category Board of Directors

2020 Mindset

Did you know that the Black Star Board of Directors has two, all-day retreats a year (in addition to monthly board meetings)? The board retreats are a vehicle for taking time to solve problems, lay the foundation for future work, and to generally spend blocks of time to flush out ideas and next steps. The board retreats are a critical component of the board’s work, and this January retreat was no different.
We started the day with hot coffee and breakfast tacos, and quickly moved into a fun and engaging teaming exercise. Every year, as some board members rotate off the board and are then replaced with new team members, it’s important to establish commonality and a sense of connection, as we collectively prepare to embark on the shared experience that is better known as “THE Black Star Co-Op.” The teaming exercise was simple, fun, and got everyone moving and talking. The first part involved identifying and drawing four pictures that represent ourselves. With only a few minutes to draw our pictures, you had to be spontaneous and quick. Suffice it to say, there were also a lot of shared jokes about NOT being the next Picasso. From there, each team member had only three minutes to share his or her pictures with the group, and explain why the picture was drawn, what it represents, and why it’s important. To conclude the exercise, we had to, as a group, decide on six different categories of pictures, group them together, and label them. This exercise was a fantastic way to find
commonality, connection, and to better understand our group. Picasso or not, this exercise was a great success.
From there we moved into a series of training sessions. First there was an introduction to the board tool framework, building the pyramid of work structure that starts with the bylaws, and ends with the foundational tools used. Then we moved into policy governance training: what it is, why it’s important, how it’s used, etc. Using the Decision Tree for Acting on Internal Monitoring Reports, we stepped through an example of policy monitoring from a recent board meeting. We also had working conversations surrounding situational reviews: if this, then that. These conversations
help establish our expectations for the year, as well as set the tone for how specific situations will be addressed.
After a quick walk to lunch, we spent the lunch hour collaborating on various blog content ideas. Everyone (literally) came to the table, completed homework in hands, and we brainstormed ideas surrounding engaging content to communicate with our loved ones, YOU, the member/owners. The ideas ranged from historical context, to member spotlights, to supply chain, to beer. These ideas will ultimately translate into monthly articles from your board.
The afternoon session centered around board committee work. Heading into 2020, the board has three chartered committees: Membership Development, Leadership Development, and the Finance Review & Report committee. We broke into our various committee groups, edited and updated the committee charters, and then also updated each committee’s ROA document. The ROA document (Result, Objectives, and Activities) is a new tool that was introduced at he summer retreat last year. This tool will be used to shape each committee’s work for the year, as well as establish
metrics for performance. Performance will be tracked so that we can evaluate, objectively, our progress over the year. Each committee chair then had ten to fifteen minutes to present the committee charter to the group, followed by a detailed review of the ROA.
Whew. What a day! On the whole, it was a fantastic retreat. In addition to establishing cohesive team bonds, we all contributed to the 2020 board plan; we know what to do, when, and by whom. Ultimately, we welcome this year’s new board members into the fold:

  • James Farris, three-year term
  • Gabe Prado, three-year term
  • Ryan Vanstone, one-year appointed term

We have a lot of work in front of us because 2020 is shaping up to be a big and exciting year for the co-op; I’m happy to
be a small part of it.

Prost!
Dacia Schoofield
President

References:

Happy New Year from the Board Member Dev Committee

January is traditionally a time for new years resolutions, but as these often involve cutting out garlic chips and reducing beer intake, lets skip this and instead look at what opportunities 2020 will bring. Lions fans may be getting used to a rebuild year (every year*) but we at BlackStar Co-Op aren’t willing to settle for that**. Here is how will we ensure a winning record this coming season…

·        Membership Events: Look out for an increased schedule of membership events in 2020 with the goal of continuing the community aspect of membership

·        Pub Facility Investment: If you have been to recent membership meetings you will be aware, we have been polling for ideas on how to physically improve our space. In 2020 we have an opportunity to put this into action and we may be enlisting your help in elements of this to ensure the result meets your needs.

