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In difficult times businesses should be looking for opportunities to grow and develop.
The current economic climate paints a bleak picture: the country is in one of the worst economic crises for decades; the UK has entered a double dip recession and business confidence has fallen again. Is it now time for businesses to start actively collaborating for growth instead of focussing on their competitive rivalries, asks Wales Cooperative Centre Chief Executive Derek Walker.
The business benefits of consortia working have been examined in a new Wales Co-operative Centre publication that is released today. The publication, ‘Co-operative Consortia: A Model for Growth in a Challenging Economy’, examines marketing consortia, buying consortia and tendering consortia across several sectors and demonstrates that there are both business growth and cost saving benefits available to businesses working in this way.
It is well known that Wales is dependent on its micro business sector for its economic prosperity. Micro businesses account for 94.5% of all businesses in Wales and large businesses of 250 or more employees account for only 0.8%. The Micro Business Task and Finish Group Report commissioned by the Welsh Government in January 2012 to investigate the issues facing micro businesses in Wales recommended five priority areas for Welsh Government: awareness and access to business support services; access to finance; mentoring and coaching; access to public sector procurement; and reduction of regulatory burden. Specifically the report supported the consortia approach to give micro businesses better access to public sector procurement opportunities.
The Welsh Government is currently consulting with businesses on the simplification of tendering processes and the Wales Co-operative Centre believes that the benefits of consortia working in allowing smaller businesses to team up to access larger contracts locally must be built in to this evolving framework.
There are many examples of businesses working together to access public sector procurement opportunities they could not otherwise access. In England, the South East Construction Consortium was formed by four construction companies to carry out projects for both public and private sector clients. The consortium’s aim is to apply for works that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to apply for and to ‘open doors that would otherwise be closed’. Whilst there is no indigenous Tier One construction company in Wales at the moment, consortia working could allow Welsh construction companies to deliver public sector work in Wales and ensure the finance and benefits from that work are kept in Wales.
In the South Wales Valleys, Secure Wales, a consortium of security providers was set up as a marketing consortium offering a one-stop shop approach to a full range of security services. The approach has allowed them to bid jointly for a series of bigger security contracts across the country.
Consortia aren’t just about accessing public sector contracts though. The collaborative nature of the approach can allow businesses to work together to bulk buy and lever economies of scale. Many people aren’t aware that the retail brand NISA Today is actually a consortia organisation that offers branding and bulk buy benefits to its independent retailer members. In the construction industry, both United Merchants and the National Merchant Buying Society offer their members the benefit of bulk purchased services and commodities such as invoice clearing and building materials.
The consortia model can also help businesses marketing complimentary products or services. There are many great examples of this across the Food and Tourism Sectors. In North Wales, Cilydd is a consortium of independent café’s and tea houses. The members share a common commitment to an independent ethos and use their consortium to work together to improve their marketing and their quality standards. The consortium has aspirations to create a tea and coffee culture in Wales which is a market leader in the UK. In tourism, the consortia model is well established. Tourism consortia work together to promote an area or an activity to specific sets of customers. In South Wales, the South Wales Attractions Partnership is a consortium of tourism attractions who contribute to joint marketing of their attractions to customers across Wales and England.
The benefits of consortia don’t stop at procurement, buying and marketing. In Pembrokeshire, the logistical difficulties small food producers have in getting their products to an outlet are addressed by Pembrokeshire Produce Direct which operates an online sales portal and distribution system. In West Wales, Calon Wen is a consortium of dairy farmers who have used the model to address economies of scale in production facilities, logistics and marketing. They are now an established brand with products available in most major supermarkets. In Cardiff, Oren Actors Management is a consortium of actors working together as an actors agency to find each other acting work. The consortia approach allows them to utilise the time they have between jobs to develop their acting careers and actively look for suitable roles for each other.
Collaboration can be an effective means of mitigating some of the problems that businesses currently face. A consortium arrangement can help businesses develop in a sustainable and co-operative manner. Yes, these are difficult times but as the cliché goes ‘Why waste a good crisis’? Collaboration and consortia working may provide the answer that many businesses are now looking for.
