category Board of Directors

Why Pay A Living Wage?

A living wage is defined as the minimum income for an individual or family group necessary to meet basic needs. Living wage standards vary, but all are based to some extent on local housing and food costs. Many also include other needs such as clothing, retirement savings, education; some standards include items such as minimal vacation costs, insurance, professional fees, elder/child care. Most standards are based on a ~40 hour work week for a worker with no additional income. In the U.S., a comprehensive living wage for any particular community is usually several dollars per hour higher than the pitiful federal Minimum Wage: $7.25 (imagine working for an hour, doing just about any kind of work, and after that hour you’ve built up enough income to possibly afford a fully loaded Starbucks beverage). The living wage movement aims to establish for particular localities a more reasonable and equitable minimum wage, and it turns out that doing so is a benefit to all concerned.

For most of U.S. history, the predominant business model and means of profit-taking have relied on state and federal policies which lock workers in predatory low wages. Implicitly or explicitly, we are told that business — and thus our entire economy — can only flourish by keeping wages low so that businesses can grow and be ever more profitable for investors and management. That accumulated wealth will then surely tickle down to the wage earners, at least when management/investors feel so inclined, or more likely when they are compelled to do so by workers and their advocates. Wage advocacy and politics is, however, another one of those areas that broadly fluctuates in waves and depends on the varying efficacy of workers advocacy groups, the tolerance of workers, and sometimes simply the good graces of management and investors. Instilling fear of job loss often plays a role in keeping wages low. In fact, one effect of the federal Minimum Wage is a reminder of “how great you’ve got it making $8.00 or even $7.75 an hour.” Workers’ rights and pay fairness advances by two-steps-forward, one-backwards (sometimes vice versa), but it seems that strides are currently being made.     

The effects of paying workers less than a true living wage are serious and contribute primarily to many of the ills facing U.S. society. A worker paid the minimum wage of $7.25/hour, or any wage below a living wage, cannot possibly afford basic necessities without assistance. This creates problems not only for workers, but for businesses and the local economy. One commentator (Fred Lundgren, a radio talk show host) recently said:   “The sinister trap of permanent poverty level wages is snapping shut on a growing number of Americans each year, causing the middle class to evaporate into poverty before our eyes, while these same Americans get blamed by conservatives and libertarians for falling into the trap.”

Along with the Occupy movement and the related ongoing period of enlightenment following the Great Recession, the idea of paying workers a true living wage and/or a reasonable minimum wage has become part of the daily news. Black Star’s wage policy has been part of that positive publicity since its opening almost 5 years ago. Along with the co-operative idea that distant and idle investors should not profit from local business activities, payment of a living wage is an important element of the democratization of our economy. From day-one, Black Star’s Ends Policies have included the following:

A.4 Black Star Co-op will provide an empowering environment for all workers through worker self-management. Specifically:

A.4.1 Pay a living wage and provide excellent benefits to all workers.

A.4.2 Promote worker retention.

A.4.3 Maintain a hospitable working environment.

A.4.4 Encourage high-quality work from our workers.

Part of Black Star’s success and its ability to keep high quality workers in the Workers Assembly relates directly to our dedication to fair worker pay and treatment. Members and patrons reviewing the service and quality of food and beverage at Black Star consistently praise our workers and rate them highly. WA members similarly rate the working environment at Black Star very highly. Not surprisingly, this seems to be a common result of worker fair treatment in any business. 

Studies have demonstrated the benefits to a business of paying a true living wage, many of which are amply shown at Black Star, such as the following: 

  • Paying a living wage leads to increased worker morale, worker health, and quality of service, as well as lower absenteeism, turnover rates, and recruiting and training costs.
  • According to a Fiscal Policy Institute Study, states with higher minimum wages experience more small business growth, both in number of employees and in number of establishments, than states with lower minimums.
  • Raising wages is affordable — employers are able to absorb the costs of a wage increases through higher worker productivity and lowered administrative and training costs, not to mention the possibility of reducing excessive management costs.
  • Moreover, multiple surveys have shown that most Americans are willing to pay more for living wage produced products and services.