·        10 years of Black Star: It’s party time all the time in 2020 as Black Start celebrates it’s a decade of great beer, food and people. Look out for the special events and activities on the calendar, if ever there was a time to go over the top…. this is it!

Fresh Ideas on the Board: In December we confirmed James Farris and Gabe Prado onto the board of directors. If you haven’t said hello yet please do they are nice guys! The Board calendar kicks off at the January offsite in a few weeks so look out for an update soon with our action plan for the year

·        Co-Op Message: The Black Star Co-Op is special in that we run our business differently, we treat people differently, and we provide a different service to the community than your run-of-the-mill beer bar. In 2020 if Black Star is to thrive, this story needs to be told more loudly, more widely and more clearly, and for this we need your help. As a member owner we shall be looking to work with you to champion our Co-Op and ensure its long-term success in Austin. More to come on this subject…

·        New Beers and Menus: Have you tried the latest Dockhand variant yet? When was the last time you tried the cask ale special that is often at the bottom of the black board***? How many flavors of homemade bread pudding can you say you have tried? With the Beer and Kitchen teams constantly updating the menu why not try something new in 2020 and surprise yourself?

Once again, Happy New Year and I look forward to seeing you for a pint soon

Graham 
Board Member Development Committee Chair

*This burn is for you Ozz (Black Star Member-Owner from Michigan)
** Especially as we already have the dream team on staff so a favorable draft pick isn’t really an advantage
***Did you know cask beer is considered a rational pint and so member discount applies?

Black Star Co-op Board of Director Elections

As the weather turns cooler in Austin, Member-Owners execute their right to vote for open positions on the Black Star Co-op board. The Board of Directors provide leadership and guidance that supports the Co-op’s mission, vision, and goals on behalf of the Member-Owners through personal responsibility and effective governance through well-written policies. Learn more about the candidates through their answers to the “Questions for the Candidate” section in their submitted candidacy application or by attending the Member’s Assembly on Sunday, October 27th from 12-2pm. Electronic vote casting begins October 1 and ends October 31 with in-person ballots available at the Member’s Assembly.  

Questions for the Candidate

Greg Cumpton

  1. Why are you interested in serving on the Board of Directors of the Co-op?

The fiscal position of Black Star dimmed suddenly in first month of my joining the Board just under three years ago (I’m sure this was correlation and not causation).  Members arrived in droves to support the Co-op.  Without their support, Black Star would not be here.  It’s time for Black Star Co-op to put members first.  I look forward to representing them on the Board.

  • What goals would you like to see Black Star Co-op achieve in the next year?  Five years?

In the short term I would like to see improved efforts to engage current members and expansive efforts to increase the number of new members. I want to attend a Member’s Assembly meeting where there are no empty seats!  In five years, I’d like all the facilities issues completely resolved.

  • What qualities and past experience do you have for serving on the Black Star Co-op Board of Directors?

I am just finishing my first term on the Board which went from fiscal crisis to stability.  I hope to apply the skills I’ve learned to another three years on the Board.

  • Name one way in which you’d like the Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery to stand out from other local brewpubs.

Black Star Co-op already stands out from other local brewpubs.  Other breweries and brewpubs have fans; Black Star has member-owners.  Other brewpubs pay their staff the federal tipped minimum wage; Black Star pays a living wage.  Other brewpubs and breweries join and support people and organizations that promote local beer (that’s good, yes); Black Star does that AND advocates for policies ensuring a quality workplace locally and nationally.  Let’s be honest, we can drink award winning beer all over Austin, but no award winning beer tastes as righteous as Black Star’s.    

  • What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

Democratic member control.  Members have a voice at Black Star.  I want to hear those voices more clearly and more often over the next three years.

James Farris

  1. Why are you interested in serving on the Board of Directors of the Co-op?

I believe strongly in the mission and vision for Black Star Co-op.  I have been a longtime patron of the Co-op and a member since 1997, when I attended my first members assembly.  I love the sense of community, both among members and staff and the way the Black Star acts on the seven co-op principles to be a positive part of the larger community.  I believe Black Star is something special in the Austin brewpub scene and would like to take a more active role in supporting and strengthening it.

