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How Do We Define Success?

Some of you are new to the Willy Street Co-op, just like I was back in 1999. I moved to Madison for a job that has become a career. Some of you may be new to the area or enjoying the Co-op in its new service area.
Recently my boss and I have discussed how we define success for our organization. Similar to all the change that has occurred with my employer; I have seen a lot of change at our Co-op. I started shopping at our Co-op when it was smaller and a little worn on the other side of Williamson Street. Since then we moved to the current Willy East, added a production kitchen, catering, co-shop (on-line shopping), grocery delivery, and most recently our second retail store!
So how does our Co-op measure its success? Most grocery stores look at their net profit and market share to determine success. At our Co-op we examine operations more holistically. Co-op staff and the Board of Directors are constantly reviewing our Ends Policies (principles) to see if we are satisfying them.
What are the Ends and some of our successes achieving them in 2010?
For brevity’s sake I have to limit myself to one success for each End statement. Rest assured our Co-op is doing more.

Policy A1: Members are provided information to make informed choices about food, agricultural practices, environmentally sound practices and the Cooperative movement.
There were 115 Co-op-sponsored food and nutrition events in the Community Room and the Farm Tour, representing over approximately 1,378 individual registrations. Many of the classes are centered on cooking a variety of foods, not the least of which is vegetarian fare or raw food preparation.

Policy A2: Members have a sense of Williamson Street Grocery Co-op community and realize the responsibility of ownership.
A2.1 Members participate in decision-making.
Owner input was solicited by the Patronage Refund and Non-Member Mark-Up committee while deciding on whether to enact patronage refunds and/or discontinue the non-member mark up. Tools used to solicit input included: Owner listening/information sessions, surveys, owner participation on the committee.

A2.2 Promote Owner involvement.
Before each Board meeting, Board members engage Owners on the retail floor for their input.

A2.3 Celebrate, educate, and promote community.
Our Annual Meeting & Party rocks! What other organization provides you with a ferris wheel for a meeting?!

Policy A3: WSGC is a cornerstone of a vibrant economically and environmentally sound community.
A3.1 Local farmers, manufacturers and distributors work in partnership with WSGC.
Local businesses use our catering services for important business meetings. We of course buy local as often as possible.

A3.1.1 Foster local production of goods, including food.
Our Production Kitchen purchased local tomatoes and processed them so we could provide you with dishes made with local tomatoes well beyond the tomato season.

A3.2 Other businesses and co-ops link with WSGC to improve services.
We offer healthy alternative food at Madison Mallard games.

A3.3 Persons of all ages and economic groups view the Co-op as an important resource for their well being.
We offer a need-based “Access Discount” to qualified individuals.

Policy A4: Workers participate in management, work in a humane environment and are recognized and rewarded as being fundamental to a thriving community.
A4.1 Become an employer of choice in Madison, Wisconsin.
Applications for positions at Willy West indicate that folks want to work in a good environment with a fair wage. For Willy West, we added 85 new employees and offered a chance for existing employees to advance their position within the organization.

Policy A5: The Co-op pursues growth and expansion opportunities that meet the long-term needs of its members and workers.
Welcome Willy West!
A5.1 Grow and link neighborhood grocery co-ops.
In addition to opening a grocery cooperative in a previously unserved area, our staff works with existing as well as emerging food co-ops around the state. This includes use of our staff and systems.

Policy A6: Board and management commit to ongoing system improvement.
A6.1 Make healthy, timely decisions.
A new cash register system was successfully installed.

A6.2 Best operational practices are identified and implemented.
We have implemented a disaster recovery plan to keep us functional in case of a catastrophic event. We will be able to rise from the ashes like a phoenix.

A6.3 There exists a systems approach to sustainability.
Following the installation of solar tubes to heat water from the sun, we became the first Co-op in Wisconsin to be certified as Energy Star.
We are proud of our awards for favorite grocery, favorite natural foods store, and favorite deli. Give us your feedback and help your continue to improve!

October meeting highlights
The Board used their educational session time to get to know the two new Board members, who were officially seated at the October meeting.
The Board received their monthly update from Construction Manager Laurel Harrison, including pictures of the interior and exterior construction work.
Officers for the Willy Street Co-op Board were elected, and various committee appointments were made.
A number of housekeeping items were on the October agenda, including approving the Board’s annual calendar and task list.
Per the revision of Policy D4, all executive session meeting minutes were reviewed and considered for release. There was only one set of meeting minutes for the group to consider, and it was released to the public.
The Board increased the amount of money in the Community Reinvestment Fund for the 2011 grant cycle from $14,000 to $20,000.

December meeting agenda
The Board will not be meeting in December, due to a very sparse agenda and the meeting’s proximity to the holidays.
A variety of reports will be reviewed over email.

Ongoing projects/Committees
The Board’s one standing committee, the Finance Committee, reviews monthly financial reports at each of its meetings. This group is also beginning the process of developing long-term strategic financial goals for the organization.
The Strategic Planning Committee continues to work with the input received through surveys of Owners and community partners.  Committee members will begin to flush out common threads and develop proposals for the Board.

Educational Sessions

The Board of Directors will be engaging in educational sessions from 6:00–6:45pm, immediately prior to the Board meeting. All Owners are welcome and encouraged to attend!  Be sure to check out the Owner Forum as well, from 5:30pm–6:00pm, outside in the portico. Snacks are provided!
Remember, you can always catch play-by-play board minutes at: