Board of Directors Meeting Minutes: November 2022

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Brattleboro Food Co-op Board of Directors November Meeting Minutes

Monday, November 7, 2022

Directors Present: Calvin Dame, Judy Fink, Denise Glover, John Hatton, Michele Meulendyk, Jerelyn Wilson, and Johanna Zalneraitis.
Staff, Shareholders, and Others Present: General Manager Lee Bradford, Board Administrator Sarah Brennan, shareholders Daniel Schoener, Ken Fay, and Anneka Kindler.

President Jerelyn Wilson called the meeting to order at 5:15 pm.

  1. Welcome/Norms
    Jerelyn welcomed guests and acknowledged the Board’s communication norms aloud. These are in the Board packet and are provided to guests.
  2. Shareholder Input
    Anneka Kindler is an aspiring Board member looking to learn the ropes. Ken Fay is also a Board candidate who would like to show up at meetings regardless of the election outcome; Daniel Schoener is a Board candidate; this is his first time attending a Board meeting. Sheila Adams (Zoom) is a regular at Board meetings.
  3. Board Minutes
    Judy moved, and John seconded, to approve the October 3, 2022, minutes.
    Discussion: A couple of minor edits were suggested. The motion carried unanimously.
  4. GM Monitoring Report: B.2 – Financial Condition & Activities
    1. Michele moved, and Denise seconded that the Board accept the monitoring report for B.2 Financial Condition & Activities.
      Discussion touched on the following:

      1. Operating expenses were less than we’d planned because we’ve scaled back our radio and other advertising expenses. We also saved on health care expenses because we had a lower than typical use last year. We will be conducting training on Narcan, CPR, stop the bleed, blood-borne pathogens, and food safety training; we’ve connected with a shareholder on delivering some of these in exchange for work credits. This quarter represents the first full quarter with the wage increases in effect. It’s encouraging that it has not turned us upside down.
      2. Revenue: We are seeing an unprecedented volume of price changes, some of which seem predatory in nature. We have hesitated to raise prices because we are trying to mitigate some perceptions about our prices. That said, we are going to make adjustments or risk leaving revenue on the table. Sales are up 1.37% over last year, and so far this quarter, we are $50K under plan on a $6 million budget. This is within the realm of reasonable.
      3. Elder discount program: that segment continues to grow, as we are perceived as a safe place to shop.
      4. Debt: We made significant progress on retiring shareholder loan debt, and we are shifting focus to retire our CFNE loan, which has a higher interest rate. Credit card fees: we may be exploring whether Catapult would help us permit shareholders to have money on account with us to draw from, which could save us in credit/debit card fees.
      5. The motion carried unanimously.
  5. GM Monitoring Report: A.1 – Ends
    1. Judy moved and Denise seconded that the Board approve the monitoring report for A.1 Ends.
    2. Discussion: Jerelyn noted that in addition to reviewing the Ends Report, the Board should reflect on whether and how to condense the Ends into fewer statements.
    3. End 1 – Reasonably priced food…
      • The data shows that the Co-op is competitively priced; how do we reconcile that with the perception that we are more expensive? Lee noted we are not competitive on some typical brands (such as Colavita olive oil), but those are the ones that people eyeball. Our new merchandiser will be looking at exactly these things from a data-driven perspective. We are price competitive on local and organic. Note: One Board member found that Fig. 1.1 was hard to read.
      • Price comparison method is different this year: if our price is lower than the lowest of our competition, we’re lower; if ours is higher than the highest, we’re higher. Anywhere in between is competitive. We are also showing that we carry many items that our competitors don’t.
      • Figure 1.7, showing numbers of organic, fair trade, and co-op-made products and producers, is new and appreciated.
    4. End 2 – Welcoming community marketplace: Lee is focusing on shareholder growth and what our shoppers say. Going forward, can we ask “what makes a co-op different” on our next shopper survey? Of 8600+ shareholders, about 5,800 have shopped with us within the past year, of which nearly 50% are Elders.
    5. End 3 – Workplace Community…: Co-op values (self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity solidarity) are hard to analyze, so Lee focused on “healthy” and provided a definition.
    6. End 4 – Regenerative Business…: This is an aspirational end.
    7. End 5 – Sustainable local economy…: Being a financially sound business is what allows us to contribute to a sustainable local economy, via our employees and our relationship with local suppliers. The “mother tree” analogy is relevant here. What would the local economy look like if we weren’t here?
    8. End 6 – Relevant information…: Lee noted that our website is due for an overhaul.
    9. End 7 – Access to Participation in the Co-op: This End merits a deeper conversation. We can ask more questions about new shareholders as they sign up. Deeper analysis of shopping data would permit us to deliver a more customized experience for the shopper, while having more demographic information would tell us whether our shareholder base is a match for our community. Transitioning to Catapult will allow us to capture a lot of dimensions of our shareholders. Right now, we only know their type of discount and whether they are current in their shareholder payment.
    10. The motion carried unanimously.
    11. Next steps: Lee has begun developing a simpler set of Ends for the Board to consider. Changes to the Ends are the Board’s prerogative; any change would benefit from shareholder input and feedback.
  6. GM FYI Update
    Lee shared more context for what the two new roles – Merchandiser and Assistant Store Manager – will be doing. Both will free up department managers to spend more time with their teams. The Assistant Store Manager will provide fresh eyes on how we can improve the shopping experience, while the Merchandiser will focus on category management (what we sell, how we sell it) in a more in-depth manner than department managers are able to. The management team is very excited about these positions.
  7. Strategic Conversation
    What does it take to create a vision for the Co-op “born of its linkage with the Co-op’s shareholders?” [See Policy D.6, “Board Job Products”] Discussion highlights:

    1. Staff have great knowledge of shareholder needs/wants, particularly with respect to what foods/products the Co-op carries. Going forward, the Board will be receiving updates about new shareholder sign-ups and activities.
    2. As presently configured, some Board members are not confident that Board tabling (in-store, Gallery Walk) is actually leading to the sort of feedback that the Board can use when developing vision for the Co-op.
    3. We will be designing shareholder outreach, surveys, and conversations to follow up on the Annual Meeting. Board members can participate in those activities.
    4. Things to explore with shareholders: the difference between the Co-op and traditional grocery stores with respect to contributing to community, and how our vision and ends relate to one another. Right now, our Ends are trying to be both operational and visionary.
    5. Our leadership needs to be out in front of our community. The Board is responsible for staying in touch with shareholders and then developing and synthesizing new ideas.
    6. Michele will write a debrief of the Annual Meeting for an upcoming Food for Thought.
  8. Board Committees
    1. Executive Committee: Jerelyn noted that the proposed slate of officers (the same as our current slate) will be voted on at the December meeting.
    2. Board Member Recruitment: no news; we are happy to have seven candidates for five seats.
    3. Community/Shareholder Engagement: As noted above, the Board will be receiving updates from Shareholder Services.
    4. Board retreat –Saturday, December 10, 9:30 – 3:30 in Brooks House. More information coming soon.
  9. What Would You Tell a Shareholder?
    Board members and guests shared what they would tell a shareholder about this meeting. These comments are shared in the staff newsletter and in Food for Thought.
  10. Meeting Closing:  Board members shared their responses to the question, “how did the meeting go for you.”

The meeting was adjourned at 7:13 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Sarah Brennan, Board Administrator

Archive of past Meeting Minutes