In last month’s news, I referred to our Ends Statements. In the Cooperative business model, the Ends Statements describe the Co-op’s Mission and it is that which makes us more than a store. It is what makes our store distinctive from our competitors.
Let’s take a closer look at our Ends. “Community-owned” is perhaps the most critical. While most grocery stores in America are owned by 4 or 5 huge corporations, Monadnock Food Co-op is owned by more than 4100 ordinary people, mostly from the Monadnock Region. So when we talk about connecting community, supporting local farmers and producers, providing education for our neighbors, and advancing the local economy, we mean it and we do it. We are directly accountable to our owners for carrying out that mission.
The Ends Statements define the values-based benefits that our Cooperative provides along with economic benefit to members and the community, whereas our competitors provide economic benefit to the shareholders and corporate leadership. For us, the two are intertwined. I have heard it said many times since I have served on our Board, “No mission, no margin; no margin, no mission.” For many of us, the values expressed by our mission are very relevant and tangible.
There are so many examples of those values if we look at what’s happening at our Co-op each day. “Welcoming” of the group of knitters who meet regularly in the Café for good food and fellowship; customer service that’s different; local food sales that make up a significant portion of total sales; acting as a food producer incubator—time and again we bring to life our owners’ common values. There is an elected board, chosen from among the owners, by the owners, whose job is, in part, to ensure that our Cooperative remains people-centered, owner-controlled, and democratically governed. Furthermore, these values shape business operations, decision-making structures, and day-to-day behaviors that are quite different from those of our competitors. These values shape both the purpose and nature of our business.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about our Ends and our owners and thinking about ways in which we might engage with owners in a meaningful way to check ourselves—to see if after 10 years we are close to capturing the values that are most important to our owners. I am hoping that what I’ve written will provide “food” for thoughts that you will share with us through our email at firstname.lastname@example.org and watch for opportunities to talk directly with us over the next few months.