“It’s amazing how many parallels there are between football clubs and a modern company,” Marco Bode said. Whether or not a company or a club succeeds often comes down to the same factors. What counts is whether a team sticks together, shared attitudes, goals and values. “To succeed in a competitive environment that is changing constantly, you also have to be ready to constantly change yourself,” he said. “At the same time, even with all that change, continuity also matters. You can’t continually disrupt things, either.” What he means is that you need the courage to turn everything upside down, but also then to be able to enjoy a period of continuity. People need time in order to grow into new roles and new company structures.
DMK, a company in transition, is reorienting itself, away from being a standard dairy focusing on the mass market and towards becoming a customer- oriented food company. Bode: “Change processes like this always run into headwind.” Communication matters in times of change, to get everyone on board, and managers need to show empathy as well as strength. That means people can also see the changes as an opportunity. Bode, 1.9 meters tall, the father of a daughter, is no stranger to change. In the past few years, he started to focus more on nutrition. “I’m turning 50 this year. Health plays a much bigger role in my life than it did when I was a 25-year-old playing sports every day. Back then, I was pretty relaxed about food – we sometimes had steak and chips before a game.”
These days, he enjoys dairy products and really likes fresh milk. He describes himself as a flexitarian: “Not much meat, but not vegetarian and certainly not vegan. I focus more and more on quality.”
Healthy eating is a major factor in competitive sports nowadays, unlike in the past – and of course, Bode is sure it’s a central issue for DMK. The company needs to cater to new trends while continuing to offer solid regional products. In the long term, in order to succeed, you have to serve national and also international markets – that’s another similarity between the worlds of football and business!
Nowadays, more and more people want food that’s quick and easy to prepare, and often want to buy their salad already cut and washed. DMK is planning to expand its convenience business and Bode said that makes sense. “If I’m in a hurry at lunchtime, I often fall back on ready-made products. Otherwise, I like standing in the kitchen and chopping my vegetables myself.”
Bode describes himself as somewhere between a businessman and a freelancer. He spends a lot of time working with a film production company and is developing television formats. Now and again he participates in companies if he feels he can contribute something in terms of content.
He’s particularly interested in social and community projects, especially educational issues. In Bremen, he initiated a school project called “Chess makes you Smart,” where schools use chess to help school children in the first through fourth grades.
He’s also happy that more and more young people are getting involved in politics, the most important issue right now, particularly with climate change. Change is everywhere: just like DMK, Werder Bremen, Marco Bode’s former club, faces disruption. There are many clubs in the competition with much better economic conditions. “There’s Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, of course, but also newcomers like RB Leipzig.” The difference to these clubs, and even more to international “investor” clubs, is growing, he said. “Financially speaking, these clubs are playing in their own separate league.” It’s almost impossible to try and keep up in that kind of situation.
As a club, Werder Bremen always managed to succeed in sporting terms despite this, thanks to continuity in terms of its coach and the ‘Werder family feeling’ – the club’s special atmosphere. Solidarity and tradition are key values for Werder – just as they are for DMK. “To succeed in the long term, it’s important to agree on core values.”
Marco Bode (49) was only booked ten times in 379 games, making him one of the fairest and most decent players in the Bundesliga’s history. He was awarded the title of Bremen’s Sportsman of the Year in 1996 and 2002. Bode has been chairman of the Supervisory Board at SV Werder Bremen since 2014. He played for Werder Bremen from 1989 to 2002 and scored 101 goals. Marco Bode played for Germany’s national football team 40 times and scored nine goals for his country. He was part of the German national team that won the European football championships in 1996. He ended his professional career after the 2002 World Cup.