December 2015 Board Minutes

December 2015 Board Meeting Minutes

December 16, 2015
7 p.m.
Karen's house
Present: Jen, Kelly, Mark, Heather, Dan, Malcolm, Tony, Karen, Emily, Grant, Lance, Esther, Mike
Absent: Anthony, Al
Guests: Jacqueline Hannah, Greg Berlowit


Grant congratulated the group on rising Owner numbers. He also congratulated Greg for strong use of volunteers on the Funding team.

Mike asked Jen to introduce herself, as a new Board member. (Esther arrived a bit late). Mike moved to appoint Esther, Jen and Al to fill open Board seats. Karen seconded. All approved.

Mark gave each Board member a copy of the book "Natural Prophets" and said it's an exciting time to be working again in the natural-foods business. 

Greg introduced our guest speaker, Jacqueline Hannah. He called her "a powerhouse in the co-op industry." She transformed Common Ground Food Co-op into a huge, thriving store and now works for the national Food Co-op Initiative. 

Jacqueline explained that FCI works with start-up co-ops and that it's funded by mature and national-level co-ops. FCI only has three employees, though, and can't help everyone. 

She urged Chicago Market to apply for a seed grant to be one of the 10 co-ops who get the most FCI attention next year. 

"What you're doing is kind of historic," she said. "There is not another large co-op here. It's an amazing story. We rarely have anyone trying to start a big co-op. There are so many people who are watching what you're doing. We haven't had any heavy-hitter co-ops in a long time ... I've never seen a board this large or with so much professional bench depth."

Our current timeline is "phenomenal," but we all need to be on the same page as each other. It's hard to see how each person's work fits into another's here. We need to see the big picture and allow for organizational growth. 

The responsibility on the Board will get more intense the closer we are to opening. We need to evaluate delegation.

"Burnout is real and it's very dangerous," she said. 

The Board needs to focus on governance, proving feasibility, etc. And leave much of the "doing" to others. 

The Board needs to delegate the ownership project. 

Malcolm: The Board defines policy. General Manager implements policy. The Board evaluates outcomes. 

Jacqueline recommended we attend a Dill Pickle co-op Board meeting to see how they operate.

She also recommends we find a good mentor, one that fits us. She recommends Pam Maynard, the GM from Outpost in Milwaukee. "She's a great business person. She started with one co-op and now has five. She's a generous mentor."

Jacqueline says her timeline document is much simpler than ours. 

It's broken up into Ownership, Governance and Projects, as well as which developmental stage the co-op is in: Organizing, Feasibility & Planning or Construction.

Chicago Market is currently in phase 2A: Feasibility. 

We need to prove financial/market feasibility, while continuing to attract new owners. 

We should be showing our Owners a visible map or representation of these phases so they know where we are and where we're headed. 

Next up is 2B: Planning. Looking for a site, planning Owner Loan Campaign, signing a lease. 

Then it's 3A, Pre-Construction. The Board signs off on all loans and disperses funds. "The is the moment it becomes real," she says. "The point of no return."

That is followed by 3B: Construction. The General Manager will steer much of this.

"Owners drive everything. Projects with too few Owners won't do anything."

Owner growth, however, is not linear.

"You guys are a little behind. It's not that you can't catch up. Every failure is another touch and you're closer to finding what works. You will find it and it will speed up."

What works in an urban environment is different than what works in a rural area. 

Karen: A lot of things on our timeline depend on us meeting Owner goals. I feel this coming crush of needing to have more Owners.

Jacqueline: Too few Owners does delay some co-ops, especially if there's a lease that's tied to ownership numbers. 

Communication is key to keep building momentum. 

She says 20 to 25 percent of Owners will make a loan. The average loan is $3,000 to $5,000. 

If you have a deadline, people will come out of the woodwork. People want it to be a game. Make it competitive. Hope to have 1,000 Owners before the lease. 

By the time the lease is signed, OLC needs to be ready to go. 

Feasibility Study should be done before the lease is signed -- market study and pro forma. 

General Manager Timeline: We want a GM in place a year before opening. People often hire too late. GM search can take a long time. You need to allow 3 to 6 months. 

Might make sense to pay to delegate out the hiring process. "We need a process and job descriptions. This is the most-important hire you'll ever do."

We need governance policy before hiring, as well as executive-limitations policies.

We need to add a governance section to our timeline -- about how to govern the GM and get the Board trained to do that. 

She recommends we complete the simplified timeline and then assign out each line of the timeline to make clear who is responsible for it: Owner numbers, messaging, Owner drive, big events, feasibility, staffing, governance, OLC, finance, site

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