By Andréa Cruz
From "Economy of Communion - a new culture" N.31 - May 2010
UNIBEN Fomento Mercantil Ltda is an invoice factoring business that began in 1998 to provide financial services specifically to EoC businesses. Located in the Spartaco Business Park (Cotia, Brazil), Uniben has three employees and regularly serves 15 businesses.
"This type of service," says Maria Conceição Francischinelli, director of Uniben, "gives us the chance to share the difficulties of the individual businesses. Our experience is based on the proposal to love the other's business as our own."
This premise, which can appear be to almost unrelated to a business that provides financial services, can be considered the essence of the EoC project and its identity. The EoC is a project that arises from love and makes love become, little by little, an economic category.
A new understanding of profits
According to the rationality of communion, profits, although an important goal, are not the ultimate scope of entrepreneurial activity. Rather, they are a means for establishing communion. In this way, what matters most is not the maximization of financial profits but their optimization. For Uniben, the fact that an EoC business can continue to work thanks to its services is considered a profit.
Trust as an economic factor
Another fundamental factor is trust. In contracts drawn up with EoC businesses, trust gives Uniben the chance to ask a lower interest rates. The more trust there is, the less the risk. In this way, it is possible to work with lower interests and trust becomes an economic factor.
Going beyond the norm, Uniben commits itself to building relationships that expand past respect and business cordiality, giving priority to the "person". "The greatest experience," commented Maria Conceição, "is realizing that the best business practice always finds an agreement that allows the entrepreneur to honor his commitments and allows Uniben to be repaid. In this difficult economic period, many businesses have been hit by the crisis and find themselves with serious problems. Uniben buys credit securities, that is, it advances the amount to be invoiced to the business. When the clients of some EoC businesses are not able to honor their commitments and are late in their payments, this does not impede the business from being granted new credit. Rather, the new credit is also deducted from new invoices."
Celia, who works at Uniben, says, "In Uniben, a small business, I realize this difference. The relationship among us is much different from that lived in other businesses outside of the EoC. Sometimes we still lose our patience, but we can always begin again, apologizing, seeing each other with new eyes."
Meetings of the entrepreneurs of Spartaco Business Park
The entrepreneurs of Spartaco Business Park decided to meet once a month with the goal of increasing communion among everyone: opening one's own business to the others. In these meetings, Uniben is represented by Maria Conceição: ”I feel that (these meetings) are a step ahead in maturity. When everything goes well, it is easy to talk, otherwise... This moment is very important. You need more love to be able to say everything and listen to everything. In these meetings, we also discuss the future of the businesses. Once, we spoke about Uniben, and together we saw the need to open the business’s horizon of action in order to continue and be competitive in the market. I also listened to strong critiques; everything seemed difficult. But in the following days, I understood how much wisdom those entrepreneurs had shared with me. I was able to put into practice many things, and so widen the horizons of the business."
Employee Association of Spartaco Business Park
Another structure that increases the relationship of reciprocal love among the businesses at the business park is the Employee Association. There are 92 members coming from different businesses. Even if not all the employees participate directly in the EoC project, the values that sustain the Economy of Communion motivate the relationships among associates.
With the financial contribution of each member and each business, a common microcredit fund has been established, and it has become one of the main services offered by the Association. One of the suggestions of the new management team in helping those who ask for microcredit is to avoid becoming slaves to consumerism. In order to orient those who use this microcredit service, a consulting program is being created with a qualified professional who can help the families establish their family budget.
As the Association does not have its own headquarters, Uniben places one of its offices at the Association’s service.
Prospects for future developments
Increasing the capital available for the invoice factoring would be very important, for both Uniben and the EoC businesses. However, in Brazil, only associates can increase a business's capital. Therefore, Uniben is investing in the insurance sector where it has been operating as partner of an intermediary business since 2001.