Lecture inspires the quest for a ‘new normal’ of businesses doing well while doing good

More than 190 people gathered last week for the annual Robert Oakeshott Lecture, in which Sacha Romanovitch, CEO of Grant Thornton LLP, inspired the audience with her lecture on why the world was ready for a ‘new normal’.

In the prestigious surroundings of the ICAEWs Chartered Accountants Hall, Sacha shared her journey so far leading Grant Thornton’s move to shared enterprise and its purpose of shaping a Vibrant Economy, which focuses on restoring trust and integrity in business, unlocking the potential for dynamic business to grow and creating environments where business and people thrive.

Attendees heard how Sacha’s journey is not an easy one but that when ideas and people come together, harnessed by the right kind of  leadership it is possible for businesses to do well doing good.

This the 5th Robert Oakeshott Lecture, an annual event which commemorates Robert’s work as the founder of the EOA and pioneer in employee ownership, is one of the ways in which the EOA and Grant Thornton is working together, with the EOA’s CEO Deb Oxley also sitting as commissioner on the Vibrant Economy Commission.

Deb Oxley said: “I’m delighted that there is great relevance in both our choice of venue and our speaker for the 5th annual Robert Oakeshott lecture – professional service companies are the fastest growing part of the EO sector – representing 43% of EOA membership and approximately 45% of the businesses that have transitioned to EO in the last 2 years . Also, accountants are key to creating more awareness and stimulating greater take up of employee ownership.

“I would like to thank Sacha for her inspiring lecture that captivated our audience. For a while now at the EOA we have been talking about mainstreaming employee ownership and Sacha’s call for a new normal is something we will wholeheartedly embrace with the clear role the employee ownership sector has to play in supporting better ways of doing business and  supporting the right cultures in businesses that help  to drive an economy that works for all.

“Placing people at the heart of a business, through shared ownership and effective engagement is proven to contribute positively to productivity levels as it stimulates greater innovation, encourages more personal discretional effort and enables more empowered decision making. As we look to weather uncertainty during Brexit, businesses with these types of cultures not only perform better but also show a great deal of resilience.”

Sacha’s well-received lecture follows in the footsteps of the four previous Robert Oakeshott Lecture speakers; leading influencer Will Hutton, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership Sir Charlie Mayfield, and MPs Nick Clegg and Francis Maude.

Sacha said: “The legacy my mum left me with was that when ideas and people come together they can change the world. And when I set out on this journey I asked how we can leave something sustainable for our future generations.

“When we looked at our shared purpose we looked beyond our company and how we could make a real impact in the world – I thought I’m partner with 4500 people  in the UK around me, ok I’m a partner and I’ve got 40,000 colleagues around the world, yeah okay that’s good, but I thought  it’s still not enough is it?

“And then I thought no lets look at this in a different way, we advise a third of all local authorities our private sector clients employ 6.3 million people, 25% of all private sector employees in the UK, ok that sounds a bit more impressive in terms of the possibilities for influencing and shaping, and then we look at where we could be valuable and bring about change.”

“Our work so far has seen us bring together 100 faces of a vibrant economy as well as convene 2-300 people in each of 6 UK cities and worked towards a shared purpose and action that will impact the economy, giving the room to share what is good, looking at how we see the opportunities during the fast paced seismic changes we are seeing from changes in funding, migration, economy shifts and automation.

“What I really would hope, in the memory of Robert Oakeshott who started this movement, is that if we are at a point where we could create a new normal, where people are at the heart of business, where business is at the heart of society, where the responsibility to put purpose at your core, to allow you to flourish and make a difference, is how we really do live and work every day. That’s my dream that I’d like to pass to my children.”