The case for employee ownership is closed. Research demonstrates that when a business is owned by its employees, it is more profitable and productive, with happier staff and customers, and more likely to be innovative than conventionally structured businesses. A further report published last year by the Employment Research Institute at Napier University found that working in an employee-owned firm had a positive impact on employee well-being. And this begs the question – if employee ownership is so good, why is there not more of it?
The biggest obstacle to wider adoption of`employee owned business models is purely and simply lack of awareness. Just not enough business owners know the option exists. Furthermore, the Nuttall report identified that lawyers and accountants were not sufficiently acquainted with the model which means that if a business owner does decide on this route, then they may find it a challenge getting the right advice.
For the past year I’ve been working on a project with Co-operative Development Scotland which aims to raise the levels of awareness and knowledge of employee owned business models within the Scottish professional adviser community. This includes lawyers, accountants, bankers, investors and membership institutes and organisations.
So far, almost 70 firms have engaged in the process, many holding internal training or external client events. Interest has been encouragingly high, and more than that, most firms will have had some exposure to an employee owned business. Several advisers have since identified clients who they think might consider adopting the model, usually as an exit strategy.
We are now continuing this work and introducing employee ownership as a topic into CPD and training programmes via the Institutes: The Law Society of Scotland, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland.
Employee ownership is no longer a secret. Now word is out, we can look forward to more companies joining what is a successful and dynamic community, strengthening the economy by finding a better way to do business.