Since 1995 your Co-op Board has had a retreat in February. That first retreat 15 years ago was two days long. Since then the retreat has been limited to a single day.

This year the retreat was held Sunday, February 7th, at the Goodman Community Center, a great local example of both green-inspired sustainable design and historic preservation. The meeting itself was located in the girls’ clubhouse with Girls, Inc. posters dotting the walls. Girls, Inc. is a national non-profit that inspires all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Maybe the vibe in the room rubbed off on us because it seemed people jumped right in once the meeting started.

I’m glad to report that the retreat had perfect Board attendance with all nine members present. Also joining us were Anya Firszt, General Manager, Stephanie Ricketts, Executive Assistant, and of course our facilitator, Darin Harris. Darin, a professional meeting facilitator, with 15 years professional experience, led the meeting, as he has for many of the past Co-op Board retreats.
Retreats are designed to allow a Board to consider issues on a deeper level without the time pressure of having to come to a decision because of pressing deadlines. With the luxury of a full day and no need for a quick decision there is more time for a fuller discussion of the issues.

Darin, along with the retreat committee, set the agenda that focused on the following: “The Role of the Board with Two Locations” before lunch and “Medium-Range Planning for Willy Street Co-op” after. The last half hour was reserved for tips for running a productive meeting. By all accounts the meeting went smoothly with little open disagreement, which pleased everyone.
With the second retail site as a looming issue the Board wanted to discuss how to manage itself once the new store opens. A full discussion ensued and some of the things proposed included:

  • Research what other Co-ops have done. Many co-ops within our region have two locations and we will look to them and others to learn more.
  • Keep a sharp eye on our current monitoring policies and how they should evolve to encompass two retail locations.
  • Develop a well-researched and deliberate outreach plan to the new community(ies) the new store will be serving.

After that the Board took a nice walk to the Daisy Café and Cupcakery for lunch (and a signature cupcake of course).

Although it was a gray day, it was nice to get outside and breathe some fresh air. The restaurant was packed (no signs of a down economy here) but luckily Stephanie had called ahead and there was a table waiting for us in the back. Over lunch a few of us heard about Anya’s recent trip to Mexico and her visits to a co-op (of sorts?) south of the border.

After a wonderful lunch we walked back and dug in for the second half of the retreat. The agenda called for “Medium-Range Planning” with a time horizon of three to five years. Although the Co-op won’t have a great deal of capital to work with until the new site becomes profitable, there should still be several reasonable and achievable goals we can set and accomplish. The ideas that came up included:

  1. Provide nutritious food to local schools
  2. Partner with other co-ops in the area, i.e., Group Health Cooperative
  3. Remodel 1221 Williamson

The day ended with a short presentation by Darin about how to run an effective meeting where he ran down a quick checklist of suggestions. It was interesting to see that we were doing many of these already, so for me it seemed to confirm that we are on the right track in terms of being an effectively run Board.

It was a long day, but well worth the effort and ended in time for us to see the Saints win the Super Bowl. The Co-op Board is always looking for your comments and suggestions so please feel free to email me at rabernst@wisc.edu with any thoughts or questions this article might have inspired.


January meeting highlights

  • Board member Mike Engel invited representatives from Summit Credit Union to discuss their organization’s Community Outreach efforts during this month’s Board Education Session.
  • The January Board meeting was devoted to completing the GM Evaluation.

March meeting agenda

  • At the March meeting the Board will discuss and refine their Committee Member Recruitment Process. They will also deliberate on a more strategic approach to Community Reinvestment and consider Executive Minutes Release.

Ongoing projects/Committees

  • The Board’s one standing committee, the Finance Committee, reviews monthly financial reports at each of its meetings. In addition to the usual reports, this month the Finance Committee will dig into the budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2011.
  • The Board’s Retreat Planning Committee’s work is largely finished! They will be conducting a final survey of Board members on this year’s retreat and documenting processes for next year’s Committee members.
  • The Patronage Refund and Non-Owner Surcharge Committee continues to look into the advantages and disadvantages of the non-Owner surcharge. Your input is very important to this group, so please continue to share your perspective!
  • Expansion opportunities in the greater Madison area continue to be explored.

Educational Sessions

  • The Board of Directors will be engaging in educational sessions from 6:00pm–6:45pm, immediately prior to the Board meeting. This month’s Educational Session is on Improving Board Processes. All Owners are welcome and encouraged to attend! Be sure to check out the Owner Forum as well, from 5:30–6:00pm by the Coffee. Snacks are provided!

Remember, you can always catch play-by-play board minutes at: https://board.willystreet.coop:444/board_minutes/board_minutes_home