Year 2 of our EOT: The good, the bad, and the unexpected
Neatly fitting into ten points, here’s a round up of my learnings as we pass our two and a half year anniversary of being employee owned.
There is no rush
Whilst I didn’t enter our EO journey with significant plans for change, what I have realised is that change is inevitable – and welcome – but it doesn’t happen overnight.
We spent the first year consciously ’bedding in’ our new EO formation and focusing on alignment within the team, regularly checking and asking ourselves how we were doing. Since then we’ve built on this foundation, exploring how we can make our EO status work for us, and as a tool for doing great business with great people.
I don’t have many regrets but…
If there is one thing I wish I’d done differently in our lead-up to going EO, it would have been speaking to others who had already done it. I know we weren’t the first but I didn’t know any other EO businesses at the time and it didn’t occur to me to be bold enough to track any down and ask them to share their journey. Based on experience since, it turns out they probably would have been very helpful and it would have been very useful.
As such, it’s been a pleasure to be able to share what we’ve done and how we’ve done it with others who are considering or preparing to transition to become employee-owned. And not least why pieces like this get written!
Speak to others in the same shoes
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s so useful to speak to others in the same shoes. I’ve found it particularly useful to speak to other former owners who are still in post and I know colleagues have found the same talking to other employee owners.
It gets more meaningful over time
In hindsight, this is obvious. But one of the great joys about our EOT journey is how it feels to be employee owned. It feels good! It also feels different, not because I didn’t expect it to feel different, rather I didn’t know what that difference would feel like. Now I can see the tendrils taking hold and the roots becoming established, the way our beautifully and consciously small senior team have stepped up into a new place of collaboration, consideration and a sense of ownership.
We’re still figuring out the democratic element
One of the challenges that I relish and makes me nervous in equal measure is the democratic element of being an EOT. Quite simply, how democratic should we be? This will be unique for every employee owned business so ultimately the question is ‘how should we do it?’. Ownership is not leadership but at the same time it’s important that the sense of ownership is felt throughout the business.
In some ways I’ve got a tighter grip on the reins
I could’ve felt less passion and I could’ve been less engaged. In fact, I feel more passionate and driven than ever to continue Salad’s success, meet our goals including paying off the debt, and ensure a smooth transition and succession plan.
Ultimately our EO success will be proven once the business achieves – as they say in the world of EO – Financial Freedom, and I am no longer MD. So while I recognise that I’ve retained a tight grip, it comes with a long-term plan which includes supporting the team to raise their profiles, and slowly starting to put responsibilities onto others’ shoulders.
Sharing the spoils feels great
Since going EO we’ve paid out well over £50k to beneficiaries, maximising the annual tax-free threshold. That’s money that wouldn’t have gone to the team otherwise. I could be resentful and think that if we hadn’t gone EO it could have been cash in my pocket, but that couldn’t be further from my mind and actually, I’m SO proud of this!
People are interested
Are people curious? Yes and no. Do our clients care? Naturally, it resonates more to some than others. What I can say is that when any of us are in a room full of our industry peers or business leaders, people want to know about our EO experience and understand how it works. It’s certainly not for everyone but it’s an increasingly popular option for business owners when thinking of succession and their next chapter. Indeed I was recently buoyed to read a Business Insider article that 40% of business owners are considering the EOT route.
It’s a special club
According to the EOA there are still less than 2,000 businesses that are employee-owned so it really is a very small special club to be in and I’m hopeful many others will join in the coming years.
What I have found fascinating is that there is no one-size-fits-all. Indeed there is no rule book, let alone a road map. Each business enters and navigates its EO journey in a completely unique way.
Employee ownership is a philosophy
Whilst being EO could be considered a sector, because businesses come in all shapes, sizes and industries, actually it’s more of a philosophy — a philosophy of values, behaviours and intent.
That philosophy is tangly translated into an instant bond when meeting others in the same shoes and always results in a series of questions: How did you do it? How’s it going? Where are you on your journey? There are so many fascinating stories and learnings to be made from each other.
If you are an EOT or a business considering an employee-owned route, read more about putting the people at the heart of your business at the heart of your brand, or get in touch directly on 01202 330 000 or by emailing [email protected].