March 2004

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Readers’ Write!

GM Report

A Brief History of Irish Cuisine

Farmer Appreciation Dinner Wrap-up

Book & General Merchandise News

Juice Bar News

Cinematic Cuisine

Specials Information

Annual Report

Producer Profile: The Igl Family

Ask the Midwife: Starting Your Baby on Solid Food

Herbal Corner: Spring Equinox Bloomers

Recipes & Drink Recommendations

For the Vegetable Less Traveled... Buy Local!

Community Calendar

Board Report
Buck Rhyme
WSGC Board Member

A Mid-Term Report

As the mid-way point approaches in my first term as WSGC Board member, I found myself wondering what have I learned as a Board member and how has the Co-op changed since my election in September of 2002. Like many new experiences, I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting into when I joined the Board.

Old and New
The Board itself is delightful mixture of old and new, with some members approaching two decades of service and others only a few months. According to our most recent self-evaluation, we are all passionate advocates for the Co-op, respectful of each other, and grappling with the reality of what it means to be good steward of a highly successful 12 million dollar business with 13,000+ members. We have strategic priorities for 2004 and will be meeting with the GM and, for the first time, department managers to seek their input on a range of issues and to promote greater alignment throughout the organization.

A Well-Known Leader

As a board examiner of the Wisconsin Forward Award (a program whose mission is to promote and recognize the adoption of high performance management principles and practices), I have been exposed to some of the best run, most successful companies in Wisconsin. I hesitate to put the Co-op in that category just yet, but the potential is clearly there. My dream is that WSGC becomes the first Cooperative in Wisconsin to receive this level of outside recognition for business excellence. We are a well-known leader within the Cooperative sector and it is time to seek greater challenges by comparing ourselves to leaders in other business sectors like health care or manufacturing.

What I Have Learned
I have learned how to practice the principles of Policy Governance, the framework for how we work as a Board, how to read a complicated budget report, the importance of a acid test ratio (a strict test to determine a corporation’s liquidity), and that profit can be a bad thing if you have to give too much of it back to the government in the form of income tax. I have learned that the talented GM, dedicated managers, and hard working staff are core assets of the Co-op and deserve more recognition for the all the little things that they do. I have learned that you can actually be too successful, which means that you run out of storage space and sometimes have inadequate parking.

Member Involvement
One of my current unsolved mysteries is the low number of members who actually vote in elections. Despite this reality, it is hard for me to conclude that members are apathetic. Many members quickly responded to our call for volunteers to serve on all Board committees this year. We are also quick to hear about things when they go wrong (the floor) and what member likes and dislikes are on a wide range of store issues. I want to encourage members to offer their opinions and suggestions as part of the member forum at every board meeting. While under-utilized at this point, all Board members welcome fresh perspectives as we grapple with challenges of growth and meeting the needs of our diverse membership.

Looking Ahead

It is too soon to say if I am ready to run for a second term. The work is more demanding, more complex, and more challenging than I imagined. Whatever the future holds, when I walk through thorough the sliding front doors, I will never stop feeling proud or amazed that I am member-owner of this remarkable, bustling operation.