Ends Outline Co-op Communication Strategy

Three Rivers Market
Knoxville, TN

Year founded: 1976
Number of members: 8,200
Member investment: $200
Number of employees: 40
Retail square feet: 10,000

A few years ago, Jackie Arthur, the general manager at Three Rivers Market in Knoxville, TN, decided to switch up her approach to co-op communications with her board, staff and the community. One of the tactics she adopted was to reformat her Ends report in a new way. “I wanted people to be able to readily access information and data about what the co-op is doing so they can be better prepared to tell the co-op story.”

Arthur said she didn’t want it to feel like some “mystical” document, but something that people could easily use as a reference. The Ends report would not sit on a shelf, but be a living document used by a lot of people at the co-op. “If you want to know something you can just look at the table of contents and pull that info out.”

She also said that her practical approach is based on the need to be efficient. “We’re a medium co-op, we have to be careful of what we put our time into. Making the Ends report useful for everybody is very helpful for spreading the word out.” Arthur said that it also helps demonstrate how actions connect to the Ends. “We use it every day and it becomes second nature.”

At the beginning of the Ends is a Vision of Success that acts as a touchstone for all the co-op’s activities and communication. “Every email message, every newsletter, whatever it is, we pull something from out of the Ends report to share with those in the co-op and the community. We extract a lot of interesting things to also use in the Annual Report and at the Annual Meeting.” Additionally, they continue seek opportunities to visually display their impact in the store. “Our story is bursting out in all ways. We are not just telling our story on one day, we make it an everyday thing.”

The Ends report is treated as a strategic document for communication and relationship-building. In addition to people feeling more informed about the co-op, one outcome is that the co-op is also perceived as being a very transparent business. The Ends inform the co-op’s product standards, and delineate the co-op’s commitment to equity and ownership. “We don’t want people to feel like there are surprises about the co-op; we can’t overcommunicate.”

The co-op is also currently seeking a location for a second store, and Arthur said it’s her goal that communications be “replicable and clear.” This allows the co-op to get ready externally and internally for communication and feedback from many different people. Using the Ends, the co-op is currently engaged in reviewing and revamping its internal policies and training programs. And as to external communication, as the membership grows and second store plans progress, the co-op wants to better communicate with them about what’s going on. “A lot of questions we have about the future refer back to the Ends where it all flows. It helps make it easier to communicate.”

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One Comment

  1. Ann February 8, 2018 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Please come to South Knoxvill!!!

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