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Business Update

Latest updates from AF regarding COVID-19

Goodbye from Jon

As I prepare to head for pastures new my thoughts turn back to my first few days in AF and the changes that have happened since. When I arrived, it was soon very evident that AF should be a people-based organisation. In those early days I spent a lot of time asking members, staff, and suppliers some very simple questions – what is good about AF, what should it do more of, what should it do less of, is there anything it should stop doing, and is there anything it should start doing?
The most striking thing about the responses were how uniform they were and that a common set of themes was being articulated. The message was as follows:

  • Stick to the core

  • Employ the best people

  • Add value

  • Give certainty

  • Provide a real service.

The AF I came into had become too fat. It was trying to do too many things, had a cost base that was unsustainable, and had forgotten the core principles the society had been founded upon.

One of the first jobs was to write a clear and defined strategy, a strategy that would look after the people connected with the business. It was obvious to split the strategy into three distinct parts: the members, the staff, and the suppliers. I knew that if we got those aspects right then the business would not only survive, it would start to thrive. This meant taking the tough decision to reduce costs and, unfortunately, streamline the business by losing people. As hard as that decision was, I never doubted it was the right thing to do.

It was vital that the strategy re-engaged with staff, treated members like customers (who also happen to own the business), and to build strong partnership with key suppliers.

The strategy is still a living and breathing thing but, as I leave, I am proud that there is an environment in the business of trust and partnership; a can-do attitude and a no-blame culture. For the first time ever we conducted staff engagement surveys, with the result that we now have a workforce that is deeply engaged and committed to long term success. Our suppliers now know how we can build value together by adding certainty, planning, and reducing costs. We also regularly get feedback from members through our NPS survey. I know that you, the members, feel more understood and appreciate the value that AF adds to your business.

I have always said that AF should run as a hard-nosed commercial business; a business that understands its customers and realises that unless the customer is satisfied then the business does not deserve to be successful.

As I leave it would be easy to look back at the financial performance of the society and the three subsidiaries. Whilst the numbers have been good and I am proud of how the business has grown I am hesitant to admit that I won’t actually remember any of the numbers in a few months or years. What I will always remember are the people. Thank you to each and every one of you. Agriculture is a great industry, our farmers are the backbone of our rural society and the keystone in the food and drinks industry, but AF members are the beating heart of this organisation. To those that complained I hope I listened, to those who wanted solutions I hope I helped, and to those that needed a shoulder to lean on I hope I gave my support.
I have loved my time here at AF and will miss the business enormously; but I will miss the people more. I wish David all the very best – AF is a wonderful institution that will continue to grow and flourish as long as it puts people first.

AF COVID-19 Update from Jon Duffy, CEO, 22.04.2020

Building Supplies COVID-19 update 09/04/2020

Further to our update on 01/04/2020, found below, here is an updated list of building suppliers The AF Group currently have access to.

Building Team COVID-19 Update, 01/04/2020

Following Jewson's announcement that they are suspending all deliveries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our buildings team have negotiated that this will not include AF members as long as deliveries are made to a farm address.

Please be aware that this is for essential items only. Orders placed must be for materials that are essential requirements to the continuous running of your farm business.

All existing orders have been cancelled by Jewson, unless you have been contacted by them directly or by our office to say otherwise. New orders for essential items can now be fulfilled for our members but they must be delivered to a farm address.

This is a specific agreement for AF members only and orders must come through the office, you cannot contact branches directly.

McVeigh Parker, our national supplier for fencing, has reopened to deliver orders for farm businesses. The depots remain closed to the public.

AF now have a number of operating building materials suppliers:
Please contact the buildings team by emailing for any further information or to place an order with any of these suppliers.

AF Business Update 31.03.2020

Contacting the office during the COVID-19 outbreak, 26/03/2020

During these unprecedented times, we want to ensure you that our members are at the forefront of what we do. We remain open and operational to support our farming members, keeping business moving in this challenging climate.

Our switchboard remains open and any staff we have working from home are set up to take your calls. However, remember you can contact us by using our group email addresses as listed below. These ensure your query will be picked up by multiple people quickly and efficiently, helping to minimise disruption.

AF COVID-19 Update from Jon Duffy, CEO, 23.03.2020

As we continue to tackle the ongoing issues related to the coronavirus outbreak, I wanted to update you on how AF are coping.

The exceptional staff here at AF are working flat out to maintain as normal a service as possible. However, it's clear that we are not operating in a normal environment and therefore we are working with our supply-chain partners to ensure we keep business moving.

Our office remains functioning but we do have a number of staff working from home now. We have also stopped all visitors to the AF office and are following social distancing rules and the strictest hygiene practices.

We are working to ensure calls can be managed either via landline or mobile where appropriate. However, I would advise all members familiarise themselves with and make use of our group email addresses:

We will keep the business moving and your needs met but now, more than ever, we need everyone to work together. Therefore, please bear with us whilst we adjust and adapt to the changing environment.

I fully understand this is a challenging time for many of you so I want to thank you for continuing to farm. Everyone at AF appreciates what you do and we are here to help.

Together we will get through this stronger and better.

Best Wishes,

Jon Duffy

Update from Jon Duffy, CEO, 17/03/2020

Working together to protect our people and support our members

As COVID-19 continues to spread and disrupt I want to reassure all those within the AF community that we are still operating as business as usual. We are working tirelessly with our supply-chain partners to ensure the products members need are available when they want them and delivered in the safest way possible.

We will be communicating to members any supply shortages or delays to delivery as and when they occur so they can minimise disruption as much as possible.

Working safely
We believe it's important that we do our part to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 which is why we have taken the following steps to protect everyone in this ever-evolving situation.

We are closely following guidance and best practices from UK health authorities including the social distancing and self-isolation measures set out by the government.

We have put a pause on all external meetings and visitors to the AF office.

Reinforced our comprehensive cleaning regimes, including asking all staff to be vigilant by washing their hands thoroughly and regularly, refraining from unnecessary gatherings and keeping all desks and work areas clean and tidy.

Better Together
While the issue of COVID-19 continues to develop rapidly, I take comfort in the fact we have an excellent team of employees and a compassionate and loyal community of members.

We are going to work together to keep our people safe and your business supported.

Jon Duffy, CEO
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If you have any queries or would like to find out more please get in touch. 01603 881881Honingham Thorpe, Colton, Norwich, Norfolk NR9 5BZ
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