In their own words – why owners choose employee ownership

We’re always writing about why we think employee ownership is such a great move for businesses.  But what do company owners say about it?

As employee ownership increases in popularity and achieves wider recognition, it’s easy to find support for this ownership model from high profile businesses owners who’ve made the transition. 

Thinking like owners

Julian Richer of Richer Sounds was interviewed on Radio 4 the other day, talking – among other things – about why he sold 60% of his company to his employees.  It’s a great interview with some fascinating insights into his entrepreneurial journey, and you can listen to it here.  One key aspect of success that Julian identifies is always delivering excellent service.  And being employee owned means “You’re always talking to the owner!”

Turns out the best way to align employees with the shareholders is – to make them shareholders.

Ensuring independence and delivering fairness

Riverford Organic Farmers transitioned to employee ownership in 2018 and became 100% employee owned this year.  The founder, Guy Singh-Watson took time to reflect on his succession route.  For him, the crucial point was to keep his business independent, ensuring that the values of the business would not be diluted by outside investors.    

Fairness is also an important reason for the change.  “To me, it just felt fairer.  Everyone contributes to success, everyone benefits,” Guy says.  And the previous owner is also very cognisant of the positive commercial outcomes of employee ownership, arguing that it leads to “higher productivity, lower attrition, higher morale, greater resilience, and less debt”.

Retaining culture and values

Churchill Group is a new name in the EOT world, transitioning to an EOT in August 2023.  With over 13,500 employees, this facilities management company looks set to be a high flyer in next year’s Employee Ownership Top 50

The Group CEO, James Bradley, has explained that an EOT is a “natural transition, as it continues our unique culture and retains our values of doing right, seeking better and putting people first”.

The founders also recognised that, because their colleagues were key to the business, that they should also share in the company’s future success. 

Ownership, engagement and involvement

Shaw healthcare is proud to be the UK’s largest employee owned healthcare company.  With over 3,500 employees, the company is 76% employee owned.  An EOT, established in 2020, holds 51% of the shares, and further 25% of the shares are held directly by employees. 

Russell Brown, Chief Executive, is a strong proponent of employee ownership.  As he explains, the company strives to deliver excellent care and their employees are “at the centre of everything we do”. 

Employee ownership gives employees a real sense of engagement and participation in the company.  As well as being a Real Living Wage employer, Shaw is able to share profits with employees by way of annual tax free bonuses permitted for EOT controlled businesses. 

Altogether, as Russell says, this makes Shaw “a great organisation to work for”, matching their company values of “wellness, happiness and kindness”. 

In short – you don’t need to listen to us. There are plenty of businesses that are more than happy to shout about the benefits of employee ownership.  But if you’d like to explore further, get in touch on