DLD Fund & Chartered Accountants Ulster Society Employee Ownership Breakfast Series – June 2024

Earlier this month, Co-operative Development Scotland employee ownership specialist Glen Dott was asked to speak at a series of breakfast events across Northern Ireland showcasing the success and uptake of employee ownership in Scotland. We caught up with him to find out more about the events and what is happening in Northern Ireland to support the model as a business succession option.

DLD Fund, the charitable arm of Dawson ME sponsored a series of three employee ownership awareness events in Northern Ireland in June. Aidan O’Neill of Dawson ME and head of DLD Fund has been the inspiration behind planning and executing these three breakfast seminars in Newry, Cookstown and Belfast, hosted by Paul Millar of Mid Ulster. Aidan is one of five family shareholders and has seen many Northern Irish businesses sold or moved overseas, the largest being Chain Reaction Cycles which at one stage employed 300 people. Aidan believes that employee ownership is an elegant succession model which would help retain and develop businesses in Northern Ireland, including potentially his own business. Aidan has replicated the Scottish Co-operative Development Scotland model of client support and fully funded the event schedule. The PR surrounding the events was exceptional helping to publicise the programme and increase attendance. DLD Fund is offering to fund the first twenty feasibility studies and applications from two companies  is already underway.

Aidan recruited Anthony McVeigh from S&W Wholesale, Joan McCoy and Harry Foster from White Ink Architects and Karen Maguire from Relinea who spoke about their own employee ownership experiences. Andrew Harrison from Co-ownership Solutions explained the theory and implementation of employee ownership and I outlined Scotland’s success in promoting employee ownership with the Scottish Government providing a bedrock of policy support and a target of 500 employee-owned businesses by 2030.

Key to this initiative has been NI Invest with Jeremy Fitch and Niall Casey having been involved in the early stages of planning. The key drivers of NI Invest are increased business productivity, good jobs, creating a regional balance and sustainability of businesses.

Conor Murphy, Economy Minister, gave the keynote speech at the Belfast event expressing his support for the model and belief that creation of new employee-owned businesses would be a great way of strengthening the Northern Irish economy and meeting the NI Invest ideals. He has asked NI Invest to investigate supporting the promotion of employee ownership model in Northern Ireland with an immediate target of 100 employee-owned businesses.

With such effort being made to support and embed employee ownership in the business landscape, we look forward to seeing the progress.

Find out more about employee ownership

Listen to the EO Podcast series to hear directly from employee owned businesses and experts