  • What goals would you like to see Black Star Co-op achieve in the next year?  Five years?

I would like to see Black Star strengthen its financial position, while growing the awareness among existing and potential patrons of the unique qualities and features that set it apart within the brewpub scene in Austin.  I would like to see it continue to make strides in building a community around the co-op mission as well as high quality beer and food offerings that incorporate member input in the development and selection.

  • What qualities and past experience do you have for serving on the Black Star Co-op Board of Directors?

Passion for this place (I’m literally filling this application out while I sit at the bar).  I also have a broad set of skills and experience gained from my degrees in Math and Public Affairs and working in jobs doing data analysis, program evaluation, performance improvement, and policy development in state government. 

  • Name one way in which you’d like the Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery to stand out from other local brewpubs.

Community and customer involvement.  I think the key ingredient in what makes Black Star special to me is the spirit of involvement and cooperation that underpin its founding and business model.  I love to tell people about the living wage paid to staff, the way the folks who work here have direct input into how things are run, how members are more than just customers – they’re owners, and how all these things come together into celebration of work, quality, integrity, and beer.

  • What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

Democratic member control.  This principle, where members and staff have a stake in establishing the community and priorities is a key to what Black Star offers.  These days when you can go online and order anything from anywhere, or drop-in on snapshots of life from friends or celebrities and click to show your feels, this principle says you’re not just buying a commodity when you become a member or patronize the co-op, you’re participating in a community.  When you come to events or talk to staff you’re not emoting into the ether, you have voice in shaping this community.

Gabriel Prado

  • Why are you interested in serving on the Board of Directors of the Co-op?

As a true Austinite (born and raised), I’m very passionate about local businesses and the unique impression they leave on our beautiful, ever changing city.  The Black Star principles and symbiotic relationship with the local community are a great embodiment of what I believe Austin to be and should have more of.  I’ve been looking for an opportunity to join the board of a local business and pledge to use my time and background to further the mission and set Black Star as the shining example of the co-op model.

  • What goals would you like to see Black Star Co-op achieve in the next year?  Five years?

Short-term in the next year I’d like to see Black Star expand engagement with its local member owner community and start to execute on innovative new ideas to drive traffic and renewed interest in the Black Star mission.  In five years, I’d like to see Black Star expand its footprint with new strategic partnerships that generate value for all stakeholders and help carry the Black Star name like other well-known Austin breweries.

  • What qualities and past experience do you have for serving on the Black Star Co-op Board of Directors?

I’ve been curating a very diverse set of business skills over my career including sales, product management, pricing, and product marketing.  While those skills have been honed in the tech space, I am ready to apply the same critical thinking and strategy to a much more personal type of business.  Personally, I tend to take a lot of ownership in success and love to coach the others around me with best practices and lessons learned.

  • Name one way in which you’d like the Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery to stand out from other local brewpubs.

I think there is a huge opportunity to make Black Star the “third place” for those who drink beer-just how coffee shops have become a third place for many.  I think this requires developing an understanding of what people need in that “third place” and what Black Star can do to facilitate and encourage it.  I see it as a third place for many, but it’s still subject to a lot of competition in the surrounding area.  Let’s understand our members and further develop that vision of the third-place.

  1. What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

Democratic member control.  I believe this to be incredibly important as an exchange of diverse backgrounds and ideas that can all play on a level playing field.  I think the means to be able to have a voice is much more valuable than being able to pay more for a louder voice.  I also appreciate this principle because it isn’t always easy.  Members need to be engaged, informed, and have a personal interest in the voting outcomes-all of which are very hard to measure, making it a particularly interesting challenge!

Cast Your Vote HERE

Members’ Assembly and Voting Sunday, October 27th – Exercise Your Democratic Right!


Black Star Co-Op is not like other pubs in town. Firstly, its beer is better, but also it is a member-owned democratically run organization. This October, as a Member-Owner you have two important voting decisions to make.

