The employee ownership sector has doubled in the last five years, with Aardman Animations, Richer Sounds, and Riverford Organic Farmers part of a recent wave of high-profile conversions. As an alternative to conventional trade sales, there is an increasing appetite for business owners to consider a better exit strategy.
With the potential for this growth to continue, five values-driven organisations have formed a new partnership to support business owners who are interested in sharing ownership and success with their employees. Stir to Action, J Gadd Associates, TLT and Triodos Bank UK, together with support from the Employee Ownership Association, today launched a programme of content and events to share their collective insight and expertise on the benefits of employee ownership.
The employee-ownership sector has seen a growth of 50% since 2017, predominantly in SME and family businesses, driven by a resurgence in values-led entrepreneurs. Despite this growth, the partnership has identified the need to offer more support to those in the early stages of business succession planning. As part of this approach, the partnership is launching the UK’s first ever Employee Ownership Accelerator – a pilot learning programme – with aims to support both business owners who are actively considering employee ownership as a route, and also those leading values-driven organisations who may be considering their future legacy.
The accelerator, to be hosted at Stir to Action’s New Economy Centre at Selgars Mill in Mid-Devon on 17-19 September 2021, will support a cohort of business owners to explore employee ownership models and look at how to determine what will work for them, and also consider the legal, financial and tax implications.
Deb Oxley, Chief Executive of the EOA, said: “As the employee ownership sector grows, so does the knowledge and best practice about what makes a good employee owned business. It is great to see the launch of new initiatives that support this as well as the aims of the EOA – to unlock the potential of people, businesses and the economy through employee ownership.”
Jonathan Gordon-Farleigh, director at Stir to Action, said: “Employee ownership is a key part of efforts to build more democracy in our workplaces and communities. We’re excited to open the autumn programme at Selgars Mill with the UK’s first employee ownership accelerator. We’ve put several processes in place to ensure our residential training centre is Covid-secure, and we’re ready to welcome a cohort of business owners who value economic democracy and the resulting benefits for both business and communities.”
Registration of interest is open now through 9 July, and bookings need to be secured by 19 July to complete pre-course preparation.
Jeremy Gadd, of J Gadd Associates, said: “With many years’ experience of bringing employee ownership to life in organisations, we know that the journey starts with enabling business owners to explore and understand how employee ownership can fulfil the vision they have for their business. We look forward to working with this new initiative to inform, inspire and enable owners to take those next steps.”
Simon Crichton, head of relationship management at Triodos Bank UK, said: “As a bank focused on supporting sustainable business models, we see employee ownership as a tool to empower those within a company and to support their wellbeing. In addition, because employee-owned organisations are inherently transparent, they have a strong commitment to positive impact and an active involvement in the communities in which they operate. It is great to be involved in this new partnership.”
Ben Watson, partner, who leads TLT’s work on employee ownership, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this partnership. Over the last decade, we’ve worked with many employee-owned businesses, either in planning their transition or in helping them to make the most of the employee owned model. We strongly believe in employee ownership as an alternative business model and are excited to be able to support this new initiative. We hope it will further increase awareness within the UK business community.”
The programme of supporting content and events includes:
- Employee Ownership Q&A series with six business owners who have recently converted to employee ownership (e.g. Aardman Animations, Riverford Organics, Richer Sounds, Sawdays, Answer, and more). The series will be published on Stir to Action, Triodos, the Ownership Hub, and other third-party sites. Runs April through November 2021.
- Employee Ownership Day 90-min online interactive Q&A with owner-founder on their journey. June 2021
- Funding Conversions: Finance and Employee Ownership 90-min online event. Date TBC