Gaining Grocery Fluency

Gaining Grocery Fluency

Columinate | 07-27-2017

Most directors are drawn to serve on the board of their local food co-op because they embrace its values and mission, and not because they yearn to become grocers. And yet their role as the elected fiduciaries, they must exercise oversight and make key decisions that can impact the health of the business in multiple ways. Knowing something about the industry and the business can help them become comfortable with that responsibility, and fulfill it more effectively.


Board leaders and general managers help directors gain grocery fluency in any number of small ways. Some common practices include:

  • Build a “Co-op Grocery 101” segment into your co-op’s annual orientation and training for new directors.
  • For National Co+op Grocer (NCG) co-ops, provide directors with a copy of the annual NCG Trends Report and schedule time to discuss highlights relevant to your co-op and the sector as a whole.
  • Make a practice of sharing other industry reports or developments, and provide enough context to help people understand the implications.
  • Invite management team members to provide an overview of their departments as part of a regular board education segments at board meetings. Not only does this give board members a broader view of the business, but it can present a professional development opportunity for staff.
  • If your co-op uses Open Book Management, invite directors to attend a huddle. Be sure to schedule time after the huddle to answer directors’ questions and hear their observations.
  • Incorporate helpful explanations into GM reporting to support directors’ review and evaluation of the reports. Never include an acronym without an explanatory note!
  • At least once per year, schedule extra time to walk through the financial reporting in greater depth. Even experienced directors will often appreciate a chance to review key concepts and ask questions.

Directors don’t need to know how to calculate margin on the fly or set pricing strategy on the floor, of course. But a basic working knowledge of the business is foundational to effective governance, and readily achievable with a modest investment of time and effort.

Do you have a great practice for supporting directors’ learning about the grocery business?  Let us know!


Grab and Go Solutions is a resource from CDS Consulting Co-op to provide easy to implement solutions to common issues facing food co-ops. Watch for future releases tackling a wide variety of topics including HR, governance, member engagement, safety, store and growth.

Brought to you by CDS Consulting Co-op’s
Cooperative Board Leadership (CBLD) Team

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