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Is Cooperative Business the New Way to Succeed in Modern Business?

Is Cooperative Business the New Way to Succeed in Modern Business?

The world of modern retail is ruled by a number of big names who control a massive proportion of a market worth over $5 trillion in the United States alone. Walmart is the world’s largest retailer by revenue. If you are an independent farmer or food producer, how do you approach such an organisation?

The simple answer is you don’t. There is no way that an independent producer can make any inroads to the large retailers alone and so a cooperative model is often the only way in which individual producers can create a large enough brand to engage with the large players in the retail industry.

What is a Cooperative?

A cooperative will look, from the outside, like any other business however the major difference is rather than being owned by investors or shareholders they are owned by their members. Ordinary people who are farmers, food producers or employees. It is owned and managed by its members for the benefit of its members.

It allows individual farmers or producers to create a brand that can be competitive in a challenging market. Members of a cooperative democratically vote with a one organisation one vote model to make key decisions and to set policies.

Types of Cooperative Organisation

There are a number of basic models of cooperative:

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  • Producer – Owned by food producers like farmers or fishermen who join forces to process and market their products under a single brand.
  • Worker cooperatives – Organisations owned by some of all its workers. It gives workers the chance to own their own company, something which would be out of reach of any individual. There are various businesses from restaurants and bakeries to small manufacturing cooperatives.
  • Consumer cooperatives – Consumer cooperatives allow numerous individuals to come together to buy anything from groceries to utilities and fuels with the benefit of bulk buying, which allows them to command better deals from suppliers.
  • Retail cooperatives – These consumer cooperative generally involving independent business owners. For example, Best Western Hotels encompasses a number of independent hotels that benefit from an international cooperative to reduce the cost of products and services to create a powerful, international brand for otherwise relatively small businesses.

The power of a cooperative allows otherwise small companies or individuals to act with the power of larger organisations while retaining inclusive business practices.

Why Producer Cooperatives Work

An producer cooperative allows individual farmers, fishermen or food producers to achieve a market scale and economic presence which would not be possible by themselves. By coming together as a collective they can create a central, large bargaining power when dealing with the major retailers for the sale of their products. In addition, they can achieve reduced costs by pooling capital and resources to employ bulk purchasing and centralised production and processing.

Cooperative organisations can create marketing resources and brands that would be out of reach of individuals. However allowing an organisation to be formed following the ethical and business ideas of the individuals creates an organisation with shared values as opposed to a ‘faceless’ conglomerate.

Introducing the Rochdale Principles

Most major cooperatives follow the Rochdale Principles, a set of ideas established in 1844 by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in Rochdale, England. The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was a group set up with the challenges of the Industrial Revolution which forced large numbers of skilled weavers into poverty as their roles were replaced by factories. They banded together to open their own store which sold food which they otherwise could not afford. They pooled resources of £1 per person to allow them to open a store selling high quality, unadulterated goods.

The principles they created to run their first cooperative were formed by trial and error but created a set of ideas that stand even today. The principles set out values such as self-responsibility, democracy and equality as well as the importance of honesty and social responsibility.

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Cooperatives are naturally democratic organisations controlled by their members, there is no discrimination allowed in the establishment of the membership and an expectation that each member contributes and that at least part of the capital is given as common property of the cooperative.

The principles build in elements that value and develop local communities and cooperation between cooperative organisations. It is good for business, developing links and allowing smaller organisations to work together to become powerful yet responsible alliances. The most important element is that you as a consumer can trace your product through the organisation to an individual farmer or producer.

Old Fashioned New Business

In an age where consumers have a greater interest in the source of their food, the ability to trace products through a brand to individual producers is a major asset. It gives an opportunity to prove the brand heritage.

Case Study – Cabot Creamery

Cabot Creamery is one of America’s most popular cheese brands and it was established in 1919 when 94 families in Vermont formed a cooperative to secure their livelihood. Now the cooperative encompasses over 1,000 individual farms and over 1,000 employees in four production plants.

