Co-Owned and Co-Managed

In 2021, KCA transferred from being a family owned business to being employee owned. This June we are celebrating with hundreds of other businesses across the UK, who have made that same transition to employee ownership.

Friday 24th June is Employee Ownership Day, I know what you are thinking… there is a day for everything! Our team would normally be celebrating with other organisations, but as we operate a 4 day week, we are likely to spending Friday 24th June with our families or doing things to maintain our mental health. Instead, we have written a blog to share our thoughts on why employee ownership has been important to us at KCA.

KCA was established by Kate Cairns as a family owned business and continues to maintain a successful track record as a training provider in attachment, trauma and resilience. A few years ago, Kate and her family felt it was time to make a change, as some family members wanted to go in new directions or seek retirement. Kate and the Shareholders felt that employee ownership was the way to go, because it would ensure that the team who built and embodied the company, would be best placed to steward the values and principles moving forward, ensuring the organisation’s original purpose and vision would be retained.

To maintain congruence with our values, we also wanted to ensure our ownership model reflected the importance we place on connected relationships within communities, as these can help people in the recovery from trauma. There was always a risk that a trade sale of KCA would have resulted in the company being relocated from Dursley and local jobs being lost, which would have had a detrimental impact on the well established and secure relationships between the original Shareholders and the employees, many of whom live and work in the local community. The sale to an Employee Owned Trust ensured the company would stay local to Dursley.

Putting the practicalities aside, there is a deeper philosophical belief that we wanted to model through the company’s ownership and how it’s managed. We’re acutely aware that the majority of institutions are built on hierarchy. This structure has certainly helped in wealth creation and efficiency, however it has also worked best for those in power. When this power has been mishandled and ‘top down’ approaches have been adopted, people have experienced being ‘done to’, which can damage their mental health. Whilst, it’s important to acknowledge that these top down models have helped with wealth creation (many of us have certainly benefited financially), it’s also true that the playing field continues to tilt towards those with power, which arguably has resulted in disparities and inequalities in society. We think its important to take steps to address this.

If we want to create a fairer and more equal society, we believe that the workforce needs to benefit from the organisation that they help to create. This is more than benefiting financially, although that helps, but one where employee’s have a sit at the decision making table, where their ideas and innovations are acted upon. For us this means that we need to be both co-owned and co-managed, creating a non-hierarchical organisation. In making this shift we can ensure that our organisation can be a force for good in society, where the people who embody it’s values and ensures it thrives are also active decision makers who are shaping the organisation's future.

We hope we can continue to share our learning with you over the forthcoming years, as we venture further as a co-owned and co-managed organisation, that seeks to make a difference in the world.

Author: Richard Holmes