A collective business system or collective business model is a business organization or association typically composed of relatively large numbers of businesses, tradespersons or professionals in the same or related fields of endeavor, which pools resources, shares information or provides other benefits for their members. In the past, collective business systems such as the trade association, the cooperative and the franchise were created to allow groups of independently owned businesses with common interests to successfully compete in the marketplace.
Beginning in the middle of the twentieth century, the business world in the United States of America and many European countries has witnessed the consolidation of all types of businesses through mergers, rollups or acquisitions. Typically, by the end of the consolidation process, a particular industry or profession becomes dominated by three or four nationally-based enterprises. Under these circumstances many smaller companies (often serving only local requirements and in private ownership) are often forced out of business or decide to sell to one of the dominant entities because it can no longer compete profitably with them. Typically, locally based businesses are unable to compete because they lack the capital, global marketing capabilities, purchasing power and expensive technology necessary to operate efficiently. This trend toward consolidation is expected to continue well into the twenty-first century and is sometimes shortened in developing countries, where the initial business in a market sector may be a single, large enterprise able to compete on the international market.
Presently, and for the foreseeable future, the inherent limitations of traditional collective business systems such as the trade organization, the cooperative and the franchise render them considerably less effective than they once were in advancing the business interests of their constituents. The following is a brief synopsis of those traditional collective business systems.
Trade associations are non-profit organizations in which the individual members are companies or individuals engaged in a common business pursuit. Competitors join together to create a platform format in which they deal with common problems of their industry. Any applicant meeting the standards of the association must be accepted as a member. Anti-trust law prohibits a member trade association from denying an otherwise qualified applicant's membership based upon a geographical proximity to an existing member. Trade associations commonly offer their members educational programs, the opportunity to come together at meetings to discuss common problems, and marketing materials designed to be imprinted by each member with its relevant information. Trade associations also offer elective group purchasing plans. The trade association bears no credit risk in these transactions but instead, provides chosen vendors with access to a large body of member customers. Because the trade association does not pledge its credit, the vendor must rely upon the credit worthiness of each purchaser.
To sustain its operations, a trade association generally receives an initiation fee and/or a yearly membership fee (collectively "dues") from its members, and it may collect rebates or commissions from the purchasing plan suppliers.
The trade organization imposes relatively low membership dues on its members. However, because initiation fees and annual membership fees are nominal, the trade organization lacks the ability to engage in offering its members national marketing capability, access to expensive technologies and cost-effective purchasing programs for major purchases due to a lack of capital. Furthermore, being non-profit, trade associations do not have the management mentality necessary to sustain major projects such as national sales and marketing.
While offering potentially valuable services to businesses, few trade associations offer much direct help in the major business areas of purchasing, production or marketing.
A cooperative is a non-profit organization somewhat similar to a trade association. A significant difference between the cooperative and the trade association, however, is that with a trade association, the members have a non-equity position in the association, whereas in the typical cooperative the members will have an equity interest as all members of the cooperative own a portion of the cooperative. Generally, a cooperative only addresses one facet of business operation needs of interest to its members, e.g., purchasing of goods and services at advantageous prices. A purchasing cooperative is at risk in that it holds considerable assets in the form of inventory and provides credit to the businesses in the cooperative. In addition, the members of the cooperative risk loss of invested capital if the cooperative proves unsuccessful.
The cooperative utilizes its volume leverage with suppliers in purchasing products and services for less than the individual member company could obtain outside of the cooperative. The cooperative marks up the purchased products or services in order to cover operating expenses. Any net income achieved by the cooperative is then returned to the cooperative members in the form of a redistribution of profits or dividends. Like a trade association, cooperatives cannot exclude members on the basis of geography or create exclusive territories.
There are also cooperatives in which the sole function is for marketing and advertising in a given region. New car dealers and fast food franchisees typically form marketing and advertising cooperatives.
Cooperatives are often hampered by being unwilling or unable (depending on legislation and the practicalities of the type of business they are in) to carve out or assign geographic territories to their individual members. They are usually limited to executing a single business function, e.g., purchasing of products and services or marketing.
The employees typically are required to wear uniforms and to dress as specified by the franchisor. Franchises can be offered by the franchisor on a territorial basis without violating antitrust laws. Ordinarily, the franchisee owns the non-real estate assets of a franchise. There is generally a substantial fee paid by the franchisee for the privilege of becoming a franchisee.