Can we get better than ‘Win/Lose’?

By Deb Oxley, CEO of the EOA

UK voters will shortly be presented with what is being heralded as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the future of the UK’s relationship with the European Union. This responsibility is likely to be the most important national decision many of us have been involved in.  And therefore it is not just disappointing, but also hugely frustrating, that the debate has already descending into ‘Project Fear’ – a politically influenced, accusation-rich, public slanging match, fuelled by the media which leaves most people confused and no better equipped to understand the issues they are expected to vote on.

Across the Atlantic, the same fear-based approach prevails in the Republican Presidential candidacy campaigns – with different candidates centred on the ‘what-if’ scenarios of different levels of disaster should Donald Trump be selected as the Republican nominee.

As I reflect on these ‘win/lose’ debates, I am once again reminded that employee ownership need never enter into such destructive and wholly negative campaigns.

The economic case for employee ownership has never been stronger; more resilient, productive and profitable businesses with employees who are highly engaged, and where the employee owners are able to plan for the long term future health of the business, its suppliers and its customers.  Add to this the fact that everyone benefits – the employees, the founder/owner, the local economy and the national economy – and it’s clear that employee ownership delivers a ‘win/win’ business model.

Of course, the model may not be most suited to every type, size or age of business – but is being increasingly chosen by those planning for succession or growth, or those entrepreneurs about to establish a new start up, with either public or private sector origins, as a wholly positive thing to do.

Some cynics may argue that there are losers in the employee ownership debate; the venture capitalist who misses out on the opportunity of a short term, no-responsibility investment in a growing business, or a trade buyer who loses out on securing the assets and customers of one of its competitors. But for those with an interest in the long term health of a business and the legacy it creates, there is only a sense of success.

But just like the European and US debates, there is still more for the sector to do more to ensure that the strong economic case for employee ownership is more widely understood and appreciated.

Therefore I am delighted that the EOA’s relationship with the ICAEW continues to develop and that we will shortly be collaborating on events and awareness raising activity together, ensuring that the key group of influencers, practice accountants are encouraged to advise their clients on employee ownership as an option.

And whilst it was wonderful to hear Will Hutton at last month’s Robert Oakeshott Lecture sharing his support for employee ownership as part of his call for more purposeful businesses, the need to develop the profile of employee ownership remains, hence a renewed focus on public relations by the EOA from this month.

And finally, the power of a single voice to positively represent the sector continues to be important and especially as UK Government continues to pursue its austerity agenda.  Therefore I am delighted that the EOA has brought this voice to life with the formation of a new EO Sector Group with the support of Vice Chair Graeme Nuttall – and I am pleased to see that colleagues from across a range of different sizes and sectors of EO businesses, along with professional advisors are now collaborating to influence the profile and reputation of employee ownership, especially amongst key influencer audiences.

So let us continue to be part of a positive campaign, to champion and shout about employee ownership – at a time when ‘win/lose’ dominates, employee ownership stands out as a ‘win/win’ way to manage a business.