Just like any business structure, the most important thing is its people. Cooperatives are owned by its members, but the daily operations are run by management and employees.
“Management of a cooperative is often incorrectly thought of as including only the hired manager and his key staff. This is far from the truth. Cooperative management should be regarded as a team consisting of four elements — members (owners), board of directors (elected), the manager (hired), and other responsible employees (paid)”. https://www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CIR_45-6.pdf
Management, CEO or Presidents of the cooperative, work one on one with the cooperatives board of directors to ensure the cooperative is running smoothly and successfully. With the board having full trust in the general manager/CEO and understanding the responsibilities that each have to the cooperative can create a seamless relationship. The responsibility of the board of directors is to decide how the cooperative will operative, while the management them implements the boards decisions. Management has the responsibility to supervise employees, oversee the daily operations of the cooperative, hire, train, and fire employees of the cooperative, and represent the cooperative. While is it the responsibility of the board to make sure the cooperative is in good financial standing, it is the responsibility of management to safeguard that accounting and financial records are correct. Having a general manger that understands the mission of the cooperative, their responsibility and motivated in seeing the cooperative run successfully, effectively, and smoothly can create a positive effect on the cooperative.
Be aware that not all cooperatives operate the same. Cooperatives are finding new and innovative ways with the changing economic times. For example, COBA/Select Sires are sharing the role of general manger/CEO. Chris Sigerson manages both cooperatives in a dule role beginning in 2021.
Employees, normally are not members of the cooperative unless they are part of a worker-owned cooperative, are supervised by management. Working directly with members of the cooperative or those that use the cooperative services and resources, employees interact daily as the face of the cooperative. Being the ones to directly interact with those that use the cooperative services, it is imperative that employees understand the workings of the cooperative, the mission, and policies so they are able to make the most informed decisions when helping members.
Released by the USDA, “Understanding Cooperatives: Manager & Employees”, the publication explains it best, “In a small local cooperative, the manager can maintain good relations between the cooperative organization and its members. That personal contact keeps the members informed of their cooperative’s activities. Immediate feedback from members is encouraged to keep the manager informed of problems, needs, and evaluation of services. Situations can be quite different in larger cooperatives. Personnel hired by regional cooperatives may have sole responsibility for building cooperative image as they serve members. The only cooperative employees that members may encounter regularly from annual meeting to annual meeting may be the individual pumping the gas, the person answering the telephone, the truck driver picking up their milk, or the cashier. To the average member, they are the voice of the cooperative.” https://www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CIR_45-6.pdf