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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Reflections: starting a team company from the finance team’s perspective.



Kirjoittanut: Felix Schwarz-Pajunen - tiimistä Crevio.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

Reflections: starting a team company from the finance team’s perspective.

Starting a team company with about 18 people from different walks of life is not something that one does every day. It’s an adventure, and naturally, it comes with certain challenges. The finance team, with me as the leader, had some clear tasks in the first half year and some blurry ones. This essay reflects the starting period of Crevio osk. as the finance team.

The simple but dragging tasks.

To function as a business, there are some obvious tasks that need to be done related to money management. Two of them are opening a bank account and finding an accountant. Simple enough; research and compare the options, meet, and call different service providers, decide for one, register for the service, done.

While the task is simple, the long waiting times for different registrations and delays made it challenging. It was the first time we registered a cooperative, and even though we heard stories of long processing times from other teams, we thought that it is the exception and in our case it will be faster.

We got our Business ID in the beginning of February, and I remember that at this point it was our goal to have everything set up before the sales days, which was scheduled for the end of march, one and a half month later. But, to open a bank account, we figured, one needs to be registered in the Trade register which already took till the beginning of April, one week after the sales days. After missing our first, self-imposed, deadline but finanlly being registered with the Trade register we started right away the process to open the bank account. It was beginning of June when we finally got all the credentials for the bank account and towards the end of June the basic accounting was set up and we could send invoices.

Most of the communications with the different service providers were done between Peetu and me. Sometimes we wondered if we were not proactive enough but looking back on it, there was nothing we didn’t try to speed up the process.

The challenging tasks.

How one feels about, sees, and handles money is deeply engrained in us. Everyone has a money attitude, which can be described as combination of “beliefs, behavioral inclinations and emotions attributed to the concept of money” (Sesini, Lozza 2023) One might not even be aware of one’s own money attitude on a day-to-day basis but “money is not, and never has been, a neutral thing. Instead, people imbue it with meanings, emotions and beliefs that go beyond the simple use of money in instrumental terms” (Sesini, Lozza 2023)

When 18 people start a team company together this becomes obvious. How should the money we make be handled in the company? From a legal point of view of a cooperative, the profit belongs equally to all the owners. From a practical standpoint, contribution to the team, both in effort and money, is not equal between the team members. “Experts warn that conflict in co-ops mostly comes from differing opinions about appropriate actions and from members’ failure to contribute equally.” (Pacheco, Shanztz, Kistruck, Webb 2022) In our team, different amounts of contributions come due to different reasons, and many of them are legitimate.  In the end, as a team, we want to find a way to manage our financial resources so that is both fair towards everyone and encouraging to try new things on our entrepreneurship journey.

As we made our considerations about money management within the team and started to ask around, a few things became clear or were mentioned repeatedly.

  • Most companies use a system called Ressu (or systems that are similar) to keep track of members financial contributions. Members are entitled to their earnings, with some limits and fees to cover the teams costs.
  • Ressu is not a perfect system.
  • Coaches and older teams encourage to find a new system but have not found one themselves.
  • Ressu might promote individuality over teamwork.
  • It’s not how a proper business is run.

Considering all those points we thought maybe we can create that new system that everyone advises to have. Well, after considering different aspects, we eventually decided to work with a Ressu-like system as well. Looking back on it, we could have spent less time discussing financial operation systems when we did not even have a bank account. One the other hand, it was important for our team to set clear guidelines in the beginning so that it was clear to everyone what will happen when we put the time and effort into projects and make money.

In my mind most of the cons that were mentioned to us about the ressu are not fully valid because while it is true that in a normal business scenario one does not use such systems, Proakatemia team companies are not founded like most normal business. Rarely 15 plus people who barely know each other and/or don’t have one common (economic) purpose (as it is often in cooperatives) meet and start a business. While there are many beautiful and educational opportunities with our team companies, it is also fair to admit that under normal circumstances this is not how you choose your business partners.

The following is part of an interview with Vickey Masterson, a cooperative founder in Scotland:

“Q: What are the key things you need to get right to run a successful co-operative consortium?

VM: You have to like and trust each other. Each member must be prepared to invest a certain amount of time regularly (non fee earning) to ensure the sustainability of the co-operative.

Q: Advice for budding co-operative entrepreneurs?

VM: Sometimes there can be an imbalance in the commitment and time individuals are prepared to make in running and developing the co-operative. This results in one or two people doing most of the unpaid work and can become a serious problem. Fortunately we are not in this situation.“ (McDonnell, Macknight, Donnelly2012)

Apparently unequal contributions are a common challenge in cooperatives, even when there are fewer members who chose to be partners with each other.

We start to understand now that with 18 members it is natural that not everyone contributes equally. It’s not perfect and it might resurface as a matter of conflict throughout the period of our studies.

While the ressu system does not address the non-fee earning tasks of our company like leadership positions and it does not measure impact or other ways of team success it measures and rewards at least one part of contributions and it can encourage or push members to take up projects and make money.

I agree that it is an unperfect system, but it is one that is practical for one part of the business. While some say it might encourage individuality, it can also be seen as a reality of entrepreneurship where you get what you earn.

When I recently talked with graduating teams, it became clear that as they prepare to discontinue their company, a ressu like systems proofs to be helpful. After all, members are keen on getting what they earned. In an ideal case scenario where a group of people contributes evenly to a business it makes sense to split the profit equally or pay equal salary. In our team companies situations contributions will differ because there are so many different interests and capacities as well as a big difference in willingness and commitment to the team.

Final thought

To sum it up, team dynamics around finances are more challenging than tasks around finances. Money is an emotional topic and people have a strong sense of what is fair and what not. Looking back on the first six month I see that open discussion and clear ground rules are two important things for big teams when it comes to finance. Our systems will probably still change over time. As mentioned above we want to find a way to manage our financial resources so that is both fair towards everyone and encouraging to try new things on our entrepreneurship journey.

Sources

McDonnell, D. Macknight, E. Donnelly, H. 2012. Co-operative Entrepreneurship. 24.

https://aura.abdn.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/2164/7699/Co_operative_Entrepreneurship_Co_operate_for_growth.pdf?sequence=1

Pacheco, D. Shanztz, A.S. Kistruck, G.M. Webb, J.W. 2022. How to manage a cooperative business. Read 1.10.2023.

https://nbs.net/how-to-manage-a-cooperative-business/

Sesini, G. Lozza, E. 2023. Understanding Individual Attitude to Money: A Systematic Scoping Review and Research Agenda. Read on 29.09.2023.

https://online.ucpress.edu/collabra/article/9/1/77305/196372/Understanding-Individual-Attitude-to-Money-A

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