3rd Biennial Ohio Co-op Law Conference a Success

During the month of January, attorneys, co-op developers and co-op minded individuals gathered in Columbus for the 3rd Biennial Ohio Co-op Law Conference. This two day event held a wide variety of co-op law related sessions with topics ranging from employment law and worker co-ops to experts speaking on housing cooperatives with nearly 40 in attendance.

Keynote speaker, Doug O’Brien, President and CEO of NCBA CLUSA, spoke to attendees on ‘Cooperatives for the Modern Era’. Doug touched on the current role that cooperatives have in todays society and how cooperatives could be more relevant in the future with the economy. All which addressing how getting involved can help bring more awareness to cooperatives, whether it be at a state, local or federal level working on policy or working one on one with cooperative groups to bring awareness and education.

On day two, Nathan Schneider, Professor of Media, Communication and Information at University of Colorado Boulder spoke on the future of cooperatives and the 21 century. Nathan discussed how individuals need to be an advocate for cooperatives and to be aware of the gaps that we see in society.

Professor Ariana Levinson, University of Louisville,  spoke on the topic of worker co-ops and employment law discussing the legal structure that can distinguish the worker owners from the employees and breaking down some of the legal structure that is in place for classification. While panelists’ spoke on how the legal community has helped navigate and support the development of cooperatives around the area.

Those in attendance were able to engage with one another throughout the event networking and bringing relative issues to the forefront to be discussed. Coming from across the country, representatives from Texas, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Tennessee gathered together to learn more on defining the cooperative legal structure and how to guide cooperatives with resources.

With plans to meet again in 2025, organizers are already meeting to create another engaging conference. Stay tuned and hope to see you at the next conference!

Wait, Who Owns that Photo? A Basic Intro to Copyright for Small Business Marketing

As the calendar turns to a new year, it is a natural time for entrepreneurs to consider how they want to improve and to plan for the coming month, quarter, and even year. It is also a great time to review past marketing strategies and plan for the coming year. Have you thought about how you can improve your business’s marketing in the new year? Here are some thoughts to consider.

Marketing and Legal Considerations: Intellectual Property

Whether a business is thinking about entering a new market channel, wants to reach a different target customer group, is planning to refresh its website, or thinks a new social media platform would be useful, business marketing and branding can include legal considerations, including factors like content ownership and the use, protection, and monitoring of intellectual property like trademarks and copyright, among various other areas.[1]

As they market themselves and their products, businesses may create intellectual property and that may be useful to monitor or protect, depending on its value and many other factors. Also, businesses may need to use others’ intellectual property in their marketing efforts and will likely want to avoid infringing others’ property rights as they do.  The following is a brief introduction to one basic area of intellectual property, copyright, and may be helpful. As small businesses develop or update their marketing plans, it may be useful to consult with an attorney about potential intellectual property needs.

Multi-colored graphic of thought bubbles and text boxes connected by arrows

Introducing Copyright Basic Concepts

What is copyright?

Copyright law protects “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. . . “[2] In general, a copyright gives the owner legal rights to reproduce copies, distribute copies, display or perform a work, and develop derivative works.[3]

Some examples of copyrightable works include: websites, pictures, advertisements, musical recordings, business plans, software, sales presentations, and more! Facts and ideas are not copyrightable.[4]

Who owns a copyright?

In general, initially the author of a copyrightable work owns the copyright.[5] However, an employer generally owns the work created by its employees in the scope of their employment.[6] Further, when a certain type of copyrightable work is specially ordered or commissioned from an independent contractor, the party who commissioned the work owns the copyright if there is a written agreement to that effect.[7] Copyright owners can transfer parts or all of their ownership.[8]

How is a copyright created?

When a work that qualifies for copyright protection (e.g., the work is original and expresses a minimal level of creativity) is “fixed in a tangible medium” (for example, when it is written, recorded, or saved in a digital format), it is protected by copyright. As one guide for entrepreneurs put it, “No action is required to obtain copyright protection,” and while a copyright notice may be advisable, it is not a legal requirement.[9] However, registration of a copyright can confer additional rights and benefits, including the right to sue for infringement.[10]

Social Media Platforms and Intellectual Property

Social media platforms offer various opportunities for small businesses to market their products and services, like the ability to connect with large audiences for little or no cost.[11] As entrepreneurs use social media platforms to market their products, services, or businesses, they should be aware that these platforms may have specific policies related to intellectual property. For example, TikTok’s Intellectual Property Policy states that it is a violation of the platform’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines to post, share, or send content that violates or infringes another’s copyrights, trademarks, or intellectual property.[12] For a deeper dive into music use on TikTok, check out the article, “Music Licensing in the Age of TikTok.”

