by Jon Megas-Russell
Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” As an active member of the Brattleboro Food Co-op Board of Directors, I cannot not think of a better quote when someone is considering running for the board. Being a board member at the Brattleboro Food Co-op is a rewarding experience that allows you to make an impact on your community and gain valuable skills. So, I’d like to highlight areas which I feel are rewards and skills you will gain if you join the BFC Board of Directors.
As board members we prepare each month for our meetings by reading our board packet, The Beet, and attending committee meetings and our monthly meeting. The first two pieces help to keep us informed about the weekly happenings at the Co-op; we then dig deeper in person at our meetings. Perhaps the most important skill for a board member is to be an active listener, which is both challenging and rewarding. Active listening adds interaction between whoever may be reporting out and individual board members. Being an active listener, engaging on the fly, and being prepared for meetings are huge skills that I have learned as a board member.
Problem Solving & Asking Great Questions
On a monthly basis we tackle issues that are not straightforward. The board considers monitoring reports, Ends policies, GM reports, financial statements, responding to shareholder inquiries, and navigating the many unique dynamics on the board; we are constantly asked to provide thoughtful solutions. One of my favorite parts about the board process is asking thought-provoking questions, which may be one of the most important skills I am continuously learning as a board member (and it’s also really fun). For instance, when we monitor the general manager’s performance, board members ask rich questions that drive dialogue and provide additional information. Asking questions is of the utmost importance, seriously; I cannot encourage our new board members enough to ask any questions they may have, at every opportunity. As a board member, this is one way I like to contribute at every meeting, so the more questions the better.
Policy Governance defines and guides the relationship between an organization and its Board of Directors, shareholders, and general manager. As directors of the Brattleboro Food Co-op, we help manage and define long-term strategic goals called Ends policies. These are very separate from day-to-day organizational tasks and issues that are called Means and handled by the GM and his/her staff. In a nutshell, the board manages the general manager and delegates the operations of the Co-op to the GM and staff. Yes, on a basic level this may seem pretty straightforward—but honestly, I’m still learning and understanding policy governance. In fact, working in a for-profit model and being so operationally related in my day job, policy governance can be hard for me to follow. However, following and understanding policy is another skill that I am acquiring as a board member and for which I am truly grateful.
On another note I have noticed recently that there is confusion and strange perceptions about policy governance. I know that we will be holding trainings on cooperative governance and I welcome any shareholder or staff to attend that training to learn more about it. I can strongly state that our Co-op would never have grown from a small buying club to a $19M store, widely known as one of the best food cooperatives in the country, without good governance in place.
We have three spots open for the November election and anyone who is a shareholder can run for the board! We welcome any and all perspectives, backgrounds, and skill sets as we continue to build a diverse group of board members.
Here are three ways you can learn more about running for the board:
- Read our two-page recruitment flyer.
- Meet with a board member over the phone, in person, or by email.
- Come join us at a board meeting, the first Monday of each month, to learn more about the Co-op and the work of our Board of Directors.