Tag Archives: Sarah Deas

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.

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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.

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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.

SCDI Forum Focuses on Collaborating for Success

Sarah DeasCo-operative Development Scotland’s chief executive, Sarah Deas, was inspired by the optimism conveyed by Scottish business at the recent Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) Forum.

Entitled All Cylinders Firing, the event highlighted that new forms of collaboration are required in order to achieve business ambitions.

Writing for SCDI’s event blog, Sarah paid tribute to those employers who demonstrated that focusing on their staff helped their company succeed.

She said: “Several weeks have passed since the Forum but it continues to inspire and provoke discussion. While there has long been a focus on improving the customer/client experience, there is clearly growing evidence that investing in and engaging staff will lead to further gains.

“Most importantly, ensuring staff and partners feel they are part of a community can provide an important competitive edge – something that will help Scottish business thrive.”

To read Sarah’s thoughts in full, go to the SCDI website and follow the ‘Event Blog’ link on the right of the page.

Employee ownership on agenda for professional advisers

Graeme Nuttall smlA recent CDS seminar saw professional advisers gather in Glasgow to hear from Graeme Nuttall OBE, author of the Nuttall Review of Employee Ownership.

Here, Graeme – partner of Fieldfisher – discusses the growing enthusiasm for the model, the important role played by CDS, new tax reliefs and Scotland’s success stories.

I was delighted to be invited to speak to an audience of professional advisers in Glasgow and was hugely impressed at the level of interest and enthusiasm that exists for employee-owned business structures.

There can be no doubt – the case for employee ownership has been made. A few years ago, a company owner looking to explore employee ownership would likely have been dissuaded from this path by their adviser. Now, advisers are much more likely to present employee ownership as a feasible succession option for their clients.

Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), under the leadership of Sarah Deas, must take some credit for this achievement. CDS has been instrumental in building the employee ownership community in Scotland, and engaging with professional advisers to help them recognise the role these individuals and firms play in the development of employee ownership.

Advisers will know about the tax advantaged share plans designed to increase individual share ownership amongst a firm’s employees. These have been around for almost 40 years. In the Nuttall Review, I wanted to give greater priority to the trust model of employee ownership.

This is a simple model and gives employees a collective ownership of the company. I was delighted that as a result of the findings of the Nuttall Review a new tax regime for “employee-ownership trusts” (EOTs) was introduced last year. Briefly, there are two main new tax exemptions:

  • From 6 April 2014 there is an exemption from Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on gains on certain disposals of shares in a trading company (or in a holding company of a trading group) that provides an EOT with a controlling interest in that company; and
  • From 1 October 2014 there is an exemption from Income Tax (but not National Insurance contributions) of £3,600 per employee per tax year for certain bonus payments made to all employees of a company or group where an EOT has a controlling interest.

The CGT exemption has attracted attention to employee buy outs as a succession solution. Instead of a sale of shares being taxed typically, for owner managers, at an effective rate of 10% after entrepreneurs’ relief, there is an unlimited exemption from CGT.

The Income Tax exemption means there can also be a tax benefit for staff in this business model. In most cases dividends otherwise payable to the EOT as a majority shareholder are waived by its trustee and are paid out instead as bonuses to all staff – tax free up to £3,600 per employee per tax year.

This is a key concept – instead of external shareholders receiving dividends and staff bonuses being paid simply at the discretion of a board of directors, the EOT model provides staff with an economic stake.

However, tax should not be the driver of employee ownership. It is important that attention is paid to the business case. Scotland has more than its fair share of success stories.

Page\Park Architects, recently appointed to restore the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Building, is a superb example of a trust owned model of ownership. Stewart Buchanan Gauges, a business where 85% of the workforce live within a five mile radius, represents the hybrid model of trust and direct employee share ownership. There are many more, and increasing all the time.

It’s always rewarding working through a transaction to completion. With an employee ownership transition, there is an additional bonus in that the relationship extends beyond the deal. The average life of a Standard & Poor’s listed company was apparently 60 years in 1958, around 30 years in the 1970s and was down to 15 years by 2014. Obviously businesses have to evolve and markets change but I like the idea that companies I help convert to employee ownership many years ago are still in existence in contrast to their competitors.

