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Cwmpas Holds its First Employee Ownership Forum

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Cwmpas, formerly known as the Wales Cooperative Centre, has held its first Employee Ownership Forum.

The forum has been set up to allow businesses and companies that have transitioned into employee ownership to gather and discuss how the transition into employee ownership has worked for them as founders, EOT (employee ownership trust) trustees and management.

Nicola Mehegan, project manager of Employee Ownership Wales, speaking at the forum

The event, sponsored by Geldards and held at their offices in Cardiff, also offered insight into those company founders who are considering EOT as part of their succession planning and gave them an insight into how it has worked for other Welsh companies.

EOT as a model is growing in Wales, with the number of employee-owned companies doubling in the past five years, and there are now 40 Welsh businesses under employee ownership. These include recognisable Welsh brands such as Tregroes Waffles, Melin Tregwynt and production company Cwmni Da. UK-wide, well-known companies such as John Lewis, Arup construction and Richer Sounds are also employee owned.

Attendees of the forum heard from experts in the field, including Nicola Mehegan and Professor Paul Cantrill from Cwmpas, about the support it can offer businesses exploring this business model, as well as discussions around the legal and tax issues for an EOT by Andrew Evans of Geldards, company valuations from Richie Tout from Azets, and funding available for help with setting up an EOT from Bethan Cousins from the Development Bank of Wales.

Representatives from over 20 companies attended to discuss everything from appointing trustee directors to governance following an EOT transition.

Nicola Mehegan, project manager of Employee Ownership Wales, said:

“It was great to see so many EOT business founders, trustees and managers there, all discussing the ups and downs of running an EOT company. No two transitions to employee ownership are the same as there are many different factors involved, such as the employee split, the number of employees, the make up of the trustees – so there are many things to consider when looking at the EOT model.

“The overriding feeling during the forum was one of solidarity, progression and positivity for the model, which in particular offers business founders a way of passing on their business to an already invested workforce. The number of different businesses who attended from varying sectors was really encouraging to see.”

“This is the first EO forum we have held, but we will have many more to come so we can all learn from each other and help to learn from each other’s experience of transitioning into an EOT,” Nicola added.

Esther Barns, HR Director at Itec Training Solutions Ltd said:

“Thank you to Cwmpas in partnership with Geldards Law Firm for organising the Wales EO Forum in October. Being an EO business ourselves, I found the event a great opportunity to gain knowledge from the various speakers and benefited from the opportunity to network, share experiences and ideas with other EO business in Wales. We are looking forward to attending future events.”

The Employee Ownership Wales service is part of the Social Business Wales programme delivered by Cwmpas. It is part of the Business Wales family and funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund.

For more information about employee ownership, visit: www.employeeownershipwales.co.uk