Tag: Jaye Martin

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.

Collaboration: A step-by-step guide

Jaye Martin 03

Collaboration brings a number of benefits – including business growth, reduced costs and extra resources –but when should a business join or form a consortium? How does it go about doing so? And what specific benefits can it deliver?

Here, CDS specialist advisor Jaye Martin shares a brief step-by-step guide to consortium working.

Step 1: Identify barriers to growth
For many small and micro-enterprises, lack of scale, time, finance or resources can be a barrier to accessing new markets, tendering for larger contracts or simply marketing services. 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. Collaborating can be a real game-changer for businesses. For example, through collaboration, Adventures in Light – an Edinburgh-based consortium which brings together a 3D artist, a film-maker and a carpenter – have been able to invest in essential new kit which has supported them to keep experimenting and inventing. This, in turn, has helped them work on bigger projects such as the International Science Festival and the Kelburn Garden Party.

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.

CDS can help you to explore the options, structure the consortium, and get more members involved. 

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

 

Five points from Italy’s co-operative capital

Jaye Martin 03CDS specialist advisor Jaye Martin recently took part in a study trip to Emilia Romagna, the area of northern Italy with probably the richest co-operative history in the world.

Here, she reflects on the visit and looks at how Scotland can learn from the region.

The tour I was lucky enough to be part of was a collaboration between the University of Bologna and Saint Mary’s University (SMU) in Halifax, Canada. I joined a group of students undertaking a part-time Master’s Degree in Co-operative Management at SMU, all of whom are managers at co-operatives across Canada and the United States. Their organisations include food co-ops, insurance co-ops, credit unions and co-op development and their experiences provided me with valuable insight.

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One of the Towers of Bologna

Our chief executive, Sarah Deas, wrote a series of comprehensive blogs on her own experiences in Emilia Romagna a couple of years ago. With that in mind, I thought I’d simply touch on my highlights reel – although I can assure you that it was an intense eight days packed with visits to co-operatives and lectures on co-operative theory and economics!

So here’s my five most interesting points of learning:

1. Co-operatives are one of the most important tools in the reduction of inequality  Bologna – the capital of the Emilia Romagna region – has a lower unemployment  rate than other Italian cities. Emilia Romagna itself ranks first in Italy in terms of equality, evidenced by high average income and low income inequality.  Female participation in the workplace is significantly higher in Emilia Romagna (c65%) than in the rest of Italy (c45%). All of this can be linked back to the presence of co-operatives in the area.

IMG_01532. Social co-operatives… the future?

Legislation was introduced in Italy to create the legal and tax structure for the ‘social co-operative’ (what we might call a ‘social firm’).  At least 30% of employees must be categorised as disadvantaged (e.g. those affected by drug or alcohol addiction, physical or mental disabilities).  We visited some wonderful examples, such as Cooperativo Il Cammino e L’altro Giardino (‘The Alternative Garden’), a residence and gardens where herbs, fruit and vegetables are grown and used to make products such as jams and syrups.  Social co-operatives were oft-mentioned as the potential future growth area of the sector, but funding and support is increasingly hard to come by – so much will depend on the economic sustainability of projects and how they diversify and adapt to achieve this.

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Caseificio 4 Madonne

3. Caseificio 4 Madonne and the mix of the traditional and the innovative

My favourite visit – and not just because we got to taste all the lovely Parmigiano Reggiano cheese! Caseificio 4 Madonne is one of 350 Parmigiano Reggiano co-operatives in the region and together they form a huge consortium.  Caseificio 4 has 65-70 member farmers and produces 104 wheels of cheese each day.  We were shown the various stages of production and I was struck by the clever merging of traditional methods (e.g. use of muslin cloths and copper cauldrons) and innovative methods without the loss of the integrity and provenance of the product.  Perhaps something for Scottish food and drink companies to consider?

4. Co-operative funds – replicable here?

Co-operatives in Italy must pay 3% of their annual profits into one of three funds (each controlled by one of the three co-operative associations).  We visited Coopfond, the largest of the funds at 422m EUR and controlled by Legacoop.  The fund is used for the promotion of start-up co-operatives, growth capital for expansion and support for co-operatives in financial distress.  They will also help fund worker buyouts such as Greslab.  Given the issues around access to finance for employee-owned businesses and co-operatives in the UK, could a similar initiative be a potential game-changer?

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Our group outside University of Bologna

5. The importance of international connections

This study trip was important not just for the opportunity to see and hear about the strength of co-operative models in the region, but also to meet and discuss with fellow co-operators from Italy, Canada, USA and England.  Everyone in the group had a different interest or angle to their observations and questions and, for me, that was just as fascinating as the visits and lectures themselves. What is clear is that we should seek to build on these experiences, relationships and learning as far as possible as we continue to support company growth in Scotland using co-operative business models.