  1. Election of the Board of Directors of the Co-op. These folk meet to make decisions on your behalf, they represent the Members of the Co-op, legally are accountable for the business, and hold the workers assembly to account through a series of governance policies. We have a few positions on the board up for election and some great candidates standing. You can vote either at the Members’ Assembly or online in the email that will be sent out in a similar time frame.
  2. Referendum to change one of our Bylaws. This doesn’t happen often, but some decisions are so important that we look for the Member-Owners to get involved rather than the Board making a
    decision on their behalf. This is your opportunity to have a direct say in how the Co-op operates. You can again vote either at the Members’ Assembly or in the email that will be sent out at a similar time. Details of the bylaw change are included below for you to read. Please feel free to speak to or email the board if you have questions around this or would like to discuss it at board@blackstar.coop
    I look forward to seeing you on the 27th of October for a cold beer, some hot topics of conversation, and a warm reception for the new Board Member candidates. All that’s left for me to say is…
    MEMBERS ASSEMBLE!!!!!!!

(News Team / Black Star Members – both good looking, both spend time in pubs – same thing right?)
Thanks,
Graham (Member Development Board Committee Chair)

Living Wage Bylaw Change Proposal

Reason for Proposed Change

The board is recommending a change to one of the Co-Op bylaws. To do this we legally require a vote from the member/owners.

The language currently used in this bylaw regards the payment of workers assembly (WA) members. We propose a change as the current language for two reasons

  1. It is restrictive in that it stipulates specific calculators that have debatable relevance to the Austin employment market.
  2. It is also financially unsustainable in its expectation that “any employee” will receive this. The spirit of the statement is good, but the reality is that it is unobtainable, and so does not encourage the Co-Op to strive towards this goal but focus efforts elsewhere.

The proposed change will give the WA flexibility in worker renumeration while increasing oversite from the board to ensure that we continue to challenge ourselves towards achieving the Co-Op principles. We believe that this change will have a positive effect on worker pay.

The Co-Op Board of directors, and the WA, recommend that members vote to accept this change.

Changes in detail

  1. Change in the bylaw to allow the WA to propose the most appropriate living wage calculator
  2. Change to the language of the bylaw to remove the “any employee” language
  3. Addition to board D.3 policy for all voting body WA members are paid a living wage (there is a tenure and commitment requirement to become a WA voting body member – so this will likely exclude transitional staff)
  4. Addition to board D.3 policy for over 60% of staff receive a living wage (and by proxy – become voting members of the WA). This promotes the spirit of “we pay a living wage” and encourages tenure and commitment from the WA. Hitting 60% will be aspirational in the near future, but we believe this is an obtainable goal in the Austin market and so encourages us all to strive for policy compliance rather than give up as lost.
  5. Addition to board D.3 policy for oversite from the board on the living wage calculator chosen to ensure fair remuneration for years to come.
  6. Please note other elements of the existing D3 policy regarding discrimination, salary ratios and gratuity have not been changed.

Exact wording for your study

Old Language

Living Wage Bylaw:

When financially able, the Co-op shall pay no less than a living wage (determined by the formula of the Universal Living Wage Campaign) to any of its employees.

D.3 Policy:

  • D.3.0 With respect to employment, compensation, and benefits to employees, consultants, contract workers, and volunteers. The Workers’ Assembly shall not cause or allow jeopardy to financial integrity or public image, or discrimination based on race, sex, age, creed, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, color or disability.
  • D.3.1 The Workers’ Assembly will not allow disparity between the remuneration of any two workers to exceed a ratio of 4:1.
  • D.3.2 The Workers’ Assembly will not accept gratuities to supplement wages paid by the Co-op.

Proposed New Language

Living Wage Bylaw:

When financially able the Co-op shall pay an objectively calculated living wage determined by the formula of an appropriate living wage calculator recommended by the workers assembly

D.3 Policy:

  • D.3.0 With respect to employment, compensation, and benefits to employees, consultants, contract workers, and volunteers. The Workers’ Assembly shall not cause or allow jeopardy to financial integrity or public image, or discrimination based on race, sex, age, creed, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, color or disability.
  • D.3.1 The Workers’ Assembly will not allow disparity between the remuneration of any two workers to exceed a ratio of 4:1.
  • D.3.2 The Workers’ Assembly will not accept gratuities to supplement wages paid by the Co-op.
  • D.3.3 The Co-Op shall not pay less than a sustainable living wage to all WA members who are members of the voting body.
  • D.3.4 The Co-op will not pay less than a sustainable living wage to more than 40% of the workers assembly.
  • D.3.5 The WA will not go more than 12 months without getting agreement from the board on the living wage calculator that is used.

