Collaborate to access new markets

Karen McLeod manages the export advisory service at Scottish Development International (SDI), the international arm of Scottish Enterprise.  SDI offers support to help Scottish Businesses trade overseas

Last year a record number of Scottish businesses, large and small, started thinking globally and branched out overseas.  We spoke to Karen to find out why it’s important to consider selling internationally and the ways in which you can do it successfully.

Why is exporting important? 

Overseas markets have become increasingly important to the Scottish economy and in 2014 Scotland’s international exports were valued at £27.5 billion*, a 17.3% increase from 2010.

Our research shows that many overseas markets are underserved and there is demand for Scottish products and services internationally. This, paired with the fact that SDI supported 2,500 businesses to export last year, shows that there is opportunity and the ambition for exporting to continue to grow.

What are the benefits?

Trading abroad can boost your profile, credibility and bottom line.  That applies whether you’re trading with established markets such as the EU and USA, or high-growth markets like Brazil, China, India, Colombia and Vietnam.

International markets like these offer you access to new customers, revenue and ideas. Crucially, they enable you to spread your business risk, increase the commercial lifespan of your products and services and secure economies of scale which are not always possible at home. In fact, exporting is now considered essential for Scottish businesses that want to safeguard future growth.

The figures are compelling, showing that those firms that choose to export become 34% more productive in their first year** while those already exporting achieve 59% faster productivity growth than non-exporters**, positively impacting on staffing and financial performance.

Doing business overseas brings further benefits such as fostering ideas for new products and services. Once a company has ‘dipped their toe’ into a new market this in turn tends to increase confidence and ambition and provides the momentum for further growth through exporting.

What are the barriers and how can you overcome them?

Exporting can seem daunting to smaller businesses and the thought of going it alone can often be off putting and seen as high risk.  Collaborating with others can be a way to address those risks and make the most of the opportunities that exporting brings.

Collaboration for international markets

Businesses can collaborate using the consortium co-operative business model. This model allows businesses to come together for a shared purpose; to buy or sell in scale, market more effectively, share facilities or jointly bid for contracts.

There are good examples of Scottish consortiums already collaborating on international strategy.  Examples of shared activities include creation of a portfolio brand for export, consolidated shipping and a joint e-commerce activity.

Winning support with the Collaboration Prize

We are supporting this year’s Collaboration Prize which encourages firms to think collaboratively and pitch an idea for a new collaborative enterprise that will help them to access new markets. This could be a new sector or a geographical market including international markets.

The winners selected by the judging panel will receive £5,000 (to implement their collaborative idea), support to set up as a consortium co-operative, up to £5,000 business support (delivered by Scottish Enterprise or Highlands and Islands Enterprise) and access to export advisor support from my team.  This includes a wide variety of services such as:

  • an export advisory service, backed by international trade advisers, offering tailored support and guidance;
  • online tools to help you create an export plan;
  • and business intelligence from 43 global offices as well as events to explore opportunities and network with valuable contacts.

The Collaboration Prize is being delivered by Co-operative Development Scotland on behalf of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Island Enterprise in partnership with Business Gateway and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

 

Sources:

*Scottish Government Export Statistics Scotland 2014 publication – click here to read.

**UK Government UK Trade & Investment research publication – Bringing home the benefits: how to grow through exporting click here to read.

Collaboration: a step-by-step guide

Jaye Martin, CDS specialist advisor

Collaborating with others can be a highly effective way for a business to achieve growth, access new markets and drive innovation whilst sharing the associated costs and risks.

The Scottish Enterprise Collaboration Prize 2016/17 is currently open for entries and aims to raise awareness of the collaboration route among Scottish businesses.

The Prize is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring collaborators, and exploring the prospective benefits of forming or joining a consortium is highly encouraged in order to help businesses of all sizes reach their full potential.

However, when it comes to forming or joining a consortium, what should a business consider? How does the process work and what are the specific benefits that can be delivered?

Here, CDS specialist advisor Jaye Martin shares a brief step-by-step guide to consortium working to help you determine whether or not collaboration is right for your business.

