A private consultancy firm with offices in Anglesey and Bridgend has quadrupled its workforce since becoming employee-owned, growing from 13 employees to 51 over a three-year period.
BIC Innovation Ltd made the switch to the employee ownership (EO) model in 2018, with specialist support from the Wales Co-operative Centre, which drew up a plan based on the company’s cultural values, desire to stay close to its roots in Wales and need to prepare for future succession issues.
Huw Watkins, a founding director of BIC, said: “Becoming employee owned, and the sense of ownership it brings, has seen our team really pull together through these extraordinary times. Each and every employee is invested in the future of the company and is working so hard to ensure we do our best to navigate our way through huge economic changes.
“I believe that our ownership model has helped us to create a culture of openness and transparency and given us a meaningful point of difference in the marketplace.”
Marketing manager Anna Pearce said: “BIC’s transition to being employee owned felt like a natural step as it fits so well with our culture. Having personally taken the opportunity to become an employee shareholder, I have found that it has created a renewed passion and drive for the business. The appointment of the minority shareholder director has given us a meaningful voice, and enabled improved two-way communication for addressing issues and contributing ideas for the future direction of the business.”
Being an employee-owned business is actively promoted by BIC as part of its recruitment strategy, and Mr Watkins believes this has helped attracting new talent with diverse perspectives, who provide different ideas, deliver improved services and add value to the brand.
Some employees taken as interns have become permanent staff and will become eligible to participate in the company’s share scheme after a year of employment.
Last June, the Welsh government committed to doubling the number of employee-owned businesses in Wales over the next Senedd term and since then the Wales Co-operative Centre has seen a surge in the number of businesses looking to make the transition.
Paul Cantrill, part of the EO team at the Centre and specialist advisor to BIC Innovation during its transition, said: “The founders of BIC Innovation have shown great leadership during this employee-owned journey and as a result, it has created something special, a real feeling of belonging and focus with how they move the business forward.
“Many companies in Wales are recognising that the EO model is a smart choice for them, particularly if they have been grown from a seed, have a sense of responsibility towards their employees, and want to attract and retain local talent. We would encourage other business owners to get in touch.”
The EO team at the Centre is part of the Social Business Wales programme, funded by the Welsh government and the European Regional Development Fund.
The team has advised over 50 companies in Wales about ownership transition, completing its first assignment in 1994 with the £9million purchase of Tower Colliery by its employees. Since then the business support programme has helped many businesses make the transition, including Tregroes Waffles, Cwmni Da, ETL Solutions, Wavehill Consulting, Heron House Financial Management, ITEC Training Solutions and Gateway Dental Practice.