Diversifying together could be the new way of working…

Jaye Martin 03A recent event, organised by the Energy Technology Partnership (ETP) in conjunction with Robert Gordon University’s Business School in Aberdeen, illustrated that the offshore wind market represents a big opportunity for Scottish SMEs who currently operate in oil and gas.

CDS specialist adviser Jaye Martin was there to share her expertise on how collaborative working could be the key to making a move in to this new area a reality…

The ETP – the largest power and energy research partnership in Europe – organised this event to help equip Scottish SMEs to make the move from oil and gas into offshore renewables.

With three new wind farms recently gaining consent and an imminent decision expected on the contract for a further wind farm, there has never been a better time to take advantage of this developing market.

Delegates at the workshop listened to first-hand experiences from Scottish businesses that have already successfully ‘straddled the divide’, such as Seaway Heavy Lifting and Ecosse Subsea Systems.

There were also discussions on the regulatory and contractual landscape of offshore renewables compared to oil and gas and the supply chains and alliances pertinent to the offshore wind sector.

The various funding opportunities available for SMEs looking to diversify were showcased, including Scottish Enterprise’s Offshore Wind Expert Support, Enterprise Europe Network Scotland, Interface and new SMART/R&D grant funding for alliances.

I featured as one of the workshop’s ‘three-minute wonders’ which gave me a small (but perfectly formed) opportunity to talk to the audience about CDS and the support we can provide for companies considering collaborative working as a means to enter new markets.

Throughout the afternoon words such as partnering, alliances, consortia were commonplace and it was clear the audience had an appetite for trying something new in an industry which has yet to standardise approach.

CDS looks forward to working with more SMEs in this sector as they look to conquer new markets, we can add real value with our business models to diversify for success.

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!

Co-op Congress a real Saturday success

Jaye Martin 03Bees, thumbs up and visual minutes made for a different conference experience at this year’s Co-operative Congress.

Here, CDS specialist adviser Jaye Martin talks through some of the key points from the session.

The Town Hall in Birmingham, with its impressive architecture and historic organ dating from 1834, is not a bad place to spend a few hours. Even if it is on a Saturday (the middle Saturday of Wimbledon, a World Cup Round of 16 day)… and it’s sunny in Glasgow.

Being a consummate professional, I was able to set all this aside and concentrate on the subject at hand. Which was, of course, co-operation – or, more specifically, Co-operation: How?

This year’s Congress had been trailed as a pared down, back to basics approach to provide a space for open and honest discussion about the future of the co-operative movement. Two themes from the International Co-operative Alliance’s Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade were used as the focus of the debate:

  • How do we promote the co-operative message and secure our identity?
  • How do we take participation in co-operatives to the next level?

The pitches, debates and pledges stemming from these themes were used to help shape an action plan for the movement. Delegates were given voting cards with ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’, to be used throughout the debate whenever the mood took us.

Visual minutes at the Co-op Congress

Visual minutes at the Co-op Congress

The take-aways were, for me, around the innovative tools employed to make this a different and truly more interactive conference, so I’m giving a thumbs up for:

  1. A good theme – the humble bee, long a symbol and unofficial ambassador for co-operation, was utilised to good effect in Ed Mayo’s opening speech, in the branding of the conference and even in the honeycomb-shaped pledges that attendees were encouraged to write on and stick up on a great honeycombed wall of hope.
  1. Steph McGovern – the BBC Breakfast business presenter was an inspired choice of Congress facilitator, with her down-to-earth humour endearing her to the assembled audience from the off. She has recently covered developments regarding The Co-operative Group and The Co-operative Bank for the BBC and her genuine interest in the sector was clear.
  1. Visual minutes – professional artists from Creative Connections recorded the debate and feel of the room through illustration, creating this wonderful piece of art which is a lasting legacy of Congress 2014.

Shining a spotlight on finance

Jaye Martin 03At the most recent CDS Advisory Board meeting, some of Scotland’s key industry figures gathered to discuss how ‘stakeholder banks’ can be the ideal solution for co-operatives looking to raise capital.  

Jaye Martin, a Specialist Advisor at CDS, shares her experience of the day.

As January comes rapidly to an end and the weather shows no signs of improvement, like me, you are probably longing to get away from the soggy grey skies.

But at the recent CDS Advisory Board session, we refused to be cowed by the January blues and instead presenting an eclectic mix of speakers to throw some light (and shade) on the topic of Financing and Capitalising Co-operatives. 

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James Graham of SAOS

Insights gained from the session will help inform our thinking over the coming year as we consider in sharper detail the financing issues affecting the businesses we work with particularly relating to employee buyouts and consortia of scale.  This is of course in the wider context of Scottish Enterprise’s ongoing work in the Access to Finance arena and the Scottish Government’s Sustainable, Responsible Banking strategy, published last year.

 Attendees from CDS, our Advisory Board, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government heard from James Graham of SAOS on the challenges of capitalising a typical agricultural co-op and the potential need for a farming and rural financial intermediary to serve that community, and Angus Waugh and Gerry Sweeney from First Milk on the challenges of raising capital in a 1,700 member strong dairy co-operative. 