Developing a Marketing Plan

Outline of head with multi-colored graphics of business icons like pie chart, bar chart, and gearsAs businesses consider their marketing opportunities for the coming year, a written marketing plan may help keep ideas organized, track progress, and communicate plans with key team members. Some questions to consider in developing a marketing plan include:

  • What is the profile of your target customer(s)?
  • What product or service are you marketing?
  • What is your advantage compared to competitors?
  • What promotion strategies will you use?
  • What are your sales goals or forecast?
  • How will you measure outcomes and success?

Tools and Resources for Entrepreneurs

As entrepreneurs build digital marketing strategies, they will likely need images, videos, graphics, and other content. Various online outlets offer imagery like photos, illustrations, graphics, and video, as well as sound like music and sound effects, that are licensed for users to use for little or no cost.

Want to learn how to build a website for your business or enhance your social media marketing strategies?  Connect with the Small Business Development Center at The Ohio State University South Centers, which covers a 10-county region in southern Ohio.

Looking for help developing or updating a marketing plan for your small business? Connect with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). SBDC’s offer free business consulting and at-cost training to small businesses across the country. Find your local SBDC online here.

Food and farm entrepreneurs who want to learn more about direct marketing their products can explore the Ohio State University Extension Direct Food & Agricultural Marketing program, including online resources like webinar recordings and short videos.

Important note: This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is not a substitute for the need to consult with an appropriately licensed attorney.

 

Sources:

[1] “The Legal Implications of Social Media Marketing & Advertising.” (n.d.). Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. https://www.pillsburylaw.com/images/content/1/0/v2/102362/FACTSHEET-SocialMediaMarketingAdvert.pdf

[2] 17 U.S.C. §102

[3] 17 U.S.C. §106

[4] Bagley, C. & Dauchy, C. (2012). “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law: 4th Edition.” South-Western, Cengage Learning: Mason, Ohio.

[5] 17 U.S.C. §201(a)

[6] 17 U.S.C. §201(b)

[7] Circular 30: Works Made for Hire. (2021). United States Copyright Office. https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ30.pdf

[8] 17 U.S.C. 201(d).

[9] Bagley, C. & Dauchy, C. (2012). “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law: 4th Edition.” 534. South-Western, Cengage Learning: Mason, Ohio.

[10] Id.

[11] Fountain, T. (Jan. 25, 2021). “Why Small Businesses and Startups Should Invest in Social Media Marketing.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/01/25/why-small-businesses-and-startups-should-invest-in-social-media-marketing/?sh=3e686afe563e

[12] Intellectual Property Policy. (June 7, 2021) TikTok. https://www.tiktok.com/legal/copyright-policy?lang=en

Leading the Co-op: Director Key Responsibilities and Board Training Programs

One of the unique aspects of the cooperative business model is that members democratically control the enterprise.[1] Commonly, cooperative members elect a representative board of directors to govern the business.

Cooperative directors are tasked with varied and sometimes complex tasks, from monitoring financial performance to assessing the co-op’s general manager and more. In serving in a vital role in their cooperative, directors also take on various responsibilities – some of them legal in nature. Key among these responsibilities are the fiduciary duties directors owe to members, other directors, and the cooperative.[2]

  • Duty of care – Generally, requires that cooperative directors use care in their actions as judged based on the care that an ordinarily prudent person in a similar position would exercise. Directors are generally expected to make informed decisions, exercise reasoned judgement, and adequately supervise those to whom they delegate responsibilities.[3]
  • Duty of loyalty – Generally, requires that cooperative directors act in good faith and for the benefit of the cooperative, including not receiving preferential treatment compared to other members and appropriately addressing or avoiding conflicts of interest.[4]
  • Duty of obedience – Generally, requires that cooperative directors comply with applicable laws and authorities. It is important for directors to be generally familiar with key authorities like the co-op’s bylaws, articles of incorporation, policies, and other key legal instruments.[5]

A deeper dive into the legal responsibilities of agricultural cooperative directors, “Navigating Your Legal Duties: A Guide for Agricultural Cooperative Directors,” is intended as a practical resource for directors that includes self-assessment tools to help directors identify areas where they can learn more. The resource is published by the National Agricultural Law Center.

