Looking ahead; looking up

“Change is the only constant” is a famous quote by a Greek philosopher – and how true that has turned out to be for the UK in recent weeks.

It’s doubtful that any of us could have predicted that, by the middle of 2016, the UK would be about to start a journey to forge a new relationship with the world from outside of the EU, or that we would have a new prime minister who has placed development of the UK’s industrial and economic strategy at the top of her agenda.

For many businesses, this change is concerning, but for others it’s also a chance to look positively and confidently to what opportunities might lie ahead.

The EOA sits firmly in the latter group and the Board and I are resolute that we will work, with our members and others, to ensure that we continue to identify opportunities to grow the size and impact of employee ownership in the UK.

We will prioritise identifying the most effective ways that employee ownership can support the new prime minister’s ambition to help build a Britain for everyone, by creating relationships with new Ministers and exploring how we can actively support delivery of the government’s objectives.

We will continue to identify ways to influence the understanding and appreciation of employee ownership by accountants, lawyers and funders, at a time when some market activity may have stalled due to a lack of confidence and where employee ownership might be able to unlock the succession planning ambitions of business owners.

And we will continue to support our members who are leading existing employee-owned businesses as they adjust to the new environment that a post-Brexit economy will bring.

Whilst many of us were not planning for Brexit – it’s critical that the employee ownership community continues to build on the current momentum of interest in our sector and makes the most of the opportunities that will no doubt arise.

I believe that the sector is really well placed to do this, not just because the employee ownership business model is proven to be more resilient and sustainable during challenging times, but because change sits at the heart of how many businesses became employee-owned in the first place.

Whether through succession planning or being spun out of local government, many employee-owned businesses will already have successfully faced significant change at their creation; a change of ownership, of culture and often of leadership.

And whether to protect the future of their business, leave a legacy, develop better customer service, reward staff or establish a new service, each has managed this change whilst being clear about its purpose.

So the EOA, its members and the wider employee ownership sector should not be fearful of the change ahead.  Instead we should embrace it, looking forwards and upwards at the emerging opportunities so that we can continue to prosper and thrive in the new post-Brexit era.