Taking Away the Three Rs of Why EO Matters

Our conference last week has given me chance to pause and reflect on our 40th anniversary year so far.

While in the wider economic and political landscape not much has changed by way of gaining any kind of certainty, with little to be done right now but await the outcome of the 12th of December General Election, this year for us has been bigger and better!

There has been continued growth for the sector – growing by 18% in 2019 with SMEs and family business remaining dominant.

Our membership has tipped 400 for the first time ever and the EOA Annual Conference was a sell-out event – 715 people from 220 different organisations.

There have been lots of transitions during 2019 – Richer Sounds in May marked a tipping point – with media endorsement of Employee Ownership across broadsheets and tabloids alike.
The sector has started to move from niche to mainstream – though still a long way from mature – but with 35.6k SMEs sized 50-249 there’s lots of growth potential for employee ownership as a succession plan.

Meanwhile, both actions and relationships developed as part of the Ownership Dividend are taking shape as the EOA and sector plans for continued growth, including:

1. The first time we have run a full member survey helping us to plan for the future.
2. Launching a programme of new learning products for the sector.
3. And we also have taken our first steps into tackling the barriers to finance for employee ownership by launching an ‘Investing in Employee Ownership’ finance symposium which will take place in March 2020.

While key activities for building influence; with Coops UK in the #1MillionOwners campaign and with the FSB on supporting those who are looking at succession with further information, are continuing to bear fruit, it seems the stars are aligned for more cut-through even if the manifestos released by the major political parties fall a little short (or in some cases rather a lot) on support for more employee ownership.

However, what really strikes me, and that as we in the EOA team continue to up our game to influence the influencers, is how many of our members and supporters are right there with us lending their voice, their connections and their endorsement.

So from our conference and my refelections, I have taken away three Rs that most resonate about why employee ownership matters right now – it is resilient during a time of great uncertainty, relevant to supporting the challenges the country faces and restless – empowering us all to continually improve and innovate for the future.