There are also many distinct benefits inuring to the local community from paying a living wage: 

  • Having a living wage work force and related efforts to end poverty and inequity moves all citizens toward a more just, sustainable and engaged local economy.
  • Living wages reduce overall worker inequality by strengthening low-wage workers’ bargaining power in the job market.
  • Living wages enable working people to become self-sufficient and rely less on social services. Today, millions of full-time workers and their families receive food assistance and other forms of charity. Federal and state tax-based assistance for full-time workers is both counterintuitive and counterproductive — only a fraction of every tax dollar allocated to social services directly assists recipients of aid, while 100% of wages do.
  • Wage increases accomplish the above but do not lead to job loss. Repeated studies, usually relating to minimum wage increases, have failed to find any systematic, significant job loss associated with federal/state minimum wage increases. In fact, following most such increases, the low-wage labor market performed better than previously in that unemployment rates dropped, family income increased, poverty rates decreased and workers and their families were generally happier.
  • Living wages generally stimulate the economy through increased consumer spending and the money multiplier effect.
  • Businesses can demonstrate greater corporate social responsibility, and benefit from an increase in public recognition as leaders of the worker fairness movement.

As a co-op and a worker self-managed business, it is part of Black Star’s “DNA” to pay a living wage. The experience at Black Star has shown that this decision has absolutely been positive and broadly beneficial.

Serve Your Co-op – Run for the Board of Directors

Have you ever wondered how you can be even more involved at our Co-op? If so, have you considered running for the Board of Directors? Running for the Board is an opportunity to bring your enthusiasm, ideas, and leadership to the Black Star Co-op.

As a democratically-governed cooperative, electing our own Board of Directors is one of the benefits of being a Member-Owner. If you would like to help the Co-op by crafting policies and principles, representing the best interests of the Member-Owners, and collaborating with the Workersʼ Assembly, then I highly encourage you to run for one of the three open Board positions this year. No prior experience is required.

To run for the Board, you must first be a fully invested Member-Owner. If you havenʼt yet paid your balance, you can do so online or at the Co-op. Second, please download the Election Packet here. It contains information about the election, important dates, candidate questions for the website, and the Declaration of Candidacy youʼll need to sign and return to the Co-op. Next, you will need to have attended at least one Black Star Board meeting within the last year. The last available Board meeting to attend is Sunday, September 19 from noon until 3pm at 7010 Easy Wind Dr., Ste. 210 in the Midtown Commons development.

Finally, you will need to attend one of the following Candidate Orientation Sessions at Black Star. Please email which orientation session you will be attending so that the Board members will be on the look out for you.

Wed, Aug 19 8:00 PM
Sun, Aug 23 2:00 PM
Tues, Aug 25 6:00 PM
Sat, Aug 29 2:00 PM

If you have any questions about running for the Board of Directors or are interested in attending a Board meeting, please contact

March Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

DATE: March 22, 2015

LOCATION: Arts + Labor 


ATTENDING DIRECTORS: Michael Handy, Charles Hueter, Kenley Maddux, Cole Noppenberg, Joe Silva, John Vinson

ATTENDING CO-OP STAFF: Andy Martinec, Nicole Renaux, and Eric Swensen


 Consent Agenda and Action Item Review

Kenley asked for agenda item changes on pushing worker remuneration discussion to April, added discussion of Lori Kline’s share repurchase, added discussion of Cole’s KOOP donation idea, added discussion of Austin Cooperative Business Association, and added discussion of the annual report. Joe moved to accept the amended agenda, Michael seconded, vote passed 6-0-0.

 Systems Audit Committee Updates

Cole moved to accept updates without changes, no seconds. Nicole and Kenley explained some of the changes to visitors. Kenley moves to accept with syntax and typo corrections, Michael seconded, vote passed 6-0-0.  Cole will help with cleanup.

Board Training

Nicole handed out income statements, balance sheets, and explained the items on them and how they are used to analyze the coop’s operations.  Annelies (via Kenley) and Joe suggested brewing and pub team training.

Kenley moved to go into internal session at 12:46, Charles seconded, vote passed 6-0-0.  Internal Session ends at 1:12

BREAK at 1:12pm.  Eric left during break

Vision Discussion

The board discussed the grid of ideas from the board retreat in January.  Significant discussion followed on how to prioritize the vision items and who would steward the items to completion. 

 Member-Owner Extravaganza

Steve will be asked to supply a topic by e-mail.  Michael, John, Joe were planning to go.  Michael will contact Steve for details and assistance.

