Are you ready for company?

Author:Brown, Andy

"Company's coming!" In the small-town, pre-Internet, pre-videogame world that I grew up in, those words were almost always good news. It usually meant that friends or relatives were on their way, and that our family would enjoy visits with people of importance to us. Or sometimes, the company would be more official in nature, such as the local priest or minister, or someone calling from a community business. But nonetheless, it was always very nice to welcome someone to our home--except for one thing.

That "one thing," to which I refer, would be my mother's last minute call for us all to pitch in to make sure that our house was "ready" for company. My mother demanded that things be straightened up, not for us, but for the company, for she had a knack of looking at our home through the eyes of the visitors and seeing things that were out of place. I must admit that our family occasionally balked at the scramble to put things in order before the company arrived, but we often marveled at how much better things looked once we did so.

In the cooperative world, looking at day to day operations from a different perspective is a hard thing to do, but, as in my family's example, can be rewarding. And, in the case of cooperatives, it may be imperative to do so because "company" really is coming.

Cooperative leaders devote much of their time communicating their desire for others to respect the cooperative business model. Cooperatives have justifiably boasted their ability to deliver a wide range of food, utility, housing, financial, and other vital services to member-owners efficiently and economically. But, the cooperative story is still relatively unknown in mainstream business, academic, and consumer circles. That lack of awareness is ripe to change, and in part because of the current economic conditions, it just might.

Witness the recent appearance of National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) Vice President Adam Schwartz on CNN's "Issue #1" new program devoted to rising food prices. Adam did an excellent job promoting the ability of food cooperatives to provide an economical food distribution alternative, and he also put in a good word for member controlled cooperatives in all cooperative sectors.

Adam, in effect, used CNN as a platform to invite consumers, the press and others to look us over. One the one hand, the cooperative movement had to be thrilled with Adam's initiative. But, are we ready for the scrutiny? Better yet, is your cooperative ready?...

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