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OUR HISTORY SINCE 1971. October 4, 1971: Co-op begins in Joe Neal’s Garage. Spring of 1972, we relocated to West Street. Managers at that time were paid $5 per day but got free food and a place to sleep in the loft or on the roof of the Co-op. In 1985 we relocated to Rock Street.

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Our history since 1971
OUR HISTORY SINCE 1971

  • October 4, 1971: Co-op begins in Joe Neal’s Garage.

  • Spring of 1972, we relocated to West Street.

    Managers at that time were paid $5 per day but got free food and a place to sleep in the loft or on the roof of the Co-op.

  • In 1985 we relocated to Rock Street.

    At this location, our Co-op began its transformation into a full-line natural food store, and our paid staff grew.


Our history since 19711
OUR HISTORY SINCE 1971

  • 1993: Ozark Natural Foods moves to Dickson Street.

  • December 1994: Nancy Armstrong becomes General Manager.

Dickson Street was a time of great prosperity for the Co-op. During the next seven years, the amount of customers and owners continued to grow, until Dickson Street became too small to house Ozark Natural Foods.


Our history since 19712
OUR HISTORY SINCE 1971

  • November 2000: Ozark Natural Foods relocates to College Avenue.

  • Six Months Later: ONF is in serious financial trouble.

Seven (7) years of accrued owner equity was gone. Nancy Armstrong resigned as General Manager. Alysen W. Land was chosen by the Board to take over as Interim General Manager. John Newman was hired as a financial advisor.


What did we do wrong
WHAT DID WE DO WRONG?

  • We had planned the look of our new store very carefully.

  • We held Owner Forums to build excitement and to win the support of our ownership.

  • We were confident that our new location would attract a new clientele.


What did we do wrong1
WHAT DID WE DO WRONG?

  • We evaluated our organizational structure to make ourselves more competitive.

  • We estimated what we thought were realistic labor and sales goals.

  • We thought we were ready….


We were not ready
WE WERE NOT READY…

  • We had a total lack of “systems”. We thought we could simply scale up our previous operations.

  • Our Point-of-Sale system was also out of date and often inaccurate.

  • We did not know what we were doing or what we were charging.


We were not ready1
WE WERE NOT READY…

  • We had been informed by many in the know, that we could expect a loss during the first year, that this was not uncommon when a co-op expands.

  • We accepted this possibility. That was a mistake. A co-op should never accept a loss.


We were not ready2
WE WERE NOT READY…

  • In just six months, we were almost broke. We were informed by an attorney, that we did not have enough money to declare bankruptcy.

  • With just weeks of operational revenue left, we were left with the following choice:

    SINK OR SWIM!


We decided to swim
WE DECIDED TO SWIM!!

  • We accomplished a 180° financial turn around in just 6 weeks!

  • We made some tough choices, and even hurt a few feelings.

  • Saving our Co-op was the ONLY priority.

    Here’s how we did it…


What we had to do
WHAT WE HAD TO DO…..

  • When a business bleeds, it bleeds money.

  • The first goal was to stop the bleeding. This was accomplished by Alysen taking TOTAL control of ALL spending.

    The Co-op did not spend a penny unless Alysen said it was “OK”.


What we had to do1
WHAT WE HAD TO DO…..

  • Since we did not know what level of customer traffic to expect at a larger store, we had over hired, especially in the Front End. We had to reduce our labor hours.

    It is better to trim some hours than to close the doors.


What we had to do2
WHAT WE HAD TO DO…..

  • Get honest with your vendors. Be real and be transparent.

  • Don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need it.

  • “We’re a slow payer. What do you need from us today so that we can get our order?”


What we had to do3
WHAT WE HAD TO DO…..

  • We had to find ways to eliminate costs. After labor, benefits was about all that was left.

  • Cutting Staff Benefits did not win us any favors. It was a tough call, and we made it. We kept three senior managers on our Insurance Plan with each manager paying 100% of the premiums themselves, just to keep our group from lapsing.


What we had to do4
WHAT WE HAD TO DO…..

  • You have got to keep the lights on!

  • Keeping your shelves stocked and your store operating is very important.

  • Customers do not like to shop at a store they believe is in financial trouble.


What we had to learn
WHAT WE HAD TO LEARN

  • Develop operational systems to run your store. Write them down and create an operations manual.

  • Develop “checklists” so that you can train your staff to perform tasks regularly and consistently.


What we had to learn1
WHAT WE HAD TO LEARN

  • Learn to read and understand your financial reports.

  • Determine your “Key Indicators” and review them often. “You will meet what you measure.”

  • Trust your instincts… Make adjustments, and allow enough time to measure results.


What we had to learn2
WHAT WE HAD TO LEARN

  • Identify your talent…

    “Are the right people on the bus?”

  • Old friends and personal histories can hold you back. If someone is not capable of performing the tasks before them, then you have to do what’s right for your co-op… replace them.


What we had to learn3
WHAT WE HAD TO LEARN

  • Remember: It is your staff that directly generates revenue.

  • Interview thoroughly and hire well. Make your store the place where everyone wants to work…then choose the best candidates. Offer training to give staff the tools they need to do their jobs.


What we had to learn4
WHAT WE HAD TO LEARN

  • If you want your owners and your shoppers to take your co-op seriously, then you have to take yourself seriously.

  • Just because you’re a food co-op, it doesn’t make your store any less important or you any less professional.


What we had to learn5
WHAT WE HAD TO LEARN

  • Stay POSITIVE!!!

  • The Pygmalion Effect, or the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, is VERY REAL!

  • If you do not believe in yourself or your Co-op, it will be even more difficult to succeed.


Please remember
PLEASE REMEMBER…

  • Believe in your Co-op, your owners, and yourself!

  • Learn how to operate your Co-op efficiently and effectively!

  • Watch your financial reports, and react accordingly!


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