Staff-Board Meeting - 2017-04-06

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Staff Meeting minutes for April 6th, 2017 at 6:45pm
Previous: Staff-Board Meeting - 2017-01-07 | Next: Staff-Board Meeting - 2019-01-19



  • Adrian W
  • Athenaise G
  • Brian D
  • Cindy L
  • Cori P
  • George R
  • Karen N
  • Khaled K
  • Lucas S
  • Michael D
  • Michele W
  • Mike F
  • Nigel C
  • Rex B
  • Robert P


  • Robert P


  • Michael D


  1. Financial Report
  2. Keeping Open on Mondays
  3. Marketing Plan 2017-2019

Opening Remarks

  • Robert: There are three items on the agenda, but the second will probably take the most time. At the last meeting we had, some emotions went high. I will keep a speaker’s list this time. If you have something to say, you’ll have to wait your turn. If things get too heated, I’ll issue a 5-minute timeout to individuals. Anyone who uses profanity will be ejected from the meeting. I will keep time for each topic. Everyone OK with that?
  • Consensus to go with Robert’s ground rules


Financial Report

  • Cindy: In my assessment, for the last 3 months, we did much better compared to last year. January did $4,000 better and February did $6,000 better. I did some estimates for March, and it’s looking like it’ll be $5,000 better. Cashflow is up.
  • Michele: After you take away taxes, March is our new record month.
  • Mike F: Is that good progress?
  • Cindy: According to our budget, we’re $10k short so far this year.
  • Mike F: In terms of cash flow, we’re not in as dire a situation?
  • Cindy: Yes. We’re making a profit now. But we’ll need to make more.
  • Karen: What’s our increased budget, compared to last year?
  • Cindy: About $25k more.
  • Nigel: You can look at things in terms of “are we doing better than last year?” The answer is “yes,” but we’re not doing as good as our budget.
  • Michele: Are we talking net or gross?
  • Cindy: Net.
  • Adrian: Is there a particular reason $25k is the target?
  • Nigel: No. This year’s budget has an extra $20k from grants. We lost a lot last year, and I’d like to recoup it this year. We’d prefer not to put pressure on the store.
  • Michele: The report we gave to our benefactor stated that last year’s store revenue was .... So, the budget this year is actually $97k more than the previous year.
  • Brian: Did our benefactor offer to go over our finances?
  • Nigel: Yes, their consultants will look over the information. They have sent us a cheque that can be cashed. I am waiting on a correction to the agreement to be re-sent to me before I sign on behalf of the organisation. We projected 15-33% more for the 2017 store budget based on the store’s projections from increased hours.
  • Robert: Time’s up. We should follow this up later.
  • Adrian: How will this be followed up?
  • Nigel: Cindy, Michele, and I need to work on the numbers.
  • Karen: How much more will the store need to make?
  • Nigel: Roughly 31-33%.
  • Mike F/Cori: All this information should be shared with the group.

