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Your Board

Hi, I'm Your Board

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 Directors,...
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Your Board

Sounding Board

Sounding Board
By Your Board on August 5, 2019

For better or for worse, asking “What do you do?” is a socially acceptable way for us to get to know people and figure out pecking orders. The answers we get allow us to categorize people and get a snapshot of what they’re like. “I’m in Sales” conjures up an image of a sociable, extroverted communicator. “I’m a doctor” tells me I’ve met someone who excelled in the sciences. “I’m an auto mechanic” makes me think about people who have a knack for thinking three-dimensionally.

A funny thing happens when I tell people I’m President of the Board at Outpost Natural Foods: They think I’m in charge of everything that goes on at our beloved cooperative – from how much we pay entry level workers to setting prices on produce. While these are important issues that drive Outpost, the reality is that the Board’s role runs a little deeper than that.

In the Spring of 2004, the Board adopted a “Global Ends” statement. It’s the Board’s attempt to define why Outpost exists: “Outpost Natural Foods exists so that our owners have a healthy, diverse, and sustainable community; this is accomplished while maintaining the long-term strength of the cooperative.”

Everything that the Board does is driven by this statement. For example, every three months we review a standardized report that gauges Outpost’s financial health and the co-op’s ability to respond to future opportunities and obligations. Remember word problems in elementary school math, where Alice had 40 apples that cost her 10 cents each and she sold half to Phil for 20 cents each? Outpost is like a gigantic word problem. And it’s the Board’s job to review data that distills that arithmetic into key indicators so that Outpost is on sound financial footing.

For example, we look at profitability, because the name of the game is still “buy low, sell high” so that we can pay decent wages and benefits AND have some socked away for a new roof or ovens for our central kitchen when we need them. We look at debt-to-equity ratios to make sure that we’re worth more alive than dead. We even have our General Manager check the accounting records to make sure that rents and sales taxes are being paid on time.

The Outpost Board is a motley crew, made up of people from the legal, software, nonprofit, social work, healthcare, education, and political organizing worlds. But we’ve got this in common: Our love for this Milwaukee institution and a desire to see it stick around to feed healthy food to our great-grandchildren.

 

Young Kim

Board President

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