Spring Members’ Assembly Meeting

Nicole said the consultant suggested the Annual Report be utilized as a marketing tool in addition to informative and she listed out a variety of ideas for articles.  Directors and staff then volunteered and suggested who could write them.

Austin Co-op Summit

Black Star will be well-represented with directors and staff.  Kenley moved to have the board vote for all candidates on the ballot, Cole seconded, vote passed 5-0-1, John abstained.

 Board Process Discussion

Kenley related the consultant’s opinion on the board’s minutes and the board discussed aiming for concise records of board action.  Nicole discussed how writing articles has worked so far and the board talked about ways to improve the process.  No action was reported on extravaganza and facilitator search.  More board action to-dos will be included in future agendas and the board liked the revised scheduling process.

 Kenley moved to adjourn at 2:36pm, Michael seconded, vote passed 6-0-0.


Range Life: A Look at 44 Farms

This past month I arranged a visit to 44 Farms, our primary beef provider, to take a first hand look at where our beef is sourced. Nestled in the sleepy Texas town of Cameron, 44 Farms operates like a sanctuary — for man and bovine alike. The land and farm belong to Bob McClarren, who carries on a tradition of cattle farming that has existed in his family since 1909.  

But while the farm is old, the business itself is relatively new.  During the 20th century the farm was split up and sold in pieces, and it wasn’t until the 90’s, nearly 80 years later, that Bob and his sister started to buy and reintegrate previously sold land. In 2003, the 44 Farms brand had its official beginning, with just 60 registered Angus cows. It has since grown to be the largest Angus operation in Texas. Which is no small feat, and one that was achieved with a careful integration of modern and old farming techniques. 


My tour guides on the farm were Bryan Carroll, the Genetics & Research Manager, and Amanda Overfield, Sales Representative and Social Media Manager. The two of which are perfect examples of how the Farm has successfully adopted contemporary business techniques to help them advance. As Bryan told me, “Customer service and marketing are two of the things we hang our hat on. But our bulls have the genetics to make any cowherd produce quality beef.” He was quick to note the equal importance of managing the cattle and keeping them happy and healthy, which is not something that can be bred.

On the farm you witness an efficient, and often times beautiful, merger of old ways and the new. Looking at a cowboy herding on the property, “you know, he’s out there being more old school and I spend a lot of my time on the computer.” The resultant scene is this: genetically exceptional cattle spending their happy days tended on a vast, plentiful land by cowboys who practice an ancient and established method. It’s a pretty picture. One that probably had no small influence in pulling so many people from across the country to work in the small town of Cameron.

“All the people on the ranch live in Cameron, but only two were born there. Bob pulled only the best people from across the country,” Bryan told me. This includes James, their general manager, who lacked a farming background, yet was imported to Cameron because of his tremendous managerial experience and his long held desire to manage a ranch.

Despite the Farm’s modest beginnings on just 250 acres, it’s not hard to see why Bob was able to persuade so many talented people to join his operation. Both the work and the environment are honest and imbued with a purpose which feels quintessentially american. In the brief time I was a guest on the farm, I felt a little bit of the pull, the urge to find a way to spend more time there. 44 Farms has assembled a dream team of employees to manage the land by offering a dream job in exchange. 

44 Farms follows the idea that dependance on the land also demands a care for the land. That’s a hell of a belief. And what’s even better, is the sense that this tenant will stand even as the farm grows more successful. I’m more than proud to be associated with the farm. 

May 2015 Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

Black Star Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

DATE: May 17, 2015

LOCATION: Arts + Labor


ATTENDING DIRECTORS: Michael Handy, Charles Hueter, Scott Kelley, Annelies Lottman, Kenley Maddux, Cole Noppenberg, Joe Silva, John Vinson

ATTENDING CO-OP STAFF: Nicole Renaux, Larry Watson, 

OTHERS ATTENDING: Beth Beutel and Amy (last name not recorded)

Consent Agenda and Action Item Review

Michael moved to pull the B.4 Board Officers policy monitoring report off the consent agenda due to compliance issues.  Kenley moved to pull the April minutes off the consent agenda due to additional changes needed.  Scott moved to accept the consent agenda with the changes, (second not recorded), vote passed 8-0-0.

