ASSINIBOIA - Ken Bahuaud has been general manager of the Southland Co-op for 21 years. “We arrived in Assiniboia at the ground breaking of the Prince of Wales Cultural and Recreation Center, Spring 2001, just in time for Prince Charles’ visit.”
Ken was born and raised on a farm in southern Manitoba and started working at St. Leon Co-op almost right out of high school. “My first job was driving a fuel truck, which I did for six years. I learned a lot about the petroleum industry and running a small hardware store.
“Making the decision to stay with the Co-op rather than continue farming, I accepted the position of GM in Elm Creek, MB, a small store in Southern Manitoba which was mostly petroleum. After Elm Creek I held positions of GM in Coronach, SK for three years and Boissevain, MB for three years.”
“In 1994 I received the opportunity to be a Retail Advisor for Federated Co-op Ltd., covering the area of South-central Saskatchewan, so I became very familiar with Southland Co-op and Assiniboia. In the spring of 2021 I applied for the position of GM of Southland Co-op and the rest is history.”
Working for Co-op has been good for Bahuaud and his family, gaining his loyalty early on. Co-op is a Cooperative; it is owned by the communities and members that it serves.
“When I think about community and supporting the community, my mind automatically goes to the Co-op. Raising a family in the communities that I have worked in really puts into perspective how much the Co-op system gives back, whether that be through equity to the members or donations to local clubs, charities, or endeavours. If you were a member of the community, why wouldn’t you want to support local?
“Co-ops are generally the last-standing business in many communities, and the people are not just another number to them; they are families who need access to resources, food, fuel, and/or hardware.”
Another reason Co-op kept his loyalty is how the business supports its employees through their personal and professional growth, providing opportunities to excel in their careers and to challenge themselves with new opportunities. “I have always felt encouraged and like part of the Co-op family.”
“When I graduated high school, I never thought that 40 years later I would be managing a $66 million Co-operative. I have been fortunate to experience success at each Co-op I have worked for. On- the-job training helped me to leave each Co-op in better shape than when I arrived,” said Bahuaud.
“I have had the opportunity to work with a multitude of great staff along the way. Seeing them grow and progress through the Co-op system like I did, and to know that I was part of their achievement, is a huge highlight for me.”
“In 2001 when I came on as GM at Southland Co-op, we had $15 million in annual sales. Over the past 21 years, through challenges and successes, we have been able to grow it to a $66 million Co-operative with 150 employees in the 6 communities of Assiniboia, Willow Bunch, Gravelbourg, Mossbank, Coronach, and Lafleche.”
Growth from within, member support, dedicated staff, and added services really helped with Bahuaud’s decision to stay and enjoy the community of Assiniboia and area.
“Assiniboia and area feels like home; it’s a rural farming community where everyone knows everyone. I have been very fortunate that my family has supported me throughout my career and embraced each community we have lived in. Assiniboia has provided us with a network of support,” he said.
Business has gone smoothly over the past 21 years for Ken at Southland Co-op, other than the Covid regulations, which created a challenge.
“Our Team Leaders and Team Members endured a long two years with all of the restrictions that were put in place and had to enforce. A lot of pressure was put on them and they handled it very professionally.”
Both the co-operative and the town have gained Bahuaud’s loyalty. “After my retirement, we plan on staying in Assiniboia and enjoying a less stressful life. We will continue to spend time at our seasonal site at Thompson Lake and hopefully get out there more often. Family is important and we hope to spend more time with our loved ones. Maybe throw in a bit of fishing and golfing when I can.”
First, and most importantly, Ken would like to thank his wife, Eveline, and their daughters, Chantelle and Kelsey.
“Without their support, I would not have accomplished what I have today. Secondly, I would like to thank all the staff, managers and Board members that helped along the way; I’ve met a lot of stellar people over my 40 years with the Co-op and everyone has given me the encouragement to keep doing what I do.”