Tag: business models (Page 2 of 4)

Director up front on employee ownership

Director magEmployee ownership features on the front cover of the influential Director magazine this month, thanks to an interview with John Lewis Partnership (JLP) chairman, Sir Charlie Mayfield.

JLP is the UK’s largest employee-owned business, employing 90,000 staff, known as partners, across its 42 stores.

In the article, he says the model is key to JLP’s success. Not only does profit-sharing motivate the partners, but it ensures better staff retention than can otherwise be seen in the retail sector.

Employee ownership also allows the business to take a more sustainable, long-term approach, he says, going on to discuss why he’s advocating the model as a satisfying and successful succession strategy for business owners.

Sir Charlie was speaking before the inaugural InspireEO conference, which saw 350 delegates from businesses and public bodies travel to the West Midlands to hear first-hand how employee ownership helps large businesses like JLP as well as SMEs operating across different sectors.

You can read the full interview in the February edition of Director.

Inspiring day to drive growth in employee ownership

Glen DottNearly 350 delegates from businesses of all sizes visited the West Midlands last week for the inaugural InspireEO conference, hosted by the John Lewis Partnership (JLP).

Several high-profile speakers addressed a large audience which included prominent government and business figures. Not only did it motivate businesses – it has set the tone for a Scottish event of its own, as CDS specialist advisor Glen Dott explains.

Sitting among the hundreds of entrepreneurs who had gathered to participate in the first-ever InspireEO conference, you couldn’t help but feel motivated and excited for the future.

Gathering in the West Midlands were representatives from businesses across the United Kingdom, keen to hear the benefits of employee ownership (EO) from one of its most well-known proponents.

In hosting InspireEO, JLP provided a platform to promote employee-owned business models of all types. They used their own approach as an example to demonstrate the benefits EO offers both the company and its staff. EOA0037

Supported by several high-profile sponsors, the event underlined the widespread and growing endorsement of EO to exiting owners, advisors and the public sector.

Productivity in EO businesses grew 4.5 per cent last year while others flat-lined, demonstrating the value of the model for sustainable growth. People who work in such businesses are happier and healthier, taking less time off sick.

Business advisers were also in attendance and helped sponsor the event. Not only does this highlight the increasing interest in EO from businesses, but it demonstrates there is growing recognition among the advisor community of the model.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, the chairman of 80,000 partner-strong JLP, was joined by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. Both addressed the audience and in doing so demonstrated just how important EO is to business and the economy.

Sir Charlie Mayfield

Sir Charlie Mayfield

So inspirational was last week’s gathering that we are preparing to have a similar conference in Scotland later in the year.

Awareness and support for employee ownership is growing in Scotland and we are hoping to attract a large audience.  An engaging programme of activity is being prepared, along with some truly inspirational speakers to demonstrate why EO offers a bright future not just to Scottish businesses, but to Scotland as a whole.

We’ll be announcing full details later in the year. Hopefully I’ll see you there.

Tourism co-operative’s ambitious plans for 2015

Port Appin

Hosting international events such as the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in 2014 put Scotland firmly in the global spotlight as a top visitor destination. With such opportunity, many businesses are considering how to best take advantage of this new-found fame.

Carron Tobin, development manager of Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative (ATIC), explains why being part of a consortium is helping many of Scotland’s west coast tourism businesses capitalise on the country’s time in the limelight.

Last year was an unprecedented one for Scotland, with sport, politics, the Homecoming gathering and historical anniversaries giving the country international attention like never before.

Not only did it cement our reputation as a land of spectacular scenery and a friendly welcome, it established Scotland as a vibrant and contemporary tourism destination that has the capacity to wow as much as it does charm.

This offers a tremendous opportunity for tourism businesses – and when it comes to having a competitive advantage, we believe being part of our co-operative consortium really helps us stand out from the crowd.

Coll beach

When we formed in 2012, businesses of varying sizes across the area pooled finances, contacts and industry knowledge to create an umbrella brand and marketing plan to set Argyll and the Isles apart from the rest of Scotland and the UK as an unmissable tourist destination.

