Two Years In: How’s the Employee Ownership Model Working?

It’s been a challenging two years since Handy Brand UK transitioned to an Employee Ownership Trust, but the team are going from strength to strength considering external factors the world has thrown at us! I believe the solid foundation we have built over the years has stood us in good stead for such circumstances; so far, we have overcome every obstacle that’s been put in our way.

Challenges and Overcoming Them

Employee Understanding: Not everyone on the team initially grasped the financial aspects of Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs). This led to some scepticism and a lack of enthusiasm amongst a few staff members. To address this, we implemented clear and ongoing communication. We used simplified explanations and visual aids to ensure everyone felt comfortable transitioning to this new ownership structure.

Leadership Adjustment: The shift from a traditional ownership model to an EOT also required adjustments from both the owner and the employees. As the leader, I needed to collaborate with the Trustees before making major decisions, something I previously handled independently. On the other hand, employees needed to develop a more ownership-oriented mindset. Both these adjustments are ongoing processes.

Thriving Together: Two Years with Employee Ownership

The results are very positive: retention is rising, and recruitment is flourishing. The EOT model sparks genuine interest when people learn about it; they’re drawn to joining our close-knit team. I credit this success to employees becoming our biggest marketers, fuelled by their positive experiences and belief in our mission.

A Cultural Transformation

The most significant change is the cultural shift. The team feels more empowered and takes greater ownership and responsibility for every order they process, fostering a deeper connection and commitment to the company’s success. This shift has moved us away from a traditional “working for” mentality to a more empowering “working with” approach.

The employees are no longer passive observers. They actively seek out opportunities to improve processes, identify areas for growth, and implement innovative solutions. This proactive approach stems from a deeper understanding of how their contributions directly impact the company’s performance, which ultimately translates to their own financial well-being through profit sharing.

Open communication fuels this engagement. We hold monthly meetings to keep everyone informed about our financial performance, highlighting the positives and areas for improvement. This promotes a sense of shared purpose and collaboration as we work towards our goals. While the management team still makes final decisions, the path to achieving them now involves broader participation and input from employees.

Investing in Our Team

The past few years haven’t been easy, with Brexit, the pandemic, and the current cost-of-living crisis throwing curveballs at businesses. However, I believe the EOT model provided a distinct edge in navigating these challenges.

While the biggest hurdles were external, being an EOT helped us weather the storm better. During the cost-of-living crisis, the model allowed us to support our team with one-off monthly payments.

But after a team meeting, we decided to go beyond temporary fixes. We sought a long-term solution, not just a quick fix. The board decided to reduce our profit margins and reinvest those resources back into the team.

The flexible business model enables the EOT to prioritise people in decision-making. When employees are the ultimate beneficiaries, their well-being becomes paramount. This model requires leaders to put their people first, even if it means sacrificing some profits. But that’s the beauty of it – it creates a profound sense of responsibility towards the team and their success.”

Our journey continues to be a positive, fulfilling path we navigate daily. The EOT business model’s foundations bring positivity and hope to ensure our vision remains strong and unwavering. People will always be at the heart of what we do at Handy Brand. Our team, the Handy Brand family, has created such a great environment in which to work. For everyone involved, sharing in the success makes the hard work all worthwhile. We strive to drive the business to even greater heights and maximise the opportunity that the creation of the EOT brings to all involved.