“Bye-bye boss!” » When employees are in power

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&laquo ; Bye-bye boss!” When employees are in power


David Dorez, founding member of the La Shop Angus brewery


Being your own boss, valuing work before profit and running your business like a democracy. These are values ​​that are unanimous among the members of some cooperatives met in Montreal.

This business model, which runs alongside traditional work organization, seems to be on the right track. Globally, members of cooperatives represent at least 12% of humanity, the International Cooperative Alliance tells us.

David Dorez, founding member of La Chope Angus, a craft microbrewery with 27 employees, presents its cooperative as a company with a human dimension that wants to be close to the inhabitants of the Rosemont district in Montreal.

Taking a break from a visual inspection of the tanks, Mr. Dorez explains with passion the adventure he has been living for a year with his colleagues, while the pandemic crippled the economy and put a strain on the most solid companies. .

The word intercooperation often comes up in his speech. Our brewery belongs to the neighborhood, to the environment where it is located, he likes to repeat.

The cooperative is also a business that comes with its share of difficulties.

Our challenge is to combine the aspects of a traditional business with those of a social economy, notes Mr. Dorez. The challenge, he says, is also linked to democratic management within the cooperative. The most important decisions are the responsibility of all members, unlike an SME, where the boss can, alone in his office, decide everything.

“The cooperative is a lever for entrepreneurship different from the inc model. »

— David Dorez, founding member of the cooperative La Shop Angus

However, he acknowledges that he and his colleagues have benefited from a lot of support. In addition to the Réseau Coop du Québec, the other cooperatives were there at the start, each with their own expertise.

Things are looking good, according to Mr. Dorez, who plans to increase the number of employees before the summer.

Established 15 years ago, Molotov, a communications agency that claims to work to promote social, environmental, cultural, local and ethical initiatives, is among the companies that have helped La Chope Angus in the context of intercooperation.


Nicolas Bonnet, General Coordinator, Molotov

Here too, we advocate know-how, democracy and camaraderie as values ​​and a recipe for success.

Its general coordinator, Nicolas Bonnet, explains from the outset that none of the founding members is currently on the list of workers who make up the agency’s staff. Several teams have succeeded each other over time.

“It’s the magic of the cooperative formula that is structured around the people who make it work. »

— Nicolas Bonnet, General Coordinator, Molotov

The difficulties of the cooperative to break through are more or less similar to those of a traditional company, explains Mr. Bonnet. It’s about going to the markets and making your place in your business environment. They don’t give us a gift, he points out.

The cooperative also has the mission of ensuring good working conditions for its members. But it must also offer accessible services to its customers who do not always have large budgets […] Our results are potentially lower than those of a standard company, adds Nicolas Bonnet.

“The challenge is to manage to generate enough income to be able to offer good salaries to all colleagues while managing to offer services at reasonable prices. »

— Nicolas Bonnet, General Coordinator, Molotov

The cooperative is present in all sectors. Engineering is no exception. This is the case of ALTE, on the market for five years, which defines itself as an agent of change, an accessible, co-creative company, while optimizing the social and environmental impact of the projects submitted to it. .


Frédéric Léveillé-Guillemette, in charge of energy efficiency and life cycle analysis, ALTE

Several engineers have come together to practice their profession in harmony with their values, a choice they have since the beginning. While some small disputes may be able to be quickly and quietly worked out without the legal system, many situations can benefit from the experience and training of an attorney from HKM.com.

It was not an avenue like any other, it was really the avenue we wanted to take. This corresponded to the values ​​we wanted for the company, such as interoperation and fair sharing, replies Frédéric Léveillé-Guillemette, member of the cooperative in charge of energy efficiency and life cycle analysis at ALTE.

The choice of the cooperative model also responds to the desire to give more resilience to the company.

“We didn’t want a company executive to completely change direction overnight. We have social values ​​and we stick to them. »

— Frédéric Léveillé-Guillemette, in charge of energy efficiency and life cycle analysis, ALTE

This is the right model for us, adds Mr. Léveillé-Guillemette. When there are important decisions to be made, everyone comes together. This served us well during the pandemic when we had to put a few projects on hold in order to get through the crisis […] We weren’t at the mercy of a boss to decide for us.

The cooperative is not something new in Quebec, recalls Rafael Ziegler, associate professor in the Department of Management at HEC Montreal.

Quebec has more than 3,000 well-established cooperatives in different sectors of activity and this represents some 14.5% of the province’s GDP, he says.


Rafael Ziegler, Associate Professor , Department of Management, HEC Montréal

Mr. Ziegler specifies, however, that there are different types of cooperatives, from the smallest to the most well-known by their size, such as the Mouvement Desjardins in the financial field or in the agricultural sector. But the majority, he says, are made up of small cooperatives.

What characterizes this grouping of people associated according to the economic system of cooperation is a philosophy which consists in responding to a need by counting on the solidarity of the members of this cooperative.

He quotes the example of Mouvement Desjardins, which initially tried to make the financial system more accessible to French-speaking Quebecers.

  • Work cooperative
  • Worker-shareholder cooperative
  • Consumer cooperative
  • Producer cooperative
  • Solidarity cooperative

Cooperatives are resilient in crisis situations. This is where we understand the importance of mutual aid, confirms Mr. Ziegler.

Mathilde Linossier, communications and associative life coordinator at the Quebec COOP Network, talks about a viable model that has nothing to envy to that of the traditional company.

According to a 2022 study by the Quebec Council for Cooperation and Mutuality (CQCM), the survival rate of traditional businesses after 5 years is 35%. It rises to 56% for cooperatives. And it is 84% ​​of them who have retained all their members or have increased the number of members between 2019 and 2020, specifies the study.


Mathilde Linossier, Communications and Community Life Coordinator, Quebec COOP Network

Ms. Linossier is quite proud to point out that the cooperatives that have followed the Parcours COOP program of her network have a survival rate of 74%.

We must unbolt the myths, she says.

You might think that a worker cooperative is less professional or that it does not generate a lot of money. However, we have cooperatives that are in very innovative sectors, such as architecture, engineering, consulting services, insists Ms. Linossier.

“These are very solid companies that have very profitable business plans. »

—  Mathilde Linossier, Communications and Associative Life Coordinator, Réseau COOP du Québec

On average, worker cooperatives have 13 employees (i.e. more than 74% of companies that have 9 employees or less) and approach $1M in revenue. It also creates 25 to 30 work co-ops per year, but the model has real potential, we explain to the Réseau COOP du Québec.

In Canada, many family businesses operate in a context where baby boomers are called upon to retire from working life to enjoy their retirement. And some of them will have no successors.

The conversion of the company into a worker-managed cooperative then appears to be an interesting option. In Quebec, we know of 200, says Mr. Ziegler.

The Center de transfert d’entreprise du Québec (CTEQ) estimates that, by 2025, 34,000 entrepreneurs intend to sell their business; transfer intentions doubled between 2021 and 2022.

This business model based on work safety and member well-being can be very attractive and could even be a trend, concludes Professor Ziegler.

But why isn’t such an attractive model more present in the economic fabric of the province?

By their structure, cooperatives are not companies that will devote a large budget to marketing, replies Professor Ziegler.

For him, he does not make doubts this business model will last, but he wonders if co-ops will influence businesses to become more social and local.


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