I’m running because I think we need to get back to our roots
I'm running for the Board of Directors for Mountain Equipment Co-operative because I love our co-op but I am concerned about the current trajectory. This is my fifth year being nominated and my third year on the ballot. Last year I placed fourth and the top three candidates won a seat. This year, I hope to build off of that momentum to be able to serve you on the Board.
Candidates are not allowed to make any "campaign promises" because the Board makes decisions as a group and each Director only has one vote. However, to help you understand my position on issues, these are measures that I would like to see the co-op implement:
1) Return The focus to "self-propelled wilderness oriented recreational activities" as described in our bylaws.
The Memorandum of Association specifies the Purposes of the Co-operative as follows:
"a) designing, manufacturing, purchasing, selling and renting products for self-propelled wilderness oriented recreational activities, and
b) marketing goods and services produced or supplied by members, and
c) any business which may conveniently be carried on in connection with those businesses."
I am of the opinion that many of our financial challenges at the co-op can be traced back to the lack of focus on our purpose.
Stop carrying products that are inconsistent with that purpose like jean jackets and speakers and increase the in-stock performance metrics for products related to "self-propelled wilderness oriented recreational activities".
Improve the quality of MEC branded gear and consider partnering with other co-operative outdoor retailers to leverage economies of scale in co-developing "co-op" gear.
Implement a policy that certain pieces of safety equipment will always be in-stock.
Reinvest in training and career development for front-line staff so members can receive expert advice and so that staff churn is reduced.
Introduce an initiative to stock guidebooks and specialized equipment made by co-op members when that is practical and where there is demonstrated interest from co-op members for those products.
2) Improved financial performance so the co-op remains a going concern and members REceive a financial benefit for their participation in the co-op
The co-op has reported an operating loss before other income in each of the most recent three fiscal periods. The co-op has also gone from having $9 million of cash in the bank in 2011 to having no cash and owing $19 million on an operating loan in 2018. Finally, there was no share redemption in 2018 and there was also no patronage return. It was the first time since 1982 that the co-op failed to issue a patronage return.
Until the co-op returns to a stronger financial position, rein in spending. Examples of spending that I believe should have been scrutinized more closely include increases in board compensation, the choice of the new head office, and the re-branding exercise.
Make a return to operating profitability a higher priority than continually increasing top-line sales revenue.
Publish the formula for calculating share redemptions.
Set and publish long term objectives for how much members should expect to receive in share redemption as a % of their individual spend.
3) Transparent governance aligned with best-practices for running co-operative associations
Mountain Equipment Co-operative is a member owned co-operative. As such, I believe members should have increased transparency into the operations and governance of our organization to ensure that the interests of the Board and management are aligned with the interests of members. When practical, I would like to see the co-op model policies after the Guidance Notes on the Co-operative Principles from the International Co-operative Alliance.
Disclose executive compensation and expenses.
Make the nomination committee independent of the board and stop the practice that was introduced in 2019 of automatically recommending incumbent candidates that the Board feels are performing effectively and contributing to the Board.
Disclose financial details (such as the performance of each major product category or the performance of online vs retail sales).
Increase member consultation.
I have a track record of advocating for
change at Mountain Equipment Co-op
I am an advocate for parks and public access to public land
I am a Director of Leave No Trace Canada and also an independent advocate for parks and recreation.
Some of my recent advocacy can be seen at these links:
I am passionate about exploring and photographing the outdoors
Whether it’s hiking, ski-touring, kayaking, climbing, or biking, I’m passionate about self-propelled wilderness oriented recreation and our co-op continues to be the first place I look when I need to buy gear. I have extensive experience buying gear from Mountain Equipment Co-op and putting it through the paces.
I am well qualified for the role
I have a career in the software industry and a track record of creating significant growth through my leadership of product teams. I am currently the Vice President of Product at a company that creates financial models for institutional investors. I received my degree in Engineering Physics with a specializing in Electrical Engineering from the University of British Columbia.
My professional profile can be seen here:
What have people said about my candidacy in previous years?
"Steve Jones is a great guy, definitely a broad thinker and the right kind of guy to be on the MEC board."
"Good for you and good luck - hope you beat their 'recommended' (ugh) candidates."
"I don't know anyone more passionate about the outdoors than Steve Jones. He'd be an awesome person to have representing us on the MEC board. You have my vote Steve."
"I hope you win. I have noticed a deterioration in the quality of the products and service at MEC over the last 5 or 10 years. I agree with many of your proposals, in particular board and executive compensation. I think we should know how much our CEO is paid. Best of luck!"
"I have been returning broken/poor quality equipment a lot lately and have stopped replacing it. I have so many gift cards sitting around now."
"Hope you get in! you got my vote! Lets see if MEC can get back on the right track! Only 3 things are still great: rental, return policy and people that work there. We want QUALITY QUALITY QUALITY."
"MEC is the first place I go when wanting to buy athletic stuff, and I'm guaranteed to leave empty handed every time. Either out of stock or not carried at all, not in my size, or a poorly designed bag or garment."
"Wow, I may vote for the first time. It's about time someone went in and sorted out our co-op. MEC has been going down the wrong road for a long time. I went into MEC a few months ago, and what was front and center on display? Jeans! Why is MEC selling jeans? Why is MEC trying to be a traditional retailer like Sport Chek or something like that?"
"Got my vote, good luck in your quest for change! If you get in, please bring back an updated version of the cherished original branding/logo!"
"I no longer shop at Out Of Equipment Coop. They have become another corporate entity. It is now all about branding, yoga gear, and 500 different brands of running shoes."
"Steve, you're running for the board is a refreshing change to the direction the co-op has been going the last 8+years. You get my vote."
"I really appreciate your work as a backcountry advocate, and will be happy to vote for you."
I will continue to advocate for Mountain Equipment Co-op to move towards increased transparency, accountability and member involvement. I will be more effective with a seat at the table and I am asking for your vote to help put me there.