First step. Take a step back.
Creating a new business is exciting – especially if that new business fills a service or amenity gap in your community or increases wealth and the number of good local jobs. For this reason, and like any other entrepreneur, many of the people and groups we work with are anxious to explore their co-operative business opportunities and to see their business idea become operational. This entrepreneurial enthusiasm is infectious and essential to launching and developing a new business. It’s our job to help maintain and spread this enthusiasm. But we also say, ‘Okay. Let’s take a step back and really explore this opportunity. Because we don’t want to leave anything on the table.’
Exploring co-operative business opportunities should create enthusiasm
Excitement around a project is essential to a business’ success, and should be harnessed to help maintain much needed momentum; however, it’s important not to rush the process of building the foundation of a new co-operative business. There are many details that need to be discussed to ensure the organization sets out on a path for success. Engaging external supports, like Co-operatives First, helps ensure momentum is maintained and the co-operative business opportunity is more fully considered.
Co-operatives First EXPLORE services typically include facilitated community meetings, connections with technical experts and resources, organizational planning, and capacity building. These services are designed to guide community leaders through the process of setting up a successful co-operative business with engaged shareholders. Taking a step back should not curb enthusiasm. It directs it in a way that increases effectiveness and helps build a business that has every chance of succeeding.
Pissed off people make for great group entrepreneurs.
The success of any co-operative business is built on the support of the community it serves and the engagement of its shareholders. If a new co-operative business opportunity is perceived as a threat to existing businesses or doesn’t interest the broader community, the success of the project is at risk. The best way to determine community support is to host a community meeting that brings people together in a safe, open forum to discuss issues and opportunities. Allow people to share their thoughts and shape the business from the beginning.
Meetings like these also help identify the source of frustration in a community and bring the many ideas community members have been mulling over individually to the broader group. In this way, a community meeting often helps reveal actions required for pathfinding the best way forward.
Co-operative businesses opportunities need dedicated champions
By harnessing the frustration and enthusiasm for overcoming its source, a core group of champions can often be identified to drive the business forward. If you’ve read our blogs on the ‘noinky bits’ then you know building a co-operative business has parts that are tedious and every new business faces challenges. Having a group of leaders that can form a steering committee and lead the development of the organization is critical to maintaining momentum.
Work with experts to answer the tough questions
A lot of research goes into building a new co-operative business: market research, environmental scans, site assessments, business planning, drafting bylaws, etc. This can be a bit overwhelming, which is why it’s important to work with third party help. Whether it’s a local Community Futures office, one of the provincial business development groups, or your local Economic Development Officer, a business expert can help answer these important questions, create plans for moving forward effectively, and introduce you to similar businesses in other areas to gain a better understanding of what they went through.
Take advantage of FREE where you can.
Co-operatives First has the tools, resources and connections needed to support group entrepreneurs through the process of exploring a business opportunity or help an existing business thrive and grow. And we offer this support for FREE.
We want to see your community grow and thrive. Don’t go through this process alone. If you feel your community is ready to explore opportunities, contact us or check out our Guide to Group Entrepreneurship to see if group entrepreneurship is right for you.