Co-ops have the opportunity to start with the right business model

“How can co-ops manage their business well?”, asked Dr John Carlisle, a visiting professor at Sheffield Hallam University’s business school. In his presentation at the Co-operative Education Conference...

“How can co-ops manage their business well?”, asked Dr John Carlisle, a visiting professor at Sheffield Hallam University’s business school. In his presentation at the Co-operative Education Conference in Manchester, Dr Carlisle argued co-ops should redesign the business model for co-operative education. He thinks that many courses focused on the co-operative model fail to take into account how to run the business well.

“Is the absence a bad thing? Yes, because students need to know how to run the business. No, because we may teach them wrong,” he said. “The opportunity is to start with the right model”.

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He criticised the traditional approach of setting targets, focusing on costs and compliance and promoting incentivisation through bonuses. He argued that co-ops should instead try to start with the right model, making sure they are improving quality. This can be done by delivering the right product to the right person at the right time.

Twenty years ago Prof Carlisle developed a new approach to dramatic business improvement through profitable co-operation. The model has been adopted by over 100 major organisations across the world. In the 1990s he set up JCP, a consultancy firm which has worked with the likes of Welsh Water, Shell De Beers and Siemens to help increase savings by up to 30%.

He believes that this approach helps reduce costs because there is less reworking needed, fewer mistakes and delays and better use of machine time and materials. By offering the right product, co-ops can improve productivity and grow their market to stay in business and provide more jobs. “Really successful co-ops satisfy customers and suppliers and get things right the first time,” he said.

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