From 1 July 2021, a controlling stake of Maslins Ltd became owned by an Employee Ownership Trust. We’re the same team, same price, same name above the door…just more enthusiastic! Our staff benefit directly from our success, so they really care about keeping clients happy.
Our staff are key
The success or failure of an accountancy firm, like many businesses, is primarily down to its staff. The managers who make the strategic decisions. The senior team who ensures the quality of the work. The juniors who do the lion’s share of the accounts production. Maslins have always been keen that our staff benefit from their hard work.
Previously, this was informally with discretionary bonuses, generous pension scheme, and other perks. We realise keeping staff happy is the key to keeping clients happy, which in turn is the key to the success of the business. Most new clients are referrals from existing clients (big thanks for that, and we reward you too). <put link to referral disc page on txt ‘we reward you too’>
Having reviewed several options, we came to the conclusion that the Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) model was most suitable for our situation. We began working towards this in the years preceding until we felt the firm was in a good position to transfer a controlling stake in the company to an EOT. This set the staff’s rights and rewards in stone.
What is an EOT?
An Employee Ownership Trust is sometimes referred to as “the John Lewis model”. They’ve been set up this way for about a century, long before it was popular! More recently other high-profile names have followed this route, including Richer Sounds (HiFi/TV vendor) and Aardman Animation (of Wallace and Gromit fame). We believe this will be a growing trend for stable companies with 10+ staff, as a way to deliver long-term business viability.
The majority of the shares of Maslins Ltd are now owned by an Employee Ownership Trust (Cos Hse ref 13463765). This means the majority of profits are now for the benefit of employees. Generally, this involves paying most profits out to staff, though some may be reinvested in the business. Put simply, if the company continues to do well, the staff will be the main financial beneficiaries.
So, has Maslins been sold?
Well, sort of, but not in the “normal” way we know some clients dread to hear. Often when an accountancy firm is sold, it’s to one of their bigger competitors/venture capital. The acquiring firm typically looks to recoup the purchase costs quickly. This tends to mean hiking prices to clients whilst downsizing staff to reduce costs, leading to a (short term) profit spike, but worse experience for most involved. This option did not appeal.
Technically a majority of the company shares were sold. However, done so on very amicable terms, and the buyer was a trust set up purely for the benefit of all employees, current and future. The founders retained a minority stake at least for the short term, so are incentivised to ensure a smooth transition and the future prosperity of the business.
I’m a client, why should I care?
By a controlling stake in the company being owned by an EOT, the staff should be incentivised to care even more about serving you and other clients well. Happy clients stick with their accountants. Happy clients are also more likely to recommend us to others. Our staff know that. As staff will directly benefit from future company profits, they know that serving you well is nicely aligned with their own financial prosperity!
Clients who have been with other accounting firms and not been well served often complain of poor staff members who don’t seem to care or change every few months as unhappy (but potentially good) staff move on. Whilst our staff are, of course, humans with lives outside work, which may on occasion not be compatible with staying with us, we feel we can confidently state we have among the most loyal and well-trained staff in the industry, and those are the people looking after your affairs day in day out. The EOT further cements this.
Okay, what has actually changed?
In the short term, on a day-to-day basis, nothing changed! The name above the door didn’t change. The accounting work still gets done by the same people in the same way. There was no change to service or price. The founder is gradually taking more of a back seat. Senior staff are gradually taking on more of the legal responsibilities.
Longer term, things may change, but no more or less so than they would have before. We as a firm continue to consider our clients’ needs and how we can best serve them. We continue to assess the ever-changing market. IR35 changes, Covid, and Brexit have all provided challenges over the last few years, and we’re sure there will be more challenges for us to navigate ahead. The involvement of an EOT hasn’t and won’t really change this.
What’s the founder going to do?
Chris is still involved, though more in the background, trying not to stick his nose in day to day! He’s committed for the next 4 years to ensure a smooth transition, with senior staff increasingly taking over formal responsibilities.
Independently of Maslins Ltd, Chris has a few other projects on the go, both business (eg MVL Online & upcoming Go EO) and charitable (eg homeless day centre which opened Sep 2021). Accounting has been his life for two decades, he’s getting regular reminders he’s middle aged, and is looking for new challenges.
This is thanks to you
Happy loyal clients sticking with us and recommending us to their friends/colleagues has been the key to our success to date, enabling us to take this step to secure the firm’s long-term future. Thank you all!