It was a real pleasure visiting Glasgow, especially speaking to so many advisers already convinced of the benefits of employee ownership. We do need more champions, and with advisers onside I trust we’ll see even more employee buyouts in Scotland over the next few years.

To read the speech Graeme gave during his presentation at Ernst & Young Glasgow, click here.

‘Poster Girl’ role for CDS’ Sarah Deas

Sarah Deas Games Poster

A new exhibition celebrating the contribution of volunteers at last year’s Commonwealth Games has opened at Glasgow Green – with CDS’ own Sarah Deas featuring on the posters to promote it!

Hosted by Glasgow Life, the gallery features hundreds of photographs of the Host City Volunteers who came together to help make the event a tremendous success.

With people coming from all across the country to take part, working together to show Scotland at its’ best, it’s no wonder it was described by many as ‘the Co-operative Games’.

For more information on the exhibition, which runs until August, click here.

Memorable year for co-operative working

Sarah Deas resized2014 has been a busy year for Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), with interest in co-operative working higher than ever.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas reflects on the year and looks ahead to what 2015 may bring.

As we hurtle towards the end of 2014, it is a natural time to look back on the past 12 months. Last December, I remember fondly writing how the eyes of the world would be on Scotland throughout the year – and that certainly proved to be the case!

One shining moment was the XX Commonwealth Games, held in the always-friendly city of Glasgow. I was proud to serve as a Host City Volunteer at this spectacular event which will live long in the memory as an example of what can be achieved when we work together. CDS was delighted to contribute to Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) business event held during the Games. In fact, one of the highlights of the year was seeing GCC and its counterpart in the capital progress their commitment to be Co-operative Councils.Sarah Deas

This is a significant endorsement of co-operative working, which CDS is supporting through the provision of specialist advice. Co-operative working is now recognised as a means of achieving competitive advantage by businesses in a wide range of sectors and there is also growing interest in employee ownership – specifically as a succession solution – helped by the new tax incentives.

To tap further into that growing interest, we held five ‘successful succession’ events during the year. Kindly hosted by employee-owned companies – Aquascot, Galloway & MacLeod, Page\Park, Stewart Buchanan Gauges and Scott & Fyfe – these sessions gave those interested in the ownership model the opportunity to see how it works in practice.

We also engaged with Scotland’s professional advisers through our expert briefing sessions, tackling subjects including funding the employee buyout and employee share ownership.

David Narro Assoc 09

David Narro Associates celebrated becoming employee owned in August.

CDS helped a wide range of businesses across the year, including Fitwise and David Narro Associates, both of which made the transition to employee ownership. Scotland has a host of new employee owners, and hopefully they will find the newly-formed EOA Network Scotland useful – one to watch in 2015.

I was also grateful for the opportunity to visit Quebec for the International Summit of Cooperatives, a truly insightful conference. We heard from the Mondragon Corporation, often seen as an example of best practice when it comes to co-operative working. It is worth noting that the Basque region, where Mondragon is headquartered, is now looking to learn from the UK. Just last month, I welcomed a delegation from the Gipuzkoa province who visited some of our well-established employee-owned companies.

Finally, we once again offered companies in Scotland the chance to win £5,000 in cash and £5,000 in support to make their collaborative ideas a reality. The standard of entries to the Collaboration Prize this year was high, and all of us at CDS are excited to see who will follow in the footsteps of past winners the Scottish Mountain Bike Consortium and The Wee Agency.

In 2015 we anticipate interest in co-operative working to continue to grow as the benefits for staff, business and the economy are further demonstrated. While awareness is most definitely increasing, our job is to keep that momentum going. The growing desire for fairer, more inclusive approaches to working is an opportunity to further underline the virtues of the models – and we will continue to shout about it.

The year began with Kim Lowe, a managing director at John Lewis, calling for more businesses to consider a co-operative approach. I think it is clear that many have done just that, but more can and will be done in 2015.

2014 has been a memorable year in many ways, and I wish you all a happy, healthy and successfully prosperous 2015.