Step 1: Identify barriers to growth

For many small and micro-enterprises, lack of scale, time, finance or resources can all be barriers to accessing new markets, tendering for larger contracts or simply marketing services, and therefore barriers to growth.  These challenges will be familiar to many businesses, particularly those with small teams or those who provide unique or niche products and services.

Step 2: Look for a potential solution

Teaming up with other like-minded businesses and forming a consortium is an excellent way to break down these barriers. Suitable for businesses of all sizes operating in any sector, this model can help businesses grow by reducing the costs and risks associated with tackling new markets and investing in new products and services. It can also enable businesses to share resources such as back office functions and premises. Meanwhile, member businesses are able to retain their own brands, independence and control. You can find out more here.

Step 3: Find collaborators

Carefully identifying like-minded businesses to work with is crucial. Trust is a key factor. It can help if the businesses have worked together informally before. In most cases, member businesses operate in similar or complementary fields, although a lot will depend on the rationale for collaboration. You can read about the experience of a number of successful consortia here.

Step 4: Choose the right structure

The consortium co-operative model is an effective collaborative business structure. In simple terms it is an organisation run in a shared and equal way by and for the benefit of its members. Members are independent businesses and the consortium can be for any purpose which supports them, for example marketing, tendering, innovating or exporting. Co-operative Development Scotland has a track record in helping businesses and we’d be happy to help you explore the options. You can contact us here.

Step 5: Benefit from your collaboration

Collaborating can be a real game-changer for businesses. For example, one of last year’s Collaboration Prize winners, Ecosse from Above, was founded by three aerial photography companies and a web developer who wanted to create an online library providing high-quality aerial footage and images of Scotland at a reduced cost. Ecosse from Above has since built a library of over 5,000 high quality images and 500 affordable films from across the Scottish landscape which has grabbed the attention of tourism bodies such as VisitScotland as well as television and video production companies from all over the world.

Fellow winner ArchBlue Ltd, was founded by four organisations involved in providing complementary services to the heritage sector including 3D measuring and modelling, archaeological recording and visualisation, conservation planning and 3D printing. Working collaboratively has enabled the businesses to provide customers with a comprehensive approach to heritage site management as well as engaging methods of communicating a site’s story to the public. The consortium used its prize winnings to add strength to tender submissions and establish a brand identity.

As well as supporting businesses to access new markets, share risks and costs and develop new products or services, many businesses involved in consortium working also report increased confidence, better business connections, improved knowledge-sharing and an enhanced profile.

The benefits are tangible and numerous – and definitely worth exploring when considering the future of your business.

For more information about the Collaboration Prize, including how to enter and requesting an application pack, visit here.

Climbing to success with employee ownership

Peter Will, managing director of Tayplay

Scotland’s latest business to become employee-owned is Perth-based Tayplay, a manufacturer of rope, playground and climbing equipment for the playground and leisure industry. Since it was founded in 1994, it has developed into the UK’s leading supplier of rope playground equipment, shipping hundreds of products worldwide and turning over £2million annually.

Last month’s move to an employee-ownership model has seen Tayplay’s 14 members of staff given the opportunity to become owners in the business. Managing director Peter Will discusses why the company decided to go down the EO route and shares his experiences of the transition process. 

Following the recession we experienced a difficult trading period and we were considering a trade sale.  However, we could not agree terms and after a strategic review we decided to look more closely at the employee ownership business model.  Co-operative Development Scotland then conducted a feasibility study and we quickly discovered employee ownership ticked all of our boxes.  No other options were even seriously considered at that stage.

Our EO journey started in 2014 and so far we have been able to meet all of our targets in terms of the sale price, timescales and the fact we’ve been able to retain the business in Perth.  EO is the ideal solution for retiring owners who want to preserve the ethos of the business and retain employment locally.  It is also a reward for the staff as we wanted to recognise the contribution and commitment they’ve made to the company’s success.

An Employee Ownership Trust has acquired a controlling interest in the company and will hold these shares on behalf of the employees, with the view that our employees will eventually own 100% of the company.

We spent quite a bit of time working with specialist advisors at CDS, undertaking meetings with the staff to help them understand the concept of employee ownership.  Our employees now really believe in the new model and we expect the degree of buy-in to increase now that the deal has gone through.  As the employees begin to see and feel the reality of EO we expect their commitment to the company will grow and it will make recruitment easier.

