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Anne's Accounting - March 2016

Somewhere Over the Co-Op

Dear patrons,

I hope this newsletter finds you happy and healthy! I had the opportunity to go to management training (the first part in December and the second part in January). The training focused on several areas including: goal setting, financial analysis, inventory management, budgeting, strategic planning, managing a diverse team, conflict management, effective feedback, delegation and selling your co-op value.

One of the illustrations they explained was a tractor where the tractor is the structure, the wheels are the mission and the hubs are the goals. All these things need to be in alignment for your tractor (organization) to run smoothly. Co-ops are a form of business organization and they were started years ago by a group of people who decided to accomplish some activities cooperatively because this was more efficient and effective than going it alone. That made me wonder what the discussions were over a century ago at Equity Elevator & Trading Co. among the farmers that formed our co-op. Also, where did those discussions happen… at one of the farmers' homes, out in the field or maybe at church? (One thing I was sure of wherever they were, they had a cup of coffee in their hands.) When I think of Equity Elevator, I think of you… our patrons. I also picture my coworkers and our board of directors. Add that all up and the words ‘Faith, Family and Farming’ pop into my mind. Those same values that our co-op’s foundation was built upon over 100 years ago sustain us today!    

We had a strategic planning assignment in between the two classes but they also asked us to read a short booklet about ‘Cooperative Principles & Practices’. That ended up being one of the most interesting parts of the class for me and on the last day, we were divided into groups to ‘teach’ our instructors about what we had learned about co-ops. We had a limited amount of time to put together a presentation and we were told that skits and songs were worth extra points. Our group was posed with the question of explaining how cooperatives operate. 

I fell into the role of Dorothy where I had landed ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow Co-op’ and Toto and I were not in Kansas anymore! I asked questions of the other members in my group - the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Glinda (the good witch) - to help me understand how a co-op team functions.

The Tin Man explained to me about members. Co-op members receive many benefits from belonging to a co-op. In turn, they also have several responsibilities. One responsibility is to buy the co-op’s products and services. Another responsibility is to help the co-op grow by encouraging new patronage. In addition, co-op members provide a portion of the capital that is needed. Lastly, co-op members should participate actively by attending the annual meeting and asking questions throughout the year. Overall, your membership in Equity Elevator & Trading Co. denotes responsibility. You and all the patrons of years gone by are the heart and soul of Equity Elevator!

The Scarecrow told me about the board of directors, who are elected to represent the members. He also explained that being selected as a director is an honor. They are responsible for the financial health of the co-op and establish all policies that guide the operation. Also, they keep members informed of the performance at the co-op and hire the manager. In the movie when Dorothy was not sure about which fork in the road to take, she was surprised when the Scarecrow gave her direction. Later, the Wizard of Oz told the Scarecrow, "Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge." In other words, each choice our board makes will take our co-op closer toward what we are meant to become… our directors are charged with the task to see beyond today! Lastly, the Scarecrow said that you should always follow your heart, but never forget to take your brain with you. 

The Cowardly Lion, we all know, was looking for courage. He expressed to Dorothy that courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, we will try again tomorrow. Does that remind you of anyone at our co-op? Managers develop goals and plans to reach the objectives set by the directors. Also, they direct day-to-day operations and oversee the employees. They help employees improve their skills and abilities and ensure the best use of their talents. Wise leaders keep their people moving down the yellow brick road - they deal head-on with obstacles, stay true to their values and mission, always expect and give help along the way. 

Just as important, employees must understand the purpose and value of their job. Often the only contact members have with a co-op might be with billing, a truck driver or the person that loads up their order. If employees are efficient and friendly, this will do much to attract patronage and build favorable attitudes toward the co-op. Employees’ hard work, dedication and outlook (representing the co-op in a favorable light at all times) is key to the success of a cooperative. Employees are charged with the responsibility of doing their jobs to the very best of their ability. I am proud to be here at Equity Elevator with this group of employees. They put in long hours during the busy seasons and sometimes are asked to give up family time to do so… also, some of the conditions in which they work - especially during these cold days - is remarkable! Also, I see the future of our cooperative as our younger employees learn and grow.

Glinda revealed to me that if I closed my eyes and tapped the heels of my ruby red slippers together three times… well in my case, my cowboy boots…I would find out what I knew all along: there’s no place like home!

Somewhere over the co-op, I realized how important ALL of our responsibilities are for us to be successful and in selling Equity Elevator & Trading Co.’s value!! They maybe considered ‘old fashioned’ concepts, but they still hold true today. We had our six-month review with CLA and our balance sheet looks sound with the addition of the new bin and updates at the elevator. 

Anne Anderson

Administrative Team: Pam Redetzke, Jennifer Hinz & Kim Ose