For the initial stage, I said that we’d need the services of an IT whizz to develop an App: I looked at Ben. For my idea of a physical storage product, we’d need the services of a designer with computer aided design skills: I looked at Tony. We could buy-in 3D printing. To promote such products, we’d ideally like some help with website design to get search engine optimisation – high visibility to the target market: this time I looked at Susie. We’d need to get legal advice on patents and copyright and this would probably need to be outsourced. Perhaps Jason could provide accountancy help us to keep from over trading or similar and, given the costs of paying everyone involved, we’d need to price the products so as to reap an early payback to stay profitable. As an umbrella for all this, as a group we’d probably need HR expertise. I looked at Beverly.
I now had everyone’s interest without needing to describe my product idea yet – and this was what I’d hoped for. What I’d already said had clear ramifications, so I continued.
I confessed that the physical product, to my mind was probably not worth pursuing. There were already suitable off-the-shelf alternatives – so that element could be scrapped. This left the App – which I said I’d come to once some questions of principle had been thought through.
I’d only mentioned the storage problem to bring out the operational issues. I continued, saying that it would be great if we had a going-concern in place to launch new products, so that we’d all be earning salaries out of earned profits. As it was, there would be need, for any of our ideas, to finance a period for research and development out of our redundancy pool. I could see disillusion on most faces. I then raised the question of equitable distribution. Suppose only two of us were to propose ideas, how much should the people whose ideas were accepted be able to recharge to the group. If Ben were to spend time developing and testing an App, should he be able to recharge the same amount, or more, or less? Should his share be charged on a time and materials basis perhaps? What basis would be fair for rewarding an idea? At what point should it be recharged? How should losses be shared? Would contributors be able to claim immediately or out of earned profits? This type of approach would need to be thought through down the line for all those who contributed.
My presentation – I still hadn’t said what my idea was – raised an immediate storm of questions and discussion.
Beverly was one of the first to come forward. She wanted to know whether I was saying that becoming a cooperative was simply impracticable. I answered her by saying that, without discussing between ourselves what type of coop we wanted to be, we’d be wasting a lot of time. Certainly, the type of idea that I’d been going to propose didn’t lend itself to any of the coop models I’d been reading about. Additionally, all types of model should start with a properly thought-out business plan.
Ben joined in by asking what these types of model were. I handed out some photocopies of internet articles that I’d looked at. I suggested that we should all read the contents before our next meeting. I stressed that I wasn’t trying to rubbish the idea, but the different models had different types of ownership and control and different ideas about how profits were distributed. In principle, coops appeared to differ from limited companies and partnerships in terms of their aims. As an example, I mentioned those types where the customers were all members, and the aim was to benefit the community as much as the members. One example could be a local farm shop or bakery. I asked whether anyone had come up with a similar idea for a community benefit project. No one had, so we agreed to read my handouts and think about what our next step would be. We thanked Beverly for hosting the meeting and agreed that we’d continue the discussion after the next seminar.
Today I begin with a series of Christmassy shots in black and white. My Featured Photo today is an image of a busy street at night in Singapore complete with seasonal illuminations. This was taken in late November, 2017.
The EXIF Data for the featured photo are as follows: Pentax K50, 16MP cropped sensor camera with a 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 18 mm and f/8. The shutter speed was 1/100 secs and the ISO was 3200. The camera was handheld and the post-processing was in Lightroom.