The Tayplay team

CDS guided and supported Tayplay’s transition to employee ownership, providing expert advice on the implementation of the new ownership structure. If you would like to learn more about how employee-ownership could benefit your business, please get in touch and our expert advisers will be happy to chat with you.

Happy partners make for better business at John Lewis Partnership

David Jones started working for John Lewis Partnership as a Graduate Trainee in 1982. Since then he has held a number of roles, including running several Waitrose stores and some time as Waitrose’s Supply Chain Director.  His current role is Partnership Registrar, in which he is tasked with ensuring the business upholds the principles of the partnership. David gives some background to the Partnership’s employee ownership model, and how putting the happiness of the partners first makes for better business.

david-jones-by-jeff-hopkins-resized

David Jones, John Lewis Partnership

“John Lewis Partnership has not always been employee-owned.  The son of the founder, John Spedan Lewis, decided it was unacceptable that his family made more from the business than all other employees combined. His objection wasn’t just moral; he felt it was bad for business.

Spedan’s view was that if he created a more successful business that reinvested in itself, took a long term view, gave everybody a voice in how it was run, and actively contributed more to community and society, then more people would want to spend money in his shops.   In 1929, he sold his shares to a trust, that would hold the shares on the employees’ behalf, and he was repaid for these shares over the next 30 years.

John Lewis Partnership now has almost 400 shops, 90,000 employees and gross annual sales of over £11 billion.  The Partnership employs 3200 people in Scotland. There are seven Waitrose stores as well as John Lewis shops in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.  We also have a customer contact centre in Hamilton.  We support many Scottish companies in our supply chain.  Quality of produce is paramount for Waitrose, and we are pleased to support many Scottish producers. Indeed, Stoat’s Porridge and Mo’s Cookie Dough are two Scottish companies who started out selling products in Waitrose, and have gone on to be national businesses.  We build long term strategic partnerships with our suppliers, and are proud to have been working closely with Aquascot so closely for many years.  I’m thrilled the firm has also adopted the employee ownership model.

As Partners in the business, our employees share the rights and responsibilities that employee ownership entails. This doesn’t mean that everyone is involved in every decision the business makes – we couldn’t function like that.  What it means is that they hold our leadership to account for the decisions they take.  We have 5 employees elected to our Partnership Board. These employees do not have management or executive responsibilities; they are there to provide the link with our partners and to test and probe the management. We have a democratically elected Partnership Council that ensures the business is run for and on behalf of the partners. The Council shares the views of the Partners on key issues and makes recommendations on policy.   The Partnership Council has the authority to remove the Chairman – although I’m pleased to say this has never happened!

Our Partners are rewarded for their commitment. The Partnership’s profit , after investment is distributed to Partners. This can be through pay, discounts subsidised leisure or learning. Each year we announce our annual bonus, which in 2016 amounted to 5 weeks’ salary for each Partner. Fairness is a key value and each member of staff receives the same percentage of salary in their company bonus. The same bonus is paid to employees whether they work in John Lewis, Waitrose or one of the other companies.  If John Lewis has a bad year, and Waitrose do exceptionally well, one balances the other.  This is the dual strength of our model.

John Lewis Partnership can never be sold, which gives us a powerful competitive advantage.  Because we have no option to sell our shares and invest elsewhere, each of our 90,000 partners has a strong incentive to throw all their energy and passion into making this year better than the last.

And it works. In a ferociously competitive sector, where we’ve seen the demise of high street brands such as Woolworths, BHS, Comet and others, we have not only survived, we’ve thrived.  Employee ownership is fundamental to our commercial success.  If we are to build a more diverse, sustainable and inclusive economy, we need to see more companies choose employee ownership.“

David Jones is speaking at a breakfast seminar on 20th October 2016 hosted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise at their Inverness offices. More information can be found here.

The Collaboration Prize is now open for entries


collabprize-1617-logo
Scottish Enterprise director Sarah Deas discusses the Collaboration Prize and why businesses should enter.

We are pleased to announce that the Collaboration Prize 2016/17 in partnership with Business Gateway and Scottish Chamber of Commerce is now open for entries.

