By Sarah Christensen, General Manager, Co-op Owner
Last month I celebrated my 14-year anniversary of working at the Co-op. Working here has shaped my life in so many ways. Here are 14 of the standout lessons, or:
Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned Working at a Co-op.
1. We are stronger together! Long before the Hillary Clinton campaign began using this slogan, Co-ops across the country had been using it as the basis for our work together through National Co-op Grocers (NCG). It’s true for our individual stores as well. My $210 owner share doesn’t do much, but when 900 owners invested, we built a deli, updated other equipment, and finally constructed an accessible bathroom. We’ll need to leverage even more of this collective strength when we expand into a new store.
2. The Deli is the gateway drug to natural foods: quinoa, tempeh, kombucha—what is all this weird stuff? How do I cook it? Our deli gives people the chance to try foods they might not otherwise be willing to take a risk on – and usually it turns out they taste good, too.
3. Work can be fun! Have you met our staff? If so, then enough said.
4. Good, smart people are all around us.
5. Yerba Mate smells like a barn, but people drink it anyway.
6. When life gives you watermelons in October, you make a Jack-o- melon.
7. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. Yes, we unload trucks, on the street, no matter what the weather is like, so you gotta be ready.
8. Road construction sucks. If you weren’t around in 2014, then you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. If you were, then you won’t be surprised to hear that beneath the pretty new street surface they overlaid in 2014 is an emotional and financial scar. Over the course of 6 weeks, we had to receive trucks on Mosher, didn’t have water for two days, and sales dropped 35% or so. Oh, and to top it off, the Google Maps car mapped our location during that time, so you can’t see us in Street View. But in the end, we survived and we’re better for it. And we got that great picture of us jumping in the street!
9. Without margin, there’s no mission. While we are not a traditional for-profit business, we do need solid operational activity that results in a positive financial performance.
10. Co-op employees could be on Hoarders: Retail Edition.
11. It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true. (Thanks Dan Gilotte)
12. Reputations are hard to get over.
13. Change is hard. We all get attached to things. We get attached to products, procedures, and schedules—and when those things change it can be difficult to adjust. The co-op has changed a lot over the years and by its nature (you know that whole community ownership, meeting the needs of our growing Ownership, Co-op model thing) it will continue to change and grow and evolve, so we might as well be ready.
14. If you get the chance to be part of something special, you may just want to stay for a long while.