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Photo credit: Cabot Creamery

    Photo credit: Cabot Creamery

    The scalability has allowed the cooperative to grow to a business with a turnover of hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The People Behind the Cooperative

    The important story behind cooperatives are the individuals who make up the membership. Cabot Creamery encompasses over 1,000 farming families, many of whom have been members for generations. From small specialty farms with 50 cows to larger establishments with many hundreds of cattle, the key is that each is a small to medium-sized business working within and supporting a local community yet an intrinsic part of a major food brand.

    Cabot Creamery is keen to share the stories of their individual farms and the families which own them, it is a major part of their marketing and most welcome consumers to visit the farms and to meet the families allowing them to understand and appreciate the nature of the cooperative.

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    Cabot Creamery - one of the farming families

      Photo Credit: Cabot Creamery – Birch Mill Farm

      You can learn more about how Cabot Creamery have developed their sustainable cooperative online at: https://www.cabotcheese.coop/our-coop

      Creating a Better Business

      It is the unique nature of a cooperative is as engaging for a modern consumer as it was necessary for the original co-op members 100 years ago. The cooperative model still makes considerable financial sense for small organisations or producers. However, a more enlightened consumer who wants to understand the source of their food can be satisfied with the story that a cooperative business delivers. We can see from the Cabot Creamery case study that the cooperative have enabled a large number of producers to make a viable business. A major part of their success is the transparency of their membership and they make a large play on the fact that their members are family farms, reinforced by supporting a large number of community activities. In this way, they ensure that their local producers are seen to be grounded within their community.

      The value of local community is vital for the development of a cooperative brand, not only is it built into the values of cooperative organisation it is a vital differentiator between cooperatives and other corporate entities.

      An organisation which is built from its foundations on sound, ethical values with sustainability, individuals and local community at its heart seems to be a very modern principle, yet the Rochdale Principles have just held their centenary.

      A Cooperative Future?

      Whereas the cooperative model is one based in the past, it is one which is growing from strength to strength. There are 2.6 million cooperatives worldwide with over 1 billion memberships and clients, generating $3 trillion in annual revenue (Results of the 2014 Global Census on Co-operatives).

      It is clear that cooperative business is good business.

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      Published on March 26, 2019

      How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change (Step-By-Step Guide)

      How to Write a Cover Letter for a Career Change (Step-By-Step Guide)

      Embarking on a career change, tiny or big, can be paralyzing. Regardless of the reason for your desired career change, you need to be very clear on ‘why’ you are making a change. This is essential because you need to have clarity and be confident in your career direction in order to convince employers why you are best suited for the new role or industry.

      A well crafted career change cover letter can set the tone and highlight your professional aspirations by showcasing your personal story.

      1. Know Your ‘Why’

      Career changes can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You can take control and change careers successfully by doing research and making informed decisions.

      Getting to know people, jobs, and industries through informational interviews is one of the best ways to do this.[1] Investing time to gather information from multiple sources will alleviate some fears for you to actually take action and make a change.

      Here are some questions to help you refine your ‘why’, seek clarity, and better explain your career change:

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      • What makes me content?
      • How do I want work to impact my life?
      • What’s most important to me right now?
      • How committed am I to make a career change?
      • What do I need more of to feel satisfied at work?
      • What do I like to do so much that I lose track of time?
      • How can I start to explore my career change options?
      • What do I dislike about my current role or work environment?

      2. Introduction: Why Are You Writing This Cover Letter?

      Make this section concise. Cite the role that you are applying for and include other relevant information such as the posting number, where you saw the posting, the company name, and who referred you to the role, if applicable.

      Sample:

      I am applying for the role of Client Engagement Manager posted on . Please find attached relevant career experiences on my resume.

      3. Convince the Employer: Why Are You the Best Candidate for the Role?

      Persuade the employer that you are the best person for the role. Use this section to show that you: have read the job posting, understand how your skills contribute to the needs of the company, and can address the challenges of the company.

