The Fonterra executive has relocated to Hamilton from Auckland to take up his new role from July 1. Having grown up on a dairy farm in Waharoa and studied economics at the Waikato University, Minkhorst is back in familiar territory.
And like the Waikato, RD1 is also not unfamiliar to Minkhorst. As Fonterra’s general manager commercial, he served on the board of the rural service provider for six years. Fonterra owns RD1 having bought its joint venture partner’s 50% stake in July 2011. Minkhorst led the buyback process.
He says RD1 is a great business with great people. But his role is no longer linked to board-level governance. Minkhorst now heads an organisation with 64 stores, 700 staff and three business divisions- rural stores, NZAgbiz (calf milk replacers wholesaler) and INL (bulk feed importer).
For Minkhorst, customer service is paramount. Improving the level of service is part of his strategy refresh. The first week in his new role was spent at the RD1Taupiri store where he served farmers, stacked magnesium oxide onto utes and carried chook pellets. He also met farmers over a social event organised at the store.
Farmers had plenty of advice for him. It’s important to listen to them, he says. “From my stint at the Taupiri store, it is clear how important customer service is,” Minkhorst told Dairy News.
Farmers have a busy life and have little time to waste when it comes to buying rural supplies. All they want to know is which store is closest to them and whether it has the stock, he says.
“As farmers get busy with calving, they have no time to muck around. They are in and out of the store and back on farm.
“If we don’t have the product they want and when they want, us being number one in dairying means little to them.”
Minkhorst says RD1 is keen to improve its store footprint in key dairy areas to save farmers time and money.
His strategy refresh includes “a no nonsense approach”.
“We are busy but farmers are even busier. Our job is to help farmers get things done and they must see us doing things for them.”
Minkhorst says while RD1 has the biggest range of dairy products in the country it also caters for other farmers.
Commenting on the rural service trade, Minkhorst says farmers are cautious as economic volatility continues around the globe. But the outlook is great, he adds.
“We believe we have a good offer in the dairy space.”
He says competition in the rural services sector is good as it offers farmers choice.
RD1 is part of Fonterra’s ANZ brands business. Minkhorst reports to Fonterra ANZ managing director John Doumani, who is based in Melbourne.