The power of partnership: a conversation on employee ownership

We are proud to be an employee-owned (EO) business and have been since March 2019. All our Partners have a unified mission; to make a positive contribution, to give back to the world rather than just take from it, and together, run a business we are proud of.

This collaborative and value-driven approach means that everyone is invested in our success, creating a shared motivation to deliver high-quality client service and a business they’re proud to be part of.

We recently interviewed three of our Trust Board members, Client Director, Tracey Reed, Financial Planner, John Magee & Client Manager, Simon Livings, who gave us their insights into the positive impact being employee owned has for all our Partners.

What it means to be an EOT trustee and a partner: a personal perspective

As Partners in an employee-owned business, we all share the mindset of business owners and a responsibility for our success, regardless of our individual roles.

Our collaborative approach means we are all pulling in the same direction, working together, equally sharing in the good with the bad and creating a sense of community.

“Being a trustee is a real privilege as it means I’m part of a small team who represents the rest of the Partners”, comments Simon, “It’s a big responsibility, but also a great opportunity to get under the bonnet of the business and ensure decisions are made with the best interest of Partners in mind.”

Influencing and feeling empowered is also important to those who sit on the board and within the wider business.

Tracey comments, “As a trustee being able to directly influence the discussions and decisions made, is empowering and engenders a great sense of responsibility.”

“There is definitely a sense of ownership and responsibility to think and act on behalf of the current and future Partners”, agrees John. “A sense of pride in what we have and a desire to show the best of Paradigm Norton to new Partners and our clients.”

Five years of change as an employee-owned company

John and Tracey were both part of the transition to an employee-owned company five years ago and reflected on their experience.

“We’ve grown considerably in the past five years” comments John “and at the same time managed to increase the flow of information from the board to our Partners.”

“Since becoming employee owned, there is a more formalised structure in place for communicating with partners”, adds Tracey “and we’ve seen greater engagement from Partners, generally as they feel their voices make a difference. We have undertaken regular surveys to gauge partner opinion and gather feedback which the Board has welcomed.”

The positives of day-to-day Partner involvement

A culture of openness is really important to us as a business and Simon believes that it stems from being employee owned. “Regular company online meetings and quarterly team days are used to keep everyone up to speed on what’s going on across the various offices. We share news, ask for and respond to feedback, highlight success stories or individuals going above and beyond to help clients or other Partners, provide business updates, and comment on the company finances.

“These open forums are a great way to maintain a community feel and gives every Partner the opportunity to put their hand up and be heard.”

Tracey adds, “Partner involvement is key to the success of an EO business. A stand out example was when we were establishing the profit share scheme. We asked Partners to vote on the structure and there was virtually a unanimous decision for a flat payment across all Partners irrespective of job role. This highlighted to me the strength of our values and culture at PN.”

And when unprecedented events occur such as the challenge of Covid in early 2020, John commented “the Board and Exco drew up a plan which put Partners and clients’ first. By communicating well, bringing everyone into the plan, we all understood the challenges and acted together as ‘owners’.”

Looking to the future

“A key focus is to continue ensuring Partners experience the benefits of being EO, particularly Partners who are new and who may not have been part of an EO company before” comments Simon. “For EO to work it’s vital that all Partners feel engaged, know that they have a voice, are confident in their right to share their opinion, and have a say in how the business works so it can continue to grow, improve, and thrive.”

Tracey added “We are currently reviewing the structure of the Trust Board to ensure that both the governance role and the Partner engagement and communication roles are being carried out as effectively as possible, ensuring the differing skill sets for each are recognised and fulfilled.”

“We’ve been finding our own path from day one as an EOT”, says John – “there’s no one blueprint to follow. We’ve evolved to a great position in terms of the strength of our governance – but can still improve.”

Advice for businesses considering employee ownership

“Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons”, comments John “you really have to mean it – it does come with challenges, but if you do, it can be great for the business, your employees and your clients. We have only had positive feedback from our clients, and it’s definitely been a draw for prospective clients too.”

Simon comments “Going EO is an increasingly well-trodden route, with countless success stories from companies big and small, so I think it has to be considered as an option by anyone looking to sell. It has to work commercially, of course, but it needs to be a cultural fit too. It therefore works particularly well where strong values, ethics, and continuity are an important part of the company’s identify and success, and where there’s a desire for that to be retained post-sale – something that a trade sale, for example, cannot guarantee.”

And lastly, Tracey concludes with some key takeaways.

  • Take the time prior to becoming employee owned to research how other business operate and aim to learn from their experiences.
  • Understand the impact being employee owned has on the running of your business; the Board need to fully appreciate the change in governance structure as there is a different dynamic to consider.
  • Understand and really engage in the benefits of this new dynamic, rather than see it as a potential hindrance to agile decision making.
  • Recruit good quality external trustees who can advise and guide the EOT board and the operating board for the benefit of the company as a whole.

Click here for more information on the freedom of employee ownership.

Join Paradigm Norton
We seek to develop everyone. We actively encourage our team to embrace their personal development by funding training courses and other relevant professional qualifications.

Looking to join us? Click the link below to see all our current job vacancies.
Related Articles
Join Paradigm Norton
This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.