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Your Board

Hi, I'm Your Board

Outpost's Board of Directors will use this blog to discuss issues the board is exploring as it envisions Outpost's future. Can't make it to a meeting? Check here frequently to read what the Board is up to. Your current Outpost Board of Directors,...
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Your Board

Sounding Board

Sounding Board
By Your Board on December 11, 2014

As I finish my first year on the Outpost board, and with an eye to encouraging others to run, I thought it was a good time to reflect on my experience as a board member. In doing so, I hope to illustrate the role of a board and the importance of having members that come from diverse backgrounds. 

A board has a fiduciary duty to the owners to provide oversight of the organization’s management. Members should bring technical expertise, but they also should be able to represent the varied interests of stakeholders – both the owners and the community to which the organization belongs.

In my mind, serving on a board should be done intentionally. At its best, such service provides a reciprocal benefit. The board gets a capable and well-rounded member of its team, and the member receives the benefit of an extraordinary experience. Accordingly, one should consider not only what you have to offer the board, but also how serving on it can benefit you – both personally and professionally.

What I brought to the board was professional expertise in business law and an interest in neighborhood economic development. What the board offered me was the rare opportunity to further my understanding of cooperatives and the experience of overseeing a sophisticated business enterprise. Ultimately, however, none of this would have mattered if Outpost wasn’t a company that I respected, and that was so intrinsically involved in the community.

As a large and well-established organization, Outpost operates with a good deal of inertia. If it’s doing its job right, the board should provide firm, but nuanced oversight. As the organization moves forward, it is refining its operations rather than making big changes. I like to think of it as sharpening the saw.

As Outpost has grown, the focus has been less on how it can succeed and more on how it can better serve the community. The issues it confronts are the same complicated ones that this the greater Milwaukee area faces: if it is going to succeed, it needs an increasingly diverse set of skills and backgrounds.

As I look back on my first year, the symbiotic relationship I have outlined above has paid back in spades. Board service has been all of what I expected and more. But the most important benefit has been one that I didn’t expect – the experience of having my own strong views tested and vetted by eight other board members. The board speaks with one voice. When it does so, it speaks with much more wisdom and authority than it would as the sum of individual voices. And I believe that the individual board members come away stronger and smarter as well.

As we enter into campaign season for board members, it’s a good time to think – am I interested in serving my cooperative? Do I have a skill set that would complement the current board?  If you do, consider this an invitation to join the fray.

If you’re interested in running for a seat on Outpost’s board, please fill out an online application at www.outpost.coop/board_nominations by February 1, 2015.

 

By Director, Jan Pierce

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