Collaboration is king – a new ‘cultural moment of co-operation’ could support start-up success

The promise of greater financial support and security is fuelling the will of small business owners to band together as one

We’re in a “cultural moment of co-operation” where it’s never been more possible for business people to collaborate and offer mutual assistance. This is according to Harvard Professor and advocate of peer-to-peer economies, Yochai Benkler.

What does this mean for your business? Put simply, taking steps to come together and self-organise cooperative schemes with other small business owners, the self-employed and start-up founders could mean a new and ‘third’ way to access financial or other support at times of need. This is in addition to the benefits and support already available from business member networks such as the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

A June 2017 report commissioned by FSB highlighted how in some places the self-organising self-employed are filling gaps left by the State by pooling their resources into schemes that can then offer financial support and security to their members in certain circumstances.

This is a growing trend in some places in Europe and the US.

Co-operation is the new Crowd

Successful self-organising self-employed schemes have been shown to contribute to wellbeing, growth and can mitigate financial risk – which all supports and underpins a thriving start-up and self-employed economy. This new paradigm is fuelling innovation and growth, removing many of the perils most commonly associated with having – or starting – your own smaller business.

Examples include Bread Funds in Holland – a collective sick pay fund that the self-employed contribute to in small groups of up to 50 people; SMart – a one-stop shop service for the self-employed in Belgium that includes a ‘salary guarantee fund’ made up of contributions from individual members which can be used to settle invoices within seven days in the event of late payments from clients. While in France, the innovative Coopaname cooperative agrees to technically employ its self-employed members, giving them access to social security protections usually reserved for employees.

This formal type of ‘self-organising’ can be viewed as a natural next step on from business networking, a renaissance for start-ups and the self-employed which is much advocated by business leaders.

It is on the basis of ‘self-organising’ that the self-employed and small business owners first came together to found the Federation of Small Businesses – FSB. Today, the organisation is the UK’s biggest business support group and remains member-led and not-for-profit. It has a 170,000-strong membership across all sectors and regions, including start-ups, established smaller businesses and the self-employed, as well as those who have yet to launch their start-up and who need advice and assistance in doing so.

Why there’s more power in numbers

Dave Stallon, commercial director of FSB, who started up his own engineering company nearly 25 years ago, says: “It’s by having so many members that FSB is able to pool its resources and offer very highly competitive business services – such as strong legal advice and insurance – to those members.”

As the main representative of the small business sector in the UK, FSB has a powerful voice in Government, actively lobbying for policy to enhance and support the UK’s 5.5 million-strong smaller business community, including greater state support for the self-employed, such as equitable access to maternity and paternity leave. As well as this, it brings together its members, in turn enabling those who wish to, to mobilise and self-organise at local and regional levels.

Entrepreneurs – start-up founders and business owners – are often the people who think most outside the box. They have the self-starting and innovative approach to life that can enable them to organise new ways of working and living. There are opportunities for these people to create a new mandate and a new environment to help remove some of the main risks to their businesses and lifestyle.

If you’re interested in exploring how you could self-organise a new cooperative scheme with other start-ups, start by connecting with other potential like-minded partners. A way to do this is to join and utilise a good business networking group that offers both face-to-face and virtual networking, such as FSB Connect – the UK’s biggest which is free to join and has regional and local presence.

For more information about FSB, visit Join the conversation @FSB_Voice #FSBConnect


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