Tag Archives: employee-owned

Learn more at our FREE event

We’re running a series of FREE events this Autumn on employee ownership for interested businesses.  Please find below details for our forthcoming event.

To book your place at any of our events, register online at www.scottish-enterprise.com/cds-events or call 0300 013 3385.

Sharing ownership: the employee stake

Date:                5 October 2016

Time:                9:30am to 1pm

Duration:          3 hours

Admission fee: Free

Venue:             Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, 23-27 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3BH

Eligibility:         Open to all Scottish businesses and professional advisers with an                                   interest in employee ownership.

This event explores how to assess and improve employee engagement, and how shares can be used to reinforce and reward employee commitment and contribution.

Engaged employees make for a happier, more productive workforce.  Evidence demonstrates that company performance improves when employees have a stake in the firm.  Our workshop has been designed to help you improve employee engagement in your company.

Dean Hunter of Hunter Adams and Rodger Cairns of Shepherd & Wedderburn will lead a session on how to create the right scheme for your company and the pitfalls and success factors to consider.

What’s covered?

  • Ways to assess and improve employee engagement
  • How shares can be used to reinforce and reward your employees efforts

Speakers

Lirrie Craig, a member of Scottish Enterprise’s workplace innovation team, will explain the factors that enhance employee engagement within companies.

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams, will talk through why he divested 30% of his shareholding into the hands of employees.

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams

Dean Hunter, founder and managing director of Hunter Adams

 

Rodger Cairns, Scotland’s leading expert on share schemes, will explain the variety of options available and how to decide which scheme fits for you. Rodger will also talk about the importance of effective communication to the workforce when launching any kind of share plan.

Agenda

9.30am Registration and coffee
10am Welcome
10.15am Achieving employee engagement – Lirrie Craig, Scottish Enterprise
10.35am Giving employees a stake in the business – Dean Hunter, Hunter Adams
10.55am Shares as an engagement tool – Rodger Cairns, Shepherd & Wedderburn
11.30am Q&A
12pm Networking lunch
1pm Close

Register for this event

 

Engaging employees through innovative approaches to governance

11/12/15 - 15112301 - SCOTTISH ENTERPRISEGLASGOWSarah Deas

Scottish Enterprise director Sarah Deas discusses how boosting employee engagement can help drive business success.

When a business changes ownership, major changes can sometimes be expected.  The new owners may want to do things differently and fresh insight combined with new ambitions and goals can lead to significant restructure within a company. This can present a great opportunity to assess how well the company functions and drive changes that can lead to a more effective and efficient operation.

A good example of this is market-leading search and selection firm, Saxton Bampfylde, which undertook a radical shift when it switched to an employee ownership model. We spoke to Peta Hay, the managing director for Scotland, about the company’s experiences since.

“The traditional ways of making decisions and exercising authority didn’t fit with who we are as a business.  Now we’re owned by our employees, everyone has a right and an interest in how the business is governed and led. That had to be reflected in our governance framework.”

Peta Hay

Peta Hay, managing director for Saxton Bampfylde in Scotland

The company’s shares are held in an Employee Ownership Trust; a shareholding vehicle designed specifically for employee-owned firms.  The employees are effectively the beneficiaries of that trust and the trust becomes the major shareholder in the business.  This Trust is controlled by Trustees, and three of these Trustees are elected by the employees.  The company’s Board appoints the rest of the Trustees.

Another business that has embraced employee ownership is award-winning architecture practice Page\Park, which transitioned from a traditional partnership model to an employee ownership one in 2014. Since then, the company has recruited twelve new staff. We spoke to Karen Pickering, chair of Page\Park’s Board of Directors, for some insight into how the model has rejuvenated the business.

FREE FIRST USE Lenny Warren / Warren Media 07860 830050  01355 229700 lenny@warrenmedia.co.uk www.warrenmedia.co.uk All images © Warren Media 2016. Free first use only for editorial in connection with the commissioning client's press-released story. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission.

Scottish Enterprise director Sarah Deas (centre) with Andrew Bateman, managing director, and Karen Pickering, chair of the board of directors, at Page\Park

“Sustainability is a key feature of our architecture and that sustainability is what we wanted to replicate in our business model.  I believe we have. Our model has allowed our people to exercise their creativity and we are seeing greater innovation that is being driven by the team as a whole rather than coming from the top down.  Our employees are real owners and that brings with it greater engagement, productivity and energy.”

