Tag Archives: 2014

Memorable year for co-operative working

Sarah Deas resized2014 has been a busy year for Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), with interest in co-operative working higher than ever.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas reflects on the year and looks ahead to what 2015 may bring.

As we hurtle towards the end of 2014, it is a natural time to look back on the past 12 months. Last December, I remember fondly writing how the eyes of the world would be on Scotland throughout the year – and that certainly proved to be the case!

One shining moment was the XX Commonwealth Games, held in the always-friendly city of Glasgow. I was proud to serve as a Host City Volunteer at this spectacular event which will live long in the memory as an example of what can be achieved when we work together. CDS was delighted to contribute to Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) business event held during the Games. In fact, one of the highlights of the year was seeing GCC and its counterpart in the capital progress their commitment to be Co-operative Councils.Sarah Deas

This is a significant endorsement of co-operative working, which CDS is supporting through the provision of specialist advice. Co-operative working is now recognised as a means of achieving competitive advantage by businesses in a wide range of sectors and there is also growing interest in employee ownership – specifically as a succession solution – helped by the new tax incentives.

To tap further into that growing interest, we held five ‘successful succession’ events during the year. Kindly hosted by employee-owned companies – Aquascot, Galloway & MacLeod, Page\Park, Stewart Buchanan Gauges and Scott & Fyfe – these sessions gave those interested in the ownership model the opportunity to see how it works in practice.

We also engaged with Scotland’s professional advisers through our expert briefing sessions, tackling subjects including funding the employee buyout and employee share ownership.

David Narro Assoc 09

David Narro Associates celebrated becoming employee owned in August.

CDS helped a wide range of businesses across the year, including Fitwise and David Narro Associates, both of which made the transition to employee ownership. Scotland has a host of new employee owners, and hopefully they will find the newly-formed EOA Network Scotland useful – one to watch in 2015.

I was also grateful for the opportunity to visit Quebec for the International Summit of Cooperatives, a truly insightful conference. We heard from the Mondragon Corporation, often seen as an example of best practice when it comes to co-operative working. It is worth noting that the Basque region, where Mondragon is headquartered, is now looking to learn from the UK. Just last month, I welcomed a delegation from the Gipuzkoa province who visited some of our well-established employee-owned companies.

Finally, we once again offered companies in Scotland the chance to win £5,000 in cash and £5,000 in support to make their collaborative ideas a reality. The standard of entries to the Collaboration Prize this year was high, and all of us at CDS are excited to see who will follow in the footsteps of past winners the Scottish Mountain Bike Consortium and The Wee Agency.

In 2015 we anticipate interest in co-operative working to continue to grow as the benefits for staff, business and the economy are further demonstrated. While awareness is most definitely increasing, our job is to keep that momentum going. The growing desire for fairer, more inclusive approaches to working is an opportunity to further underline the virtues of the models – and we will continue to shout about it.

The year began with Kim Lowe, a managing director at John Lewis, calling for more businesses to consider a co-operative approach. I think it is clear that many have done just that, but more can and will be done in 2015.

2014 has been a memorable year in many ways, and I wish you all a happy, healthy and successfully prosperous 2015.

Shared learnings as Basque Country visits Scotland

Sarah Deas resizedScotland is home to a growing number of employee-owned businesses and recently played host to a Spanish delegation keen to learn about promoting the ownership model.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas discusses the visit and the insights gained.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to host a visit by the Provincial Council (government) of Gipuzkoa, an area of the Basque Country to the east of Bilbao in northern Spain. The delegation was seeking to learn from our experience in promoting employee ownership.  With Gipuzkoa being home to the world famous Mondragon Corporation , it was an honour to host such a visit!

The Provincial Council aspires to create a ‘socially responsible territory’. It believes that economic and social development is increasingly dependent on talent, creativity and innovation. As such, the council is focusing on ‘workplace innovation’. This is the development of new relationship models based on participation – as a driver of productivity and quality employment.

In developing policy to promote worker participation, they are researching the relationship between participatory business models and regional socio-economic health indicators. And, through international visits, such as this one to the UK, they are looking to identify best practice from both a policy and business perspective.  This will inform the design of tax incentives and wider support.

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Sarah, third from left, with members of the delegation

Oscar Usetxi Blanco, Director for the Promotion of Innovation and Knowledge, Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundia was accompanied by colleagues from the innovation agency and ASLE (lead organisation for worker owned companies).  The study visit was organised by Ann Tyler, a UK solicitor with extensive experience of employee ownership.

The delegation visited two of Scotland’s most well established employee owned businesses; Aberdeen manufacturer Woollard & Henry and Fife paper producer Tullis Russell. Here theygained valuable insights into workplace culture and practices. Our Spanish friends very much appreciated the opportunity to see employee ownership in action, and I thank both Woollard & Henry and Tullis Russell for welcoming them.

