|BFC Shareholder Exchange – A Correspondence|
We have chosen to publish an edited version of a recent exchange with a shareholder who felt critical of our Co-op’s attempt to communicate with shareholders. Although he initially misinterpreted the role and relationship of the Shareholder Forum in the Co-op, his points regarding meaningful participation are relevant, and part of what we are actively seeking to address.
The Shareholder Forum folks and Sabine felt it was a worthwhile exercise to publish this in an effort to continue to address the ways in which we might better involve our member-owners in making our Co-op the best it can be. And we value our shareholders through whatever ways they wish to participate.
Currently, we make meeting agendas available at Shareholder Services and on the website. We are looking to incorporate shareholders into some of our board committee work this year—more information to follow next month. –Ed.
I've finally gotten around to reading the latest Food for Thought (FFT) and am finding, once again, that I'm just disappointed in the Co-op's effort at communicating with shareholders.
The article that really brought this to a sharp point is the "Shareholder Forum."
There is no "forum" in the column; it is a report, yes, of the meetings of various committees that shareholders can attend.
Yet I think that many share-holders are in the same situation that I've experienced over many years: we have busy lives, and have no idea what the agenda of the meetings are even if we have the time free to attend. I would suggest that FFT could provide a real service to shareholders by publishing in every edition the names and contact info of people on the various committees and what the upcoming agendas are.
That way communication can be enhanced through email or person-to-person, and can be specifically addressed to agenda items or suggestions for agenda items.
The idea that the majority of shareholders have time to go to meetings and that's the only way they can plug into the Co-op is, in my view, abysmally out of touch.
The other issue with the "forum" (and FFT in general) is that it doesn't give voice to any shareholders. Page 2 mentions "letters to the editors," but, in my many years receiving FFT I can't think of one time where an issue was raised by a shareholder or a letter published. There's not even been a question and response column.
I for one would really like to read specifically what challenges the staff and various departments are facing; if you want to get me involved, either offering ideas or to help in some way, that is the way to do it.
The Shareholder Forum, in particular, is a group of shareholders just like yourself, who took it upon themselves to meet and discuss issues that they find important.
They requested column space in the Food for Thought and have used it in different ways, depending on the person or persons writing the piece.
I realize that the premise of having a couple of hours on a given Sunday afternoon to discuss these issues is limited to those who have that time, but I also acknowledge their extra effort to come together and be open to various points of view.
The column you referred to was their specific enjoinder to get involved in whatever way might suit you. Clearly, their suggestions didn’t work for you, and that’s fine.
The main thing shareholders can do to help is to shop their store. People who travel to other stores to purchase items priced slightly more favorably or the same ignore the value of their purchase in the Co-op and in the return to the community of which they are a part.
So, if you wish to help, ensure that your buying patterns revolve around the store that you own, not around your store’s competition. Our success is your success and your community’s success, pure and simple.
Finally, I thank you for your opinion. We will continue to attempt to balance all the needs that we fulfill, as our capabilities allow.
Thanks to you for taking the time in your day for such a detailed response. I really appreciate your effort.
I've been a working member of the Co-op for 30+ years and used to go the annual meetings but am not terribly interested in the socializing, so I've limited my attendance these past years to meetings where I know of difficult or major issues to be addressed.
I'm sorry my email sounded like a complaint—perhaps it was, out of frustration of seeing a thing labeled something that it wasn't—but I do hope my perspective on how the Co-op might better relate to and involve its members does resonate a little and be part of a germ for change.
The competitive situation certainly is tough, and, aside from urging members to shop more at the Co-op, I would think that actively involving members in roundtables on issues like marketing, publicity, public outreach would be of help.
I imagine you have committees for this but then there's the "meetings" again. Perhaps since I don't make the time to go to meetings I should leave my membership?
I mean this seriously: is a Co-op member's voice limited to speaking at meetings? Even corporation boards no longer operate that way. Just a thought.
Rest assured that I, for one, can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times a year I shop at any other area grocery store; I just don't, regardless of price, unless there's an item I need that the Co-op doesn't carry. And any time I meet someone who is moving into the area I make it a point to tell them of the Co-op—perhaps expressing a bit fanatically that they need to join if they want to be a part of the community.
That, and being a very pleasant working member, is about as much as I can manage in my support.