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From the General Manager | Fall Quarterly 2017

Reflections on a Year as General Manager

Melanie Bettenhausen, General Manager

At the time of writing this article, I have passed the one year mark for being in the General Manager position (previously I had been the Marketing & Membership Director for nine years). I am truly amazed at all that has been accomplished and reflect daily on how transformed our co-op has become. I routinely hear positive feedback from staff about various things, and when they aren’t thrilled with something, their feedback is constructive. I am also hearing positive feedback from long-time members and shoppers. We rely on all of you shopping with us, and we want to make sure you have the best experience possible—keep the feedback coming—and thank you for your loyal patronage!

I gave myself this first year to build the board/management relationship, put together a strong management team, and turn the management/union relationship into a positive one. In April, we had our first board/management retreat where we learned what it means to fill those roles, along with the pros and cons of each. In August, we had our second retreat to establish decision-making processes, develop a values statement, and agree upon a plan of action for our next strategic planning process. Every time we get together, we become stronger and better leaders for this community institution.

Back in fall of 2016, we entered into negotiations with UFCW Local 5, a local labor union. Solely with the aid of our temporary Human Resources Manager (at that time), we chose to leave lawyers out of the room. The process went well and the resulting three-year contract serves both employee and business needs. As we move into 2018, our bargaining unit wage scales are already adjusted to meet California’s minimum wage requirements, and have taken into consideration compression; when the bottom comes up, the top needs to move up too. Through continued improvements in compliance and consistency in following our own policies and procedures, increasing the amount and improving the quality of training, we have reduced costs associated with injuries, job dissatisfaction and turnover. Overall, more and more current and prospective employees find the Co-op to be a great place to work!

At the beginning of January, ninety percent of the Management Team was in their positions less than five years, and seventy percent had been in their roles less than one year! We continued to see turnover until the end of June, when all of the positions were finally filled. In August, the Management Team had its first retreat as a newly formed and complete team. We participated in a personality assessment to learn about each other’s approach, played pickleball to learn about each other’s communication styles, and collaboratively built shelters on the beach with limited resources to learn how to strategize and work under pressure with each other. I feel so fortunate to work with this amazing team!

As new Management Team members came on board, each was tasked with ensuring their department structure was meeting the needs of the Co-op. Many job descriptions were revised and positions were added. Together, we moved rocks and looked under rugs to find inconsistencies in policies and procedures and remedy them when we found them. 

We have a heavy emphasis on accountability, which includes ourselves and each other. Our work is not done, but we have accomplished a phenomenal amount in a short time. The level of commitment and enthusiasm from these managers is inspiring. When I come to work each day, I am greeted with some new solution to a long-standing problem or news that a long-time goal has finally been accomplished. The value of this for the Co-op is the resulting decreased expenses during a time when our revenue took a hit, due to a number of factors: Eureka Natural Foods opened in McKinleyville, all major highways in and out of Humboldt County were closed at least once during the winter and spring, and we had major, ongoing refrigeration issues.

We are starting to hit our stride now. It feels good to also be recovering our sales and seeing increases over last year. We've had a rough fiscal year so far, but we are looking forward to all of the exciting changes coming in the New Year, including the remodel of the Eureka store. Keep an eye out for a supplemental publication for updates regarding the remodel. If I don’t see you when I’m helping out on the sales floor during Thanksgiving, enjoy your holidays and have a Happy New Year! 

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