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

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 Suzanne Orchard shares a brief step-by-step guide to consortium working.

Step 1: Identify barriers to growth

For many small enterprises, lack of scale, time, finance or resources can all be barriers to accessing new markets, tendering for larger contracts or simply marketing their services.

Step 2: Look for a potential solution

Teaming up with other businesses to form a consortium is an excellent way to break down these barriers. Suitable for businesses of all sizes operating in any sector, this model can reduce the costs and risks associated with tackling new markets and investing in new products and services. It also enables businesses to share resources and knowledge. Meanwhile, member businesses are able to retain their own brands, independence and control.

Step 3: Find collaborators

Carefully identifying like-minded businesses to work with is crucial. Trust and aligned values and goals are a key factor. In most cases, member businesses operate in similar or complementary fields, and it can help if the businesses have worked together informally before.

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 form consortium co-operatives and can help you explore the options.

Step 5: Benefit from your collaboration

Collaborating can be a real game-changer for businesses. The Glasgow Canal Co-op is a consortium of over 16 local organisations, established with the aim of unlocking the potential of the canal to create a vibrant neighbourhood for people to live, work and visit. The group sought support from Co-operative Development Scotland to formalise its collaboration, and now aims to encourage greater collaboration in the area and utilise local skills and assets collectively to connect with new audiences and visitors.

The co-operative organises the annual Glasgow Canal Festival, a summer programme of arts, heritage, environmental and watersports activities to celebrate the historic canal and its local communities. The Festival is a great way for the local organisations to promote themselves, reach new customers and make new connections.


Other potential benefits of collaboration include accessing new markets, and being able to share the risks and costs associated with innovation, such as developing 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 significant and definitely worth exploring when considering the future of your business.

For more information about how collaboration could help you, please get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.