CEO Blog


Socialising capital the employee ownership way

The media is prone to labelling; hence, we have ‘millennials’, ‘the gig economy’ and ‘soap stars’. In the absence of a deeper understanding of the employee ownership structure by some commentators, it is sometimes the case that this innovative and progressive structure of business ownership is also labelled - as a form of socialism. This was the case recently, in what was an otherwise excellent article about the transitions to employee ownership by Union Industries and Aardman Animations. I could use the rest of this article explaining why I don’t ...

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The Future of Work – there’s an ownership solution

Author: Cathy Brown, EOA Operations Director The world is changing, and work (and all the surrounding structures like education, taxes and business ownership) have to change as well. At the moment, the world of work is in a state of tension, where demographic, technological and societal pressures are driving bottom up change in us as people, but our workplaces, ownership models and leadership structures are still operating in the old ways. The generation now coming into the workforce will drive an even stronger requirement to recruit and then retain skilled people. ...

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Better together – why the UK needs bipartisan action to enable more employee ownership

Working together inevitably delivers better outcomes and more value. However, it’s hard to do, and in particular politically, as it requires compromise that is difficult to achieve. So it was encouraging to hear of bipartisan cooperation on employee ownership in the US where President Trump has recently signed the Main Street Employee Ownership Act. With estimated potential to double or even triple the growth rate of employee-owned companies over the next decade as well as stabilising jobs in local communities and reducing inequality by giving more employees a ...

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Equality is the much needed rescue remedy for the UK economy

One glance at the business and mainstream news illustrates the deep problems facing the UK economy as businesses collapse on the high street, wages continue to stagnate although interest rates are rising and more working families’ incomes are being topped up by the government. It is clear that change is needed. And whilst the UK ponders Brexit – deal or no deal – there is work to be done to make sure that UK business is as resilient as it can be. With 10% of the wealthiest people in the UK owning almost 70% of financial wealth and today’s news from the High ...

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Bigger Thinking Series Part 6 – Potential on Tap: What does the Ownership Dividend mean for the UK economy?

Our ‘Bigger Thinking’ series has explored and explained how the employee owned business structure affects performance and productivity, corporate governance and employee voice. As this first series draws to a close, it is clear there is potential in employee ownership for businesses aspiring for a sustainable structure that benefits the individual, the business and the regional and wider economy. In 2017, the EOA, in partnership with The eaga Trust and the John Lewis Partnership, commissioned an inquiry led by an independent panel of UK senior business leaders ...

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EOA Bigger Thinking Series part 5: Supporting the Spinouts

Rethinking how to deliver public services and consideration of how new delivery channels will be viewed by the public is a priority for leadership in every public sector body across the UK. Whilst there is a growing acceptance by the majority of the public that the current models must evolve, the recent collapse of Carillion highlights a major issue for this evolution. The same ownership structures or levels of governance do not bind such privately owned outsourced providers delivering many of these important public sector contracts. This creates a significant risk ...

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Bigger Thinking Series Part 4: Growth and scale-up – Growing a Business that Goes the Distance

Growing a Business that Goes the Distance “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” James Penney, Founder of JC Penney In any market in any economy, one of the biggest challenges is the notion of ‘business growth’. With regular stories of the UK’s flat productivity and slow growth, nobody seems to have THE answer on how to kick start the UK’s economy especially during the great pause many businesses are experiencing as they try to unpick what Brexit might mean for them. A company’s approach to scaling up and ...

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CEO blog: Employee ownership’s role in our ‘special relationship’

Whilst French President Emmanuel Macron may have attempted to steal the ‘special relationship’ label of the UK and USA during his recent visit, after speaking at the National Centre for Employee Ownership’s (NCEO) annual conference in Atlanta recently, I am confident of the UK’s hold over that label – at least where employee ownership is concerned. For during my trip, I was struck by the similarities between these seemingly different employee ownership worlds. Firstly, we share the same challenges. Whilst there are almost 7,000 firms in the US that would ...

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Bigger Thinking Series Part 3 – Planning for success; planning for succession

It sounds incredible that successful UK companies, responsible for employing hundreds if not thousands of people may have business shelf lives that are wholly reliant upon either the existing directors living forever, or the business being sold, uprooted or asset stripped. Shockingly, this is the case for many businesses today. Without a strategy for succession of ownership, the jobs, profits and products of these companies will potentially simply cease to exist, or disappear According to Imperial College Business School, only 20 percent of UK family-owned businesses ...

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Bigger Thinking Series Part 2: Productivity and Performance Post-Brexit

2018 will be a year of change for UK businesses in so many ways; Brexit has seen to that. 2017 ended with news headlines of UK productivity lagging across a many markets. Now, in 2018, predictions regarding productivity levels, combined with the uncertainty of Brexit, are at times, as wild and varied as the process of exit is complicated. And whether you're forlorn about the grand exit, or delighted, the fact remains; the future success of the UK economy in a post-Brexit era will be heavily influenced by levels of productivity. The UK media has been focused on ...

