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Teamwork. Dr. Mechthild Frentrup, a farmer, says this is paramount

Dr. Frentrup, Mr. Kowolik, how long have you been members of DMK, or one of its previous organisations?

Dr. Mechthild Frentrup: My family has always been a member. We started out at the Westphalia dairy in Herford, then we were members of the Humana Milchunion and then DMK.

Philipp Kowolik: I have been a member of the cooperative from the outset.

Why are voluntary members of the cooperative important for DMK?

Dr. Mechthild Frentrup: We are a cooperative and that relies on the engagement of its members for a shared cause. The people in our company have many different views and interests. Every opinion and perspective is right in itself, though not always for the group. To succeed, we need to seek solutions that work for everyone and that can be profitable for all. That means we have to find a balance, which is only possible if we talk together and say clearly how things look from our point of view, as well as listen to others, and then together seek a solution. That really differentiates us from a commercial dairy business. That’s a good thing.

Philipp Kowolik: Voluntary members are an important link between the shareholders and the group’s management. We convey information, address concerns and create a space where the company can develop in a way that is sustainable. What’s also important is that they speak the language of the cooperative members, and deal with them as equals.

Expert. Philipp Kowolik runs a farm with 1,000 dairy cows

How do you find these voluntary working activities at DMK?

Philipp Kowolik: The voluntary work at DMK is really interesting in many ways. It means we look ahead at strategic questions and don’t just focus on our own personal interests. Also, the company sells more than milk powder. There are so many interesting different parts of the business, like ice cream, for example. That department has to understand the needs of the market and to explain to the shareholders the opportunities they see there for DMK.

Dr. Mechthild Frentrup: Voluntary work for DMK is about teamwork nowadays. That’s important Teamwork. Dr. Mechthild Frentrup, a farmer, says this is paramount Expert. Philipp Kowolik runs a farm with 1,000 dairy cows to me personally because that’s the only way we can really be part of the decision- making process. We are really well-informed and any questions we have are answered in depth. And that’s essential for us to meet our responsibilities to the company, the members and the employees.

Why did you decide to get involved and take up an honorary position?

Dr. Mechthild Frentrup: I’ll be very open about it – I wasn’t always happy with decisions that were made in the past. There is still potential to improve things now, in our dairy’s performance. What really matters to me is to give farming a voice and also to mediate between the different opinions and positions. Philipp Kowolik: Voluntary work fits with our traditional, rural lifestyle and it’s important to me that people understand that way of life. Especially in terms of the way we live in our communities and the political demands we face in our work.

What kind of characteristics do people need to have if they are going to work in voluntary positions, particularly at DMK?

Philipp Kowolik: You need to be a real expert in this area of work and you need to be prepared to draw people together and build bridges. You can’t be afraid to speak your mind in the right setting, even if that sometimes means difficult discussions. And you need to be able to accept criticism.

Dr. Mechthild Frentrup: You need a lot of time to stay on top of all the developments throughout the company, and you also need an ear to the ground to hear what’s happening at the base. You have to understand the new issues that come up so that you can make professional decisions at the meetings. Ultimately, you have to be prepared to compromise, and you need team spirit because what counts is the shared result.

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