We want to encourage firms to think collaboratively and pitch an idea for a new enterprise that will help them to access new markets. This could be a new sector or a geographical market including international markets. With the winning entrants receiving £5,000 cash and up to £5,000 business support to bring their idea to life.

To be eligible to win businesses must be based in Scotland, have an innovative idea they would like to implement by setting up a consortium co-operative and have identified other like-minded members for the consortium.

Consortia are established when businesses come together for a shared purpose; to buy or sell in scale, market more effectively, share facilities or jointly bid for contracts.  By collaborating businesses can reduce costs, share risks and create new platforms for growth.  Members could be businesses, partnerships or individuals, and the co-operative may be for any purpose which supports the members.

The competition this year has a particular focus on consortia accessing new and international markets. Two of the five prizes will be awarded to those consortia who demonstrate strong international ambitions to be delivered using collaboration. As part of their prize the winners will be able to access export advisor support where appropriate.

At CDS we think the Prize offers a great opportunity for businesses to harness the benefits that emerge through collaboration. Working with others can help businesses grow, and reduce the costs and risks of tackling new markets or investing in new processes.

In our experience collaboration can make a company better at what it does. Whether it’s about sharing resources or finding new markets, collaboration can bring efficiency and lead to increased profits.

For more information about the Scottish Enterprise Collaboration Prize visit the website.

 

Learn more at our FREE event

We’re running a series of FREE events this Autumn on employee ownership for interested businesses.  Please find below details for our forthcoming event.

To book your place at any of our events, register online at www.scottish-enterprise.com/cds-events or call 0300 013 3385.

Sharing ownership: the employee stake

Date:                5 October 2016

Time:                9:30am to 1pm

Duration:          3 hours

Admission fee: Free

Venue:             Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, 23-27 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3BH

Eligibility:         Open to all Scottish businesses and professional advisers with an                                   interest in employee ownership.

This event explores how to assess and improve employee engagement, and how shares can be used to reinforce and reward employee commitment and contribution.

Engaged employees make for a happier, more productive workforce.  Evidence demonstrates that company performance improves when employees have a stake in the firm.  Our workshop has been designed to help you improve employee engagement in your company.

Dean Hunter of Hunter Adams and Rodger Cairns of Shepherd & Wedderburn will lead a session on how to create the right scheme for your company and the pitfalls and success factors to consider.

What’s covered?

  • Ways to assess and improve employee engagement
  • How shares can be used to reinforce and reward your employees efforts

Speakers

Lirrie Craig, a member of Scottish Enterprise’s workplace innovation team, will explain the factors that enhance employee engagement within companies.

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams, will talk through why he divested 30% of his shareholding into the hands of employees.

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams

 

Rodger Cairns, Scotland’s leading expert on share schemes, will explain the variety of options available and how to decide which scheme fits for you. Rodger will also talk about the importance of effective communication to the workforce when launching any kind of share plan.

Agenda

9.30am Registration and coffee
10am Welcome
10.15am Achieving employee engagement – Lirrie Craig, Scottish Enterprise
10.35am Giving employees a stake in the business – Dean Hunter, Hunter Adams
10.55am Shares as an engagement tool – Rodger Cairns, Shepherd & Wedderburn
11.30am Q&A
12pm Networking lunch
1pm Close

Register for this event

 

Engaging employees through innovative approaches to governance

11/12/15 - 15112301 - SCOTTISH ENTERPRISEGLASGOWSarah Deas

Scottish Enterprise director Sarah Deas discusses how boosting employee engagement can help drive business success.

When a business changes ownership, major changes can sometimes be expected.  The new owners may want to do things differently and fresh insight combined with new ambitions and goals can lead to significant restructure within a company. This can present a great opportunity to assess how well the company functions and drive changes that can lead to a more effective and efficient operation.

A good example of this is market-leading search and selection firm, Saxton Bampfylde, which undertook a radical shift when it switched to an employee ownership model. We spoke to Peta Hay, the managing director for Scotland, about the company’s experiences since.

“The traditional ways of making decisions and exercising authority didn’t fit with who we are as a business.  Now we’re owned by our employees, everyone has a right and an interest in how the business is governed and led. That had to be reflected in our governance framework.”

