reputation management paramount during Breeding Proof

"Reputation is like a trust bank: invest in the unexpected"

"Look at your reputation as a trust bank. Invest in unexpected moments" Rene Savelberg, ex-CEO of McDonalds yesterday advised those present at the Breeding Proof of De Ruiter and Seminis. During the event, reputation management was the central theme.

Yesterday the annual Breeding Proof of improver De Ruiter and Seminis was held. This year the theme reputation management was chosen. "Plofkip, EHEC, Libor, InHolland, the Fyra, but also the march against Monsanto" Nico van Vliet of the De Ruiter declared. "Reputation management is indispensable."

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Marck Buckingham, head corporate affairs at Monsanto

"Your reputation is not who you are, but who you are supposed to be" this is how Mark Buckingham started the Breeding Proof. Buckingham is head corporate affairs at Monsanto and from there busy with the external communication of the company. "Monsanto is a successful company with a changing reputation" Buckingham continued. He related to various criticisms towards the company: the company and the GM-products could be dangerous for the employees, the growers and the environment. This is not clear from the figures of Buckingham - the opposite. But why is Monsanto actually working with GM? It is a disputed subject, they realize themselves. "The demand for food increases and also the fight against food waste. Not to optimize the cultivation, in my opinion, is a form of waste. With the correct techniques and the matching attitude we want, always within the law, to prevent this waste.

Reputation in society
Buckingham tells how the company is invested in its reputation. "Clients, employees and shareholders regard us as a reliable partner. We also want society to notice this."In order to realize this the company will listen more to the market. Only then trust can be researched. Trust also means to listen. We are good regards data, science, business and competition. We must find more balance in emotion. "In order to show this involvement more, the company will be more active in pro-active communication (e.g. on twitter), show more involvement in local communities and at present are involved in emotional protests: all because of communication.

Rene Savelberg, intervied by presenter Frans-Peter Dechering


The second speaker invited to speak about reputation is Rene Savelberg, former CEO of McDonalds and now adviser at consultancy McSense. "One needs a good reputation in order to grow" as per Savelberg. "All facts may be correct, but not your reputation. To build a reputation takes long and it is easy to damage this." McDonalds in the meantime employs 1,5 million employees, 33,000 shops and 75 million guests daily. Nevertheless the brand was not successful in the Netherlands.
Savelberg, whose blood, according to him, has in the meantime been replaced by ketchup, is building the reputation and with that, the growth of a company following the SP&P model.The S is for standardization, wherever in the world the product is the same. "The specifications are therefore leading, not the suppliers" Savelberg tells. "No profit is made on the cost price." By standardizing all, processes can be standardized as well. The P is for partnerships. To have good long term partners is indispensable for success. Innovations come from there, ideas, "The growth of McDonalds also means a growth of the partners. We develop together."
Christmas tree
Behind the last P an extra scheme is hidden. The P is for People Focus. "In organizations 60-80% of the employees loose 40 to 60% of the energy. These companies only work at half of their capacity. We want to get whatever is possible and that requires passion. "In order to realize this Savelberg works somewhat like a Christmas tree. The bottom has been constructed from the basic values of the company at McDonalds: quality, services, spotless and value for money. The trunk is for complete focus on people: to keep clients satisfied and to motivate employees. The star, the peak, is for 100% satisfied clients. The lower triangle is for the support office - definitely not a head-office. From there the organization is supported by the best people, who combine the best knowledge and the best products. The director is at the bottom. He is only a spot on the horizon! The second triangle is the contact with clients. All is directed towards the client and every client experience, both B2B and B2C must be a unique experience. The last addition to the Christmas tree is the continuous feed-back: the feed back loops. "This is often underrated or badly executed, but this is necessary to learn and to improve."


Savelberg continues with a few concrete tips to build a reputation. "Go for the optimum instead of the maximum: not for what you like now, but for what is the best in the long term. See your reputation as a 'trust bank' and build for unexpected moments. Emphasize the basic values of your company and make sure to be real and reliable at all times. And invest in the community. Give something back to the environment."

Despite these efforts at McDonalds the entire reputation can also not be controlled. The company supplies fat, unhealthy food, does not pay well, allows children to make toys from the Happy Meal, is not involved in animal well fare, smooth society with the uniformity and so there are still any number of criticisms regularly thrown at the company. And then? "Keep calm and carry on" as per Savelberg. "Know your facts, know your contacts." Care for partners, be independent, know who can assist you. Communicate! No comment is a no-no. Keep the fierceness out of your reaction. Listen and explain. The management of your reputation is part of your business. Be good, prepared and believable."

After the presentations a forum was organized. Lieven Kallewaart of Chainfood investigates companies chain and promotes the cooperation and transparency - all to prevent risks and possible damage to reputation. Shaun Carter of Monsanto goes from the company point of view through the entire chain - up to the retail. The third contributor, Olaf van Kooten, professor Horticultural production chains and lecturer at Holland, is critical of the marketing of McDonalds. The problem of unhealthy food, too much salt and fat and sugar is in the meantime bigger than the tobacco problem. Nevertheless the marketing of unhealthy food is directed towards young children. Savelberg does not know whether McDonalds would be responsible; they remain the choices of the guest. You cannot remove the marketing from a company. You do not have to eat the "SuperSizeMe" meal, he refers to the documentary. "We are also changing. There is hardly any marketing for the Happy Meal now and the products offered are being increased. Look at the apples in the Happy meal."

The responsibility of companies in the area of child labour was also discussed at the forum. If a partner of the company is involved in this kind of business then is the company guilty as well? People are becoming more mistrusting, chains are becoming more transparent" Kallewaart tells. "Marketing is directed more to global responsibility. Attack a problem at source and show that there is nothing to hide."
What can the horticultural sector do with this? Is it possible to build a sector wide reputation? Harry Smith of the Rabobank reacts. "In order to build a complete reputation, entrepreneurs must surrender their freedom. One should produce subject to equal conditions. Choose a selling chain which works with a premium for a good reputation - but then accept that you have to satisfy these specifications."

After the presentations drinks were served and and dinner in Huis ter Duin.

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