Reflecting on this visit, it really is interesting to see the growing interest in employee ownership across Europe.  However, the driver is different to that which inspired Mondragon Corporation. Today, ownership succession is the trigger, with sustainability, productivity and socially responsible employment being the goals. These are becoming priorities across the developed world.

Hopefully the delegation from Gipuzkoa found the visit a valuable one and I look forward to seeing employee ownership flourish in the region.

Page\Park enjoys successful first year of employee ownership

Page Park Architects 07Just over a year ago, Glasgow-based architecture firm Page\Park took the exciting step of becoming an employee-owned company.

Since then they have gone on to enjoy a successful 2014. In addition to increasing their workforce, the company last month won a GIA Design Award for its work in the revamp of the city’s Kelvingrove Bandstand.

They were also Highly Commended by the Philip Baxendale Awards as an Employee Ownership Rising Star.

As they look forward to building on their success the New Year, watch our video to find out how they addressed their ownership succession issues by adopting employee ownership.

Scottish success stories at employee ownership conference

????????????The Employee Ownership Association held its annual conference in Nottingham last month, with over 500 delegates attending.

Here, CDS specialist adviser Glen Dott takes a look back at the event and recounts some of the highlights.

This year CDS took seven clients to the Employee Ownership Association Conference. No sightings of Robin Hood – or even a forest – but it was a great learning experience for those considering employee ownership. Who better to ask than those who have ‘been there done that’? With over 500 delegates in attendance there were plenty of ‘doers’ and our contingent had a number of networking possibilities.

On the Monday evening we attended the Philip Baxendale Awards, where ‘the best employee-owned organisations are recognised in a tremendous celebration of excellence’. From a Scottish perspective, Page\Park Architects was Highly Commended as an Employee Ownership Rising Star while Fred Bowden Snr, chairman of Tullis Russell was awarded the The Philip Baxendale Fellowship for his outstanding contribution to employee ownership.

Employee Ownership AssociationIain Hasdell, chief executive of the EOA, welcomed us to the conference and illustrated how far employee ownership has come in a relatively short time. The icing on the cake for ‘Team EO’ in 2014 has been the tax breaks afforded to owners selling into Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) and the tax-free bonuses now payable to employees of EOT-controlled businesses. In Scotland we are already seeing the fruits of this legislation with EOTs in operation at Mike Stoane Lighting and David Narro Associates and more deals in the pipeline.

Two strands of sessions followed for ‘newbies’ and those already in employee ownership.  In between, we took the opportunity to link up our guests with relevant advisers and like-minded businesses, before keynote speaker Mike Thompson of Childbase explained why his company is moving to a Trust-only model. Surprisingly, external investors currently share most of the profits but a deal has been struck where an employee trust will buy out external investors and also the founding family. The primary advantage will be that future profits will be shared exclusively by employee owners via the recently introduced tax-free bonus.

The conference came to an end with John Lupton of 150-year old Tayport firm Scott & Fyfe telling us of their remarkable transition from family-owned jute business to a modern, outward looking, innovation led employee-owned industrial textile manufacturer.

This story illustrates that Scotland has much to be proud of and we certainly lead the UK charge in adoption of the EO model. We have every reason to believe our clients will join the employee ownership fold and we aim to bring an even bigger contingent next year.

Benefits of employee ownership are clear

ICAS members and their clients gathered in Inverness last month to hear about employee ownership as an exit solution. 

Here, ICAS member Peter Mitchell reflects on the day and looks at how the ownership model can benefit businesses in the Highlands.

As advisers we are careful not to direct our client towards any particular ownership model. It’s our job to provide them with sufficient, comprehensive information to enable them to make an informed choice.

One of my clients is employee-owned and I’m convinced of the benefits. It’s a model with particular relevance to the Highlands – independent, owner-managed and family businesses are a significant part of our economy.

Exit to a trade buyer from elsewhere places a threat on the future of the business in the local area. We need to sustain opportunities for our young people and retain quality jobs in the community.

ICAS logoCarole Leslie, a Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) specialist adviser, reinforced the economic benefits of employee ownership in her presentation. Most of those present did not know how widespread employee ownership is; I didn’t know that the architects of the Eden Court Theatre were 100 per cent employee owned, or that the project managers of the Skye Bridge, Arup, have been employee-owned since 1974.

Chris Kerr, from Harper Macleod, is a leading authority on employee ownership and he talked the audience through the technical aspects of the model and the transition process. He stressed the importance of involving employees in the transaction as this helps shape a better outcome and wins greater engagement going forward.

The highlight of the session was the story of Aquascot, delivered so eloquently by ICAS member Robert Murray, a company founder and its finance director. Aquascot employs 150 people in Alness and has a turnover of £40m. The founders could have sold the business – and had some lucrative offers – but their commitment to Easter Ross and to an ethical way of doing business convinced them to look at other options.

