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Connecting in a Disconnected World


Creation date: 24 April 2020


Blog Post

 

24th April 2020

 

Kristina Hermanson - FMC ANZ Managing Director

 

 

Creating a Connection Culture

How are you maintaining connections in this new world? Have you done the ground work to make it easier?

 

Every one of us is learning a lot about how we connect, interact, engage and nurture relationships in this very strange and somewhat disconcerting time. And the big lesson, I think, is that what is going to get us through this period is not technology or innovation – important though they are.

 

It’s culture.

 

Yes, flexibility and adaptability are important. Of course they are. So too investment and sheer hard work. They all contribute to us being able to deliver whatever product or service we offer, if we’re lucky enough to still have our doors open.

 

But beyond that, what I see is that the businesses doing the best are those that have the goodwill of their customers and their suppliers and their employees. Those that do enjoy that goodwill got there because of their culture.

 

Think about that local café owner who knows your name and truly cares about how your family are doing…. as a customer you won’t let them down during these times.

 

It’s the same with bigger brands. One that has stood out to me amongst recent social media posts is beauty brand and store Mecca – calling out in appreciation the extra efforts of their teams, highlighting strong communication, and providing care packages to health workers protecting the community.

 

Looking after your team

Others with large workforces are redeploying teams into development projects, diverting marketing budgets to community support funds, and doing everything possible to keep their teams employed through the storm.

 

When you demonstrate that you value individuals and recognise different skills and styles, and most important truly care about your team and the wellbeing of individuals within that team, that carries over. At FMC we say, “See yourself in FMC; Be Yourself in FMC” and they’re not just words. They’re an embedded part of our culture. We are our people and we are our relationships – inside and outside our business.

 

The challenge, then, is how to maintain that sense of connectedness in a world where you can’t even be in the same room as your own team, let alone shake hands with your key customers.

 

Maintaining connection

Those of us in the agricultural supply chain are in the enviable position of being ‘essential’ during this period, and in a very welcome about face, Australian agriculture is doing very well in 2020, after years of relentless drought.

 

FMC too is in an interesting position, as we continue with our plan to dramatically boost our market presence and profile and as we launch a new blockbuster product to real farmers but in a virtual way.

 

We have a clear set of core values at FMC and during this time we’re seeing how they’ve helped get us into a good spot, and how they will provide strong guidance on how to proceed during these most unusual of times.

 

What we’re doing

Here are a few things we did before coronavirus came along, and a few ways we’ve pivoted since, which I hope might give others some food for thought:

  • Valuing diversity in real and tangible ways.

 

We continue to hold true our diversity and inclusion commitments and find innovative ways of celebrating diversity. That includes continuing to support diversity scholarship programs like the NFF – Diversity in Ag program and encouraging women to take the time during COVID-19 to self-reflect and connect with a mentor. Rather than joining in a multi-cultural lunch in our office kitchen, we will host a video chat with one of our stars, cooking an ethnic cuisine in their own home. I also see more open invites to CEO sharing, crisis management training and many people openly and freely helping people connect around common needs.

 

  • Supporting our distribution partners to support growers.

 

Most importantly we have a rigorous safety culture which has supported detailed protocols for manufacturing during the pandemic, and execution of a strong business continuity plan. We’re running hard to deliver product in time to growers. With less travel, our team has become laser focused on collaborating across supply and demand planning and execution routines. In fact, we’re working better cross-functionally than ever before in managing our global supply chain.

 

  • Investing in our communities, with money and with heart.

 

We made several commitments to support different causes following the bushfires and we’re following these through, sometimes in new ways as travel restrictions force us to rethink. Importantly, we are adapting, not stopping.

 

We’ve supported one customer with 5888 fence posts to donate to growers in need of refencing, and we’re proud to support BizRebuild (an Australian Business Council initiative) which has pivoted around COVID-19 to support small business in local communities in a broader way.

 

We’re also financially supporting the Kangaroo Island bee industry to be able to continue to supply that vital global agricultural input: bees to pollinate crops to feed the world. We find with less travel that people can actually focus and engage more deeply and with travel time saved, they cover more ‘ground’.

 

  • Trialling and demonstrating products.

 

Our work out in the paddocks continues. Our development managers share pictures of their visits to trial locations and practise social distancing. We’re continuing with more than 100 demonstration trials of our new product – utilising electronic protocols, data sheets, video calls, and limited personal interaction. We’re working on creating virtual demo tours to bring the paddock to the screens of our partners and strengthen our relationships along the way.

 

We all know relationships are everything in business, and good relationships come down to strong business culture.

 

Does your business have a connection culture? What are you doing to maintain and even build relationships right now? I’d love to hear your ideas.


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