Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) director Sarah Deas discusses the potential of employee ownership in driving an entrepreneurial and innovative culture within businesses.

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Latest figures show that there are 86 employee owned (EO) companies operating in Scotland, with approximately 6,800 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £925million.

What are the reasons behind the rising popularity in an EO structure?  Aside from being a popular succession option, evidence shows it also drives an entrepreneurial and innovation orientated culture within a business.

Bright Ascension, experts in space technology, recently became employee owned in order to help meet plans for growth and to continue developing and creating innovative products. The Dundee and Edinburgh based business specialises in software products and services for satellites.

In order to build a world class business the directors recognised that they needed to attract, retain, motivate and harness the best talent in the field.  Their main priorities were to scale up the business by attracting investment and then fully engage employees to drive performance within the business.  These goals have been achieved through employee ownership.

Bright Ascension company, Edinburgh, 14/03/2017: Bright Ascension founder director Peter Mendham (correct, bottom), with technical director / software engineer Mark McCram and a satellite launch control board. Photography for Cooperative Development Scotland / Scottish Enterprise from:  Colin Hattersley Photography - - - 07974 957 388

Bright Ascension founder director Peter Mendham and technical director / software engineer Mark McCram.

Similarly 4C Design, Hunter Adams and Accord Energy Solutions have all chosen the model to drive an entrepreneurial and innovation orientated culture. 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.

Statistics consistently demonstrate that employee-owned businesses outperform their non EO counterparts in terms of higher levels of profitability, improved business resilience during times of recession, increased productivity, enhanced employee wellbeing and greater desire to innovate. Recognising the benefits of the model, the Government recently introduced tax incentives to increase its adoption.

I’m anticipating that in the years ahead employee ownership will increasingly be adopted as a way to recruit, retain and reward employees, enabling business growth and higher levels of performance.

Through Co-operative Development Scotland we provide free support to businesses considering employee ownership, offering specialist advice and support to help them adopt the model.

For more information on the services provided by CDS, click here.