Column: the role of the Members’ Council22 June 2021
The process that the Members’ Council and the company Royal FloraHolland have been going through since the establishment of the Members’Council in 2019 is not a paved road, writes Members Council member Arno van der Maarel in his column. "It is good to have a discussion and to arrive at the best possible supported solution and decision together. To implement decisions taken expeditiously."
Three years ago, we transferred ownership of the shares in our company to our children - a decision that brought a great many changes along with it and was certainly not clear and unambiguous right from day one. As a result of that decision, I relinquished day-to-day control of the company, and now play a more distant role. For me personally, letting go of the company I had helped to build with all my heart and soul, in order to play only a minor part from the sidelines, was a major step. In the meantime, I have now worked out what role I am able to play and have fully engaged with it. Reaching that point, however, first involved going through an entire process that consisted of learning to let go, accepting, taking up your role and making a positive contribution towards the latest developments.
Though the setting is completely different, that process is similar to the process that the Members' Council and the RFH company (specifically the Management Board and Supervisory Board) have been going through since the Members' Council was formed in 2019. The way ahead has not been a smooth one, but one that is riddled with potholes and bumps. That is what we have noticed during the past two years, but we have always kept our eyes on our ultimate objective to obtain the best price for the products, and to represent the interests of the members in the most effective possible way.
With 40 members, issuing recommendations based on a unanimous decision of all members is a complex task. After all, human differences are nothing new to us. The cooperative is made up of a large and diverse group from a variety of backgrounds, businesses, sizes, structures, turnover figures and so on, but together, we are the owners of the cooperative and that not only provides a great many benefits, but responsibilities as well. The Members' Council represents the interests of its membership as effectively as it possibly can.
Our strategy focuses upon continuing to realise the greatest benefits from the market. The way that we do this is partly dictated by the market, which is changing all the time, and is not only causing an increase in the number of differences between growers and buyers, but is also changing the role played by the retail sector, and is determining where new international sales markets are emerging. What's more, everything needs to become faster, fresher and more sustainable.
The response to these developments is currently a dot on the horizon - the development of a digital platform. This gives us the opportunity to join forces and mount a joint response to these developments. A journey that we go on together, just like the one I set in motion when we decided to transfer ownership of our shares. It's not an easy option though! You need to stop and consider your role and the way in which you set up your processes and take decisions.
There is always a reason not to do something, or to discuss something again. If you want to move forward, you ultimately need the courage to take decisions. That doesn't always go smoothly, and some decisions taken aren't necessarily the best ones. But if that happens, it's a case of discussing the situation in full, working together to identify how to solve it, and then getting back down to work again. The important thing is to always keep mind of the objective - to safeguard the continuity of the businesses and the cooperative. In order to achieve that, it's a case of playing your part and taking responsibility. If you do nothing, others will do it instead, and you do want to hold on to some control yourself.
Developing and growing is all about falling over and getting back on your feet again. People have a tendency to fight lots of fires and try to find a solution for everything. In such cases, it helps if you take a step back and put some distance between yourself and the problem, so you can consider what your role and mandate will be with regard to a particular issue. For that reason, it's important to focus on the role, the responsibilities and the mandate forthcoming from the Members' Council.
It's an illusion to think that the representatives on the Members' Council will always agree with each other or with a viewpoint put forward by the Management Board or the Supervisory Board. Holding a discussion and working together to arrive at a solution and a decision that are as well supported as possible is a positive thing, and it paves the way for the decisions that have been taken to be implemented in a dynamic way.
The common interests of the cooperative are the most important thing, and if you take up the role, treat one another with respect and can accept that not everything will go precisely as you wish, you will be sure to arrive at the best possible outcomes. After all, the cooperative is a collective that is stronger than the sum of the members that form it. Within the cooperative, each party plays its own part, based on its own particular strengths! That provides clarity between the members and creates peace of mind. What we have is a wonderful profession and an excellent cooperative, and we should therefore be proud of everything that has been achieved in the past few years. But now, what we must do is look to the future! I'm doing that too, but first of all, I'm about to leave for a wonderful holiday in Spain, in the confidence and in the knowledge that our business is in good hands!
Arno van der Maarel, member of the Members' Council
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