“we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment”
Martin Luther King
It has become difficult to avoid the use of clichés in describing the circumstances and impact of the financial crisis. Let us just accept that through all economic cycles there are both risks and opportunities for different types of businesses. You need to be innovative in how you problem solve; this might require simply asking a favour of someone, or just plain cheeky to a stranger.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
There is an established list of concerns which small business will have but in recent conversations the hot topic is property. For the benefit of brevity we will focus on what WE can do rather what we might desire others, especially politicians, do. Looking to existing businesses for opportunities on sharing premises is obvious, but never pay the asking rent and ensure it meets your needs first. Maybe a business is advertising space, or perhaps “looks” like they could squeeze you in? If you are already running then maybe suppliers have a space? Above all make sure that your network know that you are looking and prepare in advance what your actual requirements would be in terms of facilities, access etc.
“A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” William Penn
When looking to co-habit think about what partners might compliment you rather than just those where there might be commonality. The Cats Pyjamas Emporium, (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cats-Pyjamas-Emporium-Wisbech/436534436419271?fref=ts) Wisbech, is a venture set up by two women with quite separate businesses selling vintage clothes and fantasy themed goods. Their concept has developed to provide a base for 13 others. An opened up store room now provides for therapies, activities and meetings. Every nook of this building has been opened up. It has significantly reduced the overheads for all. The benefits of co-operative working include cover to ensure the shops doors can be open regardless of individual commitments – and stock costs are low because each hold their own.
In Howden, East Yorkshire, The Yorkshire Bakery (https://www.facebook.com/groups/136855566334216/?fref=ts) started out as a home-based enterprise specialising in celebration cakes and muffins. The opportunity to progress came with the offer from a friend who operates a kids day care centre, Wellybobs Day Nursery. Using a kitchen, which otherwise would be little used, encouraged ambition to be fulfilled by be able to compete for larger orders and expand the range of goods. The nursery benefit from having a caterer on site, the consumption of cakes(!) and sales to parents which benefit all.
While in Norwich I came across the Dandy Horse (http://www.dandy-horse.co.uk/) – an establishment which served the very best coffee, generously stuffed bagels and can provide every service and accessory for your cycling needs. Many advantages to sharing resources and bills, and this venture shows there really doesn’t have to be common purpose or objectives….sometimes it just works. There is absolutely no sense in taking on the burden of floor space you cannot take a profit from – use it or share it because if it is not earning for you it will be costing you.
“Let everyone sweep outside his own door, and then the whole world will be clean”
If you are an established business, especially located in a town centre, you will appreciate the importance of full shops and busy streets. Do you have space you could offer to a “start up” maybe for a free trial? Bear in mind that not all businesses need a window display or even shop floor….clear out that stock room, take down the unused counter or shelving. They may not be able to pay rent but you might get a good deal on stationery, your tarot cards read or maybe a triple chocolate muffin.
Our shared objective is success. What we should also accept is that the impact of failure is also shared throughout the community, or as Albert Schweitzer said “If we do not hang together, we will all hang separately”. Businesses are linked to one another in formal relationships, or by the ebb and flow of customers on the high street. Competition is a necessary element of any venture but without the customer base you are battling over bones. It is in the interests of all to promote all business – especially so the future successes, the “start ups”. This is what defines mutuality.
Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Henry Ford