Author: Helen Dickson

Employee-owned Aquascot accelerates their ambition to become a smart factory

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, Scotland’s largest employee-owned headquartered company, Alness-based sustainable seafood company, Aquascot, succeeded in digitalising production and quality assurance over the last 12 months. In our newest blog we catch up with John Housego, managing director to find out more about the significance of the project and what it will do for the business.

Aquascot’s IT estate of legacy systems had evolved to include lots of manual workarounds, paper-based processes, and difficulty in getting visibility of data. The business was at a crossroads, whether to keep investing in the current systems or look to buy new ones.

“By the end of this year the whole of our IT infrastructure will have completely changed. This offers up a wealth of new opportunities for us, not only with our customers but our business tracking and awareness, and product positioning. In a highly competitive market, we will have the data to be able to focus on improvements and then meet the need.”

Working with partners, FluidIT, the benefits the project will bring include:

  • Production areas are paper-free, and Quality Assurance is fully digitalised with a new quality assurance management system, Q-Pulse. This technology enables Aquascot to continue improving their throughput, quality and consistency.
  • The commercial data dashboards with PowerBI show actual-versus-forecast sales / orders in real time. As a result, time spent on manually processing and reporting is significantly reduced.
  • Aquascot has also selected a new ERP/ MES system from software provider SI (Systems Integration), which will be implemented within the next three months, and will make the capture of shop-floor data easier. Another benefit from the new system is traceability – knowing exactly where each product was farmed, when it was processed and how long for. This information needs to be readily accessible, as food safety governing bodies can carry out spot checks at random.
  • Microsoft 365 is fully implemented across the organisation, including a communication portal using SharePoint, which partners have christened ‘AquaSpace’. IT champions were chosen within each department to receive training on the portal – so they can take ownership to post news articles, events and opportunities on behalf of their colleagues, while all partners have the capacity to interact on the SharePoint through a Yammer social media feed.

The business now has a digital roadmap, setting out a step-by-step process to achieve full digital transformation, over the next three to five years. This innovative approach will ensure Aquascot remains one of the UK’s major seafood processors and pushes them further towards their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

To find out more about Aquascot and their story please visit their website: https://aquascot.com/latest-news

Are you thinking of selling your business?

Employee ownership specialist adviser Glen Dott shares why succession planning should be dealt with sooner rather than later and shares details on a series on upcoming succession masterclasses. 

Planning for succession is one of the biggest challenges a business owner will face. When you’ve worked hard to build up your business, what do you do when it comes time to stop? Whether you’re looking to hand over the reins of your business soon or simply planning for the long-term, make sure you explore all the available options in advance to allow time for plans to be properly drawn up. Giving the topic early consideration can mean better results for the employer, the employees and the business. 

Succession options to consider include: 

  • Sale to another shareholder 
  • Company buy-back 
  • Ownership transfer within the family 
  • Employee buyout 
  • Management buyout 
  • Trade sale 
  • Flotation 

Employee buyouts are becoming an increasingly popular succession option in Scotland. Being employee-owned gives staff a meaningful stake in the business, boosting productivity and performance, whilst ensuring the company is anchored in the local area, retaining jobs and skills. For business owners, employee ownership offers a tax efficient exit route that protects a company’s legacy while providing a competitive price for the business.   

To help you decide whether an employee buyout could work for you, Co-operative Development Scotland will be hosting a series of five ‘Selling your Business’ online masterclasses over the coming months, exploring succession options including employee ownership.  

If you are a business owner considering an exit from your company, these masterclasses are an excellent opportunity to hear from succession and employee ownership specialists, as well as employee-owned companies themselves. View the full here

Community Business: Making it easy- New video guide available

The community business sector in Scotland is growing and, to support this, Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) is working in partnership with Community Shares Scotland (CSS) and the Plunkett Foundation to raise awareness and improve access to support.  The partnership has just launched a new video guide which introduces the subject of community business – so we caught up with our co-ops specialist, Jaye Martin, to find out more about the sector, the support available and why now is a key moment for community business in Scotland.

