Staff-Board Meeting - 2017-01-07

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Staff Meeting minutes for January 7, 2017 at 6:45pm
Previous: Staff-Board Meeting - 2016-06-23 | Next: Staff-Board Meeting - 2017-04-06


Contents

Introduction

Attendance

  • Khaled Kloub
  • Lucas Salibian
  • Jay Rajaratnam
  • Cindy Liu
  • Nigel Cornwall
  • Robert Pilkington
  • Michele White
  • Athenaise Guertin
  • Mike Frost
  • Adrian Wong
  • Michael DuBelko
  • Karen Nygaard
  • Jonathan Marks

Facilitator

  • Michele White

Scribe

  • Adrian Wong

Agenda

  1. 2017 Budget
  2. 2017-2019 Strategic Plan
  3. Email Communication Standards

Discussion

Financial Reports

  • Nigel:
    • Presents financial reports and spreadsheets.
    • We currently have $32,000 in bank.
    • We had $40,000 in bank more beginning of 2016.
    • Starting in June 2016, revenue fell below 2015 during same time period.
    • Dramatic decrease in revenue began in October 2016 and was noted in Mahmoud's report sent to Cindy, Nigel and Karen in December.
    • Key thing: need to balance the budget.
    • Costs are fixed; currently $35,000; they usually go up 10% per year.
    • We should have 2 months' worth of expenses in reserve; we currently only have 1 month's worth.
    • Any ideas to increase revenue?
  • Athenaise:
    • More marketing, apply for grants, start a small charity.
  • Nigel:
    • Marketing would be good.
    • Charity application is 1/3 done.
    • We didn't implement the idea to open during weekends.
    • We could've earned $138,000 extra if we opened Sunday, Monday.
    • Projected costs: 3 employees working in store on Sunday and Monday = $510/day (including fudge figures).
    • Net profit would be $85,000, or $57,000 assuming 20% less than projected.
    • We earned much less recycling revenue: $60,000 in 2015 vs. $28,000 in 2016.
    • Easiest way to increase revenue without strain is increase prices in store and reassure public we have premium product.
    • Wholesale and recycling revenue likely can't be changed.
    • We need $70,000 in bank before we can assume we're making profit.
    • We earn an average of $197/hr in store.
    • We've lost $30,000 in last 3 months.
  • Michael D:
    • Since hired, has already increased 5-10% in various products; would have to increase to 20% under Nigel's suggestion; this could have a negative feedback effect. Slumping sales could also be cause of 10% increase in October-December.
  • Nigel:
    • Just showing what the model says.
  • Michele:
    • A proposal was already submitted about opening on Sunday and Monday; it was found both Store Coordinators would have to work on Saturday, which would mean one Store Coordinator would have to work Saturday and Sunday; this is not feasible.
  • Jonathan:
    • Suggests filling 250 hours and divvy it up as necessary.
  • Athenaise:
    • We would need the right candidates.
  • Nigel:
    • Staff could use rotational shifts ensuring that all staff work only 40 hours/week.
  • Jonathan:
    • Is there a greater understanding of the correlation between drop in revenue in October, increase in prices, and units sold?
  • Michele:
    • No longer receives sales tally reports due to Gmail transition.
  • Nigel:
    • Increasing revenue by $75,000 is playing with numbers, not a target; the directors want to ensure a profit; we don't set targets until we talk with staff.
    • Michael's idea of gaming grant could fund infrastructure and staff wages (as long as they've worked 12 months); disadvantage is that it would take a year to get it – it's a longer term solution.
  • Mike F:
    • Grants often have strings attached. We perhaps shouldn't count on them, since they could also cost us.
  • Nigel:
    • Most grants are for only new projects.
  • Michael D:
    • Every non-profit that isn't a social enterprise has a budget in hundreds of thousands that's not contingent on making new projects; we could tap into same stream.
    • Concerned that Nigel's information is not 100% accurate. Many organizations provide the same services to the same demographics with no new projects. Nigel seems to state differently.
  • Nigel:
    • Agrees that majority of grants go to operations.
  • Jonathan:
    • Campaigns are repeated yearly/monthly by organizations and receive the same funding to do these campaigns.
  • Karen:
    • Canada Summer Jobs is the same application every year; like a campaign.
  • Michele:
    • It is now 7:30 pm and we've only covered the financials. Do we need to continue with the financials?
  • Nigel & Cindy:
    • No.