For a wider-view of the types of responsibilities that directors take on in leading their cooperative, “The Circle of Responsibilities for Co-op Boards,” by James Baarda is a helpful publication.

Tan office chairs around circular meeting table

Most Cooperatives Provide Board Training in Key Responsibilities

Cooperative board training programs can help directors understand their roles and responsibilities, including ensuring that new directors, and even seasoned directors, have a firm grasp of their fiduciary duties, among other areas. In a survey of 500 cooperatives across industry sectors and the United States, co-op enterprises shared the topics in which they train directors:

  • 80% or more of responding cooperatives train board members in fiduciary duties, financial topics, and the cooperative model
  • Many cooperatives, between 53% and 78% of responding cooperatives train directors in ethics and compliance, industry-specific topics, legal and regulatory issues, and risk management
  • Almost half of responding cooperatives (49%) train directors in corporate social responsibility/sustainability/social impact
  • Some responding cooperatives train their directors in meeting facilitation and conflict resolution – 41% and 32%, respectively[6]

Training is a Key Part of Global Co-op Principles

According to the globally-recognized cooperative principles stewarded by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), Principle 5: Education, Training and Information recognizes that, “Co-operatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. . .”[7] The ICA’s Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles clarify what might seem like a redundant phrasing – education, training, and information have distinct, important meanings:

“ ‘Education’ is about understanding the Co-operative Principles and Values and knowing how to apply them in the day-to-day operations of a co-operative business…”

“ ‘Training’ is about developing the practical skills members and employees need to run a co-operative in according with efficient and ethical business practices and to democratically control their co-operative business responsibly and transparently.”

“ ‘Information’ is a duty to make sure that others who are members of the general public . . . know about co-operative enterprise.” [8]

Graphic of light colored light bulb and hands connecting colored puzzle pieces

A Commitment to Continued Learning: Developing a Board Training Program

As directors navigate complex business landscapes trying to ensure their cooperative enterprise is responsive to members’ needs and remain sustainable over the long-term, training programs can help directors develop their technical and soft skills. To develop a board training program, cooperatives may look both internally and externally. For example, training programs may be specifically constructed and hosted by a local cooperative’s key employees or by a federated cooperative partner. Various education and nonprofit institutions that work with or support cooperative enterprises like councils, cooperative associations, and universities that offer generalized training opportunities and educational resources. Further, industry-based associations, like agribusiness, housing, or financial industry associations, often host learning sessions, updates, and professional development opportunities.

As cooperative managers, directors, entrepreneurs, and developers look toward a new calendar year, prioritizing training that can help directors lead their co-op more effectively may be a worthy goal to add to the list of resolutions!

Important note: This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not legal advice and is not a substitute for the need to consult with an appropriately licensed attorney.

 

Sources

[1] “Cooperative identity, values & principles.” (2018).  International Cooperative Alliance. https://www.ica.coop/en/cooperatives/cooperative-identity

[2] Scott, H. & Traxinger, M. E. (2021). “Navigating Your Legal Duties: A Guide for Agricultural Cooperative Directors.” National Agricultural Law Center. https://nalcpro.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads//assets/articles/Co-op-directors-guide.pdf

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Berner, C. & Schlachter, L.H. (2022). “Findings from the Cooperative Governance Research Initiative: 2021.” University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Cooperatives, 31. https://resources.uwcc.wisc.edu/Research/CGRI_2021Report_web.pdf

[7] “Cooperative identity, values & principles.” (2018).  International Cooperative Alliance. https://www.ica.coop/en/cooperatives/cooperative-identity

[8] “Guidance Notes on the Cooperative Principles.” (2017). International Cooperative Alliance, 59. https://ica.coop/en/media/library/the-guidance-notes-on-the-co-operative-principles

3rd Biennial Cooperative Law Conference

Have you heard about the 3rd Biennial Cooperative Law Conference? With the last conference being held in 2020 in virtual format, we are happy to come back together and hold this event as an in-person conference packed with great speakers and informative sessions. This two day event will be held on January 24-25, 2023 at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center located on The Ohio State University campus in Columbus, Ohio. The conference focus being “Cooperative for the Modern Era”, participants will hear from leading experts in the cooperative field by attending workshops, panel discussions and keynote sessions discussing the tools that cooperatives need to help in the growth of a resilient, and just of a local economy. Networking time is scheduled throughout the day for individuals to connect with others to create and foster cooperative relationships.

