5 Tips from a Retailer on successful summer internships

By The Neucadia Team

Posted November 23, 2015

Several retailers in our market area are considering cutting back on scouting internships this summer. Lower input prices cutting into producer margins and the drive to cut expenses are two of the reasons we've heard. A few others are considering starting a program or expanding because they know scouting helps protect customer profits and increase retail sales of “Blue Sky” products.

Building a successful internship program, one that benefits the student, the customer, and your business can be difficult. From 20+ years of internship experience— good and bad —we’ve identified the issues to keep in mind to build a successful internship program.

1. Define your objectives

Knowing what you want out of an internship will help you clearly communicate your goals to the student. Do you want a scout? Are you screening for potential future employees? Are you building goodwill with the university? Are you supporting your industry by exposing youth to the retail business?

If you're looking for a body to deliver spreaders, pound signs, file papers— fine —but call it an operations position/summer job. An internship needs to expose the student to all facets of the retail business (including operations), but needs to focus on experiences that translate into agronomy experience.

2. Find a program champion

You need someone who can dedicate the necessary time to coach and schedule your interns. When all hell is breaking loose with spring planting, the last thing folks want to deal with is a college student standing around waiting for direction. This is where we fall into the trap of making them operational. It’s quick and easy to send them on a delivery when you're buried.

One of our best ways to find the champion was to hire back the best intern from the previous year and then make them responsible for this year’s program. They already know your system, your sales staff, lay of the land, and customer base. While some students will want a different experience rather than a repeat at the same location, it will be a testament to the quality of your program if you can get the best talent to come back.

3. Get team buy-in

Communicate to your full-time staff why you are offering an internship program. Make sure they understand the value to your business (see #1). If your staff fights the program, your intern will sense it and be less effective and they will not recommend your business to friends or classmates.

I’ve seen unhappy interns come back as a sales reps for the competition and make it their mission to get revenge for a wasted summer. I’ve also seen the results of a successful program when past interns come back as supplier reps and offer the best support possible.

4. Create a project

All our interns have a project assigned to them that will benefit the business. Past topics included fungicides on alfalfa, Western Bean Cutworm in drybeans, rootworm resistance to Bt corn, silage quality with fungicides on corn, Liberty Link soybeans, enhancing protein in non-GMO soybeans, glyphosate resistance, cover crops, food plots, and even designing the company website. At our annual field day, the interns gave a presentation to 200+ customers on what they learned. This went over better than sales or management getting up and doing the “dog and pony”.

5. Be efficient

The AgraScout program was designed with interns in mind (one of our past interns suggested many of the features). If your champion utilizes the Scout Scheduler, they can supply interns with a day’s work of fields to scout— including directions —in less than 30 minutes.

Turn-by-turn driving directions to field entrances in AgraScout

Get turn-by-turn driving directions to field entrances in AgraScout.

With AgraScout there's no more wasted time printing maps or explaining how to find a field. Worried about misidentification? AgraScout's pest photos will help the novice scout correctly identify issues and the report will come back to the appropriate sales staff to proofread and make recommendations before sending on to the grower.

About us

AgraScout is a mobile crop scouting application designed for retailers that enables seamless, simultaneous communication between scouts, agronomists, and growers. Neucadia, the team of agronomists, systems analysts, and crop scouts behind AgraScout understood both the importance of scouting and the difficulty in passing on timely information found in the field. Neucadia built AgraScout because they wanted an easier, quicker way to communicate field information. AgraScout was designed to close the gap between what the scout sees and what the grower knows so whatever your role, you can make intelligent decisions about your business.