B.4 Board Officers Policy Monitoring Report

Scott submitted the report and considered the board out of compliance despite positive ratings.  Kenley commented that a procedure does not exist for presidential succession and the topic ought to be revisited after MA.  The board reached consensus that a statement should be posted to the website when there are no minutes to post, such as when the board does not meet.  The board agreed to remonitor in August after further discussion and responsibilities assignment.  Kenley moved to adopt the report, seconded by Annelies, vote passed 8-0-0.

Board Minutes Discussion

Cole said he would amend the minutes to correct some attendance inaccuracies.  The board discussed the balance between too much information in the minutes that can bog down readability and going beyond bare-bones essentials.  Consent was reached to aim for a slimmer read.  

Systems Audit Committee Proposed Policy Updates

Kenley and Annelies submitted the report, and she had concerns about the overall length of the policy language.  Charles suggested the committee use one formatting method to note which language should be removed and which language should be added.  Regarding D.11 Allocation of Net Savings, Joe said the Workers’ Assembly duty to “report” net savings wasn’t specific enough.  Regarding B.4 Board Officers, Scott was concerned about how the board could make it enforceable. Consent was reached that board minutes should reflect policy changes.  Scott moved to accept the updates, Kenley seconded, vote passed 8-0-0.

Charles moved to enter Internal Session at 12:34, Kenley seconded, vote passed 8-0-0.

Internal Session

The board discussed the D.4 Financial Condition monitoring report and Workers’ Assembly Operations Update.  Internal session ended at 1:01.  Kenley moved to accept the D.4 report, Cole seconded, vote passes 8-0-0.


Follow up report for cash on hand, Nicole reported improvement but not enough for compliance.  Net income also not in compliance.  Michael asked about March and whether revised operations will result in a permanent bump.  Reunumeration discussion.  Cole asked about marketing opportunities in specific areas and art commissions.  Asked about live music, Nicole thinks the WA is ready to step up for someone to take the lead on it.  Asked about Geeks Who Drink, replied its hard to test changes in revenue because cancelling once kills the experiement. K moves to adopt, Cole seconds, unaimous

Ops Update

Nicole was courted by lender who might help with expansion.  Non-beer sales are up.  June price increase $0.25 across the board.  Issues continuing with Flood, going to keg fleet to help compensate.  Joe asked for clarification for cost of labor hour change.

1:01 left internal session, D4 report/Ops Update

A.1 Patron Experience Policy Monitoring Report

Co-op staff member Macy Gehring submitted the report.  The board discussed some concerns about the WA’s plan and whether they think it is working.  Nicole said the WA feels things are turning around and many of the plans such as staff training and awning improvements will need time to take effect.  The board asked the meeting’s guests for input and none had additional comments.  Kenley moved to accept the report, Michael seconded, vote passed 8-0-0.

BREAK for 1:12

Member Survey Results

Nicole presented the survey results, which were strongly positive and offered constructive feedback.  Overall, the survey indicated member-owners are seeking more benefits and are not widely aware of a few ends policies.  Tthe board discussed how to connect member-owners to events and improve communication with the board.

Net Profit and MISO Dividend Discussion

The board agreed to draft a resolution announcing no net savings and therefore no MISO dividend this year.  Consensus was reach that the vote will be over e-mail once drafts are circulated.


Spring Members’ Assembly Planning

The board liked that the meeting packet went out early.  Discussion focused to how to work with a hypothetical wave of members wanting to put right their MISO after hearing about recent financial difficulties.  The agenda, time slots, and speakers were all finalized.  Directors were encouraged to attend early to help with set-up. 

Patronage Update

Nicole reported on the status of the patronage system.  The vendor, NCR, was not at all helpful.  The new cards, however, were working and will have much greater capability.  The board liked the progress and hoped the cards would get into member-owner hands soon.

Kenley moved to adjourn, (second not recorded), vote passed 8-0-0.

April 2015 Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

Black Star Board of Directors Meeting Minutes
DATE: April 28, 2015
LOCATION: Arts + Labor

ATTENDING DIRECTORS: Michael Handy, Kenley Maddux, Cole Noppenberg, Joe Silva, John Vinson
ATTENDING CO-OP STAFF: Stephanie, Nicole, and Brenna.

Consent Agenda
Item B3 Compliance Report pulled off from Agenda.
Vote initiated to accept the Agenda:  7 in favor, 0 against, 0 abstaining.
Discussion of B3 Compliance Report; Board Members requested verbatim comments from Compliance Poll in future Compliance Reports.  Vote initiated to accept B3 Compliance Report: 6 in favor, 0 against, 1 abstaining.