It is clear that there is no universal solution when it comes to good governance, and the key lies in implementing what works best for the specific needs of an individual business. However, something that all businesses should get on board with is the practice of periodically reviewing the company’s structure to ensure that the existing model is the most beneficial to the business and its employees.

Getting this right is integral to enhancing engagement among employees and harnessing their collective talents, a strong foundation from which a business can build lasting success.

If you would like more information on how you can improve employee engagement within your organisation, Scottish Enterprise will be running the below free events. To book your place, register here or call 0300 013 3385. Alternatively, give us a call and we can arrange a chat with one of our expert advisors.

SE Events table 2

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Sarah Deas discusses EO Day 2016

Today (1 July) is EO Day (Employee Ownership Day) and with 16,000 employers in Scotland looking to transfer ownership in the next five years, we’re urging business owners to explore employee ownership as a viable succession route.

Throughout Scotland’s business community, the benefits of employee ownership (EO) as a driver for growth are becoming increasingly recognised.  EO can be implemented not just as a succession solution for long-term stability, but as a catalyst for sustainable business growth.

The advantages of employee ownership have been proven in Employee Ownership Association-led research, and include improving employee health and wellbeing, increasing productivity and fostering creativity and innovation across an array of industry sectors.

By having a stake in the business, employees have a vested interest in increasing productivity and driving innovation.  This sense of ownership leads to employees being more willing to contribute ideas, from developing new products to identifying new markets.

Many employee owned businesses in Scotland chose to sell to an employee ownership trust with the vendors being paid the value of their business from current and future earnings.  That way business owners receive a fair price for the company and employees don’t have to dig deep into their own pockets.

Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) can help you decide on the best model of employee ownership for your business.

One of the organisations that sought the support of CDS during its transition to employee ownership is Black Light Ltd. The company, which specialises in lighting, staging, sound and audio visual solutions, became fully employee owned just last month (June 2016) and in this blog for Scottish Enterprise, its founder Gavin Stewart explains the process and his experiences.

Gavin also kindly gave up his time today to join us in a live, interactive webinar to discuss Black Light’s journey to EO. If you missed the out on this the full recording will soon be available on the Scottish Enterprise website.

Today, another employee owned Scottish business is also celebrating success. Computer Application Services (CAS) has achieved the silver ‘Investors in People’ award in recognition of its excellent team engagement and management practice.  Ken Naismith, CAS chief executive, believes this success is down to its talented and motivated workforce who are highly engaged in the business thanks to its EO model. You can read more about this fantastic accolade on the CAS website.

The number of employee-owned firms based in Scotland has doubled in the past six years and this growth is forecast to accelerate.  Currently there are 78 employee-owned businesses operating in Scotland, with approximately 6,500 employees and a combined turnover of around £900million.

Our aspiration is to achieve a tenfold increase in employee ownership in Scotland over a ten year period.

If you would like more information about employee ownership and how it could potentially benefit your business, please do get in touch and our expert advisers will be happy to chat with you.

Transitioning to Employee Ownership – the Legal Perspective

andersonstrathern
In January 2014, software developers Computer Application Services Ltd (CAS) moved from owner management to employee ownership.  Bruce Farquhar and Bruce Harvie, from the corporate team at lawyers Anderson Strathern, advised on the process.  Here partner, Bruce Farquhar gives his views on the transaction:

“The Corporate team at Anderson Strathern work mainly with the larger end of the SME market, and although we have advised a number of cooperatives, this is our first true “employee ownership” transition.  It was an excellent deal to be part of and I would say I’m now an enthusiastic advocate for the model.

“The transaction was quite straightforward, certainly no more complicated than any other business transfer transaction.   There were two main parties to the deal, the former owners as the vendors and the employees of CASLtd as the buyers.  It was in no way an adversarial process – indeed it was very collaborative with all parties wanting what was in the best long-term interest of the company.  We also involved an accountancy firm, Johnston Carmichael, which was able to give specialist advice on the tax implications for the parties.

“Like most employee owned firms, the majority of the shareholding is held in an Employee Benefit Trust.  This Trust retains the shares for the long term and provides stability to the company.  There is also a portion of shares available to employees as options.  In this way, employees are able to see their value in the business grow as the company prospers.

