East Aurora Cooperative Market board of directors

Left to right: Joel Kopischke, Mike Benzin, Mary Aiken, Barb Byers, Sheila Conboy, Lissa Mann, Jane Brewer and Kathy Castle. Missing from photo: Deb Radziwon

On Saturday, September 8, the East Aurora Cooperative Market Board of Directors and Project Manager Sheila Conboy welcomed our board advisor, Joel Kopischke, from CDS Consulting Co-op, and Food Co-op Initiative’s Jake Schlachter for a one-day intensive board retreat.
The goal of the retreat was to learn about policy governance, a system that many co-op boards follow to ensure consistency of management and processes over time. “Board members and co-op staff will come and go over the years,” said Mary Aiken, board president, “so the policies we put in place now to govern the co-op will enable us to do so in a consistent manner.”

According to John Carver, the creator of policy governance, the board’s job is to “ensure on behalf of the organization’s owners that the organization performs as it should.” With Joel’s guidance throughout the day, we walked through each policy one by one – discussing them first in small groups and then as a whole, gaining an understanding of the meaning of each policy and then agreeing on its application.

We covered a lot of ground, having reviewed and agreed upon a full set of 25 policies from executive limitations to board process and board-management relationship. We will clarify one of the most important documents, our “ends” statement (an industry term that is similar to mission but which puts more of a focus on providing what is in the best interest of our customers) at a future date. For now, we’ll continue refining and completing our policies and then develop a monitoring schedule to keep the policies fresh.

This sets the stage for establishing and clarifying expectations, delegating authority as well as providing a framework for accountability, putting us in a stronger, healthier position as the time draws near for us to hire a general manager. As a board, we’re stronger for the effort, thanks to Joel’s guidance and wisdom as well as Jake’s perspective and input from the point of view of getting a startup off the ground. We’re grateful to both of them for their expertise and hope to put all we accomplished to good work!

Photos courtesy of Jake Schlachter, Food Co-op Initiative.