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Outpost's Board of Directors will use this blog to discuss issues the board is exploring as it envisions Outpost's future. Can't make it to a meeting? Check here frequently to read what the Board is up to. Your current Outpost Board of...
Your Board

Living our Mission and Values: How Food Co-ops Can Stay Competitive

Board Beet
By Your Board on July 12, 2017

Every year a handful of board members get the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the Consumer Cooperative Management Association, a trade association of consumer cooperatives. It serves as a combination conference and trade show where industry trends are explored, and best practices are highlighted and exchanged.

Consumer grocery cooperatives are only a small fraction of the grocery industry, so CCMA provides an opportunity to network and share information in a way that really only comes once a year. This is especially true for board members, who have very limited contacts with industry professionals, not to mention other co-op board members.

CCMA consists of three days of sessions that cover a wide variety of topics, from strategic to logistical, philosophical to practical. I charted a series of sessions that focused mostly on nuts and bolts best practices. In particular, I wanted to learn how other co-ops were dealing with the current hyper-competitive environment.

One of the best sessions I attended was titled “Sales Growth In A Down, Competitive Market.” It was presented by the general manager, board president, and senior marketing manager of Lakewinds Food Co-op in the Twin Cities.  The session explained how they improved sales by focusing on what they do best. In their case, this meant focusing on certain core values that they had identified, and “creating internal alignment through a robust Open Book Management program.”

I’ve always been a fan of open-book management. As Lakewinds describes it, open book management “is a dynamic and transformational way of managing a business, where employees at all levels are informed, involved, and empowered to understand the financial bottom line (profit) as well as they understand the other two (people and planet) and to make change happen.” But the takeaway for me was how they tied this into their mission and marketing.

The board and management of Lakewinds knew that all of their good intentions, hard work, and smart planning would mean nothing if it wasn’t translated into action by each and every employee. They used open book management to support this process, but that was just their method.

The upshot of this session for me, especially as a board member, is to remember how important it is that our mission and values align with the experience of owners. This is a frequent topic of discussion at our board meetings, and I know that it’s something that management is constantly focused on. It’s also why feedback from owners is so important to us – because we need to know how we’re doing.

When you shop at Outpost, does your store experience reflect our co-op’s mission and values?


Jan Pierce

Board Director


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