Members' Council Column: "We all get better if we make more of an effort to understand each other"

April 5, 2022
What are you willing to do for the other? For Vice President Members’ Council Robin van der Knaap, that is the essence of cooperating. Cooperate is the verb behind cooperative. “For me, cooperating means leaving something behind every now and then, offering space for the needs of others. And above all: being able to put yourself in the other's shoes. You only get a good picture of the world when you take part. If everyone participates.”

The art of change

Being a cooperative sometimes causes problems. There are so many different types and sizes of growers. Large and small, flower and plant, seasonal or year-round - they are all members. And that is also our strength. But it also makes it difficult. In particular, the difference in size leads to a difference in needs. It seems to be a structural split from which we cannot easily escape.

Let me say first of all. Change is difficult and the interests of the members sometimes clash with the interests of the company. Nevertheless, I do admire our management. With Order, Pay, Deliver, they are aiming for radical change. Change that is very much needed if we still want to exist in ten years' time. And I praise their courage. Because just imagine it. Managing such big changes, and then having about 3,600 members who think something of it too.

Join in and expand your world

That is easy for me to say. I have been working as an entrepreneur in the floriculture sector and as a member of the Cooperative for about fifteen years now, and I have adapted quite easily. For people who have been in the business for forty years, it's a very different story. Their world might be turned upside down. And it is important to keep an eye on that.

How do you add water to the wine, and at the same time keep the wine drinkable? My advice is: try to put yourself in other people's shoes. That is just as much advice to myself. I was not so keen on the clock, for example. Until I took part in discussions with clock growers and heard their arguments in favour of the clock. I heard their arguments in favour of the clock. And suddenly, I could better imagine that for them, the bell is indeed an important and indispensable instrument. So, get to know the other person. Invest time in them. It will give you a lot. For example, by coming to member sessions. This is extremely important for the functioning of our cooperative.

And above all, keep fun

And a second piece of advice? Keep fun for yourself. At least, that is how I feel about entrepreneurship. Sometimes the trick is to take a step back. So that you can clearly distinguish between what is important and what is not. And what it takes to keep it fun for everyone. It is important to let your voice be heard. Criticism is fine, as long as it is constructive. So the most important thing is: keep fun and participate. So that the cooperative really remains a cooperative, of which we are all an indispensable part.

The Council of Members regularly publishes a column in which a subject is discussed that concerns a Council of Members member, but also observations and developments are discussed. This time, Member Council member and Vice Chairman Robin van der Knaap, Member Council member since 2019. Robin is owner of De Wilgenlei, green pot plants, in South Holland.

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