Peta Hay

Peta Hay, managing director for Saxton Bampfylde in Scotland

The company’s shares are held in an Employee Ownership Trust; a shareholding vehicle designed specifically for employee-owned firms.  The employees are effectively the beneficiaries of that trust and the trust becomes the major shareholder in the business.  This Trust is controlled by Trustees, and three of these Trustees are elected by the employees.  The company’s Board appoints the rest of the Trustees.

Another business that has embraced employee ownership is award-winning architecture practice Page\Park, which transitioned from a traditional partnership model to an employee ownership one in 2014. Since then, the company has recruited twelve new staff. We spoke to Karen Pickering, chair of Page\Park’s Board of Directors, for some insight into how the model has rejuvenated the business.

FREE FIRST USE Lenny Warren / Warren Media 07860 830050  01355 229700 lenny@warrenmedia.co.uk www.warrenmedia.co.uk All images © Warren Media 2016. Free first use only for editorial in connection with the commissioning client's press-released story. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission.

Scottish Enterprise director Sarah Deas (centre) with Andrew Bateman, managing director, and Karen Pickering, chair of the board of directors, at Page\Park

“Sustainability is a key feature of our architecture and that sustainability is what we wanted to replicate in our business model.  I believe we have. Our model has allowed our people to exercise their creativity and we are seeing greater innovation that is being driven by the team as a whole rather than coming from the top down.  Our employees are real owners and that brings with it greater engagement, productivity and energy.”

It is clear that there is no universal solution when it comes to good governance, and the key lies in implementing what works best for the specific needs of an individual business. However, something that all businesses should get on board with is the practice of periodically reviewing the company’s structure to ensure that the existing model is the most beneficial to the business and its employees.

Getting this right is integral to enhancing engagement among employees and harnessing their collective talents, a strong foundation from which a business can build lasting success.

If you would like more information on how you can improve employee engagement within your organisation, Scottish Enterprise will be running the below free events. To book your place, register here or call 0300 013 3385. Alternatively, give us a call and we can arrange a chat with one of our expert advisors.

SE Events table 2

Click to expand

 

 

 

Sarah Deas discusses EO Day 2016

Today (1 July) is EO Day (Employee Ownership Day) and with 16,000 employers in Scotland looking to transfer ownership in the next five years, we’re urging business owners to explore employee ownership as a viable succession route.

Throughout Scotland’s business community, the benefits of employee ownership (EO) as a driver for growth are becoming increasingly recognised.  EO can be implemented not just as a succession solution for long-term stability, but as a catalyst for sustainable business growth.

The advantages of employee ownership have been proven in Employee Ownership Association-led research, and include improving employee health and wellbeing, increasing productivity and fostering creativity and innovation across an array of industry sectors.

By having a stake in the business, employees have a vested interest in increasing productivity and driving innovation.  This sense of ownership leads to employees being more willing to contribute ideas, from developing new products to identifying new markets.

Many employee owned businesses in Scotland chose to sell to an employee ownership trust with the vendors being paid the value of their business from current and future earnings.  That way business owners receive a fair price for the company and employees don’t have to dig deep into their own pockets.

Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) can help you decide on the best model of employee ownership for your business.

One of the organisations that sought the support of CDS during its transition to employee ownership is Black Light Ltd. The company, which specialises in lighting, staging, sound and audio visual solutions, became fully employee owned just last month (June 2016) and in this blog for Scottish Enterprise, its founder Gavin Stewart explains the process and his experiences.

Gavin also kindly gave up his time today to join us in a live, interactive webinar to discuss Black Light’s journey to EO. If you missed the out on this the full recording will soon be available on the Scottish Enterprise website.

Today, another employee owned Scottish business is also celebrating success. Computer Application Services (CAS) has achieved the silver ‘Investors in People’ award in recognition of its excellent team engagement and management practice.  Ken Naismith, CAS chief executive, believes this success is down to its talented and motivated workforce who are highly engaged in the business thanks to its EO model. You can read more about this fantastic accolade on the CAS website.

The number of employee-owned firms based in Scotland has doubled in the past six years and this growth is forecast to accelerate.  Currently there are 78 employee-owned businesses operating in Scotland, with approximately 6,500 employees and a combined turnover of around £900million.