      Tell your personal story and make it easy for hiring managers to understand the logic behind your career change. Clearly explaining the reason for your career change will show how thoughtful and informed your decision-making process is of your own transition.

      Be Honest

      Explain why you are making a career change. This is where you will spend the bulk of your time crafting a clear message.

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      Speak to the mismatch that may be perceived by hiring managers, between the experience shown on your resume and the job posting, to show why your unique strengths make you more qualified than other candidates.

      Address any career gaps on our resume. What did you do or learn during those periods that would be an asset to the role and company?

      Sample:

      I have been a high school English and Drama educator for over 7 years. In efforts to develop my career in a new direction, I have invested more time outside the classroom to increase community engagement by building a strong network of relationships to support school programs. This includes managing multiple stakeholder interests including local businesses, vendors, students, parents, colleagues, the Board, and the school administration.

      Highlight Relevant Accomplishment

      Instead of repeating what’s on your resume, let your personality shine. What makes you unique? What are your strengths and personal characteristics that make you suited for the job?

      Sample:

      As a joyful theater production manager, I am known to be an incredible collaborator. My work with theater companies have taught me the ability to work with diverse groups of people. The theater environment calls for everyone involved to cooperate and ensure a successful production. This means I often need to creatively and quickly think on my feet, and use a bit of humour to move things forward to meet tight timelines.

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      Feature Your Transferable Skills

      Tap into your self-awareness to capture your current skills.[2]

      Be specific and show how your existing skills are relevant to the new role. Review the job posting and use industry specific language so that the hiring manager can easily make the connection between your skills and the skills that they need.

      Sample:

      As the first point of contact for students, parents, and many community stakeholders, I am able to quickly resolve problems in a timely and diplomatic manner. My problem solving aptitude and strong negotiation skills will be effective to address customer issues effectively. This combined with my planning, organization, communication, and multitasking skills makes me uniquely qualified for the role of Client Engagement Manager to ensure that customers maintain a positive view of .

      4. Final Pitch and Call-To-Action: Why Do You Want to Work for This Company?

      Here’s your last chance to show what you have to offer! Why does this opportunity and company excite you? Show what value you’ll add to the company.

      Remember to include a call-to-action since the whole point of this letter is to get you an interview!

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      Sample:

      _________ is a global leader in providing management solutions to diverse clients. I look forward to an opportunity to discuss how my skills and successful experience managing multiple stakeholders can help build and retain strong customer relationships as the Client Engagement Manager.

      Summing It Up

      Remember these core cover letter tips to help you effectively showcase your personal brand:

      • Keep your writing clear and concise. You have one page to express yourself so make every word count.
      • Do your research to determine ‘who’ will be reading your letter. Understanding your audience will help you better persuade them that you are best suited for the role.
      • Tailor your cover for each job posting by including the hiring manager’s name, and the company name and address. Make it easy on yourself and create your own cover letter template. Highlight or alter the font color of all the spots that need to be changed so that you can easily tailor it for the next job application.
      • Get someone else to review your cover letter. At a minimum, have someone proofread it for grammar and spelling errors. Ideally, have someone who is well informed about the industry or with hiring experience to provide you with insights so that you can fine-tune your career change cover letter.

      Check out these Killer Cover Letter Samples that got folks interviews!

      It is very important that you clarify why you are changing careers. Your career exploration can take many forms so setting the foundation by knowing ‘why’ not only helps you develop a well thought out career change cover letter, [3] but can also help you create an elevator pitch, build relationships, tweak your LinkedIn profile and during interviews.

      Remember to focus on your transferable skills and use your collective work experience to show how your accomplishments are relevant to the new role. Use the cover letter to align your abilities with the needs of the employer as your resume will likely not provide the essential context of your career change.

      Ensure that your final pitch is concise and that your call-to action is strong. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview or to meet the hiring manager in-person!

      More Resources About Career Change

      Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via unsplash.com

      Reference

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