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United Farmers Coop’s new CEO changing culture PDF E-mail

There is a new man with a new vision at the head office of the York-based United Farmers Cooperative.
Since taking the reins in August 2009, Marquette area native Carl Dickinson said he has been doing a lot of listening, and concluded that it was time to revamp the corporate culture.

Despite a record year with $434 million in sales and $7.5 million in local profit, Dickinson said he and his leadership team have recognized a need for significant change.
“When I came in the first thing we had to do was get a lay of the land,” Dickinson said, explaining the need for 26 roundtable discussions in his first six months on the job. “What we discovered is that the company had really never become one since the merger. We had never set a clear direction of deciding what we wanted to be when we grew up.”
United Farmers Cooperative was formed in 2001, when three existing regional cooperatives (United Co-op in Hampton, Farmers Co-op Business Association in Shelby and Farmers Cooperative Association in York) merged as one. Based on what he heard 10 years later, Dickinson said the company was perceived to be focused on itself rather than the external needs of its customers.
“It’s probably a fair statement to say that this company had lost its way a little bit,” he said. “It had forgotten who the owners were and who the customers were.”
Hearing that, Dickinson led the charge to reshape the culture, beginning with changes in staffing, communications and accounting methods.
“To get to the size and scope of United Farmers Cooperative you have to run a great business with attention to detail and we weren’t really doing that,” he observed. “We had to change some people and systems and change how we communicate to create the right culture.”
UFC now has a new senior vice president of agronomy, with a newly-created president of marketing and a person designated as human resources manager. All those positions are filled now with people Dickinson said are some of the best in the industry.
After leading the management team and board of directors through an in-depth strategic planning process, Dickinson said the company is now focused on five key initiatives. Another round of roundtables will be scheduled after harvest to review those initiatives and listen, again, to the customers.
“We are focused on internal marketshare growth and doing a better job of getting to know and understand the customer and their needs and making sure we’ve got both the products and services they need,” he said. “That’s the number one objective of this company at this time.”

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