Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Windhorse:Evolution's ''Year of the Rat'

FWBO News is pleased to present a series of four articles on Windhorse:Evolution, the FWBO’s largest and most successful Right Livelihood business, based in Cambridge, UK. The articles will look at the ethos of the business, recent changes and challenges it has faced, the experiences of some individuals working in it, and some of the many projects funded by their current dana.  Most of the articles are taken from the W:E magazine, and are reprinted by permission.

To give pespective, there are approximately 112 people working for Windhorse in Cambridge, and a futher 107 in over a dozen Evolution shops.  Of the ones in Cambridge, 98 are Buddhist and 14 not Budhdist; a total of 72 people in Cambridge live in Buddhist communities. 

And since 1990 Windhorse has raised and given away almost UK £7 million!

We start with some reflections by Vajraketu, Windhorse:Evolution's Managing Director and chief buyer, on the state of the business in this, the 'Year of the Rat'.

“A rat year is a time of hard work, activity and renewal. This is a good year to begin a new job, launch a new product or make a fresh start. Ventures begun now may not yield fast returns, but opportunities will come for people who are well prepared and resourceful. The best way for you to succeed is to be patient, let things develop slowly and make the most of every opening you can find.”

This is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese system, the first in the twelve-year cycle. It happens to be an appropriate image for us, because we are entering a new phase. The characteristic of this new phase, I hope, is that we’re going to grow again. After growing between 1986 and 2002, we’ve had five or six years of plateau or consolidation.

During that period of consolidation we made a lot of very necessary changes, particularly during the last couple of years. Firstly in 2002 we had to move into these new premises, which was an enormous undertaking. Then within a period of about twelve months three of the six people who comprised the previous management team moved on and we had to get used to running the business without them. Ratnaghosha devised a new management structure, and Keturaja systematized things and helped bring us to the position we’re in now, with every department in the business in good shape and as well or better managed than it’s ever been.

There is a certain irony here. We’re probably in the best shape ever and yet last year was our least profitable year for at least a decade. Our current estimate is that we’re going to have made about £200-250,000, compared to the previous year, which was something, over £400,000. The reason for that is that sales have plateaued, but our costs have gone up inexorably. Our personnel bill has more than doubled over the last five or six years. That’s the only cloud in the blue sky of the Year of the Rat...

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Part II will look at the special features of Windhorse as a Buddhist business.

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