The Cooperative Difference is Your Competitive Advantage

The Cooperative Difference is Your Competitive Advantage

Columinate | 06-29-2017

 Ownership is what distinguishes cooperatives from other businesses, and what creates value and benefit to people in local communities. It’s why co-ops operate with their customer’s best interests as their focus. It’s how cohesion in neighborhoods is built and sustained.

Every co-op needs a strong membership program that will serve the business and strengthen the co-op’s role in the community. Building a shared understanding of the co-op’s purpose amongst staff, management, members and the board is critical. When you develop an organizational culture focused on ownership, people will be inspired and motivated to be a part of the co-op’s mission.

Important to your co-op’s success are programs that promote the cooperative difference, store operations that support member equity growth, and an enthusiastic and well-trained staff. It’s also how co-ops maintain relevance when competitors sell the same products and claim similar values. Here are 5 ways to develop an organizational cultural focused on ownership.


Top Five Ways to Develop an Organizational Cultural Focused on Ownership

  1. Develop a marketing plan that considers owners’ varied interests at many levels of the co-op and create a variety of opportunities for their participation.
  2. Invest in customer service training that includes teaching staff about the cooperative difference.
  3. Make sure staff is fluent in “membership rap”, that is, they can speak comfortably about co-op ownership and owner benefits (Using role playing is a great technique!)
  4. Take an inventory of all owner communication channels to make sure owners have multiple ways to provide input and feedback and feel like they are part of the decision-making process at the co-op.
  5. Make a strategic goal to create and measure high quality owner participation.

The Power of Participation (POP) program offered by CDS Consulting Co-op (CDS CC) drives business success by elevating the value of innovative participation throughout the co-op. While the scope is broad, the focus is very specific: build a vibrant, cooperative culture by improving and optimizing the systems that affect it.

POP support services can be “mixed and matched” to meet your specific needs and priorities with the added benefit of a long-term relationship with CDS CC. POP consultants can provide services that can cultivate high quality engagement at all levels of your co-op in the following POP service areas: Owner Engagement, Staff Training, Development and HR, Expansions, Growth and Change, Leadership and Communication Support, and Marketing, Communication and Merchandising.

Contact Rebecca Torpie at [email protected] for more information on POP.


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
Power of Participation (POP) Team

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