Column Members’ Council: "Let us hear your point of view and listen to how the other person thinks about it"

September 14, 2022
The market is changing. As a member of the Members’ Council, Toon van Kessel cannot say it often enough. "Those changes are taking place at a tremendously fast pace. The size of the companies, the demand from our buyers, the type of flowers and plants we grow, internationalisation, digitalisation, the energy situation: it all has repercussions on the way we keep our companies running. And that calls for a different approach. To each other as well."

Just look at the clock. The clock used to be the only sales instrument. That is no longer the case. Some growers only trade directly. Others still do everything via the clock. That is what we do, for the most part, with our company. At least, for the European market. The growers who have traditionally used the clock 100% are often dissatisfied. Protect the clock, is their appeal.

There are also growers who only use the clock to determine the price. Or to sell products that they cannot sell to their direct customers. Do they undermine the clock in this way, or do they in fact market their products optimally?

Understanding each other's choices

Clearly two different views of the same clock. These differences in approach create tension and friction. I say: let's have more understanding for each other's entrepreneurship. Other entrepreneurs use the clock in a different way than I do. I have no judgment about that. I accept that this happens. In a changing market, things do change. And it's better to look at what you can do than to frustrate yourself about something you can't control.

That sounds easy. And actually it is. Because all you have to do is talk to colleagues. Especially with people who do things slightly differently to you. My experience is that this creates understanding. If another entrepreneur talks about his or her choices, you understand them better. You often learn from it too. You don't have to agree with it, but you accept it better. That is not only better for others, but also for yourself. So go to the member sessions, have a cup of coffee with a grower in your neighbourhood. It takes some time, but it is very rewarding.

And another thing to talk about together...

There is something else that concerns me. We must be careful not to undermine our cooperative. Fellow member of the Members’Council Arnoud van der Knaap also discussed it in his column. The cooperative is currently loss-making. We are plugging holes by selling real estate, among other things. But at some point, there will be nothing left. In other words: the current earnings model, and therefore the membership structure and rates, are under pressure.

What does this mean for members? Strategy and membership will be prominent items on the agenda of the Members' Council in the coming year. And these topics will be part of the upcoming member sessions. How do we deal with this? To find a good answer, we must look beyond our own entrepreneurship. It is a very complex set of interests. If we want to make it a success, we have to take off our blinkers. We need to understand other people's entrepreneurship. And also consider the interests of our (eventual) buyers, for example.

Perhaps that is the common denominator in my story. That we have to find the connection again. With each other, as growers. By understanding each other's choices. And by starting from there, together, to think about how we would like to see the future of the cooperative. So: let your views be heard and listen to what others think. That is how we remain flexible and strong in a constantly changing market.

The Members’ Council regularly publishes a column in which a topic is discussed that concerns a member of the Council of Members, but also observations and developments are discussed. This time, it is Member Council member Toon van Kessel. Toon will be leaving the Council of Members at the end of this year and until recently was Director of Ethiopia at Florius Flowers.

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