2017 Budget

  1. What is the Board’s plan for allocating the additional funding?
  • Michele:
    • Revenue for 2016 was $350,000-$400,000.
    • In November 2016 directors stated that for 2017 wanted extra $75,000.
    • Does the board have a plan for allocating the additional funding?
  • Nigel:
    • The goal of the $75,000 is to break even.
    • Wants to build up war chest to ensure we have reserves to pay staff and bills.
  1. What staff work is necessary to reach this goal?
  • Nigel:
    • Increase revenue by opening on weekends.
    • We need to sit down to discuss numbers.
  • Adrian:
    • How should we get together to discuss this?
  • Nigel:
    • We can form a committee. We don't all have to sit down.
  • Michael:
    • I'd like to increase revenue by improving layout in store; that will come at a cost; what allowances can be made?
  • Nigel:
    • We don't have enough money to cover 1 month in expenses.
    • First priority is to pay staff wages, pay bills.
  • Jonathan:
    • We have to change; we can't incur additional expenses.
    • Suggests putting store renovations on back burner.
    • We should explore zero-cost solutions.
    • Should consider opening store on weekends.
  • Michael:
    • Is cost to make store more professional not worthwhile?
  • Nigel:
    • Rate of loss is more worrying than actual amount.
  • Adrian:
    • How would Cindy, our treasurer, characterize our financial situation? Are we in dire straits?
  • Cindy:
    • Cash flow is the key thing.
    • Revenue is not covering our expenses right now.
    • January sales probably won't be good and we'll keep losing money.
    • Probably in February or March, based on forecasts, we may break even.
    • We don't have money for improvements for sure.
    • Hold off improvements until maybe April or May.
    • We don't want to lay off any staff.
    • If we keep doing what we're doing our financial security will probably improve by March.
  • Nigel:
    • We are at ground floor.
  • Jonathan:
    • If we continue to lose $2,000-$5,000 per month we'll be out of business by June.
    • When we build up our war chest we can consider more improvements.
    • We're in a catch 22-situation – we have to make money without extra money.
  • Karen: Can we increase our line of credit?
  • Nigel:
    • We don't even have enough money to close the organization, if we had to.
    • Increasing line of credit wouldn't help.
  • Jonathan:
    • Worst idea is to go into debt to support a leaking ship.
  • Nigel:
    • At end of 2016 (December), revenue fell below expense of staff wages.
    • Doesn't think that we are paying staff too much or have too many staff.
    • What we lack is traffic; this isn't any one person's problem.
  • Karen:
    • We should advertise in advance of opening on weekends.
  • Michael:
    • What is marketing (on the board of directors) going to do, besides partnerships, on a day-to-day basis?
  • Nigel:
    • We have a partnership with city of Vancouver; received $4,000-$5,000 in donations with Khaled; if we did five more, that's an extra $25,000; that's publicity and revenue.
    • Trying to make news; having artists modify laptop, write a profile.
    • We're well known in the community.
  • Athenaise:
    • Trying to collaborate with sustainability nerds.
  • Michele:
    • How will this get us extra foot traffic?
  • Nigel:
    • That's something that needs to be figured out with marketing; don't have an answer right now.
  • Jay:
    • Vancouver has a good music scene; we could partner with festivals; have people donate there; we could get a truck.
  • Nigel:
    • Happy to try anything.
  • Jonathan:
    • Suggests partnering with thrift stores who turn away people with computers; could sell computers there on consignment.
  • Michael:
    • Will commit to working with marketing committee on advertising.
    • Hasn't heard from/ George in 3 months; is he available?
  • Nigel:
    • He's sick; you can call him.
  • Jonathan:
    • It's not an us and them game; you can call me; staff seem to work by committees and lock step; individuals are welcome to raise ideas.
  • Karen:
    • We could tie in Canada Summer Jobs application; celebrate Canada's 150th; refugees.
  • Michael:
    • There's an expectation that when you join an organization, you follow their policies or status quo. Free Geek has always relied on email – it's solid and provides paper trail; phone calls take extra time and require relaying information; it's not too much to ask for email; calls would necessitate overtime before or after work.
  • Nigel:
    • We need change or we have a problem.
  • Mike F:
    • We don't act in lock step, Jonathan; you could spend some time here and find out; some of your assumptions about we operate are inaccurate.
  • Jonathan:
    • The culture of Free Geek is unique and different.
  • Lucas:
    • We could have a list that doesn't spam directors, just for staff.
  • Adrian:
    • We proposed that idea and it was rejected by Nigel, so we've stuck to the old/current method of having all directors CC'd on the fg-staff list.
    • Some directors have still complained e.g., George: “I believe I receive too much of the type [of email] that doesn't help me do my job.”
  • Nigel:
    • We can remove George from the fg-staff list.
  • Michele:
    • Can Adrian, Lucas meet to discuss list?
  • Adrian:
    • Yes, and I invite any directors to participate.
  • Nigel:
    • I would invite George.
  • Robert:
    • Jonathan, I invite you to volunteer for a day, as it was very beneficial for Nigel to see how the operations work.
  • Jonathan.
    • Would love to, but not in January. February would be better.
  • Michele:
    • When will budget be completed?
  • Cindy:
    • Soon; need input from each department; should have something by mid-February.
  • Michael:
    • We have bi-monthly operational expenses e.g., tools, gloves; we have been operating on 2015's budget.
    • Can we continue spending money on day-to-day necessities?
  • Nigel:
    • 2016 budget was published.
  • Cindy:
    • Necessary expenditures are fine, as long as there's not too big of a jump; take budget line items and divide by 12 for monthly budget as a guideline.
  • Karen:
    • Is volunteer fund overage ok?
  • Nigel:
    • Yes.

