Fostering Change

by Tim Sullivan, Interim GM

It is possible this will be my last newsletter article, or at least the last article at the top of the page. So let's start with a short update. The 4th quarter 2017 financial results are now in the books, and I am happy to report improvements in results across the board. Common Ground sales were up slightly, expenses were down significantly, and we had a positive net profit.  We are not a profit driven organization, but we are all aware we need something on the bottom line to be sustainable over the long haul. I am proud of the Common Ground team's willingness to be open to difficult changes and their ability to overcome adversity.  We have seen it all over the last few months from a city water line break, multiple (false) fire alarms where we had to evacuate the store, to an electric strike that took out a transformer and our power for 7 hours. Each time our team rose to the challenge and got us back operating for our customers amazingly quick. I think the improved results reflect an improved spirit in the co-op, and a renewed emphasis on details from quality of product to great customer service. I believe our new GM will find a team willing and ready to lead Common Ground into the future.

It seems, at least when it comes to how we take care of our planet, we need fairly dramatic change. Many of our owners have been working for change in a variety of ways for much of their lives. What should Common Ground's role be in supporting your efforts in fostering change and where should we focus our efforts? It seems to me it only makes sense for us to work in the areas of food production, processing (or lack of processing), distribution and, last but not least, everything local. So how do we do this?

The 1st step is to stay in business so we can even play a role. Over the past 2 years Common Ground's sales have dropped significantly. We can easily survive and thrive as a smaller co-op, but does that impact our ability to foster change? The reason sales have dropped include more competition, maybe some fallout from the failed Champaign store effort, possibly some poor choices in changes that were made in the store, and finally maybe we just were not living up to owners' expectations when they visited the store. How's that for brutal honesty? (It is easy to be honest when you are an Interim GM soon to be retired again.) The bottom line is fewer customers are coming in the door. We are not currently seeing a drop in customers, but we are not really seeing more customers either. If you look at your own food shopping patterns maybe you will recognize that you do not come into the co-op as often as you did a couple years ago.

However, there might be a bigger issue as well that impacts co-ops across the country. Do food shoppers believe they can foster change by where they shop and how they eat? Is eating really an ethical choice? Does how you eat actually impact the health of our planet? I am convinced the answer to the last two questions is emphatically yes! But, as for the 1st question, we probably have some work to do.

The team at Common Ground is committed to providing our owners and customers the best shopping experience in the C/U area. We are committed to continually looking for ways to be more efficient, while providing the highest level of customer service. We are committed to educating our staff so they can provide the answers you want about products. We are committed to finding your values so you can find great deals here. Finally, we are committed to our local food movement. It is one of the reasons we are exploring an online marketplace for local producers and Common Ground. We need to make it as easy as possible for people to eat healthy and local. (By the way I will have some time influencing the new GM, the poor person.)

My final wish for you and Common Ground is that you will allow us to support your efforts to foster change. Spread the word, together we can be change makers!

Thanks for reading,