General Manager Development Program Supports New and Veteran GMs

General Manager Development Program Supports New and Veteran GMs

  |  May 26, 2022

Columinate’s General Manager Development Program comes at a pivotal time for many food co-ops and small markets. Nearly one-third of general manager (GM) positions have turned over in the last three years.

“I am inspired and amazed by this new freshman class of GMs, who are stepping up at this really difficult time and trying to learn how to run a grocery store,” shares Columinate consultant Jeanie Wells. “We want to build them up and help them.”

The GM Development Program is in full swing for 2022, and we invite you or your co-op’s general manager to participate. Managing a food co-op takes a large and varied set of skills, some of which even a highly talented general manager might need help developing.

With an updated curriculum and a roster of talented instructors, this program provides both new and veteran GMs with the support and the tools they need to successfully manage and lead their food co-op.

How the GM Development Program Works

The GM Development Program offers participants seven modules that cover relevant and engaging topics, such as Financial Metrics; Pricing Strategy; and Co-op Culture, Diversity, and Engaging Stakeholders. Participating GMs can take all of these modules as a set or can complete modules individually.

Participants can join the program at any point during the year, and when they do, module recommendations and a program schedule will be adapted to their needs.

“We always start with an assessment to understand where the participant wants support,” explains Wells. “From there we pick and choose modules that meet those goals and determine a pace and schedule that works for the participant.” Typically, completing the entire set of modules takes four to six months.

To teach each module, the GM Development Program has a roster of skilled and passionate professionals.

“These instructors have dedicated their entire lives to the topics covered in these modules. Learning from, and having access to, these mentors is an amazing opportunity for new GMs!” explains Wells.

The current instructors for the program are Jen Christopher, Carolee Colter, Audrey Griffin, Thane Joyal, James Morrell, Tim Sullivan, Rebecca Torpie, Leslie Watson, and Jeanie Wells.

Each instructor tailors their module to the participant’s co-op and specific situation, in addition to preparing standard content.

“I co-teach financial metrics with Tim Sullivan,” says Wells. “Of course, there are specific things we have to teach, like calculating applied margin, but after that, we apply the learning by working through their co-op’s financial statements together.”

GM Development Program Instructors

The program continues to grow in number of students, and it is ready to take on any and all GMs who are interested.

“We’ve really updated the program for 2022,” explains Wells. “We’ve made sure the content is fresh and relevant, optimized our mentorship program, and refined the internal process for receiving and acting upon participant feedback.”

The Benefits of Participating

GM turnover is expensive. There is a measurable return on investment in supporting a new or current GM to successfully lead a co-op. The GM Development Program is a useful resource for all general managers at food co-ops, but it is especially powerful as a component of onboarding and training new general managers. Through this program, GMs are quickly equipped with the tools they need to understand and make an impact in their new role.

Participating general managers can:

  • harness the expertise of the entire Columinate consultant network;
  • learn and grow in tailored modules taught by the best in their field;
  • develop a support system of peers, mentors, and Columinate community members to help them through their first year as general manager.

“My favorite part of this program isn’t talked about a lot: it’s the deep relationships that are built between participating GMs, Columinate staff, and instructors,” says Wells. “This program gives these GMs a lifeline to some very important content, but also to people they could call and say, ‘Hey, do you have a minute?’ And we would say, ‘Yes! We do!’”


Interested in learning more about GM development? Visit the GM Development Program page or contact Jeanie Wells at jeaniewells@columinate.coop.

Download Informational Flyers: GM Development, GM Search Support, and Management on Contract Services

Have more questions?

Get in touch with one of our consultants.

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