Reflections on the EOA’s Annual Conference – what a treat!

EOA Conference opening speech

Last week saw a large group from the Postlethwaite team travel to the Liverpool ACC conference centre, where we were sponsors and platinum exhibitors at the EOA’s 2023 annual conference. If you weren’t there, you missed a treat!

This event is a huge highlight in our calendar.  It is a place where thoughtful and driven people from a range of high performing businesses gather together to share their insights into how they are making employee ownership successful, with honesty about both what has gone well and what has not.

In times where political leadership is at best of patchy quality in my opinion, it is inspiring to be part of the employee ownership world where it is easy to find role models for leadership fit for our challenging times. Key note speakers such as Joe Garner, former Nationwide Chief Executive talking about ‘creating purpose led organisations that are also high-performing by dialling down greed and fear and dialling up purpose, potential and play’ and Chris Turner from B-Lab UK talking about ‘building a sustainable human-centric economy’ were two particular highlights for me.

With 2023 the year in which we made our own transition to 100% employee ownership at Postlethwaite Solicitors, we were thrilled to see a record number of attendees (a little over 800), from both companies that are already employee-owned and those there to find out more about whether this would be right for them (interspersed by the growing number of employee ownership specialist advisers).  It felt like employee ownership has stepped up to a new level or awareness and appreciation, fuelled no doubt by the recent research into the sector with some outstanding proven statistics to ‘hang our hat on’. (Read more on those latest stats for the employee owned sector here.)

Heartening also to see a recognition that business is not only there to benefit people.  We have daily reminders that it’s not enough for us humans to find new and better ways of nurturing each other, as this will neither be possible nor have any point if we do not also look after our planet. It would be hard to have come away from the conference without an increased awareness of how existentially important this is.  Practical tips were available on how companies can start working towards being zero carbon.  Employee-owned companies are increasingly making this a key goal, for example by seeking B-Corp accreditation, something we ourselves are looking into.

It was brilliant also to see one of our clients win the first award of the night with ‘EO transition of the year’ awarded to Wise Productions. They were a brilliant company to work with and a great example of EO done right. Judges said, ‘Wise Productions demonstrated early engagement with employees which had already been a catalyst for successes in the business. In fact, they felt that the business offered a textbook example of how to engage during a transition, that the EOA would encourage others to follow.’ Huge well done to the team at Wise. (read more on Wise Productions’ award win on the EOA’s site here.)

There was a general consensus, from our team at least, that this was the best EOA conference to date with a real buzz of excitement and energy in the air from a gathering of like-minded people genuinely wanting to do ‘better business’ for all. There is truly no business conference quite like it.

So thank you to all the brilliant delegates who attended and also to everyone at the Employee Ownership Association, Cascade Productions and the ACC Liverpool for making it such a wonderful couple of days.

We look forward to next year!