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Assets don’t exist, only people

If business leaders genuinely believe that their people are their best ‘assets’ and make their brand so special, then why do so few employees get to input into management-level decisions? Why are most boardrooms made up of a tiny handful of people who do not even come close to representing the wider make-up of the workforce accurately? From recruitment adverts to marketing campaigns, time and time again, I see companies boasting about how ‘their people are their biggest asset’ and how much they are loved by the business leaders. But when you scratch beneath the ...

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Employee ownership is the antithesis of broken capitalism

As we welcome yesterday's policy paper from IPPR which looks to redress the in balance of wealth and its effects on the UK economy it joins the voices of many across business, society, the media and politics that capitalism MUST start to deliver more than simply financial value to senior executives and corporate shareholders. Those organisations with behaviours focused on generating short term, executive wealth, rather than protecting long term business health, are increasingly being called out as examples of 'broken capitalism'. The questions about the current ...

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Bigger Thinking Series 1 – Mastering Corporate Governance and Engagement

This year I had the pleasure of chairing the UK Employee Ownership Awards, which recognise employee owned companies that have set their markets alight and delighted their customers by effectively engaging their employees via an ownership stake and culture. It's been a privilege to hear first hand these success stories, from various industries, including start-ups and seasoned SMEs, and including household brands - each delivering meaningful and memorable customer experiences. However, in contrast to this very positive experience, the media has had cause throughout the ...

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5 lessons I’ve learnt from my first 5 years

Deb Oxley speaking at the 2017 Summer Dinner
Today (1st December 2017) I celebrate 5 years with the Employee Ownership Association (EOA). And whilst 5 years is not necessarily an anniversary normally celebrated (unless my husband is reading this, in which case, our upcoming 5th wedding anniversary IS to be celebrated!), reaching this milestone has caused me to reflect and consider what have I learnt in that time. #1 - It’s a team game Leading a not for profit membership organisation is the biggest team game ever! The EOA is not just a small but perfectly formed executive group of Oli, Keely, Lisa, Hannah, ...

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Dream It, Dare It, Do It – a message to the Chancellor

Having recently attended an EOA member's event, entitled, ‘Dream It, Dare It, Do It’, I was left wondering what I might dream the Chancellor could dare to do in his budget this week to enable more employee ownership in the UK. As we seek answers to the UK’s ‘productivity puzzle’, there is stubborn inequality in prosperity between London and the rest of the UK, and the corporate behaviours of some of the UK’s largest businesses continue to disappoint, the Chancellor has a unique opportunity in this week’s budget to make a difference. Undeniably, Govern...

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CEO Blog: To be trusted, businesses must be trustworthy

I have written previously about the danger of the promulgation of the ‘fake news’ message and how it risks undermining public trust. And as a Commissioner on the Vibrant Economy, I was delighted to contribute to Grant Thornton’s Business Case for Trust publication which highlights the importance of trust in business. More than ever, it is clear that trust in business is not just a matter of economics, but is now a matter of survival. Without trust, there can be little belief or confidence in an organisation by its employees, its suppliers, its customers or the ...

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CEO viewpoint moving employee ownership into the mainstream – a marathon not a sprint

When we set ourselves big ambitions, it is the planning at the outset that is most important. When I decided I might just be able to run a marathon, it was running for 30 mins without stopping that was my first significant achievement.  Before I knew it, I was running for 90 minutes, then 120 and then… 6 months later and after 4 hours 30 mins, I completed that first marathon. I am now more convinced than ever that getting to a point when employee ownership is an every day occurrence will be a similar marathon feat, but that the early signs of us reaching those key ...

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More employee ownership is essential for economy and society in post-Brexit UK

From when the Industrial Strategy Green Paper was launched and then as the snap election prompted manifestos from the main three parties, I have not hidden my disappointment that they do not fully acknowledge the role Employee Ownership plays and the impact it could have in supporting the UK economy. In the Conservative manifesto, the party announced its plans for representation of workers on company boards. Whilst these plans may force listed companies to either create stakeholder advisory panels, designate an existing non-executive director as the employee represent...

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CEO Blog: Employee ownership is the real deal

The new narrative of ‘post truth’, ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ should not be viewed as simply a harmless evolution of modern vocabulary. These new phrases are seeping into society and are gradually starting to undermine public trust; in everything from the business of news reporting, the opinions of experts, the role of politicians and even the decisions of the judiciary. In a world of social media, instant communication and Presidential tweets, the impact of this new narrative is hugely concerning, as a society without trust is a broken society. ...

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We can do better; shining a light on corporate governance in employee owned businesses

In inviting responses to the Corporate Governance Reform Green Paper, government has reignited an important debate to consider the impact of the current structures of corporate governance of the UK’s listed or quoted businesses on society and the economy. At a time when trust in many of the UK’s biggest and most important institutions is at rock bottom, the economy is experiencing uncertain times, and with an urgent need to maintain consumer confidence, the publishing of this Green Paper opens up a much-needed dialogue about how business can do better. Ask any of ...

