Seeing is believing

Sorry to be late with my post. It in no way reflects waning enthusiasm for the potential of launching a CPA in Denver. Quite the contrary. Attending Wednesday’s workshop and Annual Meeting in D.C. added fuel to the fire. My delinquent post is a reflection of entering into a time warp and different dimension with my elderly father in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is having some major health challenges, with a setback last week. It’s not clear whether he will be able to recover and if you have been in similar circumstances with a loved one, then you may understand that it is a consuming and difficult reality to navigate. I flew from D.C. to Knoxville on Thursday and will be here until next Saturday.

I am very grateful to have been able to make the trip to D.C. It was great to participate in an in-person workshop for a couple of hours and actually be together in the same room. And a real treat to attend CPA’s Annual Meeting. It was very powerful to experience the room full of people that are CPA members, vendors, staff and potential new members. And fun to imagine a similar room in Denver, hopefully in the not too distant future. Kudos to Felipe and the CPA staff for orchestrating a powerful evening that celebrated a very successful year and also showcased CPAs expansion plans. Very powerful to have members of the incubator share their enthusiasm and gratitude for CPA … something that I think was probably an unexpected outcome of CPAs success for many of CPAs members. It created a real sense of movement building and being a part of something even larger than they had imagined. Coming together as a buying co-op in D.C. was a huge step and now to see that it is parlaying into an even bigger movement across the country is really an impressive orchestration, Felipe. Hats off to you!

Each of my conversations reflected the celebratory mood of the evening. I met two facility managers from two different schools. Neither of their schools were members yet. One had purchased services from CPA and was very pleased with the price and service and seemed to be in the process of figuring out whether membership made financial sense. The other person was new to CPA but attended the evening at the recommendation of a friend. She identified that her school had major difficulties with their HVAC and they were also anticipating needing to replace their drinking water fountains and are areas where CPA could support them. (Are drinking water fountains an area that CPA is looking into?)

I also had the pleasure of talking to the church leaders from the church featured in the video. Interesting to find out that they too aren’t members of CPA. It was fun to witness Nick Giannotti, president of New Columbia Solar, the company responsible for the church’s new roof and solar installation, met the church leaders for the first time. Nick explained that he attended Georgetown University and started his business after graduating. He was grateful to be in a position to give back to the community where he has built a successful business. In a follow-up conversation I learned that Nick was able to recover his investment in the roof and solar system in about seven years due to local and federal tax credits. He offered to be a resource as we explore whether this is a scenario that can be repeated in Colorado.

We will be sharing this success story with our friends at Namaste Solar, a worker cooperative solar installation company, founded in Boulder, Colorado. We told Nick about the Green Energy Credit Union that launched in May 2018. It was started by Blake Jones, who is also the founder of Namaste Solar. Blake also launched Kachuwa Impact Fund, an investment cooperative and public benefit corporation that invests in impact real estate and privately held companies that deliver a profit and a social return. They are accepting new investors in the Fund through November 2019. If anyone is interested, you can reach Blake through their website to request a prospectus and membership information.

I also had the pleasure of a quick conversation while going through the food line, with the founder of Securemedy. He expressed being very pleased with his relationship with CPA and feels that he is compensated very fairly for his services. He undoubtedly characterizes his involvement as a mutually beneficial relationship. This, of course, was also made clear in his presentation from the podium.

I also had a good conversation with the founder of Cureate, a company that connects anchor institutions to local food entrepreneurs. She isn’t currently connected to CPA, but was invited by Felipe to attend the event to learn more about CPA. She represents local food entrepreneurs and connects them to anchor institutions. She also offers workshops to help prepare food entrepreneurs to be successful working with anchors. It was nice to hear that she is paid strictly by the anchors. The vendors pay her nothing. She has a staff of 4-5 and seems to have a successful company. I wonder how her business model works — is it possible to have the anchors provide the bulk of the revenue to CPA, rather than the vendors? Has CPA looked at this approach already?

Additional Questions that arose for me:

  1. I didn’t realize that organizations could utilize services of CPA without being a member of the co-op. Do members and non-members of the co-op pay different prices for products/services? What is it that leads people to becoming a member vs just using the service? What does it mean to CPAs bottom line to have members vs organizations using its services?

2. I understand that CPA earns revenue for each sale. My understanding is that the vendor pays CPA a percentage of the contract price. Is that correct? Does the percentage stay constant or decrease at some point for larger contracts?

3. I missed Wednesday morning’s session, but I am interested to learn more about the issues that arose in Durham that have made it more difficult than expected to launch CPA-Durham.

4. I still think it would be helpful to have a primer on some of the key facility services that CPA is providing – e.g. HVAC and copiers. Just some bullet points about the key issues relevant for that particular service to shorten our learning curve. As we each gain expertise in a specific service we can prepare a short document (less than 1-page) with info on the key issues and jargon of that industry and share it amongst the CPA family. Just a thought.

Thank you, Felipe for creating such an amazing model and for allowing us to get a better see, taste, and feel for the energy and reality of CPA. It is awesome to be on this ride. I am excited and hopeful that Denver will be amongst the second generation of cities with a CPA.

2 thoughts on “Seeing is believing”

  1. Hi Michelle!

    First of all, I think it’s a brilliant idea to create cheat sheets or one pagers in service industries that CPA is involved in and has developed expertise in.

    Also, I LOVE these recounts on your conversations with non members who have participated with CPA. It is a critical juncture in the customer journey and one that isn’t so easy to dive into so I truly appreciate you being able to dive in. I would also like to ask Felipe for his perspective a little further down the line.

    My reflection fodder question for you is: it’s clear you’re in an intellectual deep dive process in which you’re obviously learning a lot and dancing with many new ideas and connections. Where do you think your development as a person and leader, beyond technical know-how and networks, will need to take you so CPA in Denver can be a success? What boxes will you need to think out of? I only ask to zoom out of the technical and look deeper into who you are and how this clicks with you.

    PS: I’m aware I owe you footage of what’s going on in Chile. I’ll get to it soon.


  2. Thanks for sharing, Michelle! I’m inspired to hear of your big vision for CPA Denver after our time DC. I’m glad you anchored this post on the experience of CPA member institutions and on CPA vendors. They’re how this all works. Unfortunately I did not speak with enough people from member institutions or vendors.

    I’d love to learn more about how member institutions decide to purchase through CPA or to join CPA or not. What factors, said and left unsaid, weigh most as they decide? What parts of CPA’s value prop do they value most? Price, presumably. But also service, user experience, vendor profiles, community…

    Did you get any insight into that question during your conversations with prospective members?


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