Security Cameras

  • Michael:
    • We should discuss security cameras.
    • Old one caused an electrical fire.
    • We don't have any security cameras currently.
    • Hate crime was recently committed on Free Geek property.
    • Would like to be able to capture faces and keep logs (currently unable to).
    • This is the highest priority besides Mike's priority.
  • Nigel:
    • Staff safety is priority; get budget to me.
  • Jonathan:
    • Has some security contacts.
  • Cindy:
    • Is proposed $3,000 for 10 cameras?
  • Michael:
    • Yes.
    • Jonathan, can you send us contacts?
  • Jon:
    • Yes.

Laptop Department Staffing

  • Mike:
    • We're going to lose Brian by end of April; we need to look for someone; have an interested volunteer (Scott); Khaled is also a possibility.
  • Khaled:
    • Yes, that's a possibility.
  • Mike:
    • Won't be here forever full time; will want to reduce in mid-year; will need someone to take over long term; time for new blood; before Brian goes, we might need some overlap.
  • Karen:
    • Suggests unpaid internship for Scott.
  • Adrian:
    • It might be unethical to make hiring Scott contingent on unpaid internship

Other Discussion

  • Michele:
    • Let's discuss SAP.
  • Jonathan:
    • Had a chat with SAP re: sketch/outline; came up with proposal to hand to SAP without being overly attached to specific details; they're noble objectives.
  • Michael:
    • We should be as truthful as possible in grant proposals.
    • How would we have fulfilled SAP goals?
  • Jonathan:
    • This was not a grant.
    • SAP has consultant interns that want to get experience.
    • Supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.
    • All pro bono.
    • All they need is office space.
  • Michael:
    • Office space is an expense. It would cut into operations.
    • Re: Google grant to open a Free Geek in Victoria; how would that work? Do we have a plan to fulfill?
  • Nigel:
    • If we receive $200,000, we'd invest some in Free Geek Vancouver and some into opening another location.
    • It's all hypothetical.
    • Like bus shelter posters, we figure out how to do it once we've got the money.
  • Michael:
    • Who does the work?
  • Jonathan:
    • Staff and board would work together.
    • People who award grants know that not a lot of effort will be put into making a detailed plan on what to do with the money.
  • Karen:
    • Disagrees.
  • Michael:
    • We applied for a grant, but we don't have a plan on how to use the money; the application could've stated that we are closing and opening elsewhere.
  • Jonathan:
    • We could open a store in Victoria or elsewhere.
  • Nigel:
    • Michael, do you agree with the proposal? What is your objection?
  • Michael:
    • Raises objection to submitting proposals that require intense operational discretion and involvement without consulting staff. Opening a new Free Geek requires experience that no staff has and enormous staff involvement. This isn't at all like proposals for donations. Those require less staff input and are something we've done before.
  • Nigel:
    • How should we go about submitting our next grant i.e., Greenest City?
  • Michael:
    • Athenaise has come up with proposal. It includes how staff will be involved and their expectations.
  • Nigel:
    • Should there be a staff involvement in any proposal?
  • Michael:
    • No; Because Athenaise's proposal involves staff, she has written down their expectations; SAP proposal just assumes that someone will see it through; this is scary; who's going to do it?
  • Jonathan:
    • If we have money to open a new store, we'll need to hire people including expertise.

Irrespective of organizational culture, this falls under project planning, which can be executed.

  • Nigel:
    • Happy to take phone calls; doesn't always have to be email. Should I not use the telephone?
  • Mike:
    • There would be a plan, Jonathan; new people would still have to be trained which would require immense staff involvement; it took time for current staff to learn their jobs.
  • Jonathan:
    • Point taken.
  • Adrian:
    • Agrees with Michael about “scary” aspect; argues that all people present are well intentioned and has best interests of Free Geek in mind; there are differences in perspective; would ask that board loop in staff, even in proposed hypotheticals that involve staff, to mitigate scariness.
  • Jonathan:
    • Would staff like to have one person as a liaison to meet with board during first 10 minutes of board meetings, so that he/she can relay information back to staff? This could temper scariness.
  • Athenaise:
    • I could liaise.
  • Jonathan:
    • Staff seemed involved with Google grant proposal during email exchanges.
  • Michael:
    • That proposal sounded like we want to start another Free Geek. What would be the end goal? How would we measure success or failure?
    • Four years into Free Geek Vancouver, we would've been considered a failure. We don't know for certain that our model works, or could be transplanted to Victoria. We would need success metrics. In 2010 Free Geek Vancouver was bankrupt and had a non-functional board; 2010 Free Geek would be a terrible.
    • Current staff have valuable experience, but we don't have a mechanism to use it.
  • Nigel:
    • This is like the bus shelter poster project, this is project management; nothing new.

Email Communication Standards

  • Michele:
    • We have 5 minutes to discuss email communication standards.
    • Provides template that would like all staff and directors to follow.
  • Nigel:
    • I always responds on a best effort case; always welcome to phone me; I have other duties; has put in over 800 volunteer hours last year; I expect best from staff when messages sent.
    • I don't believe in staff/board division; we're an “us”; if we're talking about [separate] staff and board, you're completely wasting your and my effort.
    • I don't want division between staff and board to exist; if we're talking about communication between staff and board, we're wasting our time.
  • Karen:
    • Has frustrations about not being able to communicate e.g., Mills contract.
    • Still doesn't know what's going on with contract that George was working on.
  • Nigel:
    • If email doesn't work, I pick up the phone.
    • Has talked to Cori about not being on email.
    • You can call me and I'll get it sorted.
  • Jonathan:
    • If Nigel is away, I will back him up.
    • If communication to board has failed (both once by email and phone), contact us.
  • Nigel:
    • Would be happy to provide board contact information.

Closing Remarks

  • Jonathan:
    • In the future can we have staff/board meetings on a weekday?
  • Staff:
    • We can discuss it; sounds reasonable; we can provide more time slots; we can send out a Doodle.
  • Karen:
    • Could have have next staff/board meeting first week of April?
  • Staff & Board:
    • Commit to have next meeting on Tuesday or Thursday during first week of April.
  • Adrian:
    • Thank you to all present for hard work.
  • Jonathan:
    • Suggests sending out email asking if directors want to opt-out of fg-staff mailing list.
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