Shared learnings as Basque Country visits Scotland

Sarah Deas resizedScotland is home to a growing number of employee-owned businesses and recently played host to a Spanish delegation keen to learn about promoting the ownership model.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas discusses the visit and the insights gained.

A few weeks ago I was delighted to host a visit by the Provincial Council (government) of Gipuzkoa, an area of the Basque Country to the east of Bilbao in northern Spain. The delegation was seeking to learn from our experience in promoting employee ownership.  With Gipuzkoa being home to the world famous Mondragon Corporation , it was an honour to host such a visit!

The Provincial Council aspires to create a ‘socially responsible territory’. It believes that economic and social development is increasingly dependent on talent, creativity and innovation. As such, the council is focusing on ‘workplace innovation’. This is the development of new relationship models based on participation – as a driver of productivity and quality employment.

In developing policy to promote worker participation, they are researching the relationship between participatory business models and regional socio-economic health indicators. And, through international visits, such as this one to the UK, they are looking to identify best practice from both a policy and business perspective.  This will inform the design of tax incentives and wider support.

photo

Sarah, third from left, with members of the delegation

Oscar Usetxi Blanco, Director for the Promotion of Innovation and Knowledge, Gipuzkoako Foru Aldundia was accompanied by colleagues from the innovation agency and ASLE (lead organisation for worker owned companies).  The study visit was organised by Ann Tyler, a UK solicitor with extensive experience of employee ownership.

The delegation visited two of Scotland’s most well established employee owned businesses; Aberdeen manufacturer Woollard & Henry and Fife paper producer Tullis Russell. Here theygained valuable insights into workplace culture and practices. Our Spanish friends very much appreciated the opportunity to see employee ownership in action, and I thank both Woollard & Henry and Tullis Russell for welcoming them.

Reflecting on this visit, it really is interesting to see the growing interest in employee ownership across Europe.  However, the driver is different to that which inspired Mondragon Corporation. Today, ownership succession is the trigger, with sustainability, productivity and socially responsible employment being the goals. These are becoming priorities across the developed world.

Hopefully the delegation from Gipuzkoa found the visit a valuable one and I look forward to seeing employee ownership flourish in the region.

A golden visit – part three

???????????????????????????????From October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas discusses a US organisation driving employee ownership and takes a trip to a co-operative shopping quarter.

The first part of the blog can be read here and the second part can be read here.

An ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan) is another form of employee ownership that is becoming more widely adopted. So, I was delighted to meet Perry Phillips and Camille Jensen (pictured above), from the specialist consultancy, ESOP Builders.

They highlighted that there are now approximately 1000 Canadian ESOPs, the majority (80%) having come about as a succession solution. Most famous is WestJet Airline, where 80% of staff are employee owners (modelled on Southwest Airlines).

Sarah with Roy Messing

Sarah with Roy Messing

I was also delighted to meet Roy Messing, Chris Cooper and Bill McIntyre of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center. Established in 1987, the centre has helped 694 companies consider ownership succession, resulting in 92 employee buyouts and creating 15,000 employee owners. In America there is legislation to support the creation of ESOPs – see my previous blog.

The Center was the driving force behind Evergreen Cooperative – the innovative model of socio-economic development in Cleveland. Whilst there are similarities in our approach, there is clearly much that Scotland can learn from OEOC’s 27 years’ experience. Interestingly, they are currently establishing a Cooperative Development Center – an area where we can share our experience.

???????????????????????????????A visit to Quebec is not complete without a visit to the Quartier Petit Champlain. This delightful shopping quarter in the old city is a co-operative owned by its tenants. 50 artists and traders formed a co-operative to buy the properties. Desjardins, the leading financial co-operative, supported members with loan finance.

A co-operative model was chosen for practical reasons – an ideal model that allows shared management of the buildings and promotion of the quarter to tourists. An elected board has oversight, including approval of new tenants/owners and all members are invited to attend an annual assembly.

So, how do I summarise this visit? A golden experience – not just the leaves on trees, the abundance of pumpkins and the warm hospitality but also in the richness of learning. Thanks to everyone that was so open in sharing your story. Let’s stay in touch!