By offering a range of attractive products that tour operators can sell to their customers, we have enjoyed real success, reaching more markets and potential customers than we would ever have managed individually.

This year though – more than ever – we can see the true value of being part of our co-operative as we prepare to launch our most ambitious bid yet to attract more tour operators to our area and our businesses.

For the first time, we will exhibit at three major international trade shows in a single year, supplementing our usual stand at VisitScotland’s EXPO in April, with trips to the Best of Britain & Ireland and Explore GB trade shows.

Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative’s board. From left, Carron Tobin, David Currie, Calum Ross, Niall Macalister Hall, chairman Gavin Dick, Iain Jurgensen, Andrew Wilson, Brian Keating and Fiona McPhail.

Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative’s board. From left, Carron Tobin, David Currie, Calum Ross, Niall Macalister Hall, chairman Gavin Dick, Iain Jurgensen, Andrew Wilson, Brian Keating and Fiona McPhail.

These events are vital to engage with tour operators across the world and have potential to attract thousands of new customers for our businesses, taking advantage of Scotland’s incredible 2014.

Quite simply, we couldn’t have done this as individual companies or local marketing groups. By working together, we have given our region a genuine competitive edge and delivered a significant boost to members’ trade – underlining just how effective being part of a consortium co-operative can be.

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.


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.

Page\Park enjoys successful first year of employee ownership

Page Park Architects 07Just over a year ago, Glasgow-based architecture firm Page\Park took the exciting step of becoming an employee-owned company.

Since then they have gone on to enjoy a successful 2014. In addition to increasing their workforce, the company last month won a GIA Design Award for its work in the revamp of the city’s Kelvingrove Bandstand.

They were also Highly Commended by the Philip Baxendale Awards as an Employee Ownership Rising Star.

As they look forward to building on their success the New Year, watch our video to find out how they addressed their ownership succession issues by adopting employee ownership.

Scottish success stories at employee ownership conference

????????????The Employee Ownership Association held its annual conference in Nottingham last month, with over 500 delegates attending.

Here, CDS specialist adviser Glen Dott takes a look back at the event and recounts some of the highlights.

This year CDS took seven clients to the Employee Ownership Association Conference. No sightings of Robin Hood – or even a forest – but it was a great learning experience for those considering employee ownership. Who better to ask than those who have ‘been there done that’? With over 500 delegates in attendance there were plenty of ‘doers’ and our contingent had a number of networking possibilities.

On the Monday evening we attended the Philip Baxendale Awards, where ‘the best employee-owned organisations are recognised in a tremendous celebration of excellence’. From a Scottish perspective, Page\Park Architects was Highly Commended as an Employee Ownership Rising Star while Fred Bowden Snr, chairman of Tullis Russell was awarded the The Philip Baxendale Fellowship for his outstanding contribution to employee ownership.

Employee Ownership AssociationIain Hasdell, chief executive of the EOA, welcomed us to the conference and illustrated how far employee ownership has come in a relatively short time. The icing on the cake for ‘Team EO’ in 2014 has been the tax breaks afforded to owners selling into Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs) and the tax-free bonuses now payable to employees of EOT-controlled businesses. In Scotland we are already seeing the fruits of this legislation with EOTs in operation at Mike Stoane Lighting and David Narro Associates and more deals in the pipeline.

Two strands of sessions followed for ‘newbies’ and those already in employee ownership.  In between, we took the opportunity to link up our guests with relevant advisers and like-minded businesses, before keynote speaker Mike Thompson of Childbase explained why his company is moving to a Trust-only model. Surprisingly, external investors currently share most of the profits but a deal has been struck where an employee trust will buy out external investors and also the founding family. The primary advantage will be that future profits will be shared exclusively by employee owners via the recently introduced tax-free bonus.

The conference came to an end with John Lupton of 150-year old Tayport firm Scott & Fyfe telling us of their remarkable transition from family-owned jute business to a modern, outward looking, innovation led employee-owned industrial textile manufacturer.

This story illustrates that Scotland has much to be proud of and we certainly lead the UK charge in adoption of the EO model. We have every reason to believe our clients will join the employee ownership fold and we aim to bring an even bigger contingent next year.

