Case Study – Experiences of an Independent Trustee
We spoke to Helen Moreton, Founder and Director of Boombox Consulting, to ask her about her experiences as an Independent Trustee for employee owned businesses.
What would you say are the top three things you gain from being an independent trustee?
There are many things that I could say in answer to this question, but primarily I would say it is the kind of organisations and people that I get to work with. By the very nature of being an independent trustee you are working with people that are willing to consider a better and fairer way of doing business. I feel truly fortunate to work with organisations that have a compelling purpose and a strong moral compass that defines and leads who they are and what they do.
Following on from that, I find the work incredibly interesting and stimulating, as the organisations I work with are ready and willing to question the status quo. I like to think differently and independently from others, to be curious and ask lots of questions to spark debate and thinking. In working as an independent trustee not only is this expected of me, but this way of working is also embraced.
Finally, and importantly, I get to make a difference through the work that I do. I can put to good use my experience and insight for the benefit of the trust and its beneficiaries. It is fantastic to see how ideas borne from interesting debate around the Trustee Board Table, can go on to have a tangible and positive impact upon the organisation and its people.
What are the top three things a business gains from having an independent trustee, in your opinion?
I would say the top thing a business gains is that independence of thought and the ability to offer a different perspective to thinking and decision making. An independent trustee can be more objective and neutral as they are not ingrained in the day to day running of the business in the same way that internal trustees and leadership might be. Linked to this, Independent Trustees can utilise their experience from across different organisations and appropriately share ideas and best practice.
Secondly, I would say that having someone that understands and is passionate about employee ownership can be immensely helpful when you are developing and growing an ownership culture. An independent trustee can offer advice and support and act as a mentor for internal trustees and leadership as they too grow their understanding of the principles of ownership, how to leverage these, and their role and responsibilities within this.
Last, but certainly not least, I would say good governance. The Trust Board are there to act in the best interests of employee owners and to ensure the organisation is being run in line with its purpose and values. They will want to know that employee voice is being heard and amplified and has a meaningful influence and impact on the way the organisation is led. They will want to ensure that there is good opportunity to speak truth to power and to hold the leadership to account for the decisions they make. They will want to be assured that there is a healthy distribution of power throughout the organisation and that there are appropriate checks and balances in place. An independent trustee can help to keep the operational board and the trustee board focused and on track with these important principles.
Is there any advice you would give to someone considering becoming an independent trustee?
Being an independent trustee is a wonderful role that comes with expectation and challenge.
As a starting point, find out more about the role by looking at various websites online and speaking to Trustees that you know. If you don’t know any Trustees, make contact with other EO businesses, or please do drop me a line.
Attend the EOA events as you will get masses of insight and ideas, as well as making lots of great contacts. The EOA also has a course for Trustees as part of their EO Learn programme.
Think about the type of business you’d like to work with and why. It’s also worth considering what you can offer as a trustee and the experience you have that would be suitable to EO businesses and the stage they are at on the EO journey.
Interested in learning more about becoming an Independent Trustee, or looking for support in finding an Independent Trustee for your employee owned business? Take a look at our EO Trustee Search page to find out how the EOA and partners can help.
Helen is the Founder and Director of Boombox Consulting and has been an active part of the employee owned sector for over twenty years in an operational and non-executive capacity.
She works with several employee owned businesses in a trustee, chairing and advisory capacity including Turley as Chair Director of their Board of Trustees, Lush as their Independent Trustee, Architype as their External Trustee, and Riverford Organic Farmers as Chair of their Co-owner Council.
Prior to that Helen spent 18 years at John Lewis Partnership in a variety of independent and strategic roles. It was there that she grew a genuine passion and respect for EO as she saw in action the difference that ownership can make to an individual and an organisation.