History of Cooperatives
John presented the history of the Co-op Movement, Rochedale Pioneers, troughs of reduced activity in co-ops during economic prosperity, peaks of cooperative action during hard times.
The impact of membership growth, the founding charter and how it changes over decades, and our commitment to paying a living wage are discussed.

Policy Revisions to B3
Kenley presented revisions to B3.8.6.  Scott moved to accept the revisions, Steve B seconded.  Vote: 8 in favor, 0 against, 0 abstaining.

Patronage Refund and Loyalty Tracking
The Board addressed patronage, taxation of funds, minimum percentages allocated, and loyalty tracking.

Internal Session starting at 1:02pm
Cole moved to enter Internal Session for the purpose of D3 Monitoring Report, Q1 Finances, and the Treasury Shares Program.  Kenley second.  Vote is 8 in favor, 0 against, 0 abstaining.  Internal session ended at 2:03pm.
The D3 Report was adopted during Internal Session with a vote of 8 in favor, 0 against, 0 abstaining.

Net Savings D11
Kenley unveiled new policy language D11.  The definition of net savings was discussed, along with some of the ramifications and uses of net savings.  The Board agreed to cast the policy into negating, limiting language and add D11.4.1.3 to outline patronage.
The Board voted to adopt D11 with 8 in favor, 0 dissenting, and 0 abstaining.

Topics for Newsletter and Members’ Assembly
Newsletter and Members’ Assembly topics were outlined, including History of the Co-op, Member Frequency, Ends Fulfillment, Financial Report, and Expansion Survey Results.  The Board also called for updates to the Committee calendars.

Marcus (guest) announced that he will run for Board of Directors this year.
Nicole pointed out the need for candidate recruitment starting in May.

The Board agreed to meet May 17th and June 28th.

Letter from the Director: How Can You Best Serve Our Co-op?

The Members’ Assembly meeting in May was spirited and invigorating. One of the main themes was that Black Star Co-op will continue to grow through member support. We celebrated the many ways that member-owners already serve our co-op, and encouraged everyone to think about how they can help in the future.

Lunch is a good example for me. This Spring, the workers challenged each Director to bring a friend to the new Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday lunch service. I sent the menu to a group of co-workers, and ended up with five lunch guests who had never been to Black Star. Some of them now bring their families for dinner. What an enjoyable way to expand our business!

Maybe your life makes it too hard to have lunch at an awesome pub in North Austin (Sorry!). You can still drink Black Star beer in bars closer to home, and request it in the bars that don’t carry it. When you see a particularly mouthwatering photo of a daily special on social media, you can tag friends who would also enjoy that item (They’ll thank you). You can also run for the Board of Directors—just contact for information on our fall elections. Those are just a few ways you can contribute, but I’m sure you can think of more—participate in a way that utilizes your unique talents. 

I love being part of a business that pays a living wage to all workers, respects our environment, and serves excellent beer and food. Black Star Co-op is a wonderful example of what community-owned businesses can do. It is inspiring people throughout the U.S., and without you, our member-owners, none of this would be possible. Thank you for all of the ways you support Black Star Co-op.

February 2015 Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

Black Star Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

DATE: February 15, 2015

LOCATION: Arts + Labor

 CALL TO ORDER: 12:10pm

ATTENDING DIRECTORS: Steve Basile, Michael Handy, Charles Hueter, Scott Kelley, Annelies Lottmann, Kenley Maddux, Cole Noppenberg, Joe Silva, John Vinson




 Scott moved to accept the agenda, Steve seconded, 9-0-0 in favor.

Scott wished directors would put comments down into policy monitoring reports when directors mark anything other than “completely in compliance” to increase the usefulness of the reports.

 No committee updates.  Steve said March 30 is set for Member-Owner Extravaganza. Kenley asked committees to submit a planning calendar for the larger board to have for review.  Annelies said she will not schedule committee updates in the agenda unless committees come to her with items for discussion.


Policy Monitoring A.1.

Annelies moved to accept, Scott seconded.  Before the board vote, Nicole discussed the out of compliance ratings for Patron Experience and the plans the business team have to achieve compliance in a month.  Kenley moved to amend the motion to remonitor in April, Joe seconded, 9-0-0 in favor.  Nicole then discussed sound improvements and the potential addition of TVs to the pub space and additional staff training.  The board discussed the metrics of the Patron Experience report and how tough it can be to shift an overall customer experience rating once hundreds of ratings are in the system.  Annelies called the vote on the original motion, vote passes 8-0-1.  Charles abstained because he did read the report.