A golden visit – part two

image7From October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas looks at the approaches taken by co-operatives in Argentina, Spain and France.

The first part of the blog can be read here.

We heard from the Argentinian Federation of Worker Co-operatives in Technology, Innovation and Knowledge that there has been a boom in worker co-operatives. In 1990 there were just 30, now there are 10,000. Social co-operatives account for the largest proportion, followed by young professionals (mostly in technology, communications and consulting services).

The growth is due to public policy; government contracts have advantaged social and construction sector co-operatives. A percentage of co-operatives’ tax also goes into a fund to support co-operative development.

mondragonWe also heard the Mondragon Corporation story – a federation of worker co-operatives based in the Basque region of Spain. It is the tenth largest Spanish company, employing 74,000 people in 257 companies and organisations spanning finance, industry, retail and knowledge. Mikel Lezamiz described the ‘four-legged support stool’ that supports growth: education, finance, social assistance and innovation. A virtuous circle.

France’s worker co-operative membership association, Les Scop, described how they are promoting the model as a solution to ownership succession. From a negligible number 10 years ago, a growing proportion (currently 15%) of their 2,200 members have chosen the worker co-operative model for succession reasons.

lesscopThis percentage is expected to double in coming years. I was interested to see Les Scop’s TV advert, which forms part of a campaign targeting 55+ year old owners – perhaps an approach that we might pursue in Scotland? Les Scop has also introduced training, on the back of the new law in France that requires all companies to provide training to employees.

image2For anyone interested in worker co-operatives a visit to La Barberie microbrewery is a must! On arriving, I was delighted to see Scotch Ale at the top of the menu – although on this visit Pumpkin Beer was the order of the day.

Established in 1997, this worker co-operative has 25 employees, of which 15 are members. It is one of four microbreweries co-operatives in Quebec province that worked together to produce the ‘Rochdale Beer’ which was launched at the Summit. Thanks to Jessica Provencher for hosting our visit.

Read part three of Sarah Deas’ account of her visit to Quebec.

A golden visit – part one

Sarah Deas resizedFrom October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, in the first of three blogs, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas looks back at her trip to North America and reveals some of her key learnings.

October is a wonderful time to visit Quebec … maple trees adorned with golden leaves and pumpkins piled high awaiting Thanksgiving celebrations.

So, I was delighted when I was invited to facilitate a forum at the global International Summit of Cooperatives. This was a huge event attracting over 3,000 delegates from 93 nations. Keynote speakers included Nobel Prize economist Professor Robert Shiller and author of The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson.

Autumn in Quebec

Autumn in Quebec

Throughout the summit, speakers acknowledged the contemporary nature of co-operative models; identifying their relevance and potential for the future. Balanced against this, there was a strong call for promotion of the social values that make the models unique.

As one speaker said “Co-operatives have the DNA – the humanist values – you need to promote these since conventional businesses are now doing so and capturing your ground”.

Canada has a strong co-operative sector. The Canadian Parliament’s ‘Special Committee on Cooperatives’ reported that there are 8,500 co-operatives employing 15,000 people with assets of $330bn.

Quebec accounts for almost 40% of Canadian co-operatives and 50% of associated jobs. The provincial government aims to expand their economic contribution by enhancing the legal framework, availability of finance, advisory services and promotion.

quebec

I attended a really interesting workshop organised by Reseau and the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation, in collaboration with CICOPA. Prominent themes included the difficultly young professionals face in finding work and the increasing number that are deciding to set up their own shared venture (co-operative). Also, recognition that owners are getting older and succession is becoming an issue.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that so many countries are taking a similar approach to Scotland in promoting employee/worker ownership as a solution. A big thank you to Hazel Corcoran for making me so welcome (and helping with translation!)

POSTSCRIPT: So sad that within a fortnight of my visit the openness and hospitality of the Canadians had been assaulted by violence in Montreal and Ottawa. My thoughts are with all those affected. 

Read part two and three of Sarah Deas’ account of her visit to Quebec