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Employee ownership implemented in Scotland

EntrepreneurCountry Global Wednesday, 27 June 2012.

With the ‘John Lewis economy’ becoming a clarion call from UK political leaders, a timely initiative has been unveiled to promote the value of employee ownership in Scotland.

Employee Ownership Ambassadors – all senior figures from employee owned companies in Scotland – have been invited by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) to show how their own workforces have benefited from becoming shareholders in their own firm.

As part of this innovative initiative this group of individuals will work closely with CDS to expound the benefits of employee ownership. Ambassadors will perform a variety of roles including speaking at events across Scotland to meeting directly with company owners interested in becoming employee owned.

An employee owned business is one in which staff hold the majority of the shares either directly or through an employee benefit trust. Such a move boosts productivity as workers feel they have a proper stake in their business. John Lewis is one of the most famous and successful employee owned companies in the UK.

Patrick Lewis, Partners' Counsellor for the John Lewis Partnership, said: “For generations employees at John Lewis have benefitted from having a real stake in their place of work. We warmly welcome this initiative from CDS to appoint ambassadors who themselves have seen how well employee ownership can deliver.”

The head of Scottish manufacturer Woollard & Henry is one of the ambassadors appointed by CDS. The Dyce-based manufacturer is owned by its employees and last year hosted a high profile visit from UK Treasury Minister Danny Alexander to see how being employee owned worked in practice.

The company is on course to report another record year of growth in 2012, as new product development helps it buck the economic gloom.

Fred Bowden, managing director of Woollard & Henry, said: "Becoming employee owned has proved a very positive step forward for our company. So becoming an ambassador for this model is a project I warmly embrace.

“Employee ownership can be the defining factor in driving growth and securing the future of a company that might be facing a succession issue. I look forward to my role in encouraging other companies to see the light and embrace a business model that has real currency in the modern Scottish economy.”

Sarah Deas, chief executive of Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), said: “We are very excited by this development, as we believe we are breaking new ground. The best ambassadors for our innovative business models are those companies that have embraced them for themselves. We hope their experience and enthusiasm will be a powerful call to action for others.

“Our aim is to ensure that employee ownership becomes a well established business model and is considered alongside conventional options. Our ambassadors will play an important role in helping us achieve this goal.”

CDS is also organising a series of seven roadshow events to promote employee ownership across Scotland culminating with companies connected with the ambassadors. Events are planned on 7 September at Woollard and Henry in Dyce, 5 November at John Lewis in Edinburgh and 16 November at Tullis Russell in Fife.

Employee owned businesses account for a combined annual turnover in excess of £30 billion, more than two per cent of GDP and growing in the UK. Employee owned businesses are typically five per cent more productive.

The EO ambassadors are:

·         Alan Spence, Accord Energy

·         Dennis Overton, Aquascot

·         Brian Veitch, ARUP

·         Dick Philbrick, Clansman Dynamics

·         Mike de Luca, Coverdale

·         Ralph MacLeod, Galloway & MacLeod

·         Stephen Pennington, Highland Home Carers

·         Chris Parr, Tullis Russell

·         Paul Wood, West Highland Free Press

·         Fred Bowden, Woollard & Henry

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