Keeping Open on Mondays

  • Michele: The last communication I had with Nigel said that the proposal I sent would not be feasible and would require more work.
  • Mike F: What work is required?
  • Nigel: The proposal was submitted immediately prior to the Board’s monthly meeting, and we didn’t have time to address it. I’ve been working with Michele on the numbers. I ran her numbers through my model, and it didn’t seem to work. I’ve been reworking the numbers since Monday, and there’s a way we might be able to get the proposal to work. I need to talk to Michele in-depth before we approve anything. Michele’s numbers say we’re going to be in a major deficit. Until I get our numbers ratified by Cindy, and Michele agrees to it, we can’t go on.
  • Adrian: Just to clarify: there might be a major deficit if we don’t increase our revenue?
  • Nigel: Yes. I realise that the way we’ve been running the store on Mondays is unsustainable. I know it can’t go on, and I know we need to hire staff. The numbers we’ve been crunching shows that we would make 14% more if we open Mondays.
  • Brian: Do you have a timeline for when the hires will be approved?
  • Nigel: As soon as I can. I’ll need Cindy and Michele to agree, and then have the Board ratify it.
  • Adrian: How much would we need to make to break even in 2016, and how much are we projected to make in 2017?
  • Nigel: If we take 33% extra in the store, and make $20k in grants, we’ll make $20k over budget. If we just break even for this year, we won’t recuperate the money we lost last year.
  • Karen: Where is the grant coming from?
  • Nigel: We’ve received half from our benefactor. The rest will have to come from somewhere else.
  • Athenaise: I’ve been doing hours of research on grants. Unfortunately, we’re not eligible for most grants because we don’t have a charity status. There are some coming up in the fall that we can apply for.
  • Mike F: I feel quite uninformed at the moment. I haven’t heard any actual figures. To me, I don’t think there’s enough information to decide on a course of action. Maybe our benefactor could help?
  • Nigel: It’s possible that their consultant will advocate for us to get further grants.
  • Cori: Do we not have enough information to make a decision about Monday?
  • Nigel: Financially, we have to make it work. If we could magically have 2 people to work only Mondays, that would be great. But it would be even better if they could work on a Sunday too, or help out on other days, to generate more revenue.
  • Michele: Are you proposing to open Sunday/Monday?
  • Nigel: No. For the moment we just need to keep open on Monday.
  • Mike F: How do we know based on the data we have so far that we’re actually making enough money? These sound like projections, and not real numbers.
  • Nigel: My model is entirely based on last year’s numbers. This assumes that this year will be like last year. I looked at days we’re open, holidays, weeks, etc. I worked out what the average taking was per business day, per month. I used that data and then assumed we would have a similar average sale on those days. I put in a negative fudge factor of 20%.
  • Mike F: Have we actually used the real-world data gathered so far to test the hypothesis for the Monday openings?
  • Karen: We’re making an average of 75% of a regular day every Monday.
  • Mike F: Do we know if we’ve just been diverting sales from other days?
  • Michael: The store’s daily and weekly cashout numbers show no strong correlation between opening Mondays and increased weekly/monthly sales. Every day of the week in January/February/March has had increased sales across-the-board.
  • Brian: It’s possible we’re diverting money from some days to others. Often, the Monday customers I see normally come in on other days.
  • George: I’m quite happy to volunteer my time to help the store on Wednesdays.
  • Athenaise: I don’t engage in any store-based activities, so I’m wondering: with current staff rotation covering Mondays, how many Mondays do we have covered before a decision is made?
  • Robert: We should have Mondays covered until June.
  • Lucas: I can start volunteering on Mondays starting April 17th. Have we run any numbers through any online analytics?
  • Rex: Those tools likely wouldn’t help.
  • Michele: I appreciate that people are willing to volunteer their time to assist in the store, but I can’t consider that a long-term solution. It leaves production and recycling staffs’ schedules in flux. It takes a long time to learn all the nuances and be an effective store employee. It’s also a drain on store resources to be training so often.
  • Rex: As far as I understand, this current state of things will realistically last until the end of April.
  • Brian: While I say I’ll be here until the end of June, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to stay that long. I think my skills are better used in what I was hired for (high-end laptop production), and they’re currently being diverted away from that.
  • Robert: Today’s the first day I’ve been able to be in the warehouse for a full day in a month, and the effect of my absence is visible.
  • Michael: I feel my support base (tech support, desktop production, laptop production) is being undermined by staff shortages.
  • Rex: I recommend we decide on a course at our next board meeting, which is next week, I believe.

