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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.
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.
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.