The place is buzzing with ideas – becoming EO is the icing on the cake as we celebrate our 75th anniversary | Folio Society guest blog

Blog by Tom Walker, Publishing Director at award-winning, employee-owned publisher The Folio Society

It really is celebration time here at The Folio Society! Not only are we still celebrating the fact we became employee owned in the last year, but we also mark 75 years as a business this October.

We’re enjoying our milestone birthday in many different ways, from heading to New York for a big party with publishers, agents and authors – as North America is our biggest market – to attending the EOA Annual Conference.

We’re producing a bibliography of the 75 years of Folio and giving away a library of 75 books from our backlist. Furthermore, we ran a campaign last year asking our readers what they would most like Folio to publish to celebrate the anniversary, and we whittled down thousands of entries to Michael Ende’s Fantasy classic, ‘The Neverending Story’.

This title seems apt. The Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) we now have in place will bring future sustainability for the business, and mean Folio has a good chance of being here for another 75 years and beyond.

Becoming employee owned a proud moment

As we look back, there are many things we can be proud of at The Folio Society.

Since 1947, we’ve been in the business of producing beautiful, hardback, illustrated classic books and for most of these 75 years Folio was a membership book club which required a commitment from members to buy books. We’re proud of how we were able to move away from this model and make the successful transition to become an online retailer.

This shift was a massive change, but it enabled us to build a new community of dedicated followers who love what we do, both in terms of loving beautiful books but also specific genres, authors and titles.

It was a bumpy decade, but in the last few years we’ve turned the business around, made it work, created a community and established a stable business, which we’re all really proud of.

An important part of having a long-term, sustainable business will be the EOT, which is something, having worked here for 16 years, I’m really proud of because it speaks to lots of things I value.

It’s a progressive idea, and something I would like to see more businesses doing in terms of sharing profit. It feels to me the best thing to happen to Folio in 75 years.

Tangible changes and benefits

We became employee owned in December 2021. It’s been a very smooth transition in the way we used to run our business to the way we do now, which has been reassuring.

One of the reasons it was quite seamless is because we had a collaborative business already, listening to people across the business rather than just the board imposing top-down decision making. That allowed for a lot of continuity, but also meant that moving to an EOT made sense because we already had that mindset.

The reality of the changes will come into play gradually, but I have already noticed a shift. When we have a board meeting, we are answerable to one another. When I select and pitch a book I think we should publish, I don’t have in the back of my head a shareholder to answer to any more: I’ve my colleagues and our customers, and that makes for cleaner lines and better decision making.

I’ve also noticed people really pushing for getting their ideas through, making sure they’re not missing a trick anywhere, and that if there’s an opportunity to be had we jump on it straight away.

As Publishing Director at The Folio Society I get a lot of ideas that come to me about the books we could do, and that has ramped up in the last year; the place is buzzing with ideas. I think that’s definitely, in part, because people are excited about the fact this is their business now; they feel responsible for it and want it to succeed.

Transitioning to the EOT feels like an amazing change for us as a business: we’re going into our 75th year on the back of two or three years of significant growth; we’re publishing some awesome books which our readers seem to love; and our community is growing into a cult following. We’re proud of what we make and we’re proud of the business culture. It’s a great place to work, and a fantastic business.

It’s a small business, it’s employee owned, and has a nice buzz about it; we’re making beautifully crafted books which bring people joy – what’s not to like! I really believe the EOT is the icing on the cake.

Related Articles

What is employee ownership?

EOA Podcast: Episode 8: Reaping the benefits of the decision to become EO – featuring The Folio Society

Six questions to consider when capturing employee voice | Helen Moreton blog

The Building Blocks of Good EO – Webinar – YouTube