Marketing Plan 2017-2019

  • Brian: It makes perfect logical sense to have a concerted and comprehensive marketing plan with an end goal. It’s the flipside of increasing sales. I’m not sure if it’s something we’ve had before. We’ve been built on word-of-mouth. Do we have a plan?
  • George: I agree that we should have a marketing plan, especially a multi-year one. We’re in a particular financial situation. There are some shortcomings: Board members are only elected for one year, so there’s no way to maintain continuity. To form a multi-year marketing plan without continuity is very difficult. There was a marketing plan back from 2013. There are a few of the things in that plan that we are doing, but there are some that should be high priority that we’re not doing. Any actions we take should have good return. We need to decide on objectives and goals, and they should guide us and offer timelines to those goals. For example, perhaps it’s worth thinking about relocation. We’ve talked about not having enough space. Should that be an opportunity we look at? Athenaise made the good point about the charity status, and we’re doing something about it. We’re at a point where I believe we’ve made a commitment to that in a meeting with our lawyer.
  • Adrian: George, what concrete actions/initiatives have you taken with regards to marketing to address our current situation?
  • George: The biggest opportunity I’ve looked into is donations. Most of my effort has been directed at trying to develop relationships with businesses and getting hardware from them. I’ve made a list of all the business associations in the greater Vancouver area, and I’ve started going after some of them. That was not particularly productive: I got some interest, but the majority were not useful. I’m in contact with the Business Council of BC. They deal with smaller companies that have 150 or more employees. They seem very interested in allowing us to go after their members as a marketing initiative. They also have a group that is interested in political and social action. In the past, they have had recycling initiatives. There are a number of things that are under way. Has our partner made any deliveries yet?
  • Robert: They’re collecting for us, but they haven’t delivered anything yet.
  • Brian: If we got our charitable status, that would be an excellent foundation to base our marketing around.
  • Athenaise: Those sound like a lot of good tactics and initiative. From what I understand in marketing strategies, you need a framework to form thoughts and strategies. This is by itself important, but also pertinent because our benefactor asked us to submit a principal strategy. As an example, we have a huge influx of interested volunteer applicants, but we don’t have an outreach plan for what to do should that interest die off. A marketing plan will help the store realise its goals to reach capacity. I think we need a committee or group to work on one
  • Nigel: Free Geek’s unusual. We don’t buy our own goods. We have to advertise for people to both supply, work on, and then buy the goods. Our name is very good, and many people have heard of us. We’ve recently had ads in bus stops, and we were covered in a magazine. The charitable status is not a silver bullet. If someone gives us a bunch of computers, we reckon they’re worth about $500. The employee would act on behalf of the charity we set up. The charity cannot simply give the $500 worth of computers to Free Geek. We have to buy them from the charity for $500. The money that goes to the charity is then disbursed to different social funds, such as Free Geek. If Free Geek itself was the charity, we wouldn’t have this problem. The only way to do that would be to dissolve Free Geek, which we can’t do. We would have to set up the charity to be ambiguous as to what we do. So, we can’t say it “provides funds to Free Geek,” but rather that it “provides funds to educational and recycling organisations in the Vancouver community.”
  • Karen: When our benefactor’s contact came in, he mentioned three times that it would be beneficial to become a charity. It really struck me as encouragement to go that route.
  • Nigel: Portland is set up as a 50/50 charity/business.
  • Michael: Our customer service, support, warranty, and prices are better than our nearby competition. The main things they have that we don’t are phone reception and paid tech support. Our superior product and service should be putting them out of business. They’re surviving because they reach out to people, and we don’t. We don’t have a social media presence.
  • Cori: Could we get a volunteer to do the phones from home?
  • Lucas: Technologically, yes. Practically, no.
  • Athenaise: I don’t think we have any volunteers who are capable of doing that. The intersection of volunteers who can represent Free Geek well, and have the time commitment to do the phones is very small. Relying on volunteering for that kind of work is not a good strategy.
  • Mike F: We had a part-time volunteer receptionist for a few months, but they didn’t know enough to be able to help with sales calls.
  • Brian: Our local competition has only one department, so everyone knows what’s going on, and any of their employees can answer the phone.
  • George: We may have to do some short-term tactics that could generate revenue while we develop a plan.
  • Adrian: We have had volunteers in the past who offered to help with various projects, including marketing, but most have fell through. Without some kind of external incentive (intern, contract, paid), they don’t stick around.
  • Lucas: I have a technical solution that could help with sales: we could implement a simple inventory system for the store. I will look into this to help reduce customer overhead.
  • Athenaise: I think we’ve established that we have no marketing strategy. Who would like to help develop one?
  • Cori, Lucas, Athenaise, Rex, Adrian, and George volunteer to make a marketing strategy

Closing Remarks

  • Meeting adjourned at 8:36