Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

10 Employee Owned Companies in the UK it must be great to work for (and part own!)

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In advance of the publication of our forthcoming report on employee ownership and business succession in Wales, we thought it might be interesting to pick 10 different employee owned companies in both Wales and the wider UK to explore the range of different options out there, from trust based ownership to full worker co-operative.

1.   The John Lewis Partnership

What’s so great about them?

It’s 76,500 permanent staff are partners in the £8.2b turnover business that owns 29 department stores and 274 supermarkets as well as six John Lewis at Home retail outlets, an online and catalogue business, a production unit and a farm.

Form of employee ownership?

Ownership is held in Trust on behalf of the employees. Employees have a voice in the running of the business through a series of staff councils, staff magazines and other communication tools.

The Benefits?

Paid secondments, staff excursions, subsidised canteens, oh, and a bonus system that has delivered at least a month’s extra salary per year, every year since 1999 – 2000 and double that in 2010 – 2011. It even has a constitution states that ‘the happiness of its members’ is the Partnership’s ultimate purpose.

Link

John Lewis Partnership

See also

Blackwells Bookshops

Scott Bader

2.   Gripple

What’s so great about them?

An innovative company developed on the design, production and marketing of a wire joining and tensioning device, Gripple is based in a lovingly refurbished Brown Field factory in Sheffield which encourages innovation and creativity.  Nearly 80% of its 220 employees own equity in the firm.

Form of employee ownership?

Non-voting share equity. Employees are required to buy-into the company after a 12 month qualifying period with loans available to enable purchase where necessary. Internal market ensures equity stays within the business.

The Benefits?

The share price is generated by profits with originally purchased shares now worth around eighteen times their original purchase price.

Link

Gripple

3.   Aber Instruments

What’s so great about them?

Founded in 1988, Aber Instruments four founding directors decided early on to move ownership of the company from themselves to their employees. This has been a long-term strategy which has run in parallel with high business growth.

Form of employee ownership?

Ownership split between individual employee share equity, shares held in trust on behalf of the employees and owner share equity. Over a period of 10 years, the owner share equity has reduced to slightly less than 25%, effectively making Aber Instruments a completely employee owned organisation.

The Benefits?

Employee ownership and involvement in the business. Staff involvement at all levels of the business and corresponding increasing share value for staff members. This approach has allowed Aber Instruments to stave off takeover approaches and keep much needed high technology jobs in Aberystwyth.

Link

Aber Instruments

 4.   Primepac Solutions

What’s so great about them?

A worker co-operative of 22 employee owners who created a new business from scratch after their employers decided to withdraw production from the area after a major fire. Created a business plan, sourced finance and started trading within 4 months.

Form of employee ownership?

Worker co-operative.

The Benefits?

The business stayed in the Northern Heads of the Valleys area and initially provided employment for 19 of the 140 employees made redundant. It now boasts a turnover of £1.8m per annum and has returned dividends higher than each individual’s initial investment.

Link

Primepac Solutions

See also

Tower Colliery

5.   Dulas

What’s so great about them?

Dulas Ltd was set up by engineers from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth to provide professional renewable energy services on a commercial basis. Dulas is owned by its employees, who elect the board of five directors on an annual basis. It has no external investors and is financed largely through sales.

Form of Employee Ownership?

Full worker co-operative.

The Benefits?

Dulas has featured in Wales’s fastest growing 50 businesses for three years in a row. Its profits have also increased rapidly so that in the year ended 31st December 2010 dividends of more than £200,000 were paid to its employee shareholders. Dulas has won numerous awards for its outstanding performance and innovative products.

Dulas operates with a strong community ethos, and works with schools and community projects providing educational support and technical services. It offers trainee positions to new graduates, enabling them to get crucial work experience in renewable energy. The co-operative donates up to 3% of its profits each year to charity and invests heavily in staff welfare.

Link

Dulas – inspiring renewable energy

6.   Skye Instruments

What’s so great about them?

Skye Instruments manufacture environmental monitoring instruments. It’s owners have started the transition to employee ownership by selling 10% of their shares to an Employee Benefit Trust.

Form of Employee Ownership?