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CEO viewpoint: ‘The ownership effect’

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the Co-operative Party conference, ‘In our interest; building an economy for all’, where the topic was responsible business. Obviously, this is something close to the heart of the EOA as it is a phrase frequently used to describe the way in which businesses that the EOA represents, those that are employee owned. The sector, which employs over 300k people, and contributes around £30bn to the economy each year, that’s about 4% of GDP,  is growing at pace - at about 10% per annum, as entrepreneurs use the model to ...

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A tale of two cities; reflections on the Autumn Statement

Having returned to my desk after our Annual Conference, on the day of what we now know is to be the last Autumn Statement, I was struck by the stark contrast in the two events. At our Conference in Birmingham I was in the company of almost 650 wonderful employee owners who were optimistic, collaborative, passionate and purposed about how to deliver better business. This annual gathering is the highlight of the employee ownership year, and is the biggest opportunity each year to focus attention on a part of the economy worth over £30bn, and at 4%, makes a larger ...

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Employees on boards? We’re already on it.

In the immediate aftermath of the prime minister’s brave call for more ‘employees on boards’ I was saddened, but not altogether surprised, by some of the immediate defiance to the idea. For businesses in the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) membership, the response has, unsurprisingly, been far more positive.  It reinforces what many of them know – that having employees engaged at every level of business operation is a hugely positive thing to do. As revealed in a recent survey of employee owned businesses, conducted by the brilliant Professors Andrew ...

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All change – what the EU Referendum might mean for the growth of employee ownership

Politicians are debating. Lobbyists are championing. Commentators are pondering. Business leaders are worrying. And the majority of the population are still somewhat confused, wondering whether there will be any sudden clarity before the EU Referendum to help us cast our vote with more confidence. Whilst there are different scenarios being described about the likely impact of the result, the honest truth is that no one knows for sure what the outcome of the vote next week will mean – to the UK, to business or to the individual. However, what most people do agree is ...

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Summer Dinner 2016 Address

A real highlight of the EOA’s events calendar, our annual Summer Dinner – my first as CEO – took place on Thursday 9th June at the Palace of Westminster. As part of the evening, I had the pleasure of addressing more than 150 of our members and felt very lucky to be doing so in such wonderful surroundings and, of course, at such a momentous time.  You could almost smell the anticipation of what might happen there on 23 June. Whilst the EU referendum campaign has been polarised – and in most people’s opinion, too-often negative – the one thing that most ...

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Less New Year and more New Dawn?

By Deb Oxley, CEO of the EOA At the start of each New Year, most of us look with optimism and hope at what the next 12 months might deliver.  And with the usual excesses of the season behind us, we make promises and set targets to stop doing things – don’t eat certain things, don’t smoke, don’t drink (at least for a while!).  Unfortunately most of these big promises fail as they are too ambitious, forcing us to make too many big changes all at once, and they are about not doing the things we are used to doing. An alternative way of thinking might be that, ...

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Leading The Way

In his latest Chief Executive Blog Iain Hasdell discusses how the UK is now a leading European force on employee ownership.

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Taking the Chance

In his latest Chief Executive Blog Iain Hasdell discusses how the July UK Budget can help keep the employee ownership sector booming.

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Our Leap Forward

In his latest Chief Executive Blog, Iain Hasdell discusses the remarkable growth of employee ownership in the UK.

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A Silk Hat

Iain discusses the General Election and the resurgence of employee ownership in the last three years...

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A Better Way of Doing Business

Employee ownership remains the fastest growing form of business in the UK...

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Phenomenal Year Ahead

Monthly blog from the EOA's Chief Executive Iain Hasdell...

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Mould in Our Hands

It has been a brilliant, unprecedented twelve months for employee ownership in the UK....

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Our Hidden Deficit

A hugely positive outcome of the 2008/9 financial crash has been the emergence of a broad consensus on one of the biggest challenge facing the UK economy and our public services. It has taken a long time. But there is now a growing understanding amongst politicians across the spectrum, business leaders, and opinion formers that we have to overcome our productivity deficit. There is an acceptance that it needs to be dramatically improved at pace. We are on average 20% behind our main industrialised competitors when it comes to private sector productivity. And in our ...

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A Positive Pause

General awareness of employee ownership, particularly amongst businesses, advisors, funders and politicians has risen to unprecedented levels. Familiarity with the long termism and high productivity it delivers is also rapidly rising, buoyed by the phenomenal success of UK Employee Ownership Day 2014 last month. EO Day 2014 was the most successful single initiative ever mounted in the UK to profile the extent and benefits of employee ownership. Critically, the evidence base about employee ownership has been getting stronger throughout this year as well. The number ...

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Modernising the UK

So let us focus instead on a different and much more positive debate about the UK establishment, in this case the business and economic establishment. The business and economic establishment, and I include here the majority of financiers, professional advisors, politicians, civil servants, policy advisors and business leaders, support or at least accept a particular paradigm. The paradigm is of an economy with a disproportionately high number of businesses that are externally owned and operate with a dominant goal of driving near term external shareholder value. An ...

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