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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 April 6, 2020

      How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

      How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

      Turning 50 is a milestone in anyone’s life, after all you are half way to 100! But seriously, turning 50 is often a time in life when people can sit back and take a look at where they’ve been and contemplate what the future holds.

      Can you change careers at 50? It’s not uncommon for people in their 50’s to consider a career change, after all if you’ve spent 20 to 30 years in a career, chances are that some of the bloom is off the rose.

      Often, when we are starting out in our 20’s, we choose a career path based on factors that are no longer relevant to us in our 50’s. Things like our parents’ expectations, a fast paced exciting lifestyle or the lure of making a lot of money can all be motivating factors in our 20’s.

      But in our 50’s, those have given way to other priorities. Things like the desire to spend more time with family and friends, a slower paced less stressful lifestyle, the need to care for a sick spouse or elderly parents can all contribute to wanting a career change in your 50’s.

      Just like any big life changing event, changing careers is scary. The good news is that just like most things we are scared of, the fear is mostly in our own head.

      Understanding how to go about a career change at 50 and what you can expect should help reduce the anxiety and fear of the unknown.

      What are Your Goals for a Career Change?

      As in any endeavor, having properly defined goals will help you to determine the best path to take.

      What are you looking for in a new career? Choosing a slower less stressful position that gives you more time with family and friends may sound ideal, but you’ll often find that you’re giving up some income and job satisfaction in the process.

      Conversely, if your goal is to quit a job that is sucking the life from your soul to pursue a lifelong passion. You might be trading quality time with family and friends for job satisfaction.

      Neither decision is wrong or bad, you just need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of any decision you make.

      Types of Career Changes at 50+

      There are four main types of career changes that people make in their 50’s. Each type has it’s unique set of challenges and will very in the degree of preparation required to make the change.

      Industry Career Change

      In this career change, a person remains in the same field but switches industries.

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      With an industry change, a person takes their set of skills and applies them to an industry that they have no previous experience in.

      An example would be a salesperson in the oil and gas industry becoming a salesperson for a media (advertising) company. They are taking their skill set (selling) and applying it to a different industry (media).

      This type of career change is best accomplished by doing a lot of homework on the industry you want to get into as well as networking within the industry.

      Functional Career Change

      A functional career change would be a change of careers within the same industry.

      For example, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company who changes careers to become a human resources manager. It may or may not be with the same company, but they remain within the pharmaceutical industry. In this case, they are leaving one set of skills behind (accounting) to develop a new set (human resource) within the same industry.

      In a functional career change, new or additional training as well as certifications may be required in order to make the switch. If you are considering a functional career change, you can start by getting any training or certifications needed either online, through trade associations or at your local community college.

      Double Career Change

      This is the most challenging career change of all. A person doing a double career change is switching both a career and an industry.

      An example of a double change would be an airline pilot quitting to pursue their dream of producing rock music. In that case, they are leaving both the aviation industry and a specific skill set (piloting) for a completely unrelated industry and career.

      When considering a double career change, start preparing by getting any needed training or certifications first. Then you can get your foot in the door by taking an apprenticeship or part time job.

      With a double change, it’s not uncommon to have to start out at the bottom as you are asking an employer to take a chance on someone without any experience or work history in the industry.

      Entrepreneurial Career Change

      Probably one of the most common career changes made by people in their 50’s is the entrepreneurial career change.

      After 20 to 30 years of working for “Corporate America”, a lot of people become disillusioned with the monotony, politics and inefficiency of the corporate world. Many of us dream of having our own business and being our own boss.

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      By this time in our life, we have saved some money and the financial pressures we had with young children have passed; so it’s a perfect time to spread our entrepreneurial wings.

      Entrepreneurial career changes can be within the same industry and using your existing knowledge and contacts to start a similar business competing within the same industry. Or it can be completely unrelated to your former industry and based on personal interests, passions or hobbies.

      A good example would be someone who played golf as a hobby starting an affiliate marketing website selling golf clubs. If you are considering an entrepreneurial career change, there are a lot of very good free resources available on the internet. Just be sure to do your homework.