Making a Successful Retreat out of a Sunday

What does Sunday mean to you? If you are thinking Black Star Co-op Strategy and planning (and cold beer) then maybe, just maybe, you share a mental link with the Black Star Board Members! For this select group of people that you elected to the board, this past Sunday was a 2019 highlight, as it was the biannual Black Star Board retreat!

Two main goals were established for the day. The first, educational: focusing on the financial and legal responsibilities we have to both the Co-op and to the state of Texas. The second, strategic: laying out committee strategy for the year to come.

The committee strategy discussion was most noteworthy as per its direct influence on members. Three board committees were proposed. The first is charged with financial scrutiny of the Co-op, along with drawing up legal financial statements. The second concerned board proficiency, training, and elections. The third is focused on member development, engagement, and benefits. One key decision made was that the Board and its constituent committees will hold themselves to a higher level of accountability with more defined goals, objectives, and actions.

So, here is the bit when I stop writing about what we did, and ask for your involvement….  The first ask I have is the easiest.

·           –   Next time you are attending a member event or see one of us at the pub, please ask us about our role, the committee work we do, and what we are trying to achieve. Most importantly, hold us to giving you a detailed answer; it’s your brewpub and we are here to represent you!

·           –   If the finances of the Co-op, the member activities and events, or other work on the board interest you, why not get involved? Committees are open to all Member-Owners, not just Board Members. Whether you have just a little time or more to give, this is your pub and you have a say in how it runs. We would be happy to see you get involved!

I look forward to talking to you soon, and can’t wait to hear your questions as you hold me accountable to what I have signed up for in our plans for 2020!

Many thanks,

Graham
Member Development Committee Chair

Black Star Co-op Elections: Call for Candidates!

Every Fall, Black Star Co-op Member-Owners vote for Board of Director positions.  Directors review and craft policies and principles, represent the interests of all Member-Owners, and collaborate with the Workersʼ Assembly.  Take your love of Black Star Co-op to the next level by running for the Board.  To run for the Board, you must:

  • Be a fully invested Member-Owner;
  • Attend at least one Black Star Board Meeting within the last year;
  • Attend a Candidate Orientation Session at Black Star (roughly a 15-30 minute conversation)
  • Submit your Declaration of Candidacy form.
    • Download the Election Packet here. It contains information about the election, important dates, candidate questions for the website, and the Declaration of Candidacy form.  All forms must be submitted no later than September 27th, 2019 by 11:59pm

Interested, but have questions before you decide to run? Ready to run, but want more information about how to start the process?  Your first step is contacting the Leadership Development Committee through email: ldc@blackstar.coop.

Black Star Co-op Elections: Call for Candidates!

Every fall Black Star Co-op Member-Owners vote for Board of Director positions.  Directors review and craft policies and principles, represent the interests of all Member-Owners, and collaborate with the Workersʼ Assembly.  Take your love of Black Star Co-op to the next level by running for the Board.  To run for the Board, you must: Be a fully invested Member-Owner;

If you have not yet paid your balance, you can do so online or at the Co-op.

Attend at least one Black Star Board Meeting within the last year;

Attend a Candidate Orientation Session at Black Star (roughly a 30 minute conversation)

Friday, July 19th from 5 to 7pm.

Other days will be available starting in August (TBD, will be in August Newsletter)

Other days and times are available, contact ldc@blackstar.coop

Submit your Declaration of Candidacy form.

Download the Election Packet here. It contains information about the election, important dates, candidate questions for the website, and the Declaration of Candidacy form.  All forms must be submitted no later than September 27th, 2019 by 11:59pm.

