Although Associated Buyers is a privately owned entity, the company's origins are deeply rooted in cooperative business principles and ethics that compliments our long-standing tradition of serving Buying Club accounts throughout New England. Buying Clubs are comprised of individuals and families ordering collectively to achieve a bulk purchasing advantage. Aside from the time and devotion involved in the buying club process, there are many benefits to this arrangement not the least of which is access to high quality, wholesome foods at affordable prices. Beyond the monetary advantage, there is often a sense of community that belonging to an organization of like-minded people generates. Many buying clubs are comprised of neighbors, mother's groups, co-workers, young couples, church members, or family members.
GUIDELINES FOR STARTING A BUYING CLUB
SO YOU WANT TO START A BUYING CLUB
(SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER)
A buying club (coop) is usually made up of a small group of families or households in search of a better or more economical way of purchasing food or other items (garden seeds, services, equipment, etc.). They usually have a common need or philosophy when it comes to spending their time or money on these needs.
There are certain things to be considered before starting a buying club. Such as:
Jobs & Member Responsibilities
Member Handbooks or By-Laws
Having a clear understanding concerning how decisions are to be made is very important to keep the buying club running smoothly and allows members to feel confident about the process. How will decisions be made?
Who will participate in the major decision-making?
Who will direct the group during the decision-making process?
When or will the group be able to re-visit their decisions or renew their agreements?
What happens if some members strongly feel the wrong decision has been made?
Having clear guidelines concerning the responsibilities of membership and the ability to communicate these to all members is essential for a healthy functioning buying club.
Who is eligible for membership?
What are their responsibilities?
Are non-working members allowed? And if so, what is the impact on other members?
Should there be membership fees or dues?
Should a limit be set on membership?
What if a member asked for a leave of absence?
Are there any reasons that may cause a member to be asked to leave?
Who should have the responsibility or authority to ask a member to leave?
This is probably the most important part of a buying club. The reason your group can shop at wholesale prices is because the work the group does equals that which retail store owner's and their employees do, such as, collating orders, distributing product, bookkeeping, maintenance, paying rent etc. There should be strict policies concerning job responsibilities. Without working members, the buying club won't work. An additional thing to consider when creating jobs for members is that some jobs require more time and energy than others. Members carrying an extra share of the work should be acknowledged and/or compensated. These particular jobs should be rotated on a regular basis, if possible.
Do all members have to contribute an equal amount of time?
How are the jobs assigned?
Should members be cross-trained? (Remember people take vacations and personal emergencies do arise occasionally.)
Are the jobs periodically rotated?
How does the group ensure job requirements are met?
The following is a list of possible jobs. This is only a guideline. Depending on the size of the group some of the jobs are not necessary or can be combined.
Coordinator/Coordinators - primary responsibility is communication between members, contact person for distributor and general problem solving.
Membership Coordinator - keeps handbook up-to-date, orientation for new members, checks in on new members for a few ordering cycles to see if there are questions or problems.
Jobs Coordinator - makes sure jobs are filled, keeps track of members' working hours, and assigns new members jobs.
Collator - collates members' orders into one master order, places order and makes sure split cases are filled.
Bookkeeper - collects payments, issues credits, and manages the group's checking account.
Treasurer - works with the bookkeeper on group's finances.
Distribution Coordinator - organizes and troubleshoots at distribution, checks in order at delivery and calls in credits/missing items.
Distribution Team - breaks down order and sorts through members' orders.
Newsletter/Publicity - writes, publishes and mails or distributes group newsletter, maintains group's mailing list and phone numbers and encourages public interest.
This should include an explanation of the ordering, delivery, distribution, pick-up and invoicing of the buying cycle. Rain checks, surcharges, sales tax and bottle/can returns and deposits should all be address. The following should be considered in the process:
Order sheets should be designed and distributed with information on its use. You may sign up to get our monthly excel pricelist/order guide emailed to you.
Should each member subscribe to the catalogs or share copies with other members?
An overview of the catalog and how to use it should be explained to all members.
What is the order schedule?
Should the members consider having order meetings?
Can members include in their order items for people who are not members?
How does the group handle problems such as late orders, late payments and bounced checks?
Handbook or By-Laws (especially recommended for large groups)
The above items should be addressed by the group, and then written down in the form of a handbook or by-laws. Creating the handbook should be a process open to all members for input and final approval. The handbook should also be re-visited on a regular basis, such as every 6 months, annually, etc., to make sure your membership's needs and goals are being met. This handbook is the backbone of every working buying club. It is a valuable tool for new members and also helps keep the buying club on track when any exceptional situations come up that can disrupt even the most organized buying club.