"I’m no fortune-teller and I can’t predict how bad the recession will get. The thing that interests me is what will get us out of it." Sophi Tranchell of Divine Chocolate says it's time for businesses to rethink their entire structure.
"The dominant model of business over the past ten years clearly hasn’t worked," says Tranchell, who set up Divine Chocolate a decade ago – without any prior knowledge of the sector – and now turns over £12.3m. "Just look at the value of your pension!
"So what model does work? While banks such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds have been crippled in this climate, ethical banks like The Co-operative or Triodos are doing just fine. While retails such as Zavi and Whittard of Chelsea were hurled into administration, employee-owned companies such as John Lewis, Tullis Russell and Loch Fyne are going great guns.
"I remember when John Lewis completed a £100m refurbishment of its landmark Sloane Square store, which involved dropping in a new escalator system into the building through the roof. Not only did the retailer keep the store open during trading hours, but it made more money that year than the previous year. Why did that work while projects such as Terminal Five were such utter disasters? It was because every employee in that store wanted it to work; they’d all been consulted and informed. And they knew that if the company performed well, they’d do well."
Tranchell reckons Divine Chocolate is part of the same pack: "We’re an equitably structured company, where the farmers who grow the primary commodity have a say in how the company is run and a share of the wealth we’re creating."
Sophi Tranchell won the retail and property gong at the 2007 First Women Awards, held in association with Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets. You could be holding the trophy at this year's event. The deadline for nominations is March 27, 2009. Fore more details, click here.
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