Having recently attended a wedding it struck me that there are a couple of similarities between getting married and transitioning to employee ownership;
- There’s too much emphasis on the Wedding Day/ Completion Day
When I got married, I really wasn’t too bothered about having a fairy tale wedding. Whilst we celebrated the occasion with close family and friends, we didn’t have a lot of the paraphernalia that comes with a typical wedding. I therefore didn’t buy any wedding magazines or visit any wedding fayres or wedding dress shops and we had no bridesmaids or flower girls, no speeches and no wedding favours. The emphasis for us was very much on the ceremony and the commitment we were making to one another. We were very much of the opinion that a great wedding doesn’t make a great marriage!
Too often when I’ve worked with companies who are moving to employee ownership there is a lot of emphasis placed on Completion Day when the legal documents are signed. It’s certainly fitting to have a celebration at this point as a lot of time and effort will have been spent on determining how the new ownership model will be structured, what the governance model will be and how the exiting owner(s) will be paid but just as a marriage certificate doesn’t magically lead to a successful marriage, neither does the new legal documentation automatically lead to success for the employee owned company.
- Any successful relationship needs to be worked at
Just at there’s no fairy dust sprinkled over a couple when they tie the knot, the same applies to a company that is newly employee owned. In fact after the wedding day/completion day is when the hard work really begins in terms of building a strong relationship/ ownership culture. And it’s the strength of the relationship or culture that leads to future success – not a legal document!
So often, companies see the completion date as the end of their employee ownership transition when in many respects its just the beginning. If the company already has a flat management structure and information, power and rewards are shared then there is less work required but in many situations this is not the case. Particularly when the exiting owner is remaining in the business then coaching may be required to enable them to let go of the control that they are so used to having and hand over autonomy to those who are customer facing.
So how strong is your ownership culture? Does it need some attention?