Benefits of employee ownership are clear

ICAS members and their clients gathered in Inverness last month to hear about employee ownership as an exit solution. 

Here, ICAS member Peter Mitchell reflects on the day and looks at how the ownership model can benefit businesses in the Highlands.

As advisers we are careful not to direct our client towards any particular ownership model. It’s our job to provide them with sufficient, comprehensive information to enable them to make an informed choice.

One of my clients is employee-owned and I’m convinced of the benefits. It’s a model with particular relevance to the Highlands – independent, owner-managed and family businesses are a significant part of our economy.

Exit to a trade buyer from elsewhere places a threat on the future of the business in the local area. We need to sustain opportunities for our young people and retain quality jobs in the community.

ICAS logoCarole Leslie, a Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) specialist adviser, reinforced the economic benefits of employee ownership in her presentation. Most of those present did not know how widespread employee ownership is; I didn’t know that the architects of the Eden Court Theatre were 100 per cent employee owned, or that the project managers of the Skye Bridge, Arup, have been employee-owned since 1974.

Chris Kerr, from Harper Macleod, is a leading authority on employee ownership and he talked the audience through the technical aspects of the model and the transition process. He stressed the importance of involving employees in the transaction as this helps shape a better outcome and wins greater engagement going forward.

The highlight of the session was the story of Aquascot, delivered so eloquently by ICAS member Robert Murray, a company founder and its finance director. Aquascot employs 150 people in Alness and has a turnover of £40m. The founders could have sold the business – and had some lucrative offers – but their commitment to Easter Ross and to an ethical way of doing business convinced them to look at other options.

Their main customer is Waitrose, and their employee ownership model fit what the founders were looking for. With some guidance from Waitrose, John Lewis Partnership and John Housego of employee owned WL Gore, the sustainable seafood company is looking to become fully employee-owned by 2016.

Chris Kerr summed it up well: “Employee ownership won’t fit with every business, but where it does, the results can be remarkable.”  It was encouraging to see so much interest in the model. CDS is doing a great job in raising awareness and I expect that a few more advisers and their clients will start to come forward.

Your Collaboration Prize questions answered

Jaye Martin 03The Collaboration Prize aims to encourage companies to form a consortium to improve their combined business prospects, with up to three winners each receiving prizes of £5,000 in cash and £5,000 support.

This year’s competition is looking for applications that show how forming a consortium could improve marketing, tendering or innovation operations.

Ahead of Friday’s deadline for entries, CDS specialist adviser Jaye Martin answered questions on the competition in a live Twitter Q&A.

Want to work with others and do things bigger, better and faster? Then forming a consortium co-operative could be for you. The potential benefits are numerous:

  • Build a new collective brand and combine resources to reach bigger audiences.
  • Share the risks of expanding into new markets with your partners
  • Compete for larger, more valuable contracts
  • Gain a competitve advantage through economies of scale
  • Have an equal say in the running of the consortium co-operative

During last week’s Q&A, we answered a number of questions from interested parties:




The Collaboration Prize is open to all Scottish businesses, large or small and from any sector. There are three categories – marketing, tendering and innovating – with £10,000 available for each winner.

Remember – the deadline for entries is 3pm on Friday 28 November. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity!

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.


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


Collaboration Prize continues to make a difference to winner

Joanna Dewar Gibb, right, with SFS member Amanda Millen

Joanna Dewar Gibb, right, with SFS member Amanda Millen

Screen Facilities Scotland (SFS) is one of the earliest winners of the Collaboration Prize, having formed in 2012 to enter during the inaugural year of the competition.

In the two years since winning the award the consortium, made up of Scottish-based film, television and commercials facilities, has flourished.

Here, Joanna Dewar Gibb, one of the directors of SFS, describes why winning the prize was so important to its development.

We were delighted to be one of three winners of the Collaboration Prize in 2012 and we continue to reap the rewards from that. Since we’ve formed as a consortium, we’ve gone from strength to strength and benefit in many different ways.

