Most people are likely satisfied with defining business success with one word: profit. But that is not the case for the co-owners of Shift Delivery, a Vancouver-based co-operative courier business that uses bicycles as a mode of transport.
“For us it was about running a business that really had an impact on our community, in the grand scheme of things, and staying a co-operative to us felt like something that could have the most impact,” said co-owner Ben Wells.
For Wells, a co-operative was the best way to align his views with running a business. Wells said he consistently sees the benefit of the co-operative business model, in that it allows fellow employees to recognize that they are an important and integral part of the business. Not only are employees motivated to bring energy and passion to their work but the business benefits from the ideas and innovative spirit of its employees.
Wells said he understands that he may not see as much immediate personal profit in running a co-op as he might through some other business model, but he added that the co-operative model is an excellent way not only to reward employees and maintain business morale, but to innovate as well.
“We are willing to take employee suggestions and allow them to take initiative, and I think that is strongly reflected through our co-op structure,” he said. “Initiative is well rewarded, well respected and encouraged.”
One measurable benefit in which the co-operative model has helped Shift’s overall business has been lower employee turnover in an industry where it is high.
At Shift Delivery, employees are a key part of not only business operations but also business management. By further incorporating its employees into its corporate structure Shift is able to use the knowledge its employees hold about their business and capitalize off their ideas.
“Our co-op journey has taught me that the most important thing for people running a business to do is to dig deep, know your values and stick to them,” Wells said. “Really understanding the core principles that matter to you sets the foundation for good decision-making and great leadership, and provides guidance through the roughest of times.”
On corporate structure | “It’s sort of ironic that we have this constant dialogue in the public sphere about how important democracy is but then we run all of our businesses like feudal states.”