Our aspiration is to achieve a tenfold increase in employee ownership in Scotland over a ten year period.

If you would like more information about employee ownership and how it could potentially benefit your business, please do get in touch and our expert advisers will be happy to chat with you.

Collaborating to create a literature hub for Scotland with Edinburgh’s Netherbow

One of five winners of the Collaboration Prize, Edinburgh’s Netherbow aims to create a literature hub for Scotland on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

Founded by an alliance of six cultural organisations, it will achieve this by developing the existing honeycomb of buildings, gardens, closes and streetscapes in and around the Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House to create a physical presence for Edinburgh’s literature and Scotland’s culture.

Its role will be to increase the promotion of literature, support collaboration between literary and cultural organisations and improve Edinburgh’s international profile.

Here, founding member, Ali Bowden, director of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, explains how they developed their idea, what the next steps are for the consortium and how they will benefit from winning the Collaboration Prize.

The literary sector has a strong track record regarding collaboration – it was how we secured the UNESCO City of Literature status for Edinburgh in 2004. As such, the various partners of Edinburgh’s Netherbow have worked together over the years on a number of projects, and the opportunity to develop the area is something that has recently evolved through those discussions and partnerships.

Our plan is to create a new, highly visible, focal point for Edinburgh’s literature and Scotland’s culture, resulting in the provision of a comprehensive information, education and interpretation centre for the City of Literature.

By working together, Edinburgh Netherbow’s members (which include the City of Literature Trust, Sandeman House, TRACS, Scottish Book Trust, the Saltire Society and The List) can promote literature, support further collaboration between literary and cultural organisations and help grow the capital’s international profile through engagement in literature.

Winning the Collaboration Prize will definitely enable us to take our partnership to the next stage. By providing the perfect combination of cash and business expertise it will give us the support we need at this critical point in the project’s development.

We are working on various aspects of the project at present but the next key step will be creating a detailed business plan and that work will be supported by Scottish Enterprise.

For more information about the Scottish Enterprise Collaboration Prize visit the website.

Click here if you would like to find out more about collaborative business models, or if you would like to get in touch.

Collaboration Prize winner ArchBlue Ltd set to bring history to life

One of the winners of the Collaboration Prize, ArchBlue Ltd aims to provide an integrated service that will support site managers with the stewardship of historic buildings, structures, landscapes and archaeological sites.

Founded by five organisations involved in providing complementary services to the heritage sector, the consortium provides a wide range of services including 3D measuring and modelling, archaeological recording and visualisation, conservation planning and 3D printing.

Combined, these services provide customers with a comprehensive approach to heritage site management as well as engaging methods of communicating a site’s story to the public.

 Here, founding member John McCreadie explains how they developed their idea, what the next steps are for the consortium and how they will benefit from winning the Collaboration Prize.

In our industry, changes in technology have altered and very much widened our clients’ expectations. None of us, as individual companies, could fulfil these changed expectations without expanding our skill sets.  It seemed an obvious solution to collaborate with companies who already had the necessary expertise.

The Collaboration Prize gave us the impetus to formalise what has been an informal, ad-hoc working relationship between a number of companies. These include my own 3D measuring and modelling business, Addyman Archaeology, Simpson and Brown consulting, Gilbert’s 3D printing services and freelance archaeological visualisation specialist, Dr Alice Watterson.

We knew we had a good story to tell.  We were convinced that by working together we could better meet our clients’ needs and felt that a formal collaboration, with a clear identity and well defined service offering would be the best vehicle for moving forward.

Winning the Collaboration Prize will help us to establish a brand identity for ArchBlue Ltd and market its services to potential customers. We believe the collaborative approach will add strength to tender submissions and allow us to bid for projects we wouldn’t necessarily have the ability to pursue as individual businesses.

Our offering is also well suited to the overseas market where heritage assets such as churches, castles and archaeological site play a major role in driving tourism, as they do here in Scotland.

Our next steps will be to work with Co-operative Development Scotland to formalise our collaboration and to develop our brand identity and marketing platforms to highlight our strengths and unique integrated approach.

For more information about the Scottish Enterprise Collaboration Prize visit the website.

Click here if you would like to find out more about collaborative business models, or if you would like to get in touch.