The seeds of our co-operative were well and truly planted before we spotted the opportunity to be considered for the prize, but when we did we were pleased to see the entry process was both manageable and straight forward. Our entry was completed and submitted with the minimum of fuss.

And that’s been the case the whole way through.  From being short-listed, to eventually winning and then formally establishing SFS, the whole process has been possible thanks to clear guidance, simple structures and succinct documentation provided by Co-operative Development Scotland.


We have used the prize money in different ways. It gave us a cash boost while waiting for membership fees to come in during our first year, with the money spent across various activities including collaborative marketing materials our launch networking event and administration costs.

Each of our members has since benefitted from shared marketing and promotional activities, new networking opportunities, better engagement and participation across the creative industry sector and closer working with colleagues and clients, both new and old, all of which helps us work towards a stronger, busier future.

It is no exaggeration to say SFS would not be where it is today if the collaborative consortium business model did not exist and if the Collaboration Prize, comprising of valuable business advice and welcome cash, had not helped us to flourish.

Until we had formed, many lucrative contracts including those originating in Scotland, were won by businesses based elsewhere, particularly in the south-east of the UK, so hopefully SFS has made a difference not just to our own businesses, but to the whole Scottish film, television and commercials production sector.

Highland Home Carers benefits from employee ownership

Stephen Pennington   Highland Home Carers held a conference last week to mark their 20th anniversary and their 10th year of employee ownership.

It was a fantastic event, attracting a TV personality, a Cabinet Minister, an MSP, the NHS Director for Adult Social Care as well as a wealth of key figures from the sector.  Here, HR administrator Laura Dobinson describes the day.

This is the most high-profile event we have run and we were all a bit nervous as to how it would work out. I’m delighted to say that everything just slotted into place.

Nick Boyle, the founder of Highland Home Carers (HHC), launched the event with an inspiring speech explaining why he sold the business to the employees.

HHC was set up to deliver the highest possible standards of care, enabling people in the Highlands to remain in their homes, in their local communities, for as long as possible. By moving the business to employee ownership, HHC’s unique ethos is secure and we can focus on quality of care.

Managing Director Stephen Pennington (pictured above) outlined how HHC is trailblazing the way adult social care is delivered in the UK. There is talk from Westminster of an integrated service with councils and the NHS collaborating rather than working in silos – this is already the case in the Highlands. Stephen explained how the employee-owned model provides a platform for HHC to build a stable and strong company.

Attendees could choose from a number of workshops to attend which covered a wide range of topics – money management, wellbeing, wills and trusts, personalisation of care, social exclusion.

Danny Alexander

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and local MP, Rt Hon Danny Alexander, joined us for lunch and chatted to carers, service users and guests. In his keynote speech, Danny recalled opening HHC’s Stadium Road office in 2006, and was delighted to follow the progress of the company.

He said it was employee-owned companies like HHC which motivated him to introduce the recent legislation offering tax breaks to encourage more employee ownership of businesses. He told the audience that HHC is one of the best examples of employee ownership in the UK – a superb accolade!

The event concluded with a lively panel session. Aggie Mackenzie, from TV’s How Clean is Your House and Storage Hoarders talked about how she couldn’t get anywhere when organising care for her mother until she contacted HHC. She was full of praise for the service and said she knew their business model was different; this conference helped her understand why.

Aggie MacKenzie

Feedback so far has been great, with some attendees asking us to make it an annual event. It was so good to get together with friends and supporters to talk about the issues surrounding care, and employee ownership. It was particularly encouraging to hear how highly regarded HHC is by our key stakeholders.

Care is a challenging sector to work in. As employee owners we are immensely proud of what we do. At HHC we know we are part of something special. Looking forward to the next 20 years – and beyond!

Hear about Scott & Fyfe’s journey to a secure future

Katrina MacKay is chair of the Employee Forum at Scott & Fyfe, the next host company of our Successful Succession series, which takes place on September 30th at their facility in Tayport, Fife.

Here, Katrina explains what employee ownership means for her company.

I love my job and working for Scott & Fyfe.  It is rewarding being part of a company that has such a rich history, with a global reputation for quality and innovation.

