Maslins – Our EO Story: ‘Working together to keep the complicated simple’

Maslins is an accountancy firm, assisting freelancers and contractors with their accounts and taxes. We are based in Tunbridge Wells but assist clients from all over the UK, thanks to us being an early adopter of cloud-based accounting software.

The company formed in 2009 and has steadily grown from strength to strength since. We are currently a 13-strong team (12 humans & one Labradoodle!) and on July 1st, 2021, we became employee-owned. As we approach our first anniversary of employee ownership we can look back on some inspiring changes and improvements that we’ve made as a team.

Away from Maslins our independent trustee, Neil Williams, is a business coach. As well as joining the management team for regular strategy meetings, he has also provided coaching for the three newly created members of the management team – providing them with the support and skills needed to step up to their new roles.

Alongside Neil and our founder, Chris, we also voted on our staff member trustee, Moira, and employee council leader, Tom. Tom has been active in calling whole company meetings to discuss various staff concerns and helping the team find their voice.

Simplicity and clarity inform all company decisions

One of the first meetings called by Tom was to discuss Maslins’ values – highlighting what was important to us, our clients, and the community. A common theme that came up again and again was simplicity, and so the Maslins tagline was born “Working together to keep the complicated simple”.

This overarching ethos of simplicity and clarity informs all company decisions and we’ve woven it into our new improved website which is being built right now. Hopefully, the site will be a clearer more concise view of who we are as a company and the ethos that underpins everything we do.

The process of becoming employee-owned has had us looking carefully at our staff members and how they are coping with the change, but we wanted to take the opportunity to check in with our clients too.

In March 2022, we engaged the services of an external provider to send an online survey to our clients. The survey has informed our plans for the coming year, such as starting work on developing a welcome pack for new joiners.

We were heartened to hear that our Net Promoter Score (NPS) was 90 – meaning our clients are very happy and ultimately aligned with our principles. Indeed, the response from clients to our new employee-owned status has been overwhelmingly positive.

One anonymous quote from the survey said: “The employee ownership at Maslins gave me more confidence that whoever deals with my account will have more desire to deliver a quality service.”

Commitment to training

As a continued commitment to equality and inclusion, Maslins recruits trainees who largely don’t have any prior formal training/experience. They can often be school leavers, graduates or people looking to establish a new career and who would otherwise struggle to fund the training themselves.

We put our staff through AAT, ACCA, and CTA qualifications as an investment in the next generation of accountants.

We have been awarded ACCA Platinum Approved Employer status and this year the team made the decision to offer these qualifications via an apprenticeship route. This means extra soft skills training and subsidised training costs, ultimately meaning higher profits to share with the team.

Putting our staff at the centre of decisions which will directly impact them has been enlightening. We have also looked at the reallocation of tasks and clients among team members. This gives the dual benefit of giving more responsibility to mid-level staff and freeing up time for the newly appointed leaders.

Since becoming employee-owned we have taken on two new trainees and are currently interviewing for a third. We will continue to invest in junior staff as the future of our business.

All in all, the well-being of our staff is key and becoming employee-owned has helped cement that mindset. Knowing that our team would soon be receiving fairly substantial profit shares, we arranged for an independent financial adviser to come in and give advice on what they could think about investing their money into.

Our HR team also created some remuneration documents for our staff, so that they could see the total benefit of working for Maslins – not just the headline yearly wage, but the profit share, pension contributions, their training spend and all the soft benefits such as food, weekly massages, and charity donations.

‘Business for good’ model

Becoming employee-owned aligned so beautifully with the inspiring ethos Maslins had already shaped but it has enabled us to build on that ‘business for good’ model further.

Every year we donate a large percentage of our profits to charity (22% in 2021-22 tax year). For several years, we have asked each staff member to nominate a charity close to their heart then Maslins donates £200 each month to that charity on that employee’s behalf.

This creates a natural cyclical effect. Happy motivated staff = well looked after clients = greater profit = money back into staff and community.

Since becoming employee-owned we also voted as a group to donate £10,000 to a Ukrainian charity, since one of our staff members is from Ukraine and it was a cause close to all our hearts.

Our first year as an employee-owned business has been a fun and busy one. Founder Chris is such a convert to the model that he has set up a new company, Go EO Ltd – encouraging and assisting others to take this route too.

We can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

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