Finding Balance in Preparation

You might not think serving up cake at a co-op is typical to the duties of a board director, but when you consider the importance of maintaining open relationships with more than 12,000 owners, it’s a good way for the board to connect with those they represent.

By: Charli Mills, Editor, Living Naturally (Valley Natural Foods’ print publication). Featured in the Spring 2016 Living Naturally edition. Click here to view the entire issue.
Ashlee Secord, board director for Valley Natural Foods, understands the call of multiple priorities that require time and attention. One afternoon she might serve cake and on another evening she might discuss board governance issues with her fellow directors. In between, she manages her personal priorities. It’s about finding balance.

She says, “Much like my friends and family,I am busy! I personally live and breathe according to my Google calendar.” Secord manages to balance her daily life through scheduling. She contributes to the co-op using the same approach. In addition to scheduling her monthly board meetings, Secord sets aside time to prepare.

Preparation is also important to the board as a whole. The role of the board of directors is to represent the owners of the cooperative based on policy governance. Through this process, the board supports operations and ensures that the role of general manager systematically monitored. When it comes to governance and support, the board prepares within the boundaries of their policies and executive limitations.

A major priority requiring the attention of all board directors and the operational side of the co-op is the opportunity to expand. Secord says that of the meetings she’s attended the past 12 months, expansion has been a topic of discussion. It is not taken lightly and requires tremendous preparation. It’s a great balancing act to support a thriving enterprise and consider how to take it to the next level of multiple store fronts.

Preparation includes the communication of ongoing research and what happens in between each meeting. As Secord relates, it’s a lot of work. When they organize their preparations, the board manages the balance needed to further the expansion planning.

The co-op function in balance between this process of board governance and daily operations. As Ashlee explains it, operations directly support owner interests and vice versa. The board of directors seek to understand, review and monitor both.

And some days, the board serves cake. That’s like taking time to enjoy the essentials in life we find important.


Watch for a Call for Candidates in the store and in next issue of Living Naturally (July 1). You can state your interest any time to your board of directors. The board always welcomes feedback from the owners they serve. Leave a note in the suggestion box at Valley Natural Foods or email them at

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