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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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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

      How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

      We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

      So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

      While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

      Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

      What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

      How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

      But what does being productive actually entail?

      Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

      Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

      It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

      Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

      9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

      1. Avoid Multitasking

      Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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      Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

      If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

      2. Turn off Notifications

      According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

      Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

      The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

      Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

      3. Manage Interruptions

      There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

      Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

      If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

      By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

      4. Eat the Frog

      Mark Twain once famously said that:

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      “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

      What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

      We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

      Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

      5. Cut Down on Meetings

      Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

      You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

      The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

      But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

      If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

      6. Utilize Tools

      Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

      If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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      And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

      Some examples of tools that could be used:

      Communication
      • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
      • Samepage for video conference software.
      • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
      Task Management
      • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
      • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
      • Wekan for an open source option.
      Database Management
      Time Tracking
      • Clockify for a free tracker.
      • TMetric for workspace integrations.
      • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

      You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

      7. Declutter and Organize

      Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

      Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

      Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

      Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

      8. Take Breaks

      Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

      As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

      Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

      Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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      9. Drink Water

      Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

      Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

      Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

      A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

      If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

      You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

      The Bottom Line

      The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

      After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

      In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

      A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

      Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

      More About Boosting Productivity

      Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

      Reference

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