Our duty to become more relevant and important

The post-holiday injection of enthusiasm and energy that autumn normally brings, is boosted for me this year with even more hopeful anticipation and expectation.

Whilst the political and economic landscapes have changed dramatically in the last three months – as I proposed in the last edition of EO Today this change is something that the employee ownership sector can and must capitalise on.

The prime minister’s new narrative of inclusive capitalism outlined in her recent speech, combined with society’s higher expectations and demands of how business should behave, described so fluently by our friend Maggie Pagano, and the oppositions’ recent call for more ‘Right to Own’ each illustrate the unique opportunity for the employee owned sector to demonstrate its relevance and importance.

It is therefore our duty now to ensure that we capitalise on this opportunity.

Employee ownership is relevant because it delivers approx. 3% of GDP annually, and as can be seen in the 2016 Top 50 by a cross section of sectors of the economy.

Employee ownership is relevant because it delivers a fairer, more inclusive structure to engage the talents and capabilities of all employees, leading to more productive and profitable businesses that have out-performed the UK economy.

Employee ownership is also relevant because it is a model which delivers long term, sustainable and resilient economic return, to regional markets and the national economy – the perfect contributor to the often maligned, but highly relevant Northern Powerhouse.

And employee ownership is important because it provides a brilliant route for founders of privately owned businesses and family owned firms to plan their succession, for entrepreneurs to attract the right talent as they plan a start-up or for public service workers who seek to secure the future of a service through the creation of a public service mutual.

I was reminded however how the move to employee ownership is still seen as quirky and different when EOA member Classic Motor Cars announced its own transition last month. Whilst the benevolence of giving your business away is not how most owners plan their move to employee ownership, this is a fantastic example of why the model is chosen by so many founders.  Whilst the media coverage was phenomenal – and a great opportunity to raise awareness – some of the coverage described the move as ‘unusual’ or ‘out of the ordinary’.

The sector’s relevance and importance have therefore never been greater BUT we must continue in our shared challenge of ensuring employee ownership moves even further into the mainstream of UK business.

So as we look forward to the 11th annual EOA Conference in November, I am once again excited, energised and positive.

Excited by the tremendous opportunity to welcome over 600 delegates the UK’s biggest gathering of employee owners with the chance to showcase the very best of employee ownership through seminars and presentations.

Energised because the Conference provides employee owned businesses the opportunity to publicly celebrate their successes through the presentation of the UK EO Awards.

And positive because bringing over 600 colleagues from the sector together provides another high profile opportunity for the voice of this innovative and vibrant area of the economy to be heard.

Employee ownership is a key ingredient in our future economy.

Our shared duty now is to demonstrate its relevance and importance so that it is recognised as THE opportunity to build a more progressive, inclusive capitalism that really does work for everyone.