Tag: food and drink

Tourism co-operative’s ambitious plans for 2015

Port Appin

Hosting international events such as the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in 2014 put Scotland firmly in the global spotlight as a top visitor destination. With such opportunity, many businesses are considering how to best take advantage of this new-found fame.

Carron Tobin, development manager of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (ATIC), explains why being part of a consortium is helping many of Scotland’s west coast tourism businesses capitalise on the country’s time in the limelight.

Last year was an unprecedented one for Scotland, with sport, politics, the Homecoming gathering and historical anniversaries giving the country international attention like never before.

Not only did it cement our reputation as a land of spectacular scenery and a friendly welcome, it established Scotland as a vibrant and contemporary tourism destination that has the capacity to wow as much as it does charm.

This offers a tremendous opportunity for tourism businesses – and when it comes to having a competitive advantage, we believe being part of our co-operative consortium really helps us stand out from the crowd.

Coll beach

When we formed in 2012, businesses of varying sizes across the area pooled finances, contacts and industry knowledge to create an umbrella brand and marketing plan to set Argyll and the Isles apart from the rest of Scotland and the UK as an unmissable tourist destination.

By offering a range of attractive products that tour operators can sell to their customers, we have enjoyed real success, reaching more markets and potential customers than we would ever have managed individually.

This year though – more than ever – we can see the true value of being part of our co-operative as we prepare to launch our most ambitious bid yet to attract more tour operators to our area and our businesses.

For the first time, we will exhibit at three major international trade shows in a single year, supplementing our usual stand at VisitScotland’s EXPO in April, with trips to the Best of Britain & Ireland and Explore GB trade shows.

Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative’s board. From left, Carron Tobin, David Currie, Calum Ross, Niall Macalister Hall, chairman Gavin Dick, Iain Jurgensen, Andrew Wilson, Brian Keating and Fiona McPhail.

Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative’s board. From left, Carron Tobin, David Currie, Calum Ross, Niall Macalister Hall, chairman Gavin Dick, Iain Jurgensen, Andrew Wilson, Brian Keating and Fiona McPhail.

These events are vital to engage with tour operators across the world and have potential to attract thousands of new customers for our businesses, taking advantage of Scotland’s incredible 2014.

Quite simply, we couldn’t have done this as individual companies or local marketing groups. By working together, we have given our region a genuine competitive edge and delivered a significant boost to members’ trade – underlining just how effective being part of a consortium co-operative can be.

End of the holidays – and the beginning of a busy end to 2014

After a summer of sun and fun – and of course the Commonwealth Games – things are about to return to normal with the end of the school holidays.

Merchant City FestivalIt tends to be this time of the year that businesses across the country refocus their efforts on a strong end to the calendar year, perhaps even taking a fresh look at opportunities to expand revenue further.

We’ve seen many terrific examples this year of how organisations across the country have done this by working co-operatively.

During the Commonwealth Games, the Merchant City Marketing Co-operative helped promote the events linked to the Commonwealth Games – as well as the wider calendar of events and attractions throughout the year.

The Food from Argyll consortium was busy too, helping feed hungry festival-goers and showcasing their produce stalls at BBC at the Quay and the popular Belladrum Festival.

For each of the individual businesses involved in both organisations, such exposure and opportunity may not have been possible on their own.

By coming together, however, they have opened up new markets, boosted sales and increased awareness of their brands, both collectively and as individuals.

And as the nights start to draw in, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how working in such a way can boost your business.

Taste of success for food consortium

When you’re a small-scale producer keen increase your sales and exposure across the UK, how do you do it?

Nine food producers in Argyll considered this very issue in 2008, recognising that there was greater opportunity for them all if they worked together.

With the help of Co-operative Development Scotland, they came together to form Food from Argyll – a consortium aimed at taking their goods into a wider market.

Here, the producers describe the benefits they’ve enjoyed since forming the consortium.

Keeping it in the family?

Carol LeslieCo-operative Development Scotland (CDS) is working with the Scottish Family Business Association to help family businesses explore employee ownership as an exit route.

CDS specialist advisor Carole Leslie shares the experiences of two heads of family-owned businesses on why this model is such a success.

“Scotland is a brand”, Maitland Mackie told the capacity audience assembled at Strathclyde University for the launch of the International Centre for Family Enterprise at the end of last month.

Seventy-three per cent of Scottish firms are family-owned, employing half the private sector workforce. Family firms are an important feature of the Scottish economy as well as playing a major role in their local area. As Martin Stepek, chief executive of the Scottish Family Business Association says: “Take away family business and there will be no community in Scotland.”  

The International Centre for Family Enterprise is an initiative which brings together the business, academic and professional world to provide a world-class collaborative resource to support this critically important sector. Martin Stepek, alluding to the difficulties caused to his family in running their successful family firm, put it so well: “I want to save family businesses the challenges that we experienced.”  

Maitland Mackie’s presentation was the first in a series exploring the essence of family business.