At the Wales Co-operative Centre we have thirty years experience in working with businesses to facilitate co-operation and achieve business efficiencies through collaboration. Through its specialist consortia development team, the Centre can advise groups of businesses on the most appropriate consortia structure to help them achieve their goals.
Derek Walker is Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre.
First Minister Carwyn Jones today [13th December] urged people finding it difficult to meet the cost of Christmas this year not to take out loans from high cost lenders, even if it seems quick and easy.
The cost of a personal unsecured loan from a high cost lender of £500 paying back £17.50 for 52 weeks means that you will actually pay back £910.
The same loan from a credit union would cost about £10.83 each week, paying back a total of £563.16, a saving of more than £340.
The First Minister will talk about the impact of high cost credit on families and communities during a visit to the Save Easy Credit Union in Llanelli.
The First Minister said,“Too many people do not realise that Welsh credit unions provide savings accounts, personal loans and other basic financial products that can save them money. Credit Unions offer a real alternative the activities of high cost lenders and illegal loan sharks, by offering safe and affordable alternatives.
“Tackling poverty and financial exclusion where it persists in our communities is one of my key priorities over the next five years. Credit unions are ideally placed to help achieve this.”
The Minister also emphasised he wanted to continue to raise awareness of credit unions.
He said,“Too often we hear stories about people on low incomes and others who are most vulnerable in our society not being able to access affordable sources of credit.
“Some communities remain blighted by loan sharks exploiting vulnerable people in an environment of intimidation and violence. This has a devastating cost on individuals, families and entire communities.
“Credit unions can and do make a difference in such a situation. Having strong credit unions here in Wales will help us as we continue to build the fair and just society we all want to achieve.”
Source: News Wales
Welsh communities will benefit from a total of £162,000 in fund awards through CommunityForce this year. It is hoped the initiative will raise awareness of the nominated charities and organisations and encourage people to get involved as volunteers. By bidding for a share of the fund, charities and projects will become part of a local online network giving them greater visibility, and the opportunity to attract volunteers from the local area.
NatWest staff will also get involved by volunteering their time as part of the bank’s customer charter commitment to deliver 7,000 days of community volunteering this year.
Until 4 September 2011, organisations and charities can apply for a CommunityForce award online at www.natwest.com/communityforce. On 26 September an online public vote will begin, to decide which three causes in each area will receive £6,000 each, ensuring that the organisations that benefit are those that matter most to the local community. The winners will be announced in November.
In 2010, over 600 UK projects benefited from the fund. This year in the UK, £1.9 million will be awarded to good causes nationwide.
Mark Douglas, NatWest Regional Retail Director for Wales, said: “NatWest has a long and proud history of supporting local communities across Wales and I’m delighted that my teams across Wales are now able to offer even more money to good causes this year. Giving the community the chance to vote for the winners will ensure these funds go to the organisations local people value the most.”
Source: 4 Traders
The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) are investigating the training needs of voluntary heritage groups in Wales.
They are coordinating a Community Archaeology Training programme (external website), with four 12-month-long traineeships in Wales each year for the next three years. The scheme is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional support from Cadw.
Linked to these traineeships, the CBA are currently investigating the possibility of providing a series of training days for voluntary groups. They would be grateful for input from anyone involved in a voluntary heritage group in Wales, as this will help them to get a clearer picture of potential training needs.
If you are part of a Welsh voluntary group you can answer their questionnaire online (external website) by Monday 13th June.
International Women’s Day has been held since the early 1900′s; a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.
For more information on International Women’s Day and to see the hundreds of events organised across the world, please visit the website.
This year, Divine Chocolate, the only farmer-owned, Fair Trade chocolate brand, are celebrating International Women’s Day by investing in women cocoa farmers.
Divine Chocolate encourages chocolate lovers to use a $1 coupon to treat themselves to a bar of delicious Divine Chocolate. For every coupon redeemed, Divine will invest a dollar into Kuapa Kokoo’s Women’s Fund in support of small-scale cocoa farming communities in Ghana. Another reason women think chocolate is Divine. The coupons are available on Facebook and in retail outlets nationally.
You can also view a large collection of videos on YouTube, from organisations and individuals, celebrating International Women’s Day and enforcing the message in different ways.