New Economics Foundation’s Tony Greenham gave an in-depth analysis of the UK’s banking system and the benefits of ‘stakeholder banks’ with Rod Ashley of Airdrie Savings Bank, the UK’s last remaining independent savings bank, highlighting the benefits of local banking.

Trying to summarise the rich learning and discussion from this jam-packed session is probably an injustice. However, as a taster let’s consider on the top five financing facts:

  • The UK, and particularly Scotland, lacks diversity in its banking system as compared to other developed nations.  In the UK, local banks comprise just 3% of the sector as compared to 67% in Germany and 34% in the USA. 

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  • Co-operative (and employee-owned) business models by their very nature make capital-raising difficult due to the ownership structure.  In the USA, there are special provisions supported as a necessary counterbalance to other types of enterprise.
  • Collaboration is the name of the game in Germany. Local banks co-own central services (for example, back office, regulatory and marketing functions).  This collaboration (rather than the consolidation seen in the UK) allows them to remain locally focused, with sophisticated systems.

    Rod Ashley, chief executive of Airdrie Savings Bank.

    Rod Ashley, chief executive of Airdrie Savings Bank.

  • Airdrie Savings Bank was founded on 1 January 1835 and is the only institution now operating under the auspices of the Savings Bank (Scotland) Act 1819.  Customers have ready access to bank managers and staff with knowledge of the local area and local businesses.  The Bank faces an ever increasing scrutiny from the regulatory landscape. 
  • There are comparatively higher levels of lending to co-ops, social enterprises and charities as well as local SMEs by local banks.  For example, the German government-owned development bank KfW has specific funding available for family businesses to help the younger generation to buy out the older (retiring) generation. 

Although, like the January sun, this is just a brief account of the topics, the discussion will help us to put finance in the hot seat in 2014.

CDS is here to help businesses considering the adoption of co-operative business models.

Take Five

Jaye Martin 03Jaye Martin is a specialist adviser who joined Co-operative Development Scotland this summer. Here she shares her experience of what it’s like to work at Scotland’s co-operative and employee-owned enterprise development organisation.

It’s already six months into my new role as a CDS specialist adviser, focussing on collaborative business models, so now is as good a time as any to pause for a moment and take stock of my top five experiences so far in what has been an exciting and challenging few months.

 

 1. The CDS Collaboration Prize

PrintThis has been a revelation for me as I’d never been involved behind the scenes of a competition before – unless you count making up a quiz sheet for Comic Relief to sell around my village when I was 12! We were overwhelmed with the quality of the collaborative ideas contained in the applications this year and it’ll be a valuable learning experience for me to be involved in the strategy sessions for the winners when they take place in due course. Excitingly, we are poised to announce our winners shortly so watch this space…

 

2. New consortia

We support so many groups of businesses and communities across Scotland in exploring and formalising their ideas for collaboration and I love the variety this work provides. To mention only a few of the new collaborations we’ve advised so far this year: Destination Stirling, the new tourism group supported by Stirling Council, Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland; Scottish Mountain Biking Consortium, a group of like-minded businesses committed to developing the best family mountain biking experiences, packages and solutions in Scotland; and Community of Raasay Retail Association (CORRA), the community group behind the purchase of the only shop on Raasay.

 

3. Community shares

On my second day at CDS, I attended our Advisory Board session on ‘Community Shares – Realising the Potential’. Of great interest was a presentation by Hugh Rolo of the Community Shares Unit in England. Their newly launched dedicated web platform for community share issues, Microgenius, is a potential game-changer for this growing sector. We are seeing increasing interest in community co-operatives in Scotland, particularly in relation to renewable energy generation (wind, hydro) and broadband projects.

 

4. Tweeting

Another revelation. Somewhere between dinosaur and sceptic when it came to social media,CDS Twitter I can now see the real value in tweeting, blogging and their ilk – there is the potential to strike up dialogue with like-minded individuals and organisations and to spread the word about co-operative business models. Follow me @CDSjaye and us @cdscotland to find out more!

 

5. Collective Futures workshop

I was pleased to be asked to present on the consortium co-operative model at one of the Collective Futures workshops. This is an exploratory project to define the nature and form of co-operative business models used by designer/makers to sustain and grow their creative businesses. The project is itself a collaboration between Gray’s School of Art, University of the West of Scotland, Glasgow School of Art and a selection of residents who are practising designers/makers from all over Scotland. I was (unsurprisingly) impressed at the creativity used to facilitate the discussion on collectives, particularly the ‘mood boards’ which caused much hilarity (one included a photo of Katy Perry being blasted into outer space) but also revealed inner thoughts about the pros and cons of collaboration.

And as for my top moment outwith CDS…? It has to be when a boy from Dunblane lifted the Wimbledon trophy on that oven-hot day in July. Let’s hope the next six months are just as exciting!