Scott & Fyfe 06Yes, we operate in a challenging market and we are constantly looking at how we can be one step ahead in anticipating and meeting our customers’ needs.

When we were told about the move to employee ownership two years ago, I have to confess I didn’t have much of a clue as to what it meant – and I think that’s true of almost all of my colleagues.  We did suspect something was afoot.  I guess like most workplaces, you can sense when changes are imminent.

We were all issued with boarding cards, indicating we were going on a journey.  The announcement of the change in ownership was followed up by a series of workshops that explained more fully what employee ownership is, and what it would mean for Scott & Fyfe.

A specially designed website, Tayport Works, explained the mechanics of the new structure more fully.

The biggest concern in the minds of employees was that the family would close the business, or sell to an overseas company.  Scott & Fyfe is such an iconic company in this local area that this would have been bad news.

Scott & Fyfe is a family business in the widest sense; we all felt part of the family.  As well as the employment going, we would have lost that team spirit that makes going to work worthwhile.

For me, the most positive outcome of employee ownership is that our future is secured in a stable business structure that will allow us to prosper and grow.

I’m thrilled we’re part of the CDS Successful Succession campaign. It will be a pleasure to tell our story and show people around our site.  We are still on the first stages of our journey, but I’m convinced employee ownership was the right move for Scott & Fyfe.

The event on September 30th is an opportunity for us to show other businesses what can be achieved.

Employees can share in business benefits

Rodger CairnsGiving employees a stake in the organisation in which they work can be a powerful tool in achieving real staff engagement.

Here, Rodger Cairns, partner at law firm Shepherd & Wedderburn and an expert on share schemes and employee remuneration, tackles the subject.

A share represents a tangible interest in the business and when employees see the link between effort and reward, the results can be remarkable.   However, any scheme has to fit the specific circumstances of the business and be designed to offer the potential of real advantages to employees.

If employee share participation is something that is of interest, it makes sense to do it as tax effectively as possible and there is a variety of HM Revenue & Customs ‘approved’ arrangements that can be used, many of which were made more generous by legislative changes that came into force earlier this year.

The HMRC-approved Share Incentive Plan (SIP) is used by many companies to distribute shares.  The SIP allows the company to award shares free of charge to employees and enables those same employees to buy shares via payroll.  The SIP also offers tax advantages if certain conditions are met. The Finance Act 2014 raised a number of the thresholds for SIPs, thus increasing the opportunity for employees to benefit from participation.  The Act also doubled the maximum monthly saving contributions allowable under the other HMRC-approved “all employee” arrangement Sharesave Schemes.

Enterprise management incentives (EMI) continue to be an effective way to reward executives in smaller businesses, although there is no reason they can’t be offered to the entire workforce where appropriate. As long as certain conditions are satisfied, income tax is not payable on exercise of EMI share options. Instead, participants will pay capital gains tax on disposal of shares, based on any gains above exercise cost.

There is also normally a Corporation Tax deduction available on the implementation and operation of employee share schemes.

However, implementing a scheme is rarely sufficient on its own to deliver the engagement and productivity benefits.  The key to aligning employee effort with company objectives is by communicating the advantages of the plan, how performance is delivered and how each employee contributes to the results.

Finally, it is worth noting that HM Treasury recently released a consultation on a new employee shareholding vehicle that it hopes will be a straightforward structure that can be used to facilitate the operation of share incentive schemes and internal share dealing markets.  Any simplification of the various processes surrounding share participation by staff is always welcome, although – as is often the case – the devil will be in the legislative detail.

Rodger will be leading the fourth in our series of employee ownership expert adviser briefing breakfasts and will be focusing on share schemes.  The event takes place on 10th September at the Apex Haymarket Hotel, Edinburgh between 8am and 10am. 

Myths busted at Co-operative Business Development Seminar

Jim_Maxwell,_Business_Development_Manager,_Co-operative_Development_Scotland_resizedCo-operative Development Scotland’s business development manager, Jim Maxwell, was a guest of Glasgow City Council on Wednesday, speaking at its second Co-operative Business Development Seminar.

