Salad Creative – Our EO Story: Forging deeper connections to drive success

Salad Creative is a 100% employee-owned strategic, creative and digital partner to a wide variety of organisations. We believe in the power of partnership to create cultural and commercial impact for our clients, empowering them to acknowledge and celebrate their authentic identity and own their digital futures.

Together, we create, elevate and revitalise brands, craft customer experience, design communications and build digital products from our bases in Poole, Dorset, and Soho, London.

It has been one year since we transitioned to employee ownership, which has impacted our ways of working, culture and how we’re working together as a team to shape our future.

It’s been a huge year of discovery and learning having made the plunge to EO as we felt it was the best way to protect our culture in the long term, and the best way to have a gradual, open and honest succession plan.

Big changes

The way we run the business has fundamentally changed since the transition. Structurally we now have three entities to the business: the Trust Board, the Salad Board and the Employee Council. Each of these have distinct roles and responsibilities. We’ve also promoted an existing employee to be a new board director. Here are other ways we’ve seen change:

  • There is a lot of unity: As a consciously small senior team you could argue that we may have had this anyway. But it feels more meaningful. As an EOT there is a legal requirement to share more, but we’re not doing it just to tick a box. We want to be the best version of an EOT that we can, and there is a strong desire to develop an even more open, collaborative and consultative leadership style. We share information via quarterly Employee Council meetings open to all employees, with monthly financial performance reporting, including headline KPIs and full P&L, as well as having the opportunity for anyone to ask questions and understand our commercial and financial position.
  • We’ve redefined our proposition: Arguably what every EOT needs to do after transition. We’ve looked at who we are and why we exist, and updated our branded touchpoints to reflect this new messaging. Whilst brilliantly led by our Strategy & Creative Director, Harry, this work was co-created by everyone in the team which has meant alignment and buy-in in a whole new way.
  • Everyone is an owner: Salad is now owned by a trust of which employees become a beneficiary after one year of employment. The reality of being an owner is that it sometimes means taking difficult decisions, but everyone has stepped up and it feels like the load has been shared and there is a whole new level of proactivity and accountability. This new level of business understanding also directly impacts our clients, everyone has a deeper understanding of the challenges our clients face running their own businesses.
  • Vision: We’ve revisited our goals and written a new business plan. We now have Vision days every quarter and the advantage of our size is that these can be attended by everyone. This means we’re debating and crafting the important stuff together and the result is a new entrepreneurial vibe and drive for success. It’s exciting to be doing this as a team. Two-way communication with the team – not just presenting strategic plans, but listening to everyone’s professional hopes, ambitions and desires – helps inform Salad’s corporate Vision.
  • Our culture is stronger than ever: We have just returned from a team jolly to Copenhagen. After a brilliant trip to Madrid in 2017 it was great to get on a plane again as a team and soak up the delights of such an iconic global destination. And whilst last time it could have been seen as a ‘gift’ bestowed by the owners, this was a very different decision: this time it was ‘our’ money we were spending. The three-day team trip celebrating one-year of our EOT together helped forge deeper connections. Meanwhile, we are also investing in engaged relationships. We have invested in considering individual and company motivation and work satisfaction through ‘Motivational Maps’ profiling tool.
  • We’ve been fortunate to share our success in the first year of being an EOT: While we feel strongly it’s not all down to money, being able to share the spoils when we have them is an obvious benefit to the team. Having the ability to award up to £3,600 tax free every year to each beneficiary (and more which is taxed) fills us with the most immense pride as we’ve been able to pay out 15% of net profits to our beneficiaries. This is on the back of having 52% sales growth on the previous year, which was also 28.72% above budget, and hitting our budget profit target two years running.

We’re only one year in and there’s still more learning and developing to do. The real test will be when the chips are down and we’ve not faced this as an employee owned business yet. It will come, that’s the nature of running a business, but our hope is that our shared experience and strong sense of team will carry us through the hard times.

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