Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 81 of 115

requires a higher percentage and looks for full consensus when possible. W/N W/N started with a similar structure: Working groups made their own decisions up to a specifi c dollar amount, while larger decisions were made by consensus at week- ly meetings. For Michael and other founding members, "it was a very resource-consuming process," and all founding members ended up leaving except Michael, who returned after a year off. Dealing with burnout and a lack of interest in ownership from hourly workers put the labor of maintaining operations in the front seat, and W/N W/N's primary business shifted from slow evenings and late-night dance parties to a full-service restaurant, café, and bar. "It operates more hierarchically than in the past, with myself acting as gen- eral manager," Michael continues. "Under this format, I confer with staff regarding many decisions and use our founding principles to guide my hiring, collaborations, and partner- ships, but maintain a fi nal say on all operat- ing decisions." Michael also emphasized that in a co-op, in- terpersonal dynamics really matter. "So much trust and vulnerability must be cultivated in order to weather the emotional and fi nancial stress of running a restaurant. If those things aren't in place before the clock starts ticking and money starts changing hands, it can feel impossible to fi nd the time or space to devote to building it. I cannot stress that enough to a group thinking about forming a cooperative," he says. COMMUNITY ENGAGE- MENT AND PATHWAYS TO OWNERSHIP One of the best parts of the worker coopera- tive model is the inroads it creates for people to become business owners. At Thread, every member has the oppor- tunity to pursue worker-ownership. "Not everyone ends up being a good fi t, but we try to give feedback and check in along the way so that employees have the opportunity to grow into an ownership role if they want to," says worker-owner Michelle Fleming. "The road to starting a business is long, treacherous, and fl at-out inaccessible for most people," says Chris of Alchemy. "Few workers that we bring on ever thought they could own a business. No one comes on with that experience, but they learn to be entrepreneurs. We go over fi nance reports together, crunch numbers, and hash out tough decisions. We gradually give new peo- ple responsibilities such as ordering, delivery, and setting up vendor accounts, so that we all carry the weight and responsibility of own- ership together. It's a beautiful thing to watch a new member go from timidly participating in meetings to bringing in strong proposals and sparking discussions that will make the business stronger." Workers go through a trial period at Alchemy which requires six months and 500 work hours. If at the end of the trial period the group is not 100 percent sure the person is the right fi t, they put together a report about concerns and extend the trial process by a month. Sometimes they can tell it's just not the right fi t and communicate honestly about it. Determining whether a person has the potential to successfully jive with the established culture and protocol is a challenge any business owner has faced. The wrong decision almost always results in negative repercussions down the line. At Alchemy, the member in question is invited to a meeting about the issues other members are having, and why the group feels the relationship isn't working anymore. The person then gets a chance to address DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COOPERATIVES AND TRADITIONAL BUSINESS MODELS: Worker Co-ops Traditional Businesses Owned and operated by workers. Owned by owners who may or may not work within the busi- ness. Investment comes from workers. Investment comes from owners and/or outside investors. Worker-owners or members make major decisions by voting and consensus. Owners and/or managers make major decisions with or without employee knowledge, input, or consensus. Employees have pathway to ownership. Employees rarely have pathway to ownership . Employees often take on responsibility as desired with commu- nication from the whole group. Employees are usually allocated responsibilities by a manager. Departments are often run by subcommittees. Departments are usually run by a manager. Profi ts are shared among members, worker-owners, and/or employees or candidates. Profi ts are sometimes shared, but it's not an essential part of the business model. Sources: 82 barista magazine

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of Barista Magazine - OCT-NOV 2018