To assist new board members in understanding the process that is necessary for considering future expansion projects, the March meeting focused on reviewing steps that were taken prior to opening the Elm Heights store. Several years before a decision is made, ideas and inspirations are shared which generate many possible future scenarios. Eventually, a common vision coalesces.
Once the vision begins to take shape in the group mind, the real work begins. The board and the General Manager must work closely together in order for any project to be successful. The project must first of all meet the co-operative Ends Policy guidelines. The board then decides what they need to learn and/or be made aware of in order to make informed decisions.
The GM must operate within all the appropriate policy limitations. These are all clearly stated in the Policy Manual adopted many years ago which states all the rules the co-op board and GM must abide by. Adherence to these policies are monitored monthly.
Prior to the Elm Heights project, the board reviewed Ends, financial conditions and activities, planning and budgeting, asset protection, and board communication policies. We then decided to learn more about market feasibility, financial feasibility, design feasibility and internal readiness. Professional consultants were called upon in all areas and numerous studies were completed during the years preceding the final decision to "go ahead."
The board then reviewed how best to present their findings to the member-owners and gather support for the enterprise. We brainstormed possible questions the member-owners might have in order to make sure we actually knew the answers. Our aim was always to build a shared understanding of the undertaking we were embarking upon.
With the Elm Heights store, member-owner enthusiasm was very high and the project was birthed successfully. You might wonder why we need to review the guidelines for expansion projects again so soon. The answer is that it is never too early to begin to plan for possible future scenarios. It is our job to be aware of the trends in other grocery stores and continue to fine tune our niche.
We want our Bloomingfoods stores to be so well-loved by our member-owners that even with major chain stores carrying more organic and local products, we still have an edge. You, our member-owners are what create that edge. With your annual vote for directors, filling out the annual survey, and your input to store staff, you have a major say in the company. Only in a co-operative business model is this possible.
Because the GM and board members are often behind-the-scenes, it may seem that we are totally running the show without your input. Think of us, instead, as the motor, and you are the fuel. We can't do anything without you. The co-operative came into being because you, the member-owners, wanted to take charge of your food supply. All of our policies were created based on feedback over the years by you, our member-owners. Policies have changed when you let us know that certain changes were important to you and to the co-op as a whole. Now, we are over 11,000 member-owners strong. It is no easy task to keep everyone happy; we will never achieve this goal. But, we, the board, the GM and the staff, all attempt to make decisions that we think you want us to make.
It may not be as easy to feel that your voice is heard as it was when the co-op was a tiny store operated by a few hippies, but our hearts are still in the same place. We want to be "your" store. That takes co-operation from all of us. We would like to be a place where you feel welcome and at home, like an old time corner grocery. The society at large, however, works entirely against this. "They say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Every time you take a minute to offer a friendly comment, you increase the quality of everyone's experience. Thank you for continuing to live the dream.