Understanding the Cooperative Business Model
When times are tough and the jobs are scarce many people consider setting up their own business, not because they want to operate their own business but because they see little other choice. The options for finding a job have run out and the money is disappearing; only the bills remain.
Some start a multi-level-market enterprise, others try blogging, and some wash windows, shovel snow or whatever they can do to earn extra money to keep the food on the table and a roof over head.
Few of these efforts have much chance of success. Yes, you can make money blogging; there are a number of hubs that will help you with that endeavor.
However, for those who do not want to take the blogging route or are looking to generate more income, I suggest taking a closer look at the cooperative business model.
A cooperative is not a business unto itself but a business model, the cooperative may sell food, clothing or furniture for example. It is a structure not a product.
The cooperative structure I am referring to is the workers cooperative, there are other models. Cooperatives are democratic as all members of a co-op are equal decision makers in the enterprise and employ the one-member, one vote, process of making decisions. Each worker owns a share in the cooperative and the enterprise is owned and controlled by the workers.
People may want to run their own business but feel they do not have all the skills necessary, for example, they may not know bookkeeping or marketing and both are important to an enterprise’s success.
When you join with others you increase your resource base and thus, your ability to operate a business.
To get started bring together people you know who are seeking to an opportunity, make it clear to them, that this meeting is not a pitch for the latest MLM opportunity but a meeting to explain and explore the possibilities that a workers cooperative has to offer.
Who you work with is important and be choosy, do not just grab someone to fill the numbers but take time to get to know each other. Once all the potential members are clear about what a workers cooperative is, it is time to consider the nature of the business, what we you sell, make or offer and to whom for what price. This is the time for the business plan and it can also be a time to bring in someone with expertise to guide the members through the process.
There are people who are experienced in developing workers coops and, at the very least, make contact and gather as much information as you can. Consider this planning stage as laying the foundation for your future enterprise.
A strong foundation can keep the business standing, through tough times, while a weak one may allow it to collapse.
The Canadian Co-operative Association provides leadership to promote, develop and unite co-operatives and credit unions for the benefit of people in Canada and around the world.
- ICA Coop
ICA is an independent, non-governmental association which unites, represents and serves co-operatives worldwide.