Sarah Deas: Entrepreneurs keep an eye on the prize

Sarah Deas says firms stand to gain by working together. Picture: Contributed

Sarah Deas says firms stand to gain by working together. Picture: Contributed

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It’s a situation that will be familiar to so many entrepreneurs – you see a contract being advertised and you want to ­submit a proposal, but you’re ­worried that your business lacks the range of skills needed to win the work, or is too small and lacks the scale to catch the client’s eye.

That’s where a consortium can be of benefit. Members of this business model may be businesses, partnerships or individuals which come together for a shared purpose such as to buy or sell in scale, market more effectively, share facilities or jointly bid for contracts. By ­collaborating, businesses can reduce costs, share risks and create new platforms for growth.

Entering international markets together opens up access to new customers

Sarah Deas

Each member of the ­consortium retains its independence, whilst ­benefiting from the ­combined scale of the co-operative. As an inclusive model it fits well with the Scottish Government’s desire for “inclusive growth”, allowing small businesses to work together to reach new markets.

Entering international markets together opens up access to new customers, revenue and ideas and ­enables businesses to spread risk, increasing the lifespan of products and services.

The Collaboration Prize, delivered by Co-operative Development Scotland on behalf of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Island Enterprise in ­partnership with Business Gateway and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, provides the opportunity to raise awareness of the ­benefits of collaboration.

The aim of this year’s prize is to encourage firms to think collaboratively. This could be a new sector or a geographical market, including international markets.

The winners will receive £5,000 to implement their collaborative idea, support to set up as a consortium co-operative, up to £5,000 of business support (delivered by Scottish Enterprise or Highlands & Islands Enterprise) and export adviser support.

One of the winners of last year’s prize, ArchBlue, provides an integrated service to the heritage ­sector. Founded by four organisations involved in providing complementary services, the consortium ­provides 3D measuring and modelling, archaeological recording and visualisation, conservation planning and 3D printing.

These services provide customers with a comprehensive approach to heritage site management. ­Winning the prize has helped ArchBlue to establish a brand identity. It also adds strength to ­marketing, including ­tender ­submissions, allowing the consortium to bid for projects which members wouldn’t necessarily have the ability to pursue as individual businesses.

The Collaboration Prize is open for entries until 18 November. Information and an application pack can be found here.

• Sarah Deas is director of Co-operative Development Scotland

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