For some time now there has been talk of Cooperation in the Value Chain. That is, those of us involved in the value chain (defined as “the entire chain of activities and functions” carried out by the producers, middlemen and retailers until the product reaches end consumer) of a product/business work together in everything that is of mutual benefit.
In short, all those involved share information and align our operations and strategies with our customers.
Up to here, this is all quite reasonable. But who is willing to share information with the customer (or vice versa)?
And if we are willing to share information, what type of information can be shared?
Is it reasonable to share information with a customer who “auctions” the volume to be delivered every week and if your price isn’t right, you’re out?
Is it reasonable to share information with a customer who doesn’t do the same with us?
I’ve been thinking about all this for some time, after making most of the preparatory visits for the next season and attending FruitLogistica. Customers want to know and I want to tell them, but I also want to be sure that the information we provide will not be used against us.
And finally I have found the solution after reading the highly recommendable article “On trust” by Octavio Medina in the online magazine Jot Dot. In this article, the author talks about the different theories on cooperation and focuses on trust as a key element in the development of human cooperation.
I find the words of Italian sociologist Diego Gambetta especially enlightening, reflected in the article this way: “Gambetta concludes in his closing essay (Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations) that he believes trust to be the level of subjective probability with which one person believes that another person will take a certain action, before such action occurs (and therefore with no possibility of controlling what finally happens)”
Therefore, cooperation will always exist if there is trust. But for trust to exist, it has to be generated. Being distrustful is a self-fulfilling prophecy because no one will trust you either. But taking no precautions is being a dreamer.
Being aware of this and now realize that to “align myself with the customer” and “share information” I need to feel trust. And until trust is developed, we have to take the path of goodwill.
Let me make an analogy: “Before getting married there must have been a period of courtship and engagement, and when you commit yourself, it means you trust your partner not to be unfaithful.”
I think that each of the above steps must involve honesty, good communication, mutual understanding and the desire to stay together when the circumstances are adverse.
That is why, although I am aware of how much there is to win by cooperation in the value chain, I will jokingly but deliberately classify my customers as: “courtship” “engagement” and “marriage“.
And each to his own… because we don’t want to end up “hurting each other”.