MISO discussion.

Kenley provided an overview of what the Member Investment Share Offering (MISO) was designed to do and the discussion included how dividends are decided by the board, how the board deals with conflicted directors, how put right requests are handled, and the possibility of using a new MISO for expansion.  Significant discussion covered how interest rates ought to be set and the benchmarks used to determine them as well as a hypothetical walk-through of the co-op’s ability to honor put-right requests and make future offerings. 

BREAK at 1:06pm

9-0-0 vote for internal session (mover and seconder not recorded).  Internal session ends at 1:45pm.  Annelies moved to accept the D.4. monitoring report, Michael seconded, vote passes 9-0-0.

BREAK at 1:46pm

Board Process Discussion

Kenley proposed limited but regular updates from the systems audit committee for board policy revisions.  The board talked about best ways to work through policy updates and how to collaborate on them.  Cole will take ownership of publishing updates to the board’s internal systems.  Kenley discussed his effort to be a facilitator this meeting and asked for feedback on his attempt to offer a structured space for everyone to contribute.

 Scott said his experience shows parliamentary procedure works best in large groups and that Kenley had spoken quite a bit more this meeting.  Steve said the process up to now has worked pretty well. Joe, as devil’s advocate, warned the board not to rely too much on its friendliness always being the basis for effective communication and that some structure helps.  Annelies commented that a rotating facilitator might be a good option if an outside facilitator is not possible.  Steve strongly supported a dedicated timekeeper.  The directors indicated they wish for an outside facilitator.  John expressed concern about adding lots of extra voting to situations where consensus is not reached by the board and putting the topic on the next meeting is proposed.  Cole said he saw the board proposing three ways to work (formal procedure, facilitation, and straightforward board votes) and that a balance could be had.  Charles brought up the consequences of breaking internal procedures and how to deal with the “mistakes” such breaks would create.  Annelies asked if the schedule could be allotted in number of minutes rather than specific clock times.  Nicole noted how a specific desired outcome helps in Workers’ Assembly meetings.  Scott said bringing up time issues should be brought up at the consent agenda.

 The board reached consensus on Annelies’s suggestion on timekeeping.  Steve and Nicole took responsibility for a facilitator search.


Members’ Assembly Scheduling

Members had suggested shifting the MA to different seasons in Austin, such as June-November.  Nicole was concerned about getting useful financial statements to the meeting in time.  John said he would research possible issues with taxes, certificate of formation, and other hurdles.  The board reached consensus on keeping the current schedule.


Calendar Review

March meeting will be on the 22nd at noon.

April meeting will be on the 26th.

May meeting will be on the 17th.

Members’ Assembly will be on May 31st.

 Nicole will do the D.2 report, Steve will do the C.2 report, and Kenley will do the B.2 report. 

 Charles will do a board retreat newsletter article, Steve will do a recap of the House That Beer Built, and John will do an April article

Annelies moves to adjourn, Kenley seconded, vote passes 9-0-0.

2015 Board of Director’s Retreat Recap

On January 25, our Board of Directors met at McKinney Falls State Park for a day of training, brainstorming, and team-building.  Nicole Renaux attended in her role as Board-Staff Liaison and Dana Curtis, Black Star Co-op’s Business Team Leader, facilitated the discussion.  All nine of the directors were present: Steve Basile, Michael Handy, Scott Kelley, Annelies Lottmann, Board President Kenley Maddux, Cole Noppenberg, Joe Silva, John Vinson, and myself, the Board Secretary.

After satisfying our coffee and breakfast urges, we began the discussion with a round of introductions and icebreakers to learn more about each other.  This was important because Michael and Cole have never served on the board and I was appointed to fill a term only a few months before.  I am happy to announce: this is a board of directors that quickly established a friendly rapport and openness.

Dana then guided us along a discussion of a Board Points of Agreement.  We talked about what we expected a high-functioning board would do to ensure respect for a diversity of viewpoints, a healthy balance of work and life, shared responsibilities, and the goal of the board speaking with a unified voice once policy consensus is achieved.  It can be hard to foster and protect that communication space with you and three friends at the pub; now imagine doing that with eight others over matters that directly affect the lives of 27 employees and over 3,200 member-owners.  This was one of the most important discussions we had, and we concluded it knowing we were in closer agreement on our job than ever before.