Held at the Orkney Street Enterprise Centre, Jim was asked to talk about the use of consortia and the growth of employee ownership. Here, he gives his thoughts on the event.

Glasgow City Council’s commitment to co-operative working in the city was crystal clear on Wednesday when I was invited to speak to around 25 of the city’s business advisers about consortium working and employee ownership.

It was so encouraging to see the interest shown in both these models.  Glasgow’s front-line advisers clearly do feel these are concepts worth introducing to suitable client businesses.

This was a perceptive (and quite challenging!) audience with searching questions about the consortium model and how it provides a collaboration structure with the minimum of risk and bureaucracy.

Interest quickly focused on procurement and how the model is used by groupings of businesses to bid for larger contracts they couldn’t win individually. In fact joint-tendering is the most common use for the consortium model and much of the free support CDS provides is in setting up tendering consortia.

Consortium-based tendering also fits well with Glasgow City Council’s procurement policy and public procurement generally, which aims to achieve local community benefit wherever possible.

The annual CDS Collaboration Prize always produces a rush of interest from businesses interested in forming consortia. This year it launches on October 1 so watch our website for details.

With prizes of £10k up for grabs, my guess is we’ll be receiving a fair few enquiries via the Glasgow business advisers!

The discussion on Employee Ownership turned out to be rather a ‘myth-busting’ session with advisers raising the kind of questions they expect from their client companies, such as:

Q. What if the employees can’t afford to buy the business?

A. The business itself purchases the owner’s shares, not the employees

Q. What if the owner feels the business cannot be run successfully by committee?

A. Employee owned businesses are not run by committee, they have normal management structures.

Q. What if the owner isn’t ready to exit yet?

A. The exiting owner controls the whole process of transition, including the timeframe.  Most successful employee buy outs are planned well in advance.

the futureInterest also focused on the (considerable!) new tax benefits for owners when they pass a controlling interest to an employee trust and how company performance invariably benefits when employees have a meaningful stake via employee ownership.

The steps being taken by Glasgow City Council to ensure local businesses derive benefit from the “Co-operative Council” agenda are exemplary.

The strength of commitment is clear in the overwhelming response to the second stage of their co-operative support grant scheme and the recent announcement of a £1million budget to support business ownership transfer.

Practical steps like these are a real boost to co-operative working in Glasgow, and very much to be commended.

End of the holidays – and the beginning of a busy end to 2014

After a summer of sun and fun – and of course the Commonwealth Games – things are about to return to normal with the end of the school holidays.

Merchant City FestivalIt tends to be this time of the year that businesses across the country refocus their efforts on a strong end to the calendar year, perhaps even taking a fresh look at opportunities to expand revenue further.

We’ve seen many terrific examples this year of how organisations across the country have done this by working co-operatively.

During the Commonwealth Games, the Merchant City Marketing Co-operative helped promote the events linked to the Commonwealth Games – as well as the wider calendar of events and attractions throughout the year.

The Food from Argyll consortium was busy too, helping feed hungry festival-goers and showcasing their produce stalls at BBC at the Quay and the popular Belladrum Festival.

For each of the individual businesses involved in both organisations, such exposure and opportunity may not have been possible on their own.

By coming together, however, they have opened up new markets, boosted sales and increased awareness of their brands, both collectively and as individuals.

And as the nights start to draw in, now is the perfect time to start thinking about how working in such a way can boost your business.

Council’s ringing endorsement of co-operatives

GillianKirton-002The eyes of the world have been on Glasgow over the last week and a half as the city plays host to the Commonwealth Games.

Here, Gillian Kirton, Project Manager at Co-operative Development Scotland, looks at how the host city’s council is providing real support to co-operative businesses.

With almost 20 per cent of Scotland’s co-operatives residing in Glasgow, the ‘sector’ is thriving – these co-operatives employ almost 1400 individuals and account for £192m turnover per annum. Impressive numbers indeed.

To further enhance this, Glasgow City Council is one of just 21 Councils in the UK to commit to becoming a Co-operative Council and is certainly taking its commitment very seriously.

