Employee ownership and letting go as a leader

Letting go as an owner
This month, we are delighted to feature a guest blog from Philippa Meaden and Jeremy Gadd of J Gadd Associates – a trusted partner of Postlethwaite Solicitors and the UK’s leading independent multi-service provider of commercial, cultural and engagement support to the employee-owned sector.
Here, Philippa and Jeremy explore the challenge of letting go as a business founder / owner when transitioning to employee ownership – and explain how to prepare yourself as a leader for significant change.

The Decision

So you’re a founder / owner who’s chosen to transition your business into employee ownership.

The process and task? That side doesn’t phase you. You recognise that becoming EO is more than a signature on a piece of paper – it’s a significant change programme. You’ve secured the right expert legal and financial support.

But what about the impact on you as a leader? After all, this is your business.

How will it feel to ‘let go’, having invested so much time, thought and energy to grow a successful business? And how can you prepare yourself as well as your company for the shift to EO?

Securing your legacy as a founder / owner

In our experience, founders / owners choose employee ownership for a mix of reasons. Commercially, selling to an EOT can be the most tax-efficient option when succession planning – yet legacy and loyalty often also play a part.

Legacy, because the founder / owner wants to secure their company’s long-term sustainability and values. Loyalty, because they don’t want to ‘sell out’ their team or worry that a trade sale will see good people lose their jobs and those skills disappear from their community forever.

The lack of a natural ‘heir’ in a family business can also influence the decision. Or selling to an EOT can be the logical next step in becoming a values-led company.

Preparing yourself for a different future  

Whatever the reasons (personal, professional or both), stepping into the unknown creates an impact. And like marriage, divorce or moving, this can take time to show.

At JGA, we understand this because we’ve listened to more than 150 founders / owners – no leader can truly know how they’ll feel until the transition is done.

We also know that how founders / owners prepare themselves psychologically to step aside or into a fresh role in a new ownership structure will significantly impact the success of the initial EO transaction.

For leaders, mindset matters as much as the legal and financial process they have set in motion – and we’ve yet to meet a founder / owner without a passion for the organisation they have built. The ‘story’ behind each change is what makes working in EO so interesting and keeps our Associates hooked!

Shaping your new identity and purpose

So what is the greatest challenge for leaders planning an EO transition?

For many, being a founder / owner is more than a title: it’s an identity. Adjusting to that loss and finding who they now are and a new purpose can be a shock, but it is also an opportunity for personal growth.

That’s why we enjoy supporting founders / owners to prepare themselves and their leaders through insightful Coaching for Change and Change Workshops – adapting our approach and tools to engage different learning styles.

Securing knowledgeable support from a specialist adviser who understands EO can be the difference between a successful transition for you and your company and one that takes much longer to bear fruit.

Getting leaders and business ready for change

JGA’s record of working with founders / owners at all stages means we know how to navigate them successfully through an EO transition – and support their EO company to thrive in the years beyond.

Clients describe us as ‘thoughtful’ and ‘easy to talk to’. We enable them to manage their exit and continue to engage meaningfully with their company in future – if that’s what they want.

JGA is also currently on our own path to employee ownership, bringing an even deeper understanding of its impact to our founder and MD Jeremy Gadd. He expects his biggest challenge to be trusting himself to ‘let go’ and allow those around him to pick up the reins and take us forward.

No surprise that both Jeremy and JGA are investing focused time, thought and energy in preparing ourselves for such a significant change.

To find out more about how J Gadd Associates can support you as a founder / owner and your organisation with our Transition, People and Governance services, please visit www.jgadd.co.uk or email us as at info@jgadd.co.uk.

Jeremy Gadd of JGadd and AssociatesPhillippa Meaden JGadd

Jeremy Gadd, Founder and Managing Director and Philippa Meaden, Lead Associate of J Gadd Associates