“The chair and chief executive both invested in the business and this meant there was no need to source any external finance for the deal. The intention is that both chair and chief executive will sell their shares back to the employee trust in the future.

“The sale to employees was not the first intention of the vendors. They had been pursuing a trade sale which had fallen through. However, the employee ownership option provided a satisfactory exit for them as owners, and was well received by the employees of CAS.

“As an adviser, it is a model I see fitting well with the aspirations of a number of business owners. Many entrepreneurs are reluctant to see their firm in the hands of a competitor.  The grueling process of preparing a business for a trade sale can be uncomfortable for a seller.

“A sale to employees can be a much easier process. An additional attraction for the owner is that they are able to control the pace of the transaction, and can influence their role in the business going forward.  The former owners of CAS had decided they wanted to exit at the point of sale.  Many owners would prefer to remain involved in some way, perhaps in a non-executive role.  The collegiate nature of an employee ownership transaction enables the vendor to do that.

“The benefits for employees are clear.  There is continuity of employment, they have a stake in their business, and more say in how that business is run.

“We’re delighted that we are now working with another successful Scottish business making the move to employee ownership. As awareness grows, I’m confident there will be many more following suit.”

You can learn more about  CAS Ltd’s transition to employee ownership at an event hosted by CDS and CAS Ltd in Edinburgh on Thursday 3 September.

For more information or to register go to: http://bit.ly/1Vh9aUy

Scotland’s first software business back on track with employee ownership

CASStarted in 1969, Computer Application Services (CAS) Ltd is believed to be Scotland’s first software company.  A spin out from Heriot Watt University, two of the first products were a programme to schedule midwifery training and an application to control cremators – a real cradle to grave enterprise! Now the company has developed an enviable reputation in the niche space of case management and complaint handling.  In 2014, supported by Co-operative Development Scotland, the company became employee-owned.  Like many other employee owned companies, it didn’t start out on that path. Chief Executive, Ken Naismith tells the story.

“ CAS was an okay company with a lot of potential. That potential was not being realized.   It’s fair to say that in recent years, there had been little investment in the business infrastructure and its people.   The previous owners had planned to exit by selling the business to a PLC.  That sale fell through at the eleventh hour.

“I was invited by the chairman to get involved in identifying an alternative succession option.  Employee ownership as a concept always made sense to me – of course people will work harder and enjoy their job better if they own the business.  With the support of Co-operative Development Scotland, we arrived at a structure that gives the company a strong and stable platform for growth.   59% of the business is in broad employee ownership by trust and shareholding; the Chairman and I invested in the remainder of the business.  I plan to reduce my shareholding over time as the company gets on an even keel and this will release more ownership for employees.  We are in a tough, competitive market and our people are now energized and ready to face that head on.

“The employee owners call themselves CAStodians, reflecting their responsibilities to look after and grow the business.    We operate much more openly now.  Information is shared, board minutes are distributed and everyone contributes to our weekly staff meetings.

“We have just produced and distributed our first “Employee Owners Annual Report” which is a comprehensive reflection on our activities last year and our plans and objectives for the next few years.  We did forecast a loss in our first year post buy out, but it was good to report that this loss was much less than we expected.  The forecast for 2015/16 is good.  We have no debt and cash in the bank. There is a number of proposals out for some very lucrative and high profile pieces of business.  We are working on shortening our lead times and up scaling our marketing efforts.

“Our people have to wear two hats; as employees and as shareholders/owners.  We encourage open dialogue; if it’s small get it off your chest, if it’s big, put it on the agenda.

“There’s a palpable sense that the future is in our control now, and everyone has a part to play in making that future as good as it can possibly be.”

You can learn more about how employee ownership has been a catalyst for innovation and growth at CAS Ltd at an event hosted by CDS and CAS Ltd in Edinburgh on Thursday 3 September.

For more information or to register go to: http://bit.ly/1Vh9aUy

 

 

Why working for an employee-owned company makes a real difference

sAt Aquascot’s ‘Successful Succession’ event on Employee Ownership Day, training assistant Sylwia Goluda described her experiences at the Alness-based company.

Her presentation provided real insight into an employee’s journey towards employee ownership and here she provides us with a summary of the talk that so many enjoyed on the day.

