The common lightbulb moment for Galactic Cooperative

by Employee Share Ownership on August 14, 2017

Employee owners Andrea and Kate Biondo at Galactic Cooperative

Employee owners Andrea and Kate Biondo at Galactic Cooperative

Andrea Biondo, interviewed by Alan Greig, Employee Ownership Australia

This interview with Andrea Biondo of Galactic Cooperative outlines their distinctive business model – where any profit accumulated is distributed among the workers or recycled back into the business. The cooperative used to be, until recently, a family business. It is now a collectively owned and worker-managed cooperative, with all members taking a ‘hands-on’ approach to all parts of the business – from deciding policy, to planning goals, to changing light bulbs.

Galactic Cooperative trades as Galactic Scientific and provides technical support and repair services for hi-tech machinery, biomedical equipment, scientific instruments and general electronics in businesses and their workplaces.  It also produces custom, locally made musical equipment and high quality electric bikes.

What’s the story behind Galactic and why did you decide to become a worker co-operative?

As a sole trader it quickly became apparent to me that although I was far more agile than the dinosaurs of the industry, a larger organisation was required to bring larger ideas to fruition. Hence the incubation of the Galactic Co-operative (WA) Ltd, which now operates under licence the trade names of Galactic Scientific, Galactic ICT, Svelto Bikes amongst others.

Beginning as a sole trader ‘Galactic Scientific’ converted to a Co-operative. It was important to me to have a flat structure with everyone taking responsibility for the success of the business.

So now I run my own Science/Engineering/Technical business with 4 other Governing Fellows/Directors under a co-operative structure.  This business structure is novel to Australia and well suited to groups of thinking professionals who intend providing valuable services to industry.

I understand that you spent some time considering how to go about this and how it would work in practice. Was it difficult to change to a co-operative structure and what assistance did you require to put it in place?

Yes we have had many difficulties especially around cash flow and lack of skills in some areas. Normal business beginnings, I think!

Apart from that, Peter Wells at Co-operatives WA was essential in getting everything done and helping us navigate the set up process. Department of Commerce web site was also useful.

It sounds like the change of ownership has made a difference to the way you run the business on a day-to-day basis. What transition steps if any did you apply to keep the business on track.

We researched co-operatives extensively while being a sole trader and operated essentially as a co-operative to many degrees before officially becoming a co-op. This made the transition smooth and everyone has slid into their roles very well.

Your fellow members appear happy with their new role as both owners and employees. What has made it such a good deal for them?

They were all keen to support a non-traditional workplace, providing a better understanding of self-worth. Direct responsibility with vested interest in prestige and profits.

What have you learnt as a result – are there any interesting tips you have for our audience on setting up and running a worker cooperative?

Spending time to know your fellow directors well and know you are going to be working with them very closely.

Start early, avoid the hierarchy in traditional businesses and go directly to a co-op structure.

What are the future plans for Galactic Cooperative now that it is employee owned?

Our future plans involve increasing our skill base with more members. We hope to have 10 members by the 2019.

We want to share our story and encourage more employee owned co-op’s.

Interview/article prepared with assistance from Antony McMullen, CoopWorkshop

For more information on worker cooperatives, see our Worker Cooperatives page.

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