We then shifted to the subject of Policy Governance, with John and Steve moderating the discussion.  One of the most common things we do as a board every meeting is monitor and discuss the progress of the Co-op, the Workers’ Assembly, and ourselves towards meeting this cooperative’s policies.  It is not glamorous work, but it keeps the board informed about all aspects of Black Star’s operation and momentum forward. A key aspect of this discussion: the emphasis on the understanding that the board does not “run” things.  We have an amazing Workers’ Assembly that takes care of the day-to-day operations.  Rather, our focus should be on the future shaped by an understanding of how the operations are in the present.  Policy Governance gives us a consistent and useful tool to monitor all aspects of Black Star’s performance so we can decide if current policies meet the values and expectations of member-owners.

Next, Annelies took over to connect the broader discussion about monitoring to the practical matter of making decisions based on the monthly monitoring reports.  Most of the time the reports shows no concerns to address or areas worth digging into deeper.  In these cases, we accept the report and move forward with the monthly meeting agenda. However, there are times when the results of the report spur directors into thinking more needs to be known.  The great deal of the trust you place in the Board is demonstrated as we discuss the merits of the policy under inspection, whether the degree of missing the target is sufficiently problematic to warrant a rejection of the report, and what exactly we would seek in a revised follow-up if that were to be necessary.

We broke for a lunch of Black Star burgers grilled on the spot and enjoyed the chance to get outside to see more of McKinney Falls State Park.  The weather was perfect for a walk and we needed to move around.

When we returned, Dana got us back on track with a roundtable discussion of the four pillars of cooperative governance: democracy, teaming, strategic leadership, and accountable empowerment.  These high-level concepts were then grounded in the idea of member engagement.  We want you, the member-owners, to be engaged with the co-op.

However, Black Star member-owners are as diverse as the beers we have on tap.  Some love co-ops and want to see them succeed.  Some joined because they love the mission and values of our organization.  Others value world-class craft beer and cuisine done right and done local.  The board cannot forget that we need to appeal to all member-owners and to contribute in the ways that matter the most to them.

By the late afternoon, it was time for a beer tasting lead by Nicole.  What good is being the director of the best cooperatively-owned brewpub in the world without knowing our beer in depth?

We wrapped up the day’s schedule with a vision discussion.  Here, any idea was valid.  What would things look like for Black Star in 5 years?  Where would we be and what would we have experienced in 10 years?  In many ways, the role of prognosticator is a director’s most challenging.  Industry trends, macroeconomic conditions, the legal and regulatory landscape; these are things that constantly change.  We need to be able to anticipate some of this change so the co-op is not caught flat-footed and can continue to provide stellar experiences in the heart of Austin, Texas.

November 2014 Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

November 16, 2014 Meeting 11:00 a.m.

Directors Present: Erin O., Kenley M., John V. Annelies L., Steve B., Charles H., Scott K., Joe S.

Also present: Nicole Renaux, Michael Handy, Cole Noppenberg

Consent Agenda: October 2014 Minutes, B.9 Report, B.11 Report. KM moves to adopt without B.9; SB seconds. Motion carries 7-0-1.

Seating of new members: KM moves to ratify election results; AL seconds. Motion carries 8-0-0. 

JS and Michael Handy to serve 3-year terms. Cole Noppenberg to serve 1-year term.

EO leaves meeting.

Election of Board Officers: KM nominated President. Elected 8-0-1. CH nominated Secretary. Elected 8-0-1.

Election of Committee Chairs: JV nominated to chair Finance Committee. Elected 8-0-1. SB nominated to chair Outreach Committee. Elected 8-0-1. Joe nominated to chair Leadership Development. Elected 8-0-1.

Discussion of Board Process. AL will prepare packets. SK will record and review action items. MH will do board monitoring surveys. We will find a job for Cole.

B.9 Report: KM moves to adopt. SK seconds. Motion carries 9-0-0.


CH leaves meeting.

A.5 Report: KM moves to adopt. AL seconds. Motion carries 8-0-0.

SB moves to enter internal session to discuss D.4, D.9, Operations Update. AL seconds. Motion carries 8-0-0.