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Iñigo Ucín: “Cooperative values and profitability will be the keys to MONDRAGON’s future”

Oct 21, 2016

At our interview with Iñigo Ucín, MONDRAGON’s recently-appointed President, with the new roadmap totally established he highlighted two aspects: the need to strengthen the cooperative’s values and the commitment to profitable, sustainable projects.
Iñigo Ucín: “Cooperative values and profitability will be the keys to MONDRAGON’s future”

You’ve been MONDRAGON’s new President since August 1st. How are you taking on this new professional challenge?

Feasible projects: “The need for sustainable profitability and self-financing is vital”.

I’m excited about it and looking forward to getting down to work. It’s obviously a big professional challenge. It’s not exactly new to me, but it is a more public role, with more media exposure and less contact with the business side of things – products, the market, competitors and so on. I’ll also be dealing with a different kind of people and I’ll miss working shoulder to shoulder with them, which has been the case up to now. However, I’ve always firmly believed in the cooperative system and the Mondragón cooperatives’ project, so I’m pleased with the change.

What were your first feelings on taking over the post?
My holidays had just ended and although holiday time seems far away sometimes, the return wasn’t too tough. We’ve already started work on various Congress-related issues and we intend to apply the proposals approved to all the cooperatives in their day-to-day work, always in accordance with their wishes, of course.

Financing: “What we need are projects worth taking the risk for. We all have to make a big effort in that direction”.

As regards the people, both those at the corporate centre and the Vice-Presidents, I’ve been able to see that they want to get things done and they’re excited about turning the “MONDRAGON of the Future” into the reality we’re all eager to see.

MONDRAGON is starting out on a new stage of its existence, isn’t it?  What do you see as the keys to this new cycle?
This certainly is a new stage, and I'm not just talking about the change of President. The whole reflection process that has been carried out against an external backdrop of uncertainty and an internal environment requiring changes that had to be agreed on has required much effort. I think a lot of people have worked hard and effectively, and I’d especially like to highlight the work done by Javier Sotil, which has been of tremendous importance, although he isn’t the only key figure of course.

But going back to the question on the keys to this new stage, they must be the ones approved at the Congress. I’d particularly like to highlight how we experience the cooperative values, highlighting the word “experience”, which I’m sure will enhance the cooperative scenario even more. On the other hand, the need for sustainable profitability and self-financing is also vital.

Values: “We have declared our values for a long time now, and so what we want to do is put them into practice on a day-to-day basis".

The MONDRAGON of the Future

Looking to the future, one of the issues of most concern is seeking funding for business projects. Are there any real alternatives?
We’re already working on this and we intend to create third-party leveraged instruments for new business projects. We will also have access to the new financial instruments for inter-cooperation, and the invaluable self-financing generated by the cooperatives themselves, which means they must be profitable, and more diverse third-party financing. But above all, what we need are projects worth taking the risk for. We all have to make a big effort in that direction.

Another much-discussed aspect is “Experiencing cooperative values”. Do we need to evolve?
I think we have to evolve with regard to the products and services we offer, business models, the countries and sectors we sell to, technology, the knowledge of our people and the improvement of our organisation. However, we have declared our values for a long time now, and so what we want to do today is put them into practice on a day-to-day basis and make them our way of doing things. Fulfilling the values we have declared is an exercise in coherence, and if we take on this exercise we will have made a big step forward.

Inter-cooperation: “More can be done as a group than separately, and not just from a business viewpoint but also as regards solidarity and social transformation”.

How will the transition to the new organisational structure approved at the Congress be made?
In the most natural way possible. We’ll help the cooperatives progress towards the new organisational model, and it’s important to point out that it is not an invariable model. On today’s ever-changing scenario it needs to cater to new circumstances, seeking whatever is best for the group as a whole and naturally taking into account the desires of the cooperatives themselves, as they are the key figures of course.

Do you expect any new cooperatives to join the group in the next few years?
I’m sure they will. Experience has shown that it’s better to work as a group and not alone, as a company out on its own can run into difficulties. More can be done as a group than separately, and not just from a business viewpoint but also as regards solidarity and social transformation. So I think we should definitely contemplate this scenario in the near future.

What will be your personal footprint? What aspects do you intend to work on most?
The recent Congress has clearly marked the direction we should be heading in, and my mandate as President is as approved at the Congress. Apart from what I’ve already mentioned I’d like to stress two aspects, one internal and the other external.

The internal aspect is the Corporation and inter-cooperation. I believe there is room for improvement in this aspect and if there is more collaboration between the cooperatives and also with other companies we will be able to improve as regards buying, developing new products, entering the market, attracting and training new people and in many more areas. All this directly affects business profitability and sustainability and maintaining and creating quality cooperative employment, and it will allow us to improve the local environment at the same time, which is what this country really needs. It’s not just a case of whether your own cooperative can benefit. Helping another cooperative is sufficient, and it’s what we should be doing. We need to be more active and not only offer help when a cooperative runs into difficulties. When we reach that stage it’s very costly and the situation can even be irreversible. I’d therefore like to use this opportunity to ask for the cooperatives’ decision-makers to collaborate as much as possible, to encourage inter-cooperation.

Group and society: “We need to improve our communication to society. The last few years have been special in many ways and the group might perhaps not have been treated as it deserved, bearing in mind what it is and what it does for this country”.

Looking outside the Corporation, we should improve our communication to society. The last few years have been special in many ways and the group might perhaps not have been treated as it deserved, bearing in mind what it is and what it does for this country. So I think we need to put across what we are, what we do and what our aims are, not in an arrogant way but with the responsibility that our contribution to this country involves.

Would you like to highlight anything else?
We should encourage our people to be proud of belonging to the group. We may have our defects, but the group of MONDRAGON cooperatives, so deeply rooted in our country, competes on international markets, generates employment and wealth and distributes it fairly. And that means we can say – and defend it with pride – that “I’m from such and such a cooperative and my cooperative is part of MONDRAGON”.

 

“Tough scenario, stronger confidence”

What changes are occurring in 2016?

2015 was a very good year for us, and 2016 seems to be heading in the same direction, for the time being at least. However, the game isn’t over yet and there are still several months to go. There is much uncertainty on the world scenario, but I believe in our project.

How do you envisage the group in 2020?

Pride of belonging: “We can say – and defend it with pride – that “I’m from such and such a cooperative and my cooperative is part of MONDRAGON”.

We’ve already mentioned the backdrop of uncertainty, and I think it will be around for a a long time to come. But I also think we will be able to improve the positioning of our businesses. We need to reduce unemployment in the Basque Country and improve the situation and everyone’s expectations, particularly those of young people. And I’d like the MONDRAGON Group to make a big contribution in that aspect.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think we should strengthen our pride in forming part of our projects. We all make mistakes sometimes of course, but the Group’s cooperatives, so deeply rooted in our country, compete on international markets, generate employment and wealth and distribute it fairly. So I think we can say, without arrogance but with pride, “I belong to this cooperative and we form part of MONDRAGON".


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