Wilson’s Keynote Looks to Cooperative Future

Longtime cooperative leader Doug Wilson focused his keynote remarks at this year’s Cooperative Leadership Symposium on how to keep the cooperative business model relevant in rapidly changing times.

Wilson, recently retired chief executive officer of Cooperative Resources International in Shawano, spoke at the 14th annual Cooperative Leadership Symposium, sponsored by the Ralph K. Morris Foundation. The event is held as part of the Cooperative Leadership annual meeting. This year’s was in St. Paul.

Strong cooperative boards are more important than ever, he said. Board education should be an ongoing priority, and board compensation should be considered, said Wilson, who has been involved with agriculture all his life.

“The relevance of the cooperative business model is being challenged by many,” he said, adding: “Pay attention to the activist shareholders in the business world. It could happen in the cooperative world,” he said. “If you have delegates, use their input and make them visible.”

The U.S. is entering a period of significant worker shortages, he said. “Millennials are more productive than Baby Boomers, but their availability is low.”

Recruitment of talented Millennials is a must, he said, noting “Millennials are interested in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Who is more sustainable than cooperatives? But who knows?” Once cooperatives recruit Millennials, “keep them,” by providing benefits like workplace flexibility and time off for volunteer work, he suggested.