Interested, but have questions before you decide to run? Ready to run, but want more information about how to start the process?  Your first step is contacting the Leadership Development Committee through email: ldc@blackstar.coop.

Message from the Board of Directors

Marcus reporting in with an update from your Board of Directors. Since the elections closed late last year, we’ve had a few changes to the Board that you, as a member and owner of this co-op, should know about.


Some sad news first. Beth Beutel, Black Star board president 2016 – 2018, stepped down and resigned from the Board, effective March 1st. The Board wants to recognize Beth and express our gratitude for her years of service.  We wish her all the best with her new promotion at work.  Her absence will be felt on the Board for a long time. 

A big change like this precipitated a few other changes to the Board as well. Marcus was nominated and voted Board President; Dacia was nominated and voted as Board Secretary. These are the two official officer roles on the Black Star board.  Don’t worry, Marcus’ Extravaganza hosting duties are not going to be impacted, and the Outreach Committee should have a date for the next extravaganza soon.

Going back to the October elections. The members elected two new directors at the end of 2018: Roger Corrales and Graham Green.  At the time, this gave us an eight-person board. A fully seated board comprises 9 directors.  So we, the Board, took action and appointed Charlotte Harper to a one-year term to fill the remaining vacancy. You can get to know these new directors at the Members’ Assembly meeting on April 28th.  Also, please check out the Board of Directors page on the website for more detailed director information.

With Beth leaving in March, we are now back down to eight directors.  So, if you have any interest in running for the Board or working with the Board in some capacity, please let Greg Cumpton, our Leadership Development Committee Chairperson, know.  

We’ll have a full report from the WA during the Spring meeting on April 28th; in the meantime, the short answer is that the co-op is heading in the right direction.  We need you, fellow co-owners of this brewpub to help. The biggest contribution is to come enjoy a pint and a snack at the co-op.  Also, plan to stop by during one of our awesome events.  However, if you are unable to make the trip up to the brewpub, you can still help.  Be an advocate for co-ops, wear your Black Star hat when the sun comes out, and wear your Black Star hoodie when the sun goes down.  We can all contribute in our own way. It’s member involvement that makes a co-op a co-op and not just another generic brewpub. 

See you at the Members’ Assembly Meeting on Sunday, April 28th!

Fall Members’ Assembly Meeting Recap

 

THANK YOU to the quorum of Black Star Member-Owners who gathered at the Co-op for the Fall 2018 Member-Owner Meeting last Sunday, October 21st.
After some rousing Co-op trivia, we kicked off the meeting with introductions from the current directors and with speeches from the four candidates running for the board: Beth Beutel, Roger Corrales, Graham Green, and Marcus Wilson.  They represent a fantastic mix of experience and fresh perspectives.  To summarize their stump speeches, Beth loves co-ops, Roger loves/lives worker self-management, Graham loves beer, and Marcus is lovable.  Read their candidate questionnaires on the blog (you’ll need to scroll down) and VOTE for your favorites here!
From there Beth Beutel, Black Star Co-op Board President, reviewed the priorities and accomplishments of the board so far in 2018.  She highlighted an increased focus on board training, the implementation of a more rigorous policy review process, and improved Worker Assembly (WA) solidarity.  Chris Byram, Black Star Co-op Board Staff Liaison, provided a retrospective as the most tenured member of the WA and described 2018 as a “breath of fresh air” compared to the financial struggles of early 2017.  He thanked everyone for their continued patronage and reminded them that the Co-op exists to support the Member-Owners.
                     
Given that the Co-op finances have improved in 2018, the WA asked Member-Owners for input into where the Co-op should focus in 2019 for growth.  Everyone has a favorite idea (“Year-Round Chili!”), so second-year board member, Kyle Voosen, led us in a business strategy activity that encouraged Member-Owners to prioritize their 2019 areas of focus.  This input process was similar to the August 2018 board retreat exercise.  Of the 16 different proposed strategies for 2019, the Member-Owners selected the following three as their top priorities:
1) Expand revenue from existing Member-Owners through enhanced and better promoted membership benefits
2) Improve dining experience and better communicate brand through updated facilities
3) Build demand through official partnerships/special benefits with customer organizations
We wrapped up the Member-Owner meeting with a Q&A session that covered topics including Member-Owner outreach, the upcoming lease renewal, the improved parking situation, and yes, when chili would be back on the menu.  Thank you again to the Member-Owners who took the time to support their Co-op and join us for a beer or three in the sun last Sunday!

