IFFO's Monthly Update constitutes a key communications tool for the marine ingredients industry and its main players. This report is dedicated to the needs of IFFO's members, bringing together industry news and insights from our diverse network.
One of the reasons IFFO is a successful organisation is our tradition of sharing information – everyone benefits by contributing the single pixel view from their window and allowing IFFO to stitch them together to show the wider picture (although still fuzzy in places). Most of the time, this works well and I was hugely impressed by a Chinese feed company member whose policy was to make research and development information public, knowing that if they gave away their older secrets, they were forced to discover some new ones.
Occasionally, some companies want to get a free ride and see the big picture without contributing their part. Obviously if everyone did that there would be no big picture, which is why every Producer and Premium Non Producer member that joins IFFO agrees to the Rights and Duties of members, including a responsibility to provide information on their business. In the run up to our Members Meeting in Miami, we are again seeing large companies struck with an outbreak of stage-fright and declining to share information. This puts us in a difficult position – bar them from the Market Forum or risk others who do contribute seeing some people staying silent and deciding to do the same themselves. No-one is expecting intellectual property to be put at risk, or stock markets to be upset but if you are a Producer or Premium Non Producer, and choose not to “share information and participate actively in the Market Forums” (from IFFO Members Rights and Duties), IFFO supports those members who do take the time to participate and there may be fewer free rides available in future.
Last month I took the difficult decision to accept another job offer and resign as Director General of IFFO. Difficult as I have made many friends in an industry I knew only a little about when I joined IFFO in 2011 and the IFFO team are an outstanding group of people. One of my colleagues was surprised I was leaving “so quickly” and it does seem as though seven years have passed in the blink of an eye.
When I look back over this time, my feeling is one of catching a wave. When I joined, the industry was embracing sustainability, the recently launched IFFO RS scheme was attracting a lot of attention, and it seemed a good time to start talking about our products with some pride. It also seemed time to move on from the old fashioned fishmeal and fish oil trade with its associated image of bulk, commodity products, piled on quaysides in the open air like grit for roads. I remember an early brainstorming session in London coming up with the term “marine ingredients” as a more modern and accurate (considering it now included krill, squid and other meals) description.
The New Year at IFFO is survey time. We ask our members to tell us if we are getting it right and where we could improve – as someone who gets sent a lot of surveys I know it can be a chore to complete them but it really is an essential tool for us to make sure we are giving members the service they deserve and to plan for the future. This year’s survey will be in your inbox soon so please take a few minutes to click through it.
A little more unusual is the survey we do with our own staff to ask how we are doing as a team, something that takes some honesty, might generate uncomfortable truths but, in the long run, is worth doing. The survey is internet based and is anonymous, asking whether we provide a good work environment, fair pay, whether individuals are treated fairly by their manager and know their role in the IFFO vision and mission. Although several of these questions come up in performance reviews, the survey is an opportunity for anonymous comments so gives a valuable health check on the most important asset of the company, our people. I like to think these surveys will help make sure we never have the sort of inequality that we see in the papers every day in show business, music, politics and other walks of life.
Happy New Year to all.
My first full time job in the fish industry was in a processing plant in Australia, butchering tuna. I was issued with factory plastic boots (we call them “wellies” in the UK – short for wellington boots named after the Duke of Wellington) that were as inflexible, heavy and uncomfortable as those metal boots that deep sea divers used to wear. I looked with envy at the air-cushioned comfort of the safety shoes worn by the supervisors and set my sights on getting a promotion. It was a happy day for my feet when I eventually threw the wellies in the skip and laced up my new shiny shoes. The welly boot factor followed me through other parts of my career, deciding whether to be in a laboratory (shoes) or factory (boots). Even the colour of the wellies was important as white wellies were for factories but green wellies for dockside or on fish farms.
Before we dig out the reindeer- or Santa Claus-themed knitwear and visit the joke shop for some flashing antler headgear, a couple of weeks remain before much of the world celebrates the Christmas holidays. It is a time for families to enjoy time together, exchanging presents (some more useful than others), eating and drinking. It reminds me there are strong family values in the fish industry – every year we see husbands and wives of delegates at our conferences and I have often heard observers from outside the world of fish say that the sector is hard working but welcoming and friendly, just as a family should be. Although our working life often intrudes on our home life – how many of us check emails on our smartphones at home – wise heads realise people work better if their family life is happy. Companies would do well to remember the role of supportive partners in helping their employees perform, having a pastoral approach to management makes teams feel valued and avoids conflicts at home that could spill over into work time. Managers also should remember to set a good example and work smart rather than just long hours – unless it really can’t wait, avoid emailing your team over a weekend as they will feel obliged to reply. If weekend or after hours work is needed, try and give the time back to colleagues with a day off when things are quieter and if a parent wants to see their child at a school play or end of term prize giving, let them go home early. A high performing team needs maintenance like quality car so, at this time of the year, a company-funded meal or going to see a show really works like a tune up, oil and filter change for the team engine.Update - December 2017 - 299.pdf