Maitland Mackie subtitled his talk: “How not to be a cantankerous old father”. He described the challenges and rewards of heading up one of Scotland’s most recognised brands. He emphasised the importance of people; not just family members but also the local families employed in the business. Most of his employees have at least 10 years’ service, many have 20 years plus. 

Maitland described his Damascene conversion from command and control management (or, in his words “Dae fit yer telt”), to a more inclusive and participatory culture. He advised the audience to “involve, involve, involve” employees and to be clear on business objectives. Mr Mackie also spoke of his “no change, no chance” philosophy. There are two rules; get the product right and market it well. 

Mackie’s of Scotland went from dairy farming to ice cream production and, in conjunction with another Scottish family business Taypack, diversified successfully into crisps. The firm is about to launch a chocolate range. Maitland attributed the successful diversification to the strength of the Mackie’s brand name. Family ownership enables Mackie’s to plan for the long term. The firm “lives” on its capital. There are no outside shareholders to consider. The company can focus on doing what it does best; serving the customer.

Much of what Maitland Mackie described resonates well with the experience of employee-owned firms. There is that same fierce loyalty to the brand, the commitment to producing the best product, and delivering the highest quality service. With no external ownership, the business can look to the long term. 

Keeping the business in the family was not an option for Ralph MacLeod, third generation of Lanarkshire-based agricultural feed manufacturers and merchants Galloway & MacLeod. It was important to him that the business remained independent, and the staff that had helped develop the business should have continuity, job security and the business should continue to support the local community. The Employee Ownership Model satisfied all these needs and enabled the employees to take over without incurring personal debt. In December 2010, The MacLeod family shares were transferred to two Employee Trusts.  

Maitland Mackie (left) and Ralph MacLeod (right)

Maitland Mackie (left) and Ralph MacLeod (right)

  His experience is encouraging. “I believe we’re more of a family business now”, he says. “Many staff have long service records and career progression is encouraged through personal development training. Galloway & MacLeod directors no longer have to worry about family succession every generation and the dynamic structure created rewards endeavor and innovation. The staff think and act like owners which is to the benefit of everyone connected with the business.”

“Galloway & MacLeod is a progressive, quality-focused business delivering the best service to our customers. Our people understand that and will all share in the success.” The firm has performed well since the transition of ownership, and has ambitious plans for the future.   

Passing on the business to the next generation is likely to be the preferred route for most family businesses. Maitland Mackie’s three children are now running the family firm. With nine grandchildren waiting in the wings, it looks like succession is solved for a few more years. When the next generation isn’t an option, models which preserve and protect the unique qualities that make the enterprise successful – the relationships, the loyalty, the personality – should be considered.  Employee ownership is one such model.

As Galloway & MacLeod demonstrates, selling the business to employees can be the natural progression. The employees are the people who know the business well, and have a vested interest in its success and sustainability. Like family firms, they provide quality employment and training for local people, in what is a proven business model. 

Family and employee-owned enterprises are critical to the long term prosperity of the Scottish economy. CDS welcomes the International Centre for Family Enterprise to Scotland, and looks forward to collaborating with such an exciting and worthwhile venture.

The second lecture in the series of the International Centre for Family Enterprise will feature Bill Gordon of William Grant & Sons and takes place on Wednesday 18 September 2013. To register for this presentation please email: corporate-events@strath.ac.uk or call 0141 548 2245.

Come together to make this a summer of success for your business

Gillian Kirton 02What do three farmers from Dumfriesshire, 51 musicians from Scottish Opera and 12 Scottish Screen facilities companies have in common? Answer they all won funds through last year’s launch of the Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) new Collaboration Prize.  Now the search is well underway to find 2013’s winning ideas. With less than one month to go until the competition closes, CDS Collaboration Prize project manager Gillian Kirton gives us the latest update. 

What do three Dumfriesshire farmers, 51 musicians from Scottish Opera and 12 Scottish screen facilities companies have in common? Answer: A desire to grow their business through collaboration.

As CDS Collaboration Prize project manager, it’s an exciting time for me.  With less than one month to application deadline, I’m waiting with baited breath to see the exciting and innovative ideas to come in this year.

Last year our competition was such a success that more than a dozen new business collaborations were established, often with different aims and objectives.  So here’s a wee taster of the sort of consortium co-operative that our prize has created:

  1. Scottish Woodlot Association was set up to enable individual foresters to rent small forest lots for timber production while helping landowners maximise their forestry potential.  It also gave them a way to share often expensive specialist equipment.
  2. iMAPcc offers dedicated team of drug discovery scientists, consultants and associates with complementary backgrounds and experience in small molecule and biopharmaceutical drug discovery.
  3. Burns Country Larder sees six Ayrshire producers of fine foods including haggis, cheesecakes, beers, deserts, chocolates and ice-creams collaborate to access events and shows all around the country.

But what about the farmers, musicians and screen facilities…our three worthy winners from 2012?

