselves in the supply chain somewhere, can educate themselves and save consulting fees at the start. "Knowledge onboard" gains them essential credibility with third parties to get started. And it will be easier to do business with everyone down the supply chain. Not to mention "sinking to the bottom" somewhere down the line.

This Blog is a resource for these people. that merges experience with information. Maybe this should be called Fisheries Business 101.


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