Their main customer is Waitrose, and their employee ownership model fit what the founders were looking for. With some guidance from Waitrose, John Lewis Partnership and John Housego of employee owned WL Gore, the sustainable seafood company is looking to become fully employee-owned by 2016.

Chris Kerr summed it up well: “Employee ownership won’t fit with every business, but where it does, the results can be remarkable.”  It was encouraging to see so much interest in the model. CDS is doing a great job in raising awareness and I expect that a few more advisers and their clients will start to come forward.

Your Collaboration Prize questions answered

Jaye Martin 03The Collaboration Prize aims to encourage companies to form a consortium to improve their combined business prospects, with up to three winners each receiving prizes of £5,000 in cash and £5,000 support.

This year’s competition is looking for applications that show how forming a consortium could improve marketing, tendering or innovation operations.

Ahead of Friday’s deadline for entries, CDS specialist adviser Jaye Martin answered questions on the competition in a live Twitter Q&A.

Want to work with others and do things bigger, better and faster? Then forming a consortium co-operative could be for you. The potential benefits are numerous:

  • Build a new collective brand and combine resources to reach bigger audiences.
  • Share the risks of expanding into new markets with your partners
  • Compete for larger, more valuable contracts
  • Gain a competitve advantage through economies of scale
  • Have an equal say in the running of the consortium co-operative

During last week’s Q&A, we answered a number of questions from interested parties:

 

 

 

The Collaboration Prize is open to all Scottish businesses, large or small and from any sector. There are three categories – marketing, tendering and innovating – with £10,000 available for each winner.

Remember – the deadline for entries is 3pm on Friday 28 November. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity!

A golden visit – part three

???????????????????????????????From October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas discusses a US organisation driving employee ownership and takes a trip to a co-operative shopping quarter.

The first part of the blog can be read here and the second part can be read here.

An ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan) is another form of employee ownership that is becoming more widely adopted. So, I was delighted to meet Perry Phillips and Camille Jensen (pictured above), from the specialist consultancy, ESOP Builders.

They highlighted that there are now approximately 1000 Canadian ESOPs, the majority (80%) having come about as a succession solution. Most famous is WestJet Airline, where 80% of staff are employee owners (modelled on Southwest Airlines).

Sarah with Roy Messing

Sarah with Roy Messing

I was also delighted to meet Roy Messing, Chris Cooper and Bill McIntyre of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center. Established in 1987, the centre has helped 694 companies consider ownership succession, resulting in 92 employee buyouts and creating 15,000 employee owners. In America there is legislation to support the creation of ESOPs – see my previous blog.

The Center was the driving force behind Evergreen Cooperative – the innovative model of socio-economic development in Cleveland. Whilst there are similarities in our approach, there is clearly much that Scotland can learn from OEOC’s 27 years’ experience. Interestingly, they are currently establishing a Cooperative Development Center – an area where we can share our experience.

???????????????????????????????A visit to Quebec is not complete without a visit to the Quartier Petit Champlain. This delightful shopping quarter in the old city is a co-operative owned by its tenants. 50 artists and traders formed a co-operative to buy the properties. Desjardins, the leading financial co-operative, supported members with loan finance.

A co-operative model was chosen for practical reasons – an ideal model that allows shared management of the buildings and promotion of the quarter to tourists. An elected board has oversight, including approval of new tenants/owners and all members are invited to attend an annual assembly.

So, how do I summarise this visit? A golden experience – not just the leaves on trees, the abundance of pumpkins and the warm hospitality but also in the richness of learning. Thanks to everyone that was so open in sharing your story. Let’s stay in touch!

A golden visit – part two

image7From October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas looks at the approaches taken by co-operatives in Argentina, Spain and France.

The first part of the blog can be read here.

We heard from the Argentinian Federation of Worker Co-operatives in Technology, Innovation and Knowledge that there has been a boom in worker co-operatives. In 1990 there were just 30, now there are 10,000. Social co-operatives account for the largest proportion, followed by young professionals (mostly in technology, communications and consulting services).

The growth is due to public policy; government contracts have advantaged social and construction sector co-operatives. A percentage of co-operatives’ tax also goes into a fund to support co-operative development.

mondragonWe also heard the Mondragon Corporation story – a federation of worker co-operatives based in the Basque region of Spain. It is the tenth largest Spanish company, employing 74,000 people in 257 companies and organisations spanning finance, industry, retail and knowledge. Mikel Lezamiz described the ‘four-legged support stool’ that supports growth: education, finance, social assistance and innovation. A virtuous circle.