For more information and details and how to register for this event, click here.

Who should attend?

Whether you are based in the legal sector, cooperative sector, or interested in the cooperative business model, this conference will offer informative education for all. Encouraging not only those within the state of Ohio, but those in the region to participate! This experience will show how professionals can spark the movement to empower community based initiatives to be the power to change through cooperatives and social enterprise while building relationships through our network.

Keynote Speaker

Keynote speaker Nathan Schneider will be featured on day two, presenting on the topic “21 century cooperatives: multistakeholder, platform, and DAO cooperatives – what’s new? (future of coops)”. Nathan is an associate professor with the University of Colorado Boulder with his studies in religion, technology and democracy has recently focused on democracy ownership and technology. In 2020, Nathan published, “Exit to Community: A Community Primer“, which focuses on how companies can readjust their business model to offer ownership to those within the company to create a community of stakeholders.

Nathan Schneider

This conference is being organized by attorney Jacqueline Radebaugh and several cooperators. Thank you to the following sponsors and all those involved for making this event happen!

 

 

Hope to see you all in Columbus!

Why Small Businesses Should Consider Video in Social Media Marketing

Social media platforms offer numerous opportunities for small businesses as they market their products and services – from free access to broad and vast audiences of potential customers to opportunities to drive traffic to websites where businesses are selling goods or services to tools for selling products and services directly on social platforms.

The importance and reach of video marketing on social media platforms means that entrepreneurs developing their social media marketing strategies and building their digital skills would be well-advised to invest in creating video content. Consider that:

For more information about social media and video marketing, including a helpful overview of how different social media platforms utilize video and tips for effectively incorporating video into marketing for various platforms, check out this guide from Vimeo. Vimeo also has a blog dedicated to video marketing for business with articles and resources ranging from “Small Business Saturday ideas for both planners and procrastinators” to “How to set up Instagram Shopping for your small business.”

Illustrated image of computer screen with various graphics, including play symbol, money symbol, text bubble, light bulb, and megaphone.

Upcoming “Foodpreneur School” to Focus on Social Media Marketing for Food & Farm Entrepreneurs

Food and farm entrepreneurs ready to learn more about using social media marketing and creating impactful video for marketing, join us for “Foodpreneur School” in Hillsboro, Ohio on Tuesday, October 25, 2022! Foodpreneur School is an educational program for food and farm entrepreneurs ready to grow through enhanced sales and marketing. Experts from Ohio State University will teach entrepreneurs about creating impactful video content and effectively using social media for small business marketing. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to bring their preferred devices (mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) for managing their social media presence, as the session will be interactive! Learn more and sign up for no-cost online.

If you require an accommodation, such as translation, to participate in this event, please contact Samantha Black at black.1156@osu.edu or 614-247-9705. Requests made two weeks in advance will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visitcfaesdiversity.osu.edu.

Unleash the Potential of Cooperative Management Upcoming Online Workshop

As we are aware, cooperatives offer a tremendous amount of opportunities, while opening a door to vast networking and knowledge exchange among their members, stakeholders and even their customers.  Cooperatives agree to a set of principles, the first of which is “voluntary and open membership.” Through this cooperative principle, any individual willing to accept the responsibility of membership and who wishes to use the services of a cooperative are welcome to become a member and should be allowed to voluntarily join the cooperative.  The open membership principle can be contradictive to today’s corporate business practices as firms try to find the “best talent” to compete in their industry. If you or your company are finding yourselves in this situation, consider attending the workshop “Unleash the Potential of Cooperative Management” to gain a better understanding of how the cooperative principle of “voluntary and open membership” can become an advantage for yourself, your business, or your team. You will take away a set of tools to discover the untapped skills that exist within your organization and be able to invite your team members to contribute in new ways.  Please join us for this free workshop on Tuesday, October 18th from 1:00- 2:00 p.m.  To register visit: go.osu.edu/potential. This course will be taught by Daniella Mostow.

Daniella is the founder of MightWe, a consulting firm that helps teams collaborate better even when the challenges are complex, and solutions are unclear. She leads teams through conversations to gain a deeper understanding of core opportunities and experiment with innovative solutions. MightWe is committed to supporting small businesses and worker cooperatives in order to strengthen local economies and create more opportunities for people to shape their futures.