I arrived in Scotland from Poland in July 2006. It was a scary prospect coming to a strange country, having left behind my family, friends and job. Thankfully, everyone was so nice and friendly which made everything so much easier.

I came to work at Aquascot and immediately noticed a difference from how companies work in Poland. What struck me most was the attitude of the managers – they were open and helpful and told us how much they appreciated our hard work. They care for employees and this makes Aquascot a great place to work.

In 2008, the three directors announced at our annual conference that the company was moving to employee ownership. It was an exciting time and we all felt we were part of something bigger and better. A Partnership Council was formed and I was delighted to be elected to this with nine of my colleagues.

We meet on a monthly basis to discuss employee views and to propose ideas and suggestions for our business to grow and be successful. We have been involved in lots of projects including organising social events, charity initiatives, conferences and celebrations, such as the company’s 25th birthday party.

We are almost at the end of our journey to become 100 per cent employee-owned. You can tell that everybody is waiting for that milestone with great excitement. Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen and how it can lead to even more success.

I feel very proud to work here and I’m glad I have the opportunity to grow and be recognised and appreciated for going that extra mile. I believe that Aquascot’s future is very bright – not simply because we are employee-owned but because we have a great team of people who will make success happen.

Employee ownership – the key to a stronger Highland economy?

AquaScot Dennis Overton 94Earlier this month, Alness-based sustainable seafood company Aquascot opened its doors to the local business community for a ‘Successful Succession’ event jointly hosted with Co-operative Development Scotland.

Here, Aquascot chairman Dennis Overton reflects on the day and the company’s experience of employee ownership.

With 185 employees operating from two sites in the town, Aquascot is currently 85 per cent employee-owned and is set to complete the transition to 100 per cent employee ownership by 2017. As an enterprise, we have a 12 per cent share of the UK’s ‘ready to cook’ salmon market.

On 3 July – Employee Ownership Day – we welcomed employee owners, local business people and local MSP, Rob Gibson to our premises. We focused on how employee ownership has been a successful model for Aquascot, and how it can make a significant contribution to economic growth.

I believe the UK economy would be in a much healthier position if there were more employee-owned companies. At present, I feel we are overly focused on short-term gain to the detriment of long-term value creation.

Employee-owned firms are different. In ‘conventional’ businesses there is often disconnect between shareholders and the company they part own. This can be because shareholders have different, and often more immediate, objectives than the people inside the company who have its long-term success at heart.

In an employee-owned company, the employees control the shares. They are more likely to be concerned about the longevity of the business and know that innovation, productivity and profitability are key to achieving that. Indeed, as Aquascot partner Donald Beaton put it so articulately: “This isn’t just about creating good jobs for us, it’s about jobs being there for our children and their children.”

In the Highlands, succession is a concern. In a survey we conducted in 2005, we looked at what happens to non-family, first generation businesses when it comes to considering succession. The findings were not encouraging:

  • There were few independent businesses of any scale in the Highlands
  • The most common form of exit was a trade sale to a buyer out with the region
  • In the majority of cases , the acquired company no longer had a presence in the Highlands after five years

When our founders came to consider Aquascot’s future, they knew that the final decision had to consider the contribution made by its employees. We have exceptional staff and they have made the company the success it is today.

By selling to employees, our founders have enabled this success to continue, and Aquascot will remain in Alness providing jobs and opportunities for years to come.

Friday’s event encouraged several businesses to explore employee ownership more closely, and with Aquascot as an example, this can only be good news for the local economy and the people of the Highlands.

Innovation and how employee ownership can unlock it

eodayWith today marking Employee Ownership (EO) Day, we asked our EO ambassadors how important innovation is to growing your business and how EO can offer an advantage.

Here, a number of ambassadors from a range of sectors – including manufacturing, oil and gas, textiles and agriculture – offer us their thoughts on the subject.

Nick Kuenssberg, Scott & Fyfe: “Recent findings from an employee survey have confirmed the intuitive belief that a sense of ownership and a genuine understanding of and commitment to the revised innovation-led strategy would enhance performance and thus the longer term future of the company. In parallel a visit from an internationally respected textiles consultant in April said that he had been impressed by such an innovative and vigorous company. Simultaneous innovation and ownership change was perhaps a risk but it is already proving to be well worth taking.”