There’s real practical support available to companies and the council are putting their money where their mouth is – to date they have awarded 13 co-operatives a total of £210k to implement ‘transformational business development activities’.

people make glasgow

A further tranche of funding is now available with sums of between £2,500 and £25,000 available for eligible activity. And at a Glasgow Business Embassy event last week, it was announced that a pot of £3m will be available to support companies looking at business ownership transfer.

I’m confident we will see more companies following in the footsteps of Glasgow-based Page\Park and opting to transfer ownership to employees.

Co-operative Glasgow sees partnership working as key to successfully delivering their action plan and it was a pleasure to meet so many of those partners.

In collaboration with the Council, we delivered a seminar to many Business Gateway and other front line advisors. It gave them the opportunity to hear more about co-operatives, the impact they can make to the local economy, the many benefits of the model, and the support available to their clients.

Glasgow City Council logo

It’s fair to say that there was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about the models – they see them as a perfect solution to meet the needs and growth aspirations of many of their clients.

CDS is delighted to continue to work in partnership with the Council, Business Gateway and other advisors to provide free advice and guidance to those businesses considering employee ownership and co-operative business models.

Our annual Collaboration Prize has seen some amazing success stories in Glasgow – Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland and Screen Facilities Scotland are going from strength to strength.

This year we will launch our Collaboration Prize on 1st October – up to three collaborative ideas will each gain a substantial £10k prize to get their idea off the ground. Will we see further success stories in Glasgow?  Watch this space!

Enjoy the Commonwealth Games – another exciting reason to celebrate all that Glasgow has to offer!

Trust me – employee ownership works for Highland Home Carers

Jocelyn-Mitchell-1Highland Home Carers was established in 1994 to provide the first independent domiciliary care and support service in Inverness and the wider area. The business enables many people to remain in their own homes when otherwise they might have been moved into institutional care. The company increasingly works in partnership with NHS Highland to improve the quality of health and social care services in local communities.

Ten years ago, Highland Home Carers became employee-owned. Here, Jocelyn Mitchell – care worker and Chair of the Trustees – explains how the trustees ensure the company is run properly.

The trustee role is an important one within Highland Home Carers.  We represent the majority shareholding and it is vital that we hold the board to account – just like shareholders in conventional companies.

It is not our job to run the company, but we do have to sanction major decisions that could affect the long term stability of the business.  A few years ago the board restructured the company’s loan, opting to move the debt to a more favourable lender. This meant higher repayments in the short term, but would result in us being debt-free in a few years.  As trustees, we had to be satisfied that the impact of higher payments had been fully considered and that it would be for the company’s long term benefit.

We have grown significantly in the past two years. With 350 employees covering 8069 square miles, quality of delivery of care is central to all we do.  One of the issues we wanted to explore with the board was how we could ensure our high standards would be maintained when we were undergoing a period of growth. Our MD fully explained the measures put in place – as employees, we are able to see the consequences of board and management decisions.

Our board is superb, with a mix of management, elected employees and two experienced non-executives.  We haven’t had to exercise our veto over any decisions but there is no complacency. We continue to challenge and ask for explanations.

We are quite unusual in that none of our directors are trustees – how could we hold the board to account if some of us were involved in board decisions? There are six trustees – three elected by our colleagues and three appointed by the board. Two of the appointed trustees are also employees. The sixth is an independent trustee who is not an employee and supports us in our role.

There is a myth that if employees own the company then they will make decisions in their own interests and lose sight of the sustainability of the business.  That can’t happen here. We have a responsibility to current and future employees. This year we are celebrating our 20th year, 10 of which have been as an employee-owned company.  As trustees, it is our job to ensure we are still here for the next 20 years and far beyond, while still providing the best care and being a great place to work.

Taste of success for food consortium

When you’re a small-scale producer keen increase your sales and exposure across the UK, how do you do it?

Nine food producers in Argyll considered this very issue in 2008, recognising that there was greater opportunity for them all if they worked together.

With the help of Co-operative Development Scotland, they came together to form Food from Argyll – a consortium aimed at taking their goods into a wider market.

Here, the producers describe the benefits they’ve enjoyed since forming the consortium.

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