|GM Report: The True Meaning of Partnership|
by Sabine Rhyne – General Manager
We are a cooperative, and as such, we uphold the Cooperative Principles that are the backbone of every cooperative around the world. We have had a number of reasons to be thinking about this lately, including the first implementation of our “orientation passport” program for new hires.
In this training over two and a half days, we are able to clue our new folks into the beautiful complexity of our organization and many of the things that make our particular business so special. They learn some of the highlights about every department, as well as basic financial tenets, open book management, the Co-op’s commitment to inclusion, and the natural products industry.
They also learn about cooperatives and all the ways that our Co-op is linked to and, assists, as well as benefits from other cooperatives. I myself have been thinking about Cooperative Principle Six, “cooperation among cooperatives.” You know, of course, that we live in a region rich with co-ops, especially food co-ops. Within fifty miles, we can count ten food co-ops, all of whom serve their particular community in their own special ways.
This richness serves us all so well. Nearby cooperatives are friendly competitors with whom we compare ourselves all the time. They also give us information about products that do well for their store, and sometimes you shoppers tell us that too.
“I can get product X over at Monadnock Food Co-op, can you guys carry this?” And yet, as every co-op reflects its community and core shoppers, sometimes we discover that some things don’t sell equally well from one co-op to the next. It’s a fascinating exercise that reminds us that we truly do reflect our respective customer base.
Recently, when I was thinking about training for some of our newer managers, I contacted a couple of my peers at some of these other co-ops and asked about sending our new managers to spend a day or two with their counterparts to better understand the approach to their departments in their own store and market area.
They wanted to send their folks to us as well, to observe and be inspired similarly. These peer relationships are invaluable to us; whether from buyer to buyer, or GM to GM, these networks provide great information and support. In times of expansion or difficulty, we have greatly benefited from loans from some of our sister co-ops, as they have benefited from loans from us.
We are institutionally linked to our national cooperatives through associations of cooperatives, like the National Co-op Grocers, through whom we get significant operational support and purchasing power. Regionally, we take part in the Neighboring Food Co-ops, who have, among other things, sourced some of those local frozen fruits and vegetables you can find in our freezer, and coordinated our Cave to Co-op cheese offerings.
But day to day, the relationships that we have with our counterparts locally and across the country give us so much, some of it intangible.
Moral support in tough times is invaluable, and I, for one, feel so very blessed to have relationships with these folks that have developed over years in the business.
I have learned so much from their tribulations and their successes. It is important to foster this kind of support at every level in our cooperative, from board members to staff, as we attempt to learn more about how to be the best at what we do.
In cooperation, truly,