Our Leap Forward

Juliet Capulet’s question to Romeo Montague “What’s in a name?” reminds us names of people, places, businesses, social groups, and so on can be profoundly important.

Names of conferences are often significant too. We have just opened for bookings for our 2015 Annual Conference in November. In each of the past two years the Conference has been sold out well ahead of the event so our launch this year is much earlier to give people every possible opportunity to book to be there.  This early launch has forced some accelerated thinking about names.

I have named our 2015 Conference ‘Building the New Economy’. The name is a straightforward recognition of the tremendous leap forward employee ownership has made over the last three years. Three years ago the Ownership Commission called for much more employee ownership. It put out a compelling case that we all have a stake in how UK businesses create value over the long term. It argued that significantly more employee ownership would ensure a greater number of businesses act consistently in the best interests not just of their owners but of our wider economy and society.

The Ownership Commission sparked a vibrant debate about an aspiration. It was an aspiration for a greater plurality of ownership in our economy with more employee ownership being a key part of the desired way forward. The fuse had been ignited.

Three years down the line that aspiration is in the process of being achieved. The shift from aspiration to consistent implementation is irreversible. The aspiration is being achieved because the number of employee owned businesses in the UK has been growing at an annual rate of around 9% over the last three years with the pace of growth set to further improve. So we are seeing a dynamic increase in the number of highly productive, very profitable and long term businesses in the UK that engage their employees, and that invest in their local communities. These employee owned businesses are, as a direct consequence of their ownership model, outperforming their externally owned competitors in every part of the economy including in the delivery of public services.

Consequently, we remain broadly on track towards the EOA’s now widely endorsed goal that I first announced in 2012 of 10% of UK GDP being delivered by employee owned businesses by the end of 2020. The EOA and its Members are playing a pivotal role in this sustained growth of employee ownership. Our campaign to raise the profile of employee ownership in the press, media and amongst business owners and their advisors is paying dividends. So too is our work with existing employee owned businesses to optimize the benefits of their ownership structures and our unique assistance to those moving into employee ownership. There has never before been a period in our economic and social history in which so many steps forward have been taken on employee ownership. As I have said for a long time now, we are very much in the decade of UK employee ownership.  But there is absolutely no danger of complacency setting in. There is still an enormous amount to do and I can guarantee the EOA will remain in the vanguard of this movement for change.

However it is completely right that from time to time we briefly pause to celebrate achievements to date and in doing so renew our energy for the challenges ahead. The great leap forward from the aspirational thinking of the Ownership Commission to the on-going delivery of the aspiration today is nothing short of remarkable. By paying tribute to this progress the name of our 2015 Conference provides a great opportunity to stop and think about how far we have come.

I am sure some amongst the massed ranks of marketing and brand gurus out there will tell us the name of our 2015 Conference is not sufficiently emotionally charged or that it lacks depth and dimension (or whatever the in vogue advice on such things is). And Shakespeare would probably have turned his nose up at our choice of words.

But what matters now is that we really are building a new economy. The surge to our 10% of GDP target has truly started. So let us together keep up the momentum!

Iain Hasdell is Chief Executive of the EOA