Alan Spence, Accord Energy: “At Accord, we believe that investing in people and giving them space to think outside the box not only benefits them but also the company. Over the past five years, our employees have developed and presented a number of new and exciting approaches to oil and gas allocation. Our innovative work has helped clients by improving their systems of allocation, while we have benefited through wider industry exposure, higher levels of activity and improved recognition and satisfaction for our engineers.”

John Housego, WL Gore: “Bringing a continued stream of innovative products is the only way to keep your business alive and fresh in the marketplace. The benefit of an employee owned business is large in this arena because of the increased engagement EO businesses often demonstrate with their teams. Innovation comes from passionate associates who can use their knowledge of the capabilities available and the culture to have their ideas more readily heard, and so leveraging a larger proportion of the team in innovation. That feeling of ownership and joint reward really helps this process.

Ralph MacLeod, Galloway & MacLeod: “When structured correctly, employee ownership can unlock innovators within the business and reward them correctly. This is having a huge impact – differentiating us from competitors, identifying new markets and improving margins for stakeholders and customers in a responsible and sustainable manner.”

Dick Philbrick, Clansman Dynamics: “Cynics predicted that in an employee-owned business there would be a cautious attitude to technical development. The cynics were wrong – 2014 was our busiest year for technical developments. Nothing is guaranteed in engineering but if there are problems the Employee Owners will bust the proverbial gut to fix them.”

United States of Employee Ownership

Glen DottCDS specialist adviser Glen Dott has recently returned to Scotland after a fact-finding trip to the United States to learn about how employee ownership works there.

Here, he explores the differences in the systems across the Atlantic Ocean and why the American model of employee ownership has become so popular.

I have recently returned from the National Centre for Employee Ownership (NCEO) Conference held in Denver, Colorado. The NCEO is a membership body similar to the Employee Ownership Association in the UK. Both the United States and the conference were eye openers to me, having not seen either before.

Employee Ownership (EO) is big business in the USA. More than 11,300 firms exist there that use the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). An ESOP is effectively an employee ownership trust which allows staff participation in corporate ownership and a share in the wealth these firms produce.

As in the UK, the company funds the purchase of shares from exiting owners, with the shares moving into the ESOP. Typically employees do not buy shares but are allocated a portion; in the UK a combination of both is common.

Purpose – retirement planning versus employee engagement

ESOPs were originally designed to provide for employee retirement. Companies would set aside stock to be given to employees when they decided it was time to collect their pension. This is still the case today. Countless US studies conclude share ownership combined with worker empowerment initiatives produce better financial results, but favourable tax treatment is a significant driver for ESOPs in the US.

Legislation driven

Even conferences in the USA are a little different.

Even conferences in the USA are a little different.

In the US, companies that adhere to a certain tax code and are 100 per cent owned by an ESOP pay no tax. Earnings are passed on to the shareholders (employees) within the corporation and these earnings are only taxed when liquidating the shares – at retirement or upon leaving the company.

Since ESOPs are the only retirement plans allowed by law to borrow money, they are attractive to owners, managers and advisers, as they can be used to raise finance. There is also considerable legislation in place to ensure ESOPs have independent trustees. ESOP valuations are independently verifiable and trustees are truly acting in the employees’ best interests. As you might imagine America’s famed legal system comes fully into play, with the Department of Labor challenging some valuations on behalf of employees.

Governance

From a UK EO perspective, employees in US EO firms do not seem to have great formal influence. This system appears to lack the ‘checks and balances’ we have, where the operating board is overseen by trustees.  There are no employee-elected directors and no employee-elected trustees. Furthermore, the trustees are appointed by the board.

There is however a certain logic to this. Trustees are legally obliged to work in the best interests of employees and are able to remove the company’s board, although in practice this rarely happens. The two interdependent governance structures are required to ‘work things out’ in the best interest of all.

While the systems across the pond differ, there is no doubt the American ESOP structure allows employees to fully share in the fruits of their labour – and provides interesting food for thought when considering how UK businesses approach employee ownership.

What do Co-operatives mean to you?

What words spring to mind when you think of co-operatives? Do you think of a specific business model or company? Perhaps you think of the business benefits? Maybe you reflect on your own experience?

We asked our team for their suggestions and compiled the answers into this word cloud – which we think is a terrific summary.CDS word cloud

What would you add to the list?