The second of our “What’s Next” events in our Successful Succession programme, was hosted by Aquascot in Alness.
One local business owner currently considering a succession strategy for his business attended to see how employee ownership may work. Here, he sums up his thoughts from the day.
I’m interested in ways to make our business more sustainable for the long term and provide an eventual exit solution for the current shareholders. As a business, we are constantly looking at ways to improve and reviewing our ownership structure is part of that.
I’d like to find a model that rewards and engages our staff for the contribution they make to the success of the business. I’m intrigued at how businesses owned by their employees appear to achieve much higher levels of staff engagement and productivity improvements.
Our Scottish Enterprise account manager drew my attention to a programme run by Co-operative Development Scotland, which is showcasing employee owned firms around Scotland. I attended two events and found they greatly helped my thinking.
The first visit was to Galloway & MacLeod, who manufacture and sell agricultural feed. This is an impressive business. It is innovative, high tech, and focused on growth. A family firm, and significant employer in the area, a trade sale would have meant a likely relocation.
Selling to the employees means the business stays where it is, providing opportunities for local people. The honesty was refreshing; they admitted that initially share uptake was low, but had now reached over 90%.
The Aquascot visit was thought provoking. This is an innovative company, very grounded in their values. They strive to be a great place to work – and aim to have fun while “doing the right thing well”. The MD, Dennis Overton, admitted a trade sale would have been quicker, simpler and easier, but did not fit with the strong partnership ethos.
It was good to hear the bankers who attended stress they are quite comfortable with employee owned business models; succession management is critically important, if the management team disappear, the business is exposed. Employee ownership is a solution that promotes continuity.