2017 has been another challenging year for the Co-op. The Workers’ Assembly and Board of Directors have worked diligently to bring the co-op back from the brink, and as we hit the half way mark of the year, we can say things are improving somewhat, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.
As we discussed at the June Member’s Assembly Meeting, although the response to Black Star’s call to arms in January was successful in improving our working capital, sales beyond January have remained historically low. If we do not see improvement in our sales, we will be heading towards a similar cash crunch in the fall. Beyond our cash position, there are still several other looming challenges ahead for the co-op.
The WA and the Board of Directors have been collaborating on ways to improve the co-op’s overall worker structure, exploring what it would look like if the co-op’s self-managed operational body were to be managed by a General Manager that is the employee of the board. This would be a major departure from the current structure, but one that could be welcome at this stage in our life cycle. Concurrently, the Board’s Sunset Committee has been looking into what would happen, and what the steps would be, if the co-op has to close its doors due to fiscal jeopardy. This process has been illuminating, but one that we are working hard to avoid.
Furthermore, the WA has begun working with an external marketing company to improve the co-op’s ability to reach new audiences, and continue to serve content to our existing, loyal, patrons in a new social media marketing climate. Over the past few years the WA has focused on lowering the co-op’s expenses, and is now focusing on growing sales that have been declining over the past few years, even as our market competition continues to grow.
At the Member’s Assembly meeting, we discussed with attending members that long term sustained patronage of the co-op’s members will help the co-op get back on track to sales growth, which means our owners have to keep the co-op on their radar for events, happy hours, or just lunchtime meals. The WA has added new services in order to continue to meet the needs of the members, but we feel that we need to be better at knowing what the changing needs of our community that sustains us are. To that end, we invite member-owners to take part in this years Member-Owner Survey, that will be linked to in this edition of the newsletter.
As we move into the summer, a historically slow time for our business, we are looking to continue to make structural changes, and keep our expenses down, while trying to grow our sales. This is also the time to be looking ahead at other challenges that are presented to the co-op, such as parking, and the last few years of our lease at our current location. Discussion has begun as to what the co-op will do as we fulfill the last few years at 7020 Easy Wind Dr. Will we be looking to re-sign our lease and combat the parking challenges and competition that we currently live with in this location, or look for another location to pack up the brewery and move to?
Time will tell what is right for the co-op to continue to grow. We are expecting, and open to, change. As we continue to work towards improving the co-op, please join us in furthering the co-op’s success by coming in for a pint, or a burger, over the next few months, and please take the time to complete the member survey so we may continue to improve the co-op’s ability to meet the needs of its members.