The Board’s Annual Retreat: Fun, Work, and Teaming!

By Beth Beutel, Board President

 

On Sunday August 19th, your Black Star Board of Directors took our annual pause from the monthly routine of Board work to focus on projects that require larger spans of time. This year, the Board has had a number of objectives: to ensure that every director was well trained for their role, to build alignment with the WA around our values and our processes, and to build a better team within the board itself. In case you haven’t been to a board meeting or checked out the meeting minutes, you should know that most Board meetings are primarily taken up with routine business, leaving previous little time for working towards these large goals. So our twice annual retreats in January and August are where most of the learning and teaming take place.

 

Throughout the year, the Team Leader Council (TLC) has asked the Board for better and more timely feedback about the direction the business is headed. As lay-people, not professional restaraunteurs or brewers, we were unsure what type of feedback would be best, and our bylaws and policies indicate clear delinations between board and staff work.. But at the TLC’s request, and after learning of a collaborative board and management planning process at the consumer co-op conference this year, I worked in collaboration with Kyle, a director on the Leadership Development Committee, and Chris Byram, our Board-Staff Liason, to develop a retreat plan that would provide timely and appropriate director input prior to the begining of the budget and planning process. And, we wanted it to be fun.

 

We organized the Retreat agenda to ensure we had a clear understanding of some key components of our business before we launched into planning activities. First, Greg Cumpton, Leadership Development Committee Chair, reviewed our Memeber-Investor Share Offering. Then Chris B, Andy, Jodi, Will, and Brian from the WA arrived as scheduled to see competitive reconnaissance reports from the Board. Our directors, and volunteer facilitator Kenley Maddux, presented on our homework assignment of going to one of six breweries around town to take photos, order food, note menu pricing, sample the beers, etc, and report back to the Board. We probably could have just looked at yelp reviews, but that wouldn’t have been as fun.

 

Then, Chris Byram educated us all about living wage. He covered everything from several available models, the basis of their calculations, cost of living estimate sources, and the specific calculations for the Austin area. The Board and WA then discussed Black Star’s history with the living wage model and the values that guided us to chose the Universal Living Wage to list in our bylaws and the values that are now compelling us to examine possibilities for change.

 

Dacia gave the Board a primer on how to have an excellent brainstorming session where we support each other and stoke each others creativity. Kyle then led us through a SWOT analysis of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunites, and threats, with workers participating. The workers then left, as some agenda items had run over time and several of the workers had other commitments. Directors soldiered on to grouping the post-it notes covering the walls; we recorded them and began noting affinities – areas where one point matched with another and made a clear inclination of a plan, and assigned Kyle to continue to find more.

 

Later in the month, Dacia sent a survey where directors and workers were to rank “affinities” or general courses of action from 1-5; 1 meant not very interested in seeing that action taken, and 5 meant very interested that action. Results were submitted to the September meeting and discussed by the Board. We intended to chose three courses of action, but two of them had exactly even scores, and we agreed four was also a reasonable number. The board concurred that Chris Byram, as our Board-Staff Liaison should take the top four items to present to the Workers Assembly for consideration as they make their business plan, which will be submitted to the Board at our next meeting.

 

We hope you’ll join us at our bi-annual Members Assembly meeting on October 21st from noon-2pm at Black Star to hear a little more about what the board is working on and participate in a fun activity to give your feedback about the future direction of the co-op!

 

If this process sounds interesting to you, we’d like for you to know that there are open seats on the Board of Directors, and you are more than welcome to attend our next meeting on Sunday October 28th from 10am-1pm, and/or email the Leadership Development Committee at ldc@blackstar.coop for more information about being appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board.