      Practical Tips on Making a Career Change at 50+

      So you’ve decided to take the plunge and make a career switch in your 50’s. No matter what your reasons or what type of a career change you are embarking on, here are some helpful hints to make the transition easier:

      1. Deal with the Fear

      As stated earlier, any big life change comes with both fear and anxiety. Things never seem to go as smoothly as planned, you will always have bumps and roadblocks along the way. By recognizing this and even planning for it, you are less likely to let these issues derail your progress.

      If you find yourself becoming discouraged by all of the stumbling blocks, there are always resources to help. Contacting a career coach is a good place to start, they can help you with an overall strategy for your career change as well as the interview and hiring process, resume writing / updating and more. Just Google “Career Coach” for your options.

      I also recommend using the services of a professional counselor or therapist to help deal with the stress and anxiety of this major life event.

      It’s always good to have an unbiased third party to help you work through the problems that inevitably arise.

      2. Know Your “Why”

      It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the “why” you are making this career change. Is it to have more free time, reduce stress, follow a passion or be your own boss?

      Having a clear understanding of you personal “why” will influence every decision in this process. Knowing your “why” and keeping it in mind also serves as a motivator to help you reach your goals.

      3. Be Realistic

      Take an inventory of both your strengths and weaknesses. Are your organizational skills less than stellar? Then, becoming a wedding planner is probably not a good idea.

      This is an area where having honest outside input can be really helpful. Most of us are not very good at accurately assessing our abilities. It’s a universal human trait to exaggerate our abilities while diminishing our weaknesses.

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      Requesting honest feedback from friends and co-workers is a good place to start, but this is another area where a career coach can come in handy.

      4. Consider an Ad-Vocation

      Sometimes, making a career change all at once is just too big of a change. Issues like a severely reduced income, geography and lack of benefits can all be impediments to your career change. In those cases, you may want to start your new career as an ad-vocation.

      An ad-vocation is a second or ad-on vocation in addition to your primary vocation. Things like a part-time job, consulting or even a side business can all be ad-vocations.

      The benefit of having an ad-vocation is being able to build experience a reputation and contacts in the new field while maintaining all the benefits of your current job.

      5. Update Your Skills

      Whether it means acquiring new certifications or going back to school to get your cosmetology licence, having the right training is the foundation for a successful career change.

      The great thing about changing careers now is that almost any training or certifications needed can be free or at very little cost online. Check with trade associations, industry websites and discussion groups for any requirements you may need.

      Learn How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive.

      6. Start Re-Branding Yourself Now

      Use the internet and social media to change the way you present yourself online.

      Changing your LinkedIn profile is a good way to show prospective employers that you are serious about a career change.

      Joining Facebook groups, trade associations and discussion boards as well as attending conventions is a great way to start building a network while you learn.

      Here’re some Personal Branding Basics You Need to Know for Career Success.

      7. Overhaul Your Resume

      Most of us have heard the advice to update our resume every six months, and most of us promptly ignore that advice and only update our resume when we need it.

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      When making a career change, updating is not enough; this calls for a complete overhaul of your resume. Chances are that your current resume was designed around your old career which may or may not apply to your new goals.

      Crafting a new resume emphasizing your strengths for the new position your looking for is key. There are many places that will help you craft a resume online and it is a service included with most career coaching services.

      8. Know Your Timeline

      There are a lot of factors when it comes to how long it will take to make the career change.

      Industry and Functional career changes tend to be the easiest to do and therefore can be accomplished in the shortest period of time. While the Double Career Change and the Entrepreneurial Career Change both require more effort and thus time.

      There are also personal factors involved in the time it will take to switch careers.

      Generally speaking the more you are willing to be flexible with both compensation and geography, the shorter time it will take to make the switch.

      Final Thoughts

      Changing careers at anytime can be stressful, but for those of us who are 50 or above, it can seem to be an overwhelming task fraught with pitfalls and self doubt.

      Prospective employers know the benefits that come with more mature employees. Things like a wealth of experience, a proven work history and deeper understanding of corporate culture are all things that older workers bring to the table.

      And while the younger generation may possess better computer or technical skills than us, if you’re willing to learn, there are a ton of free or nearly free resources available to you.

      Deciding on a career change at 50 is a great way to experience life on your own terms.

      More Tips for Career Change

      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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