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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 November 19, 2019

      Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

      Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

      I imagine that like me, you say that you never have enough time and that you just cannot cope with 60 dozen things all at once.

      How on earth do you get out of that spiral?

      Many people never sit down and look at how to work smarter, rather than harder and even longer hours. But not you, you’re smart enough to try to learn effective ways to work.

      So how to work smarter not harder? Here are 12 smart ways you should be following:

      1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

      Easier said than done? Well, no actually, because there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

      For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off the phone and ignore your email first. Then you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus.

      Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.

      “When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

      2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

      These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, when you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

      This is exactly what I am doing now, so I cannot honestly say I am practicing what I preach!

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      But help is at hand. Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

      Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work.

      For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

      There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful.

      3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

      It is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can highly boost your productivity. Take a look at these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

      Now that is really a great way of working smarter, not harder.

      4. Use Your Phone Wisely

      Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

      If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise and you actually make human contact which is becoming quite rare in this electronic world.

      5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

      If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser.

      In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser too.

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      One solution is to use OneTab which can keep a neat list on the screen of all these tabs when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

      6. Use a “To Don’t” List

      We all know about to do lists and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

      But often, I find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to don’t list.[1]

      Some people prefer to savagely prune the to do list while others prefer to have two separate lists, to do and to don’t. You just have to work out what works best for you when you are trying to save precious time to become more productive.

      7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

      When failure rears its ugly head, some people get a bit paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

      Projects will go wrong and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

      “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” — Richard Branson

      And here you can find 10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure.

      8. Be Concise

      Rambling on at meetings, in emails and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time.

      One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

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      Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

      • Making new contacts
      • Talking about yourself at a job interview
      • Meeting people at conferences or parties
      • Phone calls to new clients

      9. Ask the Right Questions

      “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

      How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

      When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making. This will save you time and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum.

      Forbes magazine reports on research that they carried out on asking the right questions.[3] When that happens, the positive effects are increased by 400%. There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

      Lifehack’s CEO Leon has shared about how to ask for feedback to learn faster: How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

      10. Learn as Much as You Can

      You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

      Keep up to date on trends and developments. It is a fact-changing world. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. Just another way of working smarter.

      “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

      11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

      No, your greatest resource is not time. It is YOU.

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      If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

      What you should be doing is making sure you are in the best shape. It is useful to remember that you need a break of 15 minutes after every one and a half hours of work.[4]

      Taking breaks and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

      12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

      As a society, we are obsessed with doing everything smarter so we are more efficient and we save time all around.[5]

      But the most important thing to remember is to accept when we are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work!

      The Bottom Line

      The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter — your life goals, your personal growth, your health and your relationships.

      Stop working for more hours and start working smarter!

      More About Working Smart

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

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