If you could have a “what if” conversation about growth wherein you didn’t have to make an immediate decision, how broad would your thinking go? At the board retreat for the Springfield Food Co-op in Springfield, VT, that’s exactly what they did, and it set in motion a series of strategic conversations about growth at their co-op. “Taking a mile-high view was new and exciting. It was a great thing for us to take time out to explore ideas without the pressure of voting on them,” said Brooke Decker, the co-op’s board chair.
The co-op has experienced fits and starts in its history since it opened in 1992, and is currently experiencing a renaissance in the community. It had to close in 2005 abruptly due to losing its space, and reopened again eight months later in another location. Growth had been slow and steady until a management crisis five years ago threatened the co-op’s stability. Now they’ve re-emerged with an energized board and management, and the positive momentum from a reset and a focus on local food has led to more sales increases and the need to expand. “We’re now among the boom co-ops,” Decker said. As part of their strategic conversations they’ve discussed how to raise awareness of the need for growth among the membership. Decker said planning for the future in this way is much more exciting than worrying about the co-op’s survival. “It’s a fun time to be on the board,” she said.