Trading Up

Dear Members,

One warm Canadian summer, a tenacious young entrepreneur and blogger named Kyle MacDonald conducted an interesting experiment. First, he posted a picture of a red paperclip on the barter section of Craigslist. Then he asked if anyone wanted to make a trade. MacDonald’s goal was to incrementally “trade up” and see where the process would lead him.

A few days later, MacDonald traded the paperclip for a fish-shaped pen. Then the pen for a doorknob. Then the doorknob for a camp stove. Then the stove for a generator. On and on it went, one trade after another.

Over the course of a year, MacDonald traded 14 times. The outcome of his final trade? A two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan. You read that right. MacDonald ultimately traded a red paperclip for a house. In the process, he also traded his red paperclip for a website, a book, a TED Talk, and a new career.

The point of this story is that we all make choices; we all regularly trade one thing for another. What and how we trade says a lot about who we are. One person may trade less time for more money. Another may trade less money for more time. There’s no real right or wrong. It all comes down to what’s important to you based on your own needs and goals.

In an email to all Co-op employees a few weeks ago, I wrote about an innovative approach we’re taking to our sales goals in 2018. I’m particularly excited about this, because to me, we’re trading up.

In 2018, we’ll be pursuing modest, but reasonable, sales growth so that we can put a greater emphasis on employee satisfaction and customer experience. Growth is a key word here. We are committed to progress and continuous improvement. But reasonable is a key word, too. It’s a balanced approached, championed by our Board of Directors, that says a lot about who we are as an organization.

When companies set sales goals too high, those goals are not only difficult to attain, they also affect employee satisfaction. Many companies are willing to trade employee satisfaction for profits, but this approach isn’t in line with our cooperative values and principles.

I’m proud of the fact that we have a budget and business plan that is focused on people. As I wrote in my email to all employees, our work here should be meaningful, creative, and pleasantly challenging, not a daily grind driven by the pursuit of sales. This benefits everyone, employees and shoppers alike. We not only want happy, energized employees, we also want members and shoppers who enjoy great customer service and a terrific shopping experience each time they come through our doors.

In summary, our work here is important, and it’s about much more than sales. It’s a collective and cooperative effort designed to care for people in the communities we serve. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Want to talk more? Please reach out to me anytime. My door is always open to you.

—Ed Fox

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Ed Fox

Ed Fox is the Co-op General Manager. To contact, email

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