What have the past three years of employee-ownership meant to us?

As we mark the milestone of three years employee-owned, we reflect on our journey so far as a team, and how this transition has evolved life at Salad.

The past three years have been transformative for Salad. What began as a bold and unknown step towards a new structure, has resulted in an evolved culture, an even more empowered team and a strengthened purpose.

Understanding and embracing this evolution didn’t happen overnight.

There isn’t a rule book or a set way to run an employee-owned (EO) business, so our first year was dedicated to exploring what this change meant for us. The two years following have allowed us to find our own way and truly embed EO into the business with a collective sense of ownership.

Now, approaching our third anniversary, we look back and recognise how much we’ve learnt, the connections we’ve made and how we’ve become champions of the EO world.

We feel empowered

Before transitioning, we were lucky enough to already have a fairly democratic culture, which set us up well for this change. Adding the EO layer has strengthened this culture, fostered mutual accountability and built a shared sense of ownership among us.

A new structure has been introduced, we all have new responsibilities, and even some new roles. We now have three entities in place; the Salad board, the trust board and the employee council. We also have an independent trustee and an employee representative who is responsible for communicating the employee’s voice, and ensuring that the trust acts in the interest of the employees.

We’ve found our niche

In embracing EO, we have found our niche without limiting ourselves to a specific sector. By connecting with like-minded businesses that prioritise people, we’ve found a specialism that we’re truly passionate about.

Across the years Salad has seen significant changes, from our service offerings, to our scale. The pandemic reshaped our business into a deliberately small yet highly experienced production powerhouse. Following this shift, we started the transition to an Employee Owned Trust (EOT), a move supported across the organisation, with tangible buy-in from the whole team.

We understand Salad better than ever

Becoming employee-owned has encouraged us all to broaden our understanding of the business and to think long-term.

Our shift in mindset has allowed us to delve deeper into understanding the intricacies of our business, understand why and how decisions are made, and foster a sense of ownership.

Being employee-owned means we’re not just employees, we’re owners, we’re champions and we’re committed to the shared success of our collective future.

For us, being EO is more than a profit share. Yes, of course, we love that we directly benefit from profit distributions, but for us, it’s so much more than that. It’s working towards a shared future, understanding the business, having passion for our purpose, motivating each other, feeling empowered by new experiences and building new connections.

We’re part of a community

We’ve learnt our most valuable lessons by connecting with other EO businesses.

Through these connections, we’ve evolved into advocates of a community focused on shared values, principles and support.

This network has served as a valuable platform for exchanging insights, best practices, and ideas, supporting our journey and enabling us to enhance our internal processes.

A year in, Greg became part of our team. This prompted concerns about integrating a new member into our close-knit team. To address this, we made the most of networking opportunities and events organised by the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) to gain valuable insights into effectively integrating team members at any stage of the journey.

Since then, we’ve met a huge variety of EO businesses and recently hosted our own events to build these relationships.

We’re continually learning 

Bella and Andy initially announced the aspiration to become EO during a team gathering on the beach, around 9 months before we officially transitioned. Change can be daunting, and initially, grasping our new structure caused confusion and concern. Who was responsible for what and who could make which decisions? Will this change the team and our day-to-day? Thankfully, there was transparency, time given to ask questions, time to do our own research and full support of each other.

Looking back, we’ve learnt so much since then.

We have new responsibilities, a different insight into the business and at times we’ve been pushed out of our comfort zones. We don’t have all the answers, but our learning curve has been helped by the various events we’ve attended, the EOA conference, and the ‘How to be an Effective Employee Director / Employee Trustee’ course run by the EOA.

We continue to reflect and aim to improve as we evolve. Most recently we’ve been inspired by a suggestion voiced during an EO knowledge share event. From this we’ve decided that we’ll formalise the roles and responsibilities within our structure by creating a job description for each entity (e.g. employee representative). This means we have clarity and there is accountability for each responsibility.

We’re excited to continue the journey

Reflecting on our journey, we have come to recognise EO not just as a new business model, but as a fresh mindset that has transformed the way we operate. We’ve been conscious not to make changes for the sake of it, but instead evolve organically into a more collaborative and empowered workforce.

With every connection, challenge, and change, we gain fresh insights and knowledge. Each experience fuels our excitement to continue championing EO as we navigate the path ahead.

If you’d like to know more about becoming employee-owned, head over to our Employee Ownership page, or get in touch with us for a chat.

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