Moving towards employee ownership through implementation of an Employee Benefit Trust.

The Benefits?

The Company is, to all intents and purposes, Employee-Owned now and is operating as such.

Link

Skye Instruments

See also

SCS Group

7.   Clansman Dynamics

What’s so great about them?

Based in East Kilbride, Scotland, Clansman designs, manufactures and exports robotic handling equipment, with clients including Volvo and Fiat.

Form of Employee Ownership?

An Employee Benefit Trust was set up to buy the business on behalf of the employees, using finance including a cash deposit from the company and specialist funding. Employee directors sit on Clansman’s main board and the board of the Employee Benefit Trust.

The Benefits?

The benefits of employee ownership include increased productivity, profitability and innovation. Empowering employees has led to new approaches such as improving the way the company orders and replaces the 2,000 parts required for each machine. “I wanted to find a form of ownership that was anti short-termism and would keep the business in Scotland” stated Dick Philbrick the company’s founder. Since the employee buyout in 2009 the firms turnover has grown sasles by 60%, increased turnover from £7million to £11million and is about to announce substantial expansion plans.

Link

Clansman Dynamics

8.   West Highland Free Press

What’s so great about them?

The campaigning Isle of Skye weekly, founded in 1972, became the first employee-owned newspaper in the UK in 2009 after its five founding shareholders decided to sell.

Form of Employee Ownership?

Employee Buyout using an Employee Benefit Trust.

The Benefits

Employment and the brand remain in the local community, providing an important source of local news and content. Readers and staff are more engaged. Staff have an increased interest in skills development and a better understanding of how their role affects other parts of the business. Staff are more confident and the company is investigating developing a news agency business.

Link

West Highland Free Press

9.   Suma Wholefoods

What’s so great about them?

Established as a worker co-operative in 1977 after founder Reg Tayler sold the business to its seven employees. Since then has grown into the UK’s largest worker co-operative. Currently employs about 150 staff.

Form of Employee Ownership?

A full worker co-operative formed from an employee buy-out.

The Benefits

Suma operates a truly democratic system of management. An elected Management Committee implements decisions and business plans but the decisions themselves are made at regular General Meetings with the consent of every cooperative member. Suma have no Chief Executive, Managing Director or Chairman. Work is carried out by self-managing teams of employees who are all paid the same wage. Suma members are encouraged to multi-skill – individuals will always perform more than one role within the co-operative. This gives every member an invaluable insight into the bigger picture and enhances creativity and problem solving. An unusual arrangement, but a highly effective one for Suma.

Link

Suma

10.   Mondragon Corporation

What’s so great about them?

Ok, so we cheated a little here. Mondragon is based in the Basque area of Northern Spain.

Ok, maybe we cheated a lot.

We’ve included Mondragon for a few simple reasons.

Currently Mondragon is the seventh largest Spanish company in terms of asset turnover and the leading business group in the Basque Country. At the end of 2010 it provided employment for 83,859 people working in 256 companies in four areas of activity: Finance, Industry, Retail and Knowledge. Mondragon is proof that a co-operative economy can drive a region’s economy and thrive during difficult times.

Form of Employee Ownership?

Mondragon is a corporation and federation of worker cooperatives. The co-operatives are owned by their worker-members and power is based on the democratic and co-operative principle of one person, one vote.

The Benefits

This entire framework of business culture has been structured on the basis of a common culture derived from the 10 Co-operative Principles. The company employees agree upon wage ratios between the worker-owners who do executive work and those who work in the field or factory and earn a minimum wage ensuring against unrealistic levels of executive pay in what is an enormous corporation.

Link

Mondragon Corporation

For further information on how you can get involved with employee ownership or setting up a worker cooperative visit our website or call us on 0300 111 5050.

Book onto one of our forthcoming business succession and employee ownership breakfast seminars here

Written by David Madge

March 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Nice post – and nice to see so many of our members listed😉. Love to promote the report on our website and twitter feed – any chance of an advance copy?

    Sam Dowling

    March 9, 2012 at 12:04 am

  2. 10 Employee Owned Companies in the UK it must be great to work for (and part own!)


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