41 A PARTNERSHIP BUILT ON TRUST CHAPTER TWO In that two-hour drive, stalwart competitors became collab- orators. Hobson opened up first, mentioning that CADP was preparing to do a major rewrite. “That was really important competitive news for me, to know that our major competitor was going to be rewriting their software,” says Dosch, who recalls being taken aback by Hobson’s openness. But instead of thinking about how to exploit this new infor- mation, Dosch offered a similar concession: NCDC needed new software, too. “Literally, both of us were going to be rewriting code at the same time, which made no sense,” he says. Dosch flew home and discussions continued. As a first step toward collaboration, the two General Managers met in a Renaissance Hotel near the St. Louis airport, signed nondis- closure agreements — and showed each other their software. They continued to talk by phone, building a sense of trust. “While we were competitors, we really had the same goals in mind. Vern and I were true co-op people,” says Hobson. “We wanted to do what was best for our Members.” Initially, conversations included SEDC. But those soon faltered, and the three co-ops mutually agreed that SEDC would remain independent. It simply didn’t feel like a good match to those involved. SEDC wanted to pursue its own business opportunities, and the culture at SEDC didn’t fit as well with NCDC and CADP. Reaching a commitment between the two General Managers was pivotal, but other obstacles remained. Board members of each organization needed to agree. Some of those Board members would lose their positions in the inevitable downsizing to create a Board that represented both organiza- tions. But the Board recognized that the new company would be stronger, with the capability to create more powerful software at a better price. Dosch and Hobson hit the road to discuss the consolidation at regional Member meetings, and they regularly updated their Board members. “The communication and explanation by Vern and Gary of what we wanted to accomplish by this process gave a sense of comfort to the Board that this is what we needed to be doing,” says Joe Harris, retired General Manager of Kay Electric in Blackwell, Oklahoma. Harris served on the CADP Board at the time of the merger and later on the NISC Board, including as its Chairman from 2004 to 2006. The Board would need to shrink, so the CADP and NCDC Boards agreed to a transition process in which some Board members would become part of an advisory group and would cycle out of their positions within three years. “Many times these mergers and acquisitions are tangled up in the governance,” says Dosch. “Here, our Board was “Literally, both of us [NCDC and CADP] were going to be rewriting code at the same time, which made no sense.” — VERN DOSCH NATIONAL INFORMATION SOLUTIONS COOPERATIVE