This article was previously published in Bird Breeder magazine and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Planning for Professionalism
by Laurella Desborough
Along with reviewing our bird farm production records for 1997 and preparing our breeding pairs for 1998, we need to make plans for ourselves. Along with maintaining our networks of knowledgeable friends in aviculture, attending conferences, workshops and seminars adds immeasurable value to our professionalism. These special events provide us with the opportunity to attend lectures by the top breeders in the United States, as well as expert aviculturists from foreign lands. Every major conference uses its profits to benefit some aspect of aviculture, from funding avian research to conservation, education and providing services to the community of bird owners. These annual educational events held in different parts of the country are extremely important for the future of aviculture as a whole. Our participation in these conferences promotes our professionalism. I will review the major conferences scheduled for 1998 over several columns.
International Aviculturists Society (IAS), a nonprofit volunteer organization, is holding its 6th annual convention March 4th to 8th in Orlando, Florida. Through these conferences, IAS has raised more than $100,000 for avian research and conservation. Speakers at the upcoming event include international lecturers Andrew Greenwood, MA VetMB, FIBiol, MRCVS, of the United kingdom; Jan Hooimeijer, DVM, of the Netherlands; Roger Sweeney of the Canary Islands, Spain; and Douglas Trent of Brazil and the USA. Speakers from North America include Sally Blanchard; Terry Clyne; Keven Flammer, DVM; Jerry Jennings; Teresa Lightfoot, DVM; Mark Hagen; Greg Harrison, DVM; Steve Martin; Chris Shanks; Brian Speer, DVM; Trent Swigert; Tom Tully, DVM; Dale Thompson; Elizabeth Wilson; and Fern Van Sant, DVM. Topics include aviary design and management, incubation, nursery management, reproduction, husbandry, medicine, behavior, avian medicine and conservation fieldwork.
Companion bird owners, beginning bird breeders and experienced breeders will find this conference exciting and informative. The Convention hotel is the Orlando North Hilton at 350 South North Lake Blvd., Altemont Springs, FL, 32715-9004. Call (800) 445-8667 or (407) 830-1985 for reservations, and be sure to mention IAS. It is wise to book rooms early. Airport shuttle service is provided. Registration commences at 6 P.M. Wednesday, March 4, followed by a meet the exhibitors and speakers icebreaker in the hospitality area. Seminars will be Thursday through Saturday, and question-and-answer sessions will be held on Thursday and Friday evening. Saturday's gala "Vegas Night Evening" and auction is the primary fundraising event of the convention. Auction donations include an unrelated pair of Cuban Amazons donated by Ramon Nogel and Greg Moss. John Goss has donated a young hand-raised Moluccan cockatoo and is sponsoring the hospitality room. To donate auction items, please contact Phyllis Martin, Dept. BBOL, 1314 State Rd. 60 West, Plant City, FL 33567; phone/fax (813) 737-2504, e-mail Pkgm@aol.com.
For registration and additional information, contact Jackie Sites, Dept. BBOL, P.O. Box 233524, Anchorage, AK 99523-3524; (907) 563-2213 (evenings), fax: (907) 563-0393, e-mail email@example.com. Full advance registration is $285, and includes the seminars, proceedings, Vegas Night and dinner. For IAS membership, contact Sallie Klink, Dept. BBOL, 14415 Dabney Ct., Spring Hills, FL 34610; (813) 856-3587, fax (813) 856-7166.
In upcoming columns, I will be providing information on the following events: Bird Clubs of Virginia Conference, March, 1998; Midwest Avian Research Expo in Toledo, Ohio in July, 1998; the American Federation of Aviculture Convention in August, 1998, in Baltimore, Maryland; and the Canadian Parrot Symposium to be held in Toronto, Canada, in November.
Have you been depending on the "usual" customers to purchase the young birds you raise? Do you need to seek out new markets for your birds? Does this mean personal contact by phone or making visits to area pet stores that deal in birds? Perhaps preparing a sales brochure or information sheet to put into the hands of potential clients would accelerate sales. Have you tried advertising in the national bird magazines? Are you working with your regular veterinarian to assist in promoting sales? What about the pet trade journals? Do you produce enough birds to ship to markets farther away? Would you do better by specializing more or by expanding to include new species in your offerings? What kinds of birds do your local markets want? Are you interested in supplying them? Should you make some calls to test the needs of that marketplace?
Doing some simple market research in your area may give you some guidance as to new directions to consider. If everything is going great, why not send out thank-you letters to your network of clients? You could let them know you appreciate their continuing support and give them a preview of coming attractions for 1998. This serves as a way of keeping in touch.
If most of your business is with individual clients, you might review how you keep in touch with them. Do you send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter/price list? Do you send out occasional informational flyers relaying useful tips about diet, behavior and caging? This means you have to routinely collect this kind of information, and if it involves diet or other critical data, it should be checked with the appropriate experts to make sure it is correct. A lot of information is out there that isn't necessarily accurate, and you do not want to pass it on to your clients. Clients especially appreciate information on the care and handling of their birds. They also appreciate follow-up after sales. Have you set up a system of service to your clients? If not, consider doing so, and find out more about what the customers want before you finalize the service plan.
A Bird Farm Booklet as a Sales Tool
Often buyers want to see the parents of the young birds you are offering for sale. Most of us who raise exotic birds do not want anyone disturbing the breeding pairs and possibly infecting them by walking past or through the aviaries. A handy solution is to prepare a booklet of photographs and written material that you can hand to visiting clients. This booklet also saves time since you can hand it to potential clients for their perusal when they arrive. The booklet provides an introduction and avoids the need for spending your valuable time answering simple routine sales questions. A three-ring binder will handle the material. Assemble it carefully, and prepare it neatly.
Start with an introduction page and possibly an overview photo of your aviaries (you do not need to include the location or any information which could be of use to criminals). Include information on your personal goals relating to birds, followed by a copy of a business or resale license, information about your veterinarian of choice and, possibly, your attorney. A series of photographs of breeding pairs in their flights, of young birds in brooders at various ages, examples of proper caging, food bowls with proper diet, examples of information sheets on the birds you sell, the services you provide, a sample contract and copies of happy client letters are all helpful to include. Positive newspaper articles, special recognition or awards you have received related to the birds, copies of articles you have written for the local bird club newsletter or a bird magazine add extra impact. Have a simple flyer, brochure or your business card available when they view the booklet.
Whether you sell a few baby African greys from a couple of pairs in the backyard aviary each year, or sell 10, 20 or hundreds of babies each year, a well-prepared booklet that gives an overview of what you provide by way of birds, services and sales contracts lets your clients know you are a professional and gives them a feeling of greater confidence in purchasing a companion bird from you.