EO Today Member Spotlight: Space Syntax

Leading urban planning, transport, building design, social interaction and spatial economics specialists Space Syntax was founded at University College London in 1989, and has recently made the transition to employee ownership.

Based in London, the business operates as part of a group of companies with offices in Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Syndney and Tokyo.  It  works for a wide range of clients both internationally and domestically, on projects as diverse as a major public infrastructure project in the Middle-East, and acting in an advisory capacity with the UK Government on the 50 year future of UK cities.

After hearing a piece on employee ownership on Radio 4 in 2009, Tim Stonor, the Managing Director of Space Syntax, began to investigate the topic. As he became aware of other employee owned companies operating in the same field, such as  MAKE and Arup, he made the Board of Directors and Senior Management Team  aware of the model.  In 2015 this led to the company adopting employee ownership  as a means of formalising the elements of their company culture that recognise the commitment, hard work and enthusiasm of employees.

Partnering with EOA Specialist Advisers and member Baxendale, who provided advice and guidance, particularly in the financial and legal aspects of the process, Space Syntax has moved to become 75% owned by an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). Although the transition is ongoing, the reaction by staff has been extremely positive, with a real enthusiasm within the Senior Management Team to learn and lead the organisation into a fully employee-owned culture. As a member of the EOA, Space Syntax has benefitted from introductions and links to other organisations within the employee owned sector, providing  access to to wealth of experience of the issues and experiences that face employee owned companies.

As the transition to employee ownership is quite recent,  the long term impact  is yet to be quantified fully. However the development of an Employee Council, combined with a host of other tools including surveys and training sessions, will help all employees engage fully in the new ownership structure and provide everyone in the business with the skills they need as employee owners. This has established the foundation of an organisation that will be successfully employee owned for many years to come, and the EOA looks forward to hearing more from Space Syntax as they continue their journey.