France’s worker co-operative membership association, Les Scop, described how they are promoting the model as a solution to ownership succession. From a negligible number 10 years ago, a growing proportion (currently 15%) of their 2,200 members have chosen the worker co-operative model for succession reasons.

lesscopThis percentage is expected to double in coming years. I was interested to see Les Scop’s TV advert, which forms part of a campaign targeting 55+ year old owners – perhaps an approach that we might pursue in Scotland? Les Scop has also introduced training, on the back of the new law in France that requires all companies to provide training to employees.

image2For anyone interested in worker co-operatives a visit to La Barberie microbrewery is a must! On arriving, I was delighted to see Scotch Ale at the top of the menu – although on this visit Pumpkin Beer was the order of the day.

Established in 1997, this worker co-operative has 25 employees, of which 15 are members. It is one of four microbreweries co-operatives in Quebec province that worked together to produce the ‘Rochdale Beer’ which was launched at the Summit. Thanks to Jessica Provencher for hosting our visit.

Read part three of Sarah Deas’ account of her visit to Quebec.

A golden visit – part one

Sarah Deas resizedFrom October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, in the first of three blogs, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas looks back at her trip to North America and reveals some of her key learnings.

October is a wonderful time to visit Quebec … maple trees adorned with golden leaves and pumpkins piled high awaiting Thanksgiving celebrations.

So, I was delighted when I was invited to facilitate a forum at the global International Summit of Cooperatives. This was a huge event attracting over 3,000 delegates from 93 nations. Keynote speakers included Nobel Prize economist Professor Robert Shiller and author of The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson.

Autumn in Quebec

Autumn in Quebec

Throughout the summit, speakers acknowledged the contemporary nature of co-operative models; identifying their relevance and potential for the future. Balanced against this, there was a strong call for promotion of the social values that make the models unique.

As one speaker said “Co-operatives have the DNA – the humanist values – you need to promote these since conventional businesses are now doing so and capturing your ground”.

Canada has a strong co-operative sector. The Canadian Parliament’s ‘Special Committee on Cooperatives’ reported that there are 8,500 co-operatives employing 15,000 people with assets of $330bn.

Quebec accounts for almost 40% of Canadian co-operatives and 50% of associated jobs. The provincial government aims to expand their economic contribution by enhancing the legal framework, availability of finance, advisory services and promotion.

quebec

I attended a really interesting workshop organised by Reseau and the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation, in collaboration with CICOPA. Prominent themes included the difficultly young professionals face in finding work and the increasing number that are deciding to set up their own shared venture (co-operative). Also, recognition that owners are getting older and succession is becoming an issue.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that so many countries are taking a similar approach to Scotland in promoting employee/worker ownership as a solution. A big thank you to Hazel Corcoran for making me so welcome (and helping with translation!)

POSTSCRIPT: So sad that within a fortnight of my visit the openness and hospitality of the Canadians had been assaulted by violence in Montreal and Ottawa. My thoughts are with all those affected. 

Read part two and three of Sarah Deas’ account of her visit to Quebec

 

Collaboration Prize continues to make a difference to winner

Joanna Dewar Gibb, right, with SFS member Amanda Millen

Joanna Dewar Gibb, right, with SFS member Amanda Millen

Screen Facilities Scotland (SFS) is one of the earliest winners of the Collaboration Prize, having formed in 2012 to enter during the inaugural year of the competition.

In the two years since winning the award the consortium, made up of Scottish-based film, television and commercials facilities, has flourished.

Here, Joanna Dewar Gibb, one of the directors of SFS, describes why winning the prize was so important to its development.

We were delighted to be one of three winners of the Collaboration Prize in 2012 and we continue to reap the rewards from that. Since we’ve formed as a consortium, we’ve gone from strength to strength and benefit in many different ways.

The seeds of our co-operative were well and truly planted before we spotted the opportunity to be considered for the prize, but when we did we were pleased to see the entry process was both manageable and straight forward. Our entry was completed and submitted with the minimum of fuss.

And that’s been the case the whole way through.  From being short-listed, to eventually winning and then formally establishing SFS, the whole process has been possible thanks to clear guidance, simple structures and succinct documentation provided by Co-operative Development Scotland.

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We have used the prize money in different ways. It gave us a cash boost while waiting for membership fees to come in during our first year, with the money spent across various activities including collaborative marketing materials our launch networking event and administration costs.

Each of our members has since benefitted from shared marketing and promotional activities, new networking opportunities, better engagement and participation across the creative industry sector and closer working with colleagues and clients, both new and old, all of which helps us work towards a stronger, busier future.

It is no exaggeration to say SFS would not be where it is today if the collaborative consortium business model did not exist and if the Collaboration Prize, comprising of valuable business advice and welcome cash, had not helped us to flourish.

Until we had formed, many lucrative contracts including those originating in Scotland, were won by businesses based elsewhere, particularly in the south-east of the UK, so hopefully SFS has made a difference not just to our own businesses, but to the whole Scottish film, television and commercials production sector.