Get Ready for Co-Op Month- Celebrate the History!

You may be aware that Co-Op Month is celebrated in October, but are you aware of some of the history behind the holiday? Several states across the United States began celebrating the holiday in the mid-1930’s, but it wasn’t until Minnesota declared the month ‘official,’ with a proclamation in 1948, that Co-Op Month was designated in that state.  It would take 16 years to gain national recognition, but in 1964 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman, also a former Minnesota governor, proclaimed October Co-op Month for the entire country.  The first theme of the national celebration of Co-op Month was “Cooperatives: USDA Helps Build a Better America.”

Since that time, co-ops have been excitedly celebrating Co-Op Month each October across the country working together to build, grow and be more resilient in their respective communities.  Many also use it as an opportunity to tell their stories and share the collective impact co-ops have throughout the country.

According to the Cooperative Network, “It is a time for cooperative businesses to reflect on their shared principles and to educate others about the value of belonging to a cooperative.”  Today, we continue to celebrate the over 40,000 cooperatives, that provide more than $25 billion in wages in the United States alone.  It is also estimated that there are 350 million members of cooperatives nationwide, including those members that belong to more than one cooperative.

According to a 2021 report from the USDA, “the largest number of farmer cooperatives are in Minnesota, followed by Texas, North Dakota, California and Wisconsin.  Farm cooperatives did the most business in Iowa ($18.3 billion) followed by Minnesota ($16.2 billion), California, Illinois and Wisconsin.”

This year’s theme, ‘Co-Ops Build Economic Power’ brings to light the power of cooperative business to strengthen the economy.  According to the National Cooperative Business Association, “As businesses face inflation and supply chain challenges, cooperatives provide stability and opportunity. As employees question their role in the economy, cooperatives are creating dignified, empowering jobs with paths to ownership and wealth-building. As communities tire of rhetoric, cooperatives are creating the meaningful diversity and equity at the heart of an inclusive economy.”

Here at The Ohio State University South Centers, Center for Cooperatives, we plan to celebrate Co-Op Month all October long with informative articles and podcasts, information from our partners and much more.  Be sure and follow our Facebook page, as well as our Twitter account so you don’t miss out on how we celebrate!

Developing your Business’s Social Media Marketing Strategy

In a 2017 survey of over 3,000 consumers in the U.S., Germany, Colombia, and Mexico, 35% of people reported they go to social media for information when they’re considering buying something and want to research options. That figure was closer to 50% for consumers aged 18-34.

As small businesses and entrepreneurs consider how they will market their products, social media can offer numerous potential benefits – from helping build brand awareness, to offering a way of reaching large audiences in a cost effective way, and driving traffic to a business’s website, among many other opportunities.

An individual working at a computer.

Developing a Social Media Strategy

Consider these four questions from a 2020 Harvard Business Review article as you develop your social media strategy:

  1. “What are your goals?”

Are you trying to expand to a new geography? Launch a new product? Increase sales? Whatever the answer, your strategy should be tailored to fit your goals, so start out by identifying those goals. Remember to ensure your goals are SMART – specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timed.

  1. “Which platforms should you use?”

Different social media platforms have different formats, business tools, and more. For example, Facebook has useful business tools like detailed analytics and allows businesses to incorporate lots of information like contact details and hours of operation. Meanwhile, Pinterest and Instagram are highly visual platforms with focus on photo and video content; categories like food and DIY projects are some of Pinterest’s most popular categories. Check out the “Social media platforms for businesses” section of this recent article from Business News Daily to learn about the different business tools and formats of major social media platforms.

  1. “What is your content strategy?”

Will you use pictures? Video? To develop effective digital marketing for a small business, entrepreneurs will need to consider the type of content that is right for them based on their target customers, their resources, and more. Authors writing for the Harvard Business Review counsel, “Your content should be unique, useful, and shareable.”

  1. “Are you ready to talk with your audience – in real time?”

Social media platforms offer opportunities for businesses to engage with their customers and it is important for businesses to relate to and interact with customers on social platforms. As one author shared tips for businesses using social media, “Create a consistent voice and tone . . . one that resonates with your audience and influences how they see your brand.” If you’re using social media for customer service functions, consider that 42% of consumers expect a business to respond to complaints raised via social media within 60 minutes.

