In the Northwest neighborhoods of Cincinnati, Ohio, residents have gotten together to open a food co-op. As in many other communities organizing food co-ops in recent years, this Cincinnati effort is in response to the loss of a neighborhood grocer—in our case, the abrupt closure of the local Save-A-Lot in August 2013.
Except perhaps for the lucky few of them still enjoying double-digit growth and staff satisfaction with wages, most co-ops are constrained by limited personnel dollars. One of the ways to make sure that you are getting what you pay for is to ensure consistent accountability for staff—that everyone is meeting or exceeding the expectations for their job. But how to do this with fairness and compassion?
Hanover, N.H.—Terry Appleby works in a bright, capacious office on a wooded hillside a few miles southeast of Dartmouth College. One day this past summer, I met him there for lunch.
“I haven’t been to your office in a while,” I said. He smiled and patted my shoulder. “It won’t be my office for long.”
It is always timely to examine handling cooperative conflict and building cooperative resiliency.
One summer afternoon in 2009, Arthur Gerstenberger, former general manager for the Hanover Co-op in Hanover, N.H., made a surprise visit to a celebration honoring the co-op’s employees. Photos from that afternoon show him at his best, with his warm, broad face and cheerful eyes. He wore a light gray polo shirt and pressed chinos. His thick, white hair glistened in the sun.
July was the hottest month our planet has experienced since modern recordkeeping began in 1880. By its nature, climate change is a global challenge, and yet we each have a role to play.
Conflict happens. Co-ops have always faced conflict, whether in the boardroom, in member meetings, through social media and email, in the aisles or out in front of the store. This article is intended to equip co-ops to prepare for conflict and strengthen our democracy so that we can meet change with equanimity and curiosity and emerge stronger, wiser, and more resilient.
There is no shortage of stressors for people involved in co-ops today. With challenging economic and political conditions added to the hustle and bustle of modern life, topped off with a seeming deterioration of interpersonal communication and growing polarization of personal beliefs, it’s more important than ever to appreciate differences in others and find ways to work well together to solve our problems.
New competition. Shrinking margins. Tighter supply. Rising labor costs. Saturated advertising. Poaching of great employees. Competing in the natural- foods market place is just plain hard.
As the market’s “new normal” intensifies with the rush of conventional retail players and new competition into our traditional space, there has been increasing interest in exploring the strategy of Principle Six: cooperation among cooperatives.
Providing an unbeatable shopping experience is no longer optional for cooperatives—it is imperative. In the growing and increasingly competitive world of natural foods, cooperatives need to perform better than their competitors, especially in providing outstanding customer service. Customer service is one of the key areas where cooperatives can differentiate themselves from other natural-foods stores.