With the help of colleagues in Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with these three groups over the last year or so, joining them on their exciting journey as they form themselves as a consortium co-operative and reap the benefits of their £10k prize.  Do view the short videos of our winners – it’s great to hear it from the horse’s mouth as they say. Hopefully it will give you the incentive to consider how collaboration can help your business.

Screen Facilities Scotland brings together the best that Scotland has to offer in screen facilities.  Over 12 companies, with more to come on board, are now collaborating to secure contracts that may otherwise have been awarded to those south of the border or further afield.  I just love that one of the members created the Fatboy Slim Octopus of the London 2012 Olympics, and another filmed the James Bond and the Queen footage!

Screen Facilities Scotland video

Three farmers from the south west of Scotland (Castle Loch Foods Ltd) have come together to produce a range of luxury charcuterie products, using their individual high quality meats. This will see them access new markets, and hopefully export overseas in due course.

DG Farmers Cooperative video

Music Co-operative Scotland now gives us all an easy way to hire professional musicians for any occasion, offering any style of music you desire. All made possible through the formation of a consortium co-operative.

Musicians Cooperative Scotland video

This year we have increased our prize fund to £40,000 – up to four winners will each receive £5,000 consultancy support, and £5,000 cash to help implement their idea.  Even those that don’t win a prize can still access a comprehensive package of free support.

We are delighted to be working with our partners from Creative Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink and Scottish Tourism Alliance, and aim to attract really good entries from creative, food & drink and tourism businesses. In other words sectors that really lend themselves to collaboration.

However – our competition is of course open to all Scottish based companies regardless of sector.

So what are you waiting for?  The deadline for applications is 3rd August.  I personally can’t wait to see what comes our way this year…

Good luck.

Gillian

Seafood Producer Serves Up Food For Thought…

Angela Wardrope hi resScotland has a thriving food and drink sector. Employee owned companies like seafood producers Aquascot are reaping the rewards of co-operation.

Angela Wardrope, project manager, Co-operative Development Scotland, shadowed Aquascot’s Dennis Overton when he went before the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Food.

 

I had the opportunity to hear Employee Ownership Ambassador Dennis Overton from Aquascot address the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Food in January. The experience provided an insight into Aquascot’s journey towards employee ownership and a fascinating bird’s eye view of Scotland’s food and drink sector. It got me thinking about the bigger role co-operation could play in this industry. AquaScot Dennis Overton 94

Aquascot is based in Alness and takes its inspiration from the 1920 pioneering profit sharing model of employee ownership set up by John Spedan Lewis. The seafood producing firm began its journey towards employee ownership in 2008, which it will complete 2016. 

AquaScot 02In 2008 the main driver was to sustain and grow the business for the future. The potential was huge: a strong team, accelerating health drivers, expertise in aquaculture and strong market demands. A business owned by the employees was the only solution to create long term value in a fairly remote part of Scotland.

Now, four years later turnover has reached £29m and total staff numbers are up to a healthy 135. Aquascot is also benefiting from a reduction in absenteeism and leaving rates – half that of the sector average. Staff are twice as productive as the sector average and feel they can bring forward ideas that are listened to and implemented.

AquaScot 05So what is the wider potential for this model in Scotland’s food and drink sector? The industry is made up of lots of micro-businesses, a few large family businesses such as Tunnock’s and Mackies and a few giants like Devro. The industry also has plenty of first generation entrepreneurs, who in my view would be a great fit for employee ownership. The challenge is how we ensure other companies take inspiration from the benefits enjoyed by Aquascot, and think about employee ownership themselves.

But back to our parliamentarians. A good debate took place amongst Cross Party Group members following Dennis’s address. They wanted to hear more about the risks when changing ownership structure and how businesses adapt to this change. Dennis responded by pointing out the difference between ownership and management. He conceded the transition process can add complexity to the mix, but a well run business is a well run business, irrespective of the ownership structure. 

A question was also raised around ‘co-opetition’, when businesses co-operate with competitors. At Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), we are seeing a strong appetite for this. Especially where there is an opportunity for businesses to collaborate to help a sector grow.

For example Food from Argyll is a consortium of nine food producers that came together to sell their produce at events under its singular banner. Overall, the members all saw the co-operative as an opportunity to get into a market that would be really hard to crack on their own. A consortium co-operative allows single businesses to pool their resources in this way without compromising their independence as singular entities. They look at the bigger picture and will reap the benefits as a consequence. 

Best of Food Argyll 2So did the Cross Party Group members feel that co-operative business models were a good fit for Scotland’s food and drink businesses? Overall, there was a feeling that any form of co-operation would be beneficial. And that much more needed to be done to promote collaboration for the benefit of the sector.

CDS supports all businesses in Scotland, irrespective of sector or size. If you like the sound of accessing bigger markets through co-operation we can help you. We have produced a short paper on Scotland’s food and drink sector, so if you want to read more see: Co-operate for growth; Growing Scotland’s food and drink sector.

Co-operative Development Scotland is a Scottish Enterprise subsidiary, established to help companies grow by setting up consortium, employee-owned and community businesses. It works in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.