Upcoming “Foodpreneur School” to Focus on Social Media Marketing for Food & Farm Entrepreneurs

If you’re a food and farm entrepreneur ready to learn more about using social media marketing, join us in Hillsboro, Ohio on Tuesday, October 25, 2022! Foodpreneur School is an educational program for food and farm entrepreneurs who are ready to grow through enhanced sales and marketing. Speakers at the October 25 session will include experts from Ohio State University sharing the ins-and-outs of social media marketing for small business and insights on creating impactful video content for marketing. The session will include hands-on learning opportunities and entrepreneurs are encouraged to bring along their preferred devices (mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) for managing their social media presence. Learn more about the session and sign up for no-cost online!

If you require an accommodation, such as translation, to participate in this event, please contact Samantha Black at black.1156@osu.edu or 614-247-9705. Requests made two weeks in advance, will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.

CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visitcfaesdiversity.osu.edu.

CFAES Center for Cooperatives is Hiring a Cooperative Development Program Specialist!  

The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives seeks a collaborative, organized, and goal-oriented individual to serve as a cooperative development specialist and to contribute to the applied research, teaching, and Extension functions of the Center.

Learn more about the position and apply online!

 

For questions, please contact Hannah Scott at scott.1220@osu.edu or Beth Rigsby at rigsby.22@osu.edu.

The Ohio State University is an equal opportunity employer.

Two hands holding up a sign that reads, "We are hiring!"

Cooperative “Difference” Creates Opportunity for Shared Management Approach

Chris Sigurdson has worked in the dairy and beef industries for over 30 years. Today, he jokes that he has more than 20 bosses, literally. Sigurdson is the general manager/CEO of both COBA/Select Sires Inc. and Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, Inc. In late 2021, Sigurdson began leading the two farmer-owned cooperatives in a shared role meant to help the companies boost members’ value and continue meeting the changing needs of dairy and beef producers across the United States  and in Mexico.

Context Lays Groundwork for Shared Management Approach

As bovine genetics companies, Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, Inc., and COBA/Select Sires Inc. have faced evolving marketplaces in their decades of operation, including substantial consolidation of dairy farms, technological and genetic innovations, and increases in operating costs. In particular, changes in the dairy industry have had important impacts on the two cooperatives –  a high proportion of production dairies in the United States use artificial insemination for breeding.

COBA/Select Sires Inc. and Minnesota/Select Sires Co-op, Inc. are both members of the federated cooperative, Select Sires, Inc. headquartered in Plain City, Ohio, and owned by six farmer-owned cooperatives. In 2021, Select Sires, Inc. members considered a proposal to unify the federation into a single cooperative that did not ultimately move forward. However, having a shared background as members in a cooperative federation, being similarly structured as farmer-owned cooperatives, sharing a desire to continue serving farmer-owners, and with COBA/Select Sires planning for the retirement of their general manager, the two boards decided to move forward with a shared general manager/CEO position in late 2021. COBA/Select Sires, Inc. is governed by a 15-member board, while Minnesota Select Sires Co-op, Inc. is governed by a nine-member board.

Shared Resource Opportunities May Create Efficiencies

COBA/Select Sires serves farmers in Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, and portions of Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, while Minnesota/Select Sires’ service territory includes Minnesota and North Dakota. The two companies have a combined portfolio of $53 million in business and more than 170 employees. In addition to his own leadership position, Sigurdson cites shared resource opportunities like leveraging marketing communications across companies, creating career pipelines and potential connections to new talent, and potential operational opportunities in shipping, storage, and business systems, among others, that might help the two cooperatives reach their goal of effectively serving farmer-members while lowering expenses per unit sold.

Multiple blue gears with various business related graphics inside, such as a light bulb, people, and target.

Sigurdson Shares Approach at Online Cooperative Roundtable

Sigurdson spoke about the reasons for the shared management approach, his role, and opportunities for additional resource sharing among the two companies to cooperative stakeholders during a recent online “Cooperative Roundtable” hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives at Ohio State in partnership with the Mid America Cooperative Council (MACC).

Cooperative Roundtables are online learning opportunities hosted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives and MACC as opportunities to learn from industry experts about current issues facing the cooperative community. Past roundtable topics have included strategic talent planning, cybersecurity in agribusiness, and recognizing diversity and inclusion among co-op members, among other topics. Sign up for the CFAES Center for Cooperatives email list to receive information about future Cooperative Roundtables.