CDS has always supported community businesses and we have consistently seen interest from clients in this area but there has been a change of pace most noticeably in the last 12 months. Two key reasons for this are firstly, the ecosystem in Scotland has evolved with organisations like CDS, CSS and the Plunkett Foundation raising awareness of the benefits and providing support and advice.   Secondly, the pandemic has shone a light on how we do businesses and created a desire for change.  Everyone, particularly those in rural communities, has been very dependent on their local services and now, more than ever, there may be a desire to preserve and develop the resources that are important to those communities.  Community businesses, especially community co-operatives, place democracy and concern for community at the heart of what they do and can provide an alternative way of working that has captured the interest of individuals, communities and businesses.

To improve access to support, CDS, CSS and the Plunkett Foundation offer a collaborative support package to help anyone considering setting up a community business in Scotland. A wide range of advice and practical support is available, including:

  • Choosing the best business model
  • Selecting a suitable legal structure
  • Accessing funding
  • Developing a community share offer
  • Community engagement, including promoting a community share offer
  • Company governance and managing the daily running of your business
  • Specialist support for community business in rural communities

Our new video guide is a great introduction to the subject and the available support.

To find out more about Community Business Making it Easy visit:  https://communitysharesscotland.org.uk/making-it-easy/

Community Owned Businesses – The Journey

There is growing recognition of the value of community businesses, preserving community assets and generating economic value for their communities. COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated the importance of supporting communities to be innovative and take the step towards generating wealth locally, avoiding the return to normal economics.

Community imageIn partnership with the Plunkett Foundation, and Community Shares Scotland, Co-operative Development Scotland ran their second Community Business: Making it Easy event this month providing key insight to the realities of establishing a community business and information about the support available.

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Key advice for setting up a community business

Earlier this year Co-operative Development Scotland were part of a group that organised and hosted an event called Community Shops & Pubs: Making it Easy. The event was designed to enable communities take action to secure the future of their local shop or pub by helping them to better understand what projects of this nature entail and the support that is available to them. This was a fantastic event was well attended by community groups from across Scotland who were able to access advice on fundraising, governance and community engagement. Attendees also had the opportunity to speak to those already running community businesses and to learn from their experience.

On the day we caught upGillian Kirton with some of the speakers from the event to find out what key bits of advice they would give to community groups considering setting up their own community business.

Gillian Kirton, project manager for Co-operative Development Scotland was there on the day and shares some of the key insights.

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Co-ops Fortnight 2020

Portrait of Darah Zahran, Social Economy Manager at Scottish Enterprise. Taken 22-03-19

Over the next two weeks we join our partners in celebrating Co-ops Fortnight. COVID-19 has left us facing extreme challenges for both public health and our economy, but positive lessons are being learned during this crisis, and we all want to harness this new culture of co-operation to change society for the better. Looking at this year’s theme of #KeepCooperating we caught up with Darah Zahran, team leader at Co-operative Development Scotland to get her take on why co-operatives will play a key part in our economic future.

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Introduction to community co-operatives

Suzanne OrchardAs our thoughts turn to what our economy will look like post COVID-19, there are calls not to return to business as usual. There is an opportunity to create a fairer and more democratic alternative to what we’ve had in the past and community wealth building and co-operative business models will play a key role in that.

In our latest blog, we catch up with Suzanne Orchard, our specialist advisor for co-operatives to find out more about community co-operatives and why communities in Scotland are turning to this model to both safeguard vital local assets but also to generate economic benefit for the areas they live in.

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A Message From Co-operative Development Scotland

As we feel the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, the team at Co-operative Development Scotland want to offer our support in this incredibly difficult time to our clients.

The changes we have seen to every aspect of our lives at the moment may be overwhelming, but we would like to do what we can to help you with the immediate challenges your business or co-operative may be facing by signposting to the network of support available from the government and key partners. Links and details about support available are listed below.

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