Employee ownership has its plus points

Probably the best-known example of employee ownership in the UK is the John Lewis Partnership. Picture: Getty

Probably the best-known example of employee ownership in the UK is the John Lewis Partnership. Picture: Getty

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Giving greater power to a larger number of people – or even the whole company – might sound like madness, but to us it made complete sense. Being in business for nearly 30 years, we are proud of our reputation as trusted advisers to our clients, along with being known for the quality of our research and the strong sense of community in the firm, so becoming employee-owned seemed like the logical next step.

Probably the best-known example of employee ownership in the UK is department store group the John Lewis Partnership. However, the success of this chosen business model is more widely reflected through research, which shows that employee-owned businesses tend to outperform in their sector, are resilient in lean times, and are more likely to innovate than other ownership structures.

Removing the element of need to drive profits for the benefits of external shareholders, companies can take the long-term view and develop with much greater flexibility.

For example, having operated in Scotland for more than 20 years we recently opened our first Scottish office in 2014, while transitioning to employee ownership. Both of these moves were strategic decisions for the business, and were driven by collective agreement from partners. Neither a management buy-out or merger were options that we considered in line with our own long-standing values and strategy.

As a business with just over 70 partners, we are already seeing the benefits for even greater buy-in to success and growth from across the whole company, and a commitment to delivering the greatest quality of work whilst maintaining the culture.

Employee-owned organisations are the fastest growing form of business ownership in the UK and in 2014 the total number of employee-owned businesses rose by 9 per cent, with particularly strong interest from across the SME sector.

As Scotland, and the UK as a whole, is still witnessing, there is a strong need for sustained economic growth from across all sectors. With greater levels of inclusivity, flexibility and true personal investment, more employee-owned businesses could be just the response that the economy and businesses need.

• Stephen Bampfylde is founder of and partner at Saxton Bampfylde

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