What a Co-Op Looks like for Us

Ben Culbreth and Fiona Martin, FGM Internet Marketing

The Start of a Digital Marketing Cooperative

After 10 years in business, the need to grow FGM Internet Marketing was apparent. I, Fiona, am one person, and I can’t do everything. I wrote more about why I want to try a co-op working model instead of hiring employees or more contractors in a previous blog

What Does a Digital Marketing Co-Op Look Like to FGM?

From my experience working in democratically run groups, and learning more about cooperatives through resources like Democracy at Work, I identified three pillars to establishing a cooperative working relationship that differs from a standard employer/employee setup:
  • Democratic decision making for the business (1 worker = 1 vote)
  • Profit sharing
  • Fair compensation

Democratic Decision Making in the Business

This is the biggest differentiation from a standard employer/employee working model. In that scenario, you receive your orders from above and you do what your manager tells you to do. Depending on what level of the hierarchy you’re at, you may not have control over:
  • Your working hours
  • Your employment status (especially in South Carolina, which is a “right to work state”, you can be fired for just about anything or nothing)
  • Your customers
  • The direction the business is taking
At FGM Internet Marketing, we’re implementing democratic decision making by having a team meeting every month. The meeting has an open agenda so anyone can add an agenda item for discussion. The business financials are also shared at the team meeting.
As this is a developing relationship, I hope to grow this aspect of the business and aid in democratic decision making. This seems like a good first step on that path.

Profit Sharing

At FGM Internet Marketing, I’ve been using the Profit First method for revenue for a few years now. A simple explanation of the method is: every time FGM receives income, I split it into 4 bank accounts as such: 30% into Operating Costs, 50% into Owners Compensation, 15% into a tax account, and 5% into a profit account. Every quarter, I choose what to do with the profit disbursement. Usually, I pay myself the profit as a kind of bonus, or I can choose to put it back into the business.
For the cooperative working model, I now split the profits with Ben, and we’ve determined a fair split based on how many FGM clients Ben is working on. In the future, I’d like to move to a full 50/50 split of the profits as we increase Ben’s role in the business.

Fair Compensation

What is fair compensation? To me, it includes reaping the rewards for your hard work, and earning enough (or more) to cover needs like housing, food, healthcare, and rest. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that many jobs in America do not fit into this “fair compensation” model. Ben and I have found a compensation level that works for him today, but it is likely to increase as FGM revenues increase and Ben takes on more projects. My goal is to avoid labor exploitation in all channels of the business. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean we should. 

What Does “Co-Op” Mean to You?

As of October 2021, this is what the cooperative working model looks like for FGM Internet Marketing. It is a work in progress and will likely change and evolve over the coming months and years. I’m excited to see how things unfold, and maybe even bring more people into the co-op. My goal is to find a way to use diverse ideas and multiple minds to create the best digital marketing strategies, and for all team members to benefit equitably from their hard work. 
What does a co-op mean to you? What are we missing? Join in the conversation over on social media on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
Ben Culbreth and Fiona Martin, FGM Internet Marketing