Co-op general manager to retire

  • Paul Guidone (Courtesy photograph)

Vally News Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2021 9:22:51 PM
Modified: 11/8/2021 9:22:55 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Fourteen months after he presented a list of demands to secure his appointment as the permanent general manager of the Hanover Co-op, Paul Guidone will retire and step down in April, the board of the organization announced on Monday.

Guidone, who informed the Co-op board of his decision on Oct. 31, told employees on Monday that “after a lot of thinking, discussion and consideration” and a four-plus-decade business career, retiring “was not at all shocking.”

In an interview, Guidone, 64, cited a number of “personal and business” reasons for retiring earlier than planned, including wanting to back up his wife as she assumes a greater role in taking care of aging relatives, providing support to a son in the military who has three young children and is about to be deployed overseas and a wish to pull back after a globe-trotting career in business and finance and nearly two years of managing through a pandemic crisis.

He said next year would be the right time for the Co-op to transition to a new general manager as many of the initiatives he has overseen, such as upgrades at the main Lebanon store, developing a plan with Vermont Energy Investment Corp. to achieve net-zero emissions, hiring an outside consultant to review compensation levels for employees, reporting 2021 financial results and budgeting for 2022, will have been completed.

Guidone also said the timing to step down would come as six of the Co-op’s board seats are expected to turn over, enabling the next general manager to build their own “relationship with the new board.”

“There is no great time” to change the top person in the organization, Guidione said, but April 2020 represents “the least not-great time” and gives the board six-months to get ready.

Roughly one-quarter of Guidone’s tenure at the Co-op will have coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, which required re-engineering operations to comply with health protocols, managing a stressed workforce and introducing in-store and curbside pickup. In September, the Co-op also advanced its timetable by three years to raise hourly pay to $15.

The pandemic, as it has for many businesses in the food and household supplies sector, led to higher sales as many consumers have stayed home and gone out to eat less. Guidone said he expects the Co-op, which comprises four stores, two auto service centers and a commercial kitchen that makes prepared meals, to reach revenues of between $85 million to $90 million this year and earn a profit.

Last year, for 2020, the Co-op reported revenue was up 11% to a record $85.4 million and would still have lost money due to higher operating and food costs were it not for $2.3 million in Paycheck Protection Program relief.

Nick Clark, president of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society board, said that when the board named Guidone, who had been interim general manager since Ed Fox resigned in early 2020, to the job permanently, “we knew where he was in his career” and he might be retiring in a few years.

Although Clark, of Thetford, said he was surprised when Guidone informed the board nine days ago that he intended to retire in six months, it nonetheless “wasn’t completely startling.”

He said Guidone has established the Co-op on a “firm footing” and praised the general manger for being a “clear communicator” and “pro-active” with employees, members and the board.

“When we were working on our policy to reduce the Co-op’s emissions at the end of last year, Paul started putting together an action plan even before we finished (writing) the policy. That’s an example of someone being pro-active rather than winging it and speaks of his management style,” Clark said.

Clark said the board will form a search committee for a new general manager as soon as possible.

Guidone joined the Co-op in 2016 as CFO after a career working in financial management and banking. He later became a “strategic adviser” to Fox before being tapped as interim g.m. in March 2020, the same month the pandemic began wreaking havoc with the economy and supply chains.

Monday’s announcement is the second time that Guidone announced his resignation from the Co-op.

Guidone had submitted his resignation last September after a three-week impasse with the board over being named permanent general manager.

In order for Guidone to agree to stay, the board had to submit to a list of written “terms” by Guidone — including a three-year employment commitment with option to renew and agreeing that all board-related work come to him in writing only through the board president — after he chafed at some board members bypassing him and communicating directly with employees.

Guidone noted that when combining the time he served as interim general manager with permanent general manager, he  will have been in the job for 25 months.

“I’m kinda tired, you know, this body has gone through a lot of stuff,” said Guidone, who used to make bi-weekly plane commutes between London and Hong Kong in his pre-Co-op career.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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