While visiting in Madison recently, a friend took me to visit one of the well-known co-ops. She was enthusiastic about its benefits: locally identified produce, a friendly staff, a suggestion box, and a large selection of products, to name a few. I assured her that, although there was a larger selection of products, our Co-op has the same features. And our Co-op has a warm, welcoming color scheme and layout which I felt were missing from this co-op.
She also pointed out that the board minutes were available in the front for all owners to read and there was time before the board meeting for owner input. This is also true for our Co-op. Our agendas and minutes are posted in the front foyer and our board agenda begins with a time for member comment. Your board always wants to hear from our owners.
At the time of the visit I realized once again how fortunate we are to have such a quality co-op in a town this size. Yet now that the excitement of the new store has waned, all of us—owners, board members, staff—need to concentrate on the hard work of sustaining our Co-op. We continue to attract new owners and our September member drive was proof of that. The last issue of Scoop reports 3,102 owner households! But several additional components contribute to the strength of a co-op including, but not limited to, an effective board and financial sustainability. And these two areas present challenges for us.
Some of the leaders of the National Cooperative Grocers Assn. (NCGA) have commented that your current board is a very effective board. But board members’ terms end and new members are elected. In order to continue a strong board, we developed a revised and improved plan for recruiting and orienting new members. There will be two open slots for the 2009 election and one board member will run and one will not.
We wrote about our recruitment efforts for possible Board candidates in the last Scoop, signs were posted in the Co-op, and individual contacts were made. So far we have only received two possible candidates. At the November board meeting, the committee will present its recommendations to the board and the board will vote on the recommendations at the December meeting.
Even though the deadline has passed, we could still consider additional candidates. The candidates will be on the ballot as part of the early February edition of the Scoop with a late March deadline for voting. The board members will be announced at the April annual meeting.
The other challenge is our financial situation which is managed by the staff under the direction of the general manager. It’s our role as board members to monitor finances carefully and we are receiving reports on several indicators each month.
According to NCGA financial “gurus” and our own treasurer, one of the best measures of operational results is called EBITADP. ( Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Amortization, Depreciation, and Patronage) We had a really difficult second quarter and a somewhat better third quarter. The third quarter information we received at the October board meeting shows that we are moving in the right direction.
Our dedicated staff is working with the recommendations of the NCGA audit team. Even though we are in a national economy that is struggling, board members feel confident that our owners will keep on supporting our Co-op. Together we’ll continue to achieve our mission.