Employee-ownership is a ‘win-win’ proposition for everyone – founders, employees, and clients
Sean Elliot, Chairman Network ROI
Sean Elliot, founder of Network ROI explains why he chose to go down the path of employee-ownership in 2013. In 2012 Sean was coming up to 50 and started to examine his exit strategy. After considering other exit options such as a trade sale Sean settled on the idea of employee-ownership.
Sean Elliot, Network ROI Chairman said: “I have seen many business exits fail to deliver, often to the detriment of employees, the clients and the founder. When small and medium sized companies are bought by larger organisations, service levels can drop and prices can increase as the operations focus on delivering for their shareholders. So, I settled for something I felt safeguarded Network ROI’s future and opted for employee-ownership through an employee-ownership trust”.
Sean said: “Our clients are reassured that the business is not going to change hands and well-established culture and client service can continue without the potential disruption of enforced changes by a new owner”. Sean described how Network ROI have a philosophy that “if we treat our employees well, they will in turn provide great service to our clients”.
Sean also saw the many benefits and opportunities that employee-ownership presented, including more control of the succession process as well as enabling employees to have collective say in the future of the business and for them to directly benefit from the ongoing success of the business.
Sean believes employee-ownership is a ‘win-win’ proposition for everyone – founders, employees, and clients – and is a more ethical and equitable way to run a business.
“Although not without challenges, Employee ownership has so far proved to be a recipe for success for Network ROI. The business has grown year on year as we focus jointly on growing our client base and developing long-term relationships with our existing clients by servicing their needs better. As we grow, we continue to ensure our employees reap the rewards of this success”.
Pete Gower, a service desk engineer with Network ROI talks about his charity work during the coronavirus pandemic in Wigan, what inspires him at work, and what it’s like working for an employee-owned company remotely.
The two most important tools are not in your toolbox, they are your eyes and ears.
“In my role, I need to both listen to what a client has to say and see what’s happening on the ground, to get the background to their challenges. Then I can evaluate the situation and make plans to improve their IT”.
Pete said he was first interested in technology and more widely how things worked through his father, who was an electrician. He used to go with him when he was young, pushing his tools around in a pram. Pete then followed in his footsteps and became an electrician working in a food production company and then a theatre company working on stage lighting and sound. Pete said:
I love problem-solving and fixing things, if I see a problem, I look for a solution.
Helping people get on in Life
Before working at Network ROI Pete describes how he ran his own training company:
I enjoyed giving IT skills to people that didn’t have any or helping the long term unemployed develop their skills to get them back into the workforce.
“I used to train homeless people and would ask them to let me know how they got on after the training. One day I had a knock at the door after running a course and it was a young couple that I had trained three weeks earlier. They were there to tell me they had moved into a house and got their life back on track. It was very emotional to see them improve their lives.”
But due to austerity cutbacks, Council funding became scarce, so Pete left his role running his own training company and jumped at the chance to work for Network ROI, covering the North West of England.
In his role with Network ROI, Pete enjoys mentoring a young apprentice called Michael Wilkinson. He said:
I like to see young people get on in life, it’s great to see an enthusiastic young man make a start on their career.
“Many times, they just need a little coaching to make a start on their career path. As I said to my students, the most stupid question is the one you never ask, so you can ask me anything.”
Working in an employee-owned company
Being employee-owned, there is no ‘them and us’ culture.
Pete enjoys the variety in his work dealing with clients in the charity, health and safety, and veterinary sectors. He said “I try to be adaptable to our clients’ needs, but I have learned over the years the most important thing is talking to the client. I love dealing with high priority incidents as you get real pleasure when you can get a site back up and running.”
Pete describes what it’s like working for an employee-owned IT company: “Being employee-owned, there is no ‘them and us’ culture. Despite working remotely, we have an open-door policy where you can talk to anybody. We get to chat to our senior leadership team and board on a regular basis, there is not many companies I have worked for where you can do that. So, you get core insights into how the company is doing on a regular basis, you know where your piece fits in that jigsaw and what’s expected of you.”
Pete went onto say: “The company has a big focus on training and enabling their employees to grow, as well as being empathetic. Last year I was in hospital for a few days and the support I got was fantastic, just asking how I was made a big difference, never mind the lovely flowers.”
We are not just a team, it’s like one big family.
Sunshine House helped me in setting up my business, so it’s great to give back
Pete is passionate about his role as Chairman of the board of trustees Sunshine House a community centre charity in Wigan. The charity supports the local area in various ways including delivering food to vulnerable community members. Pete said “During lockdowns in the pandemic we have lost 95% of our income. But that hasn’t stopped us from helping those in need, including people self-isolating. I am proud of the fact that we are supporting the local community by delivering food to vulnerable people. We are now up to 40 meals a day and on New Year’s Day we delivered 90 meals.”
“I started out helping the community centre by teaching people about computers and they helped me make a start in setting up my own business. So, it’s great to give back, recently I helped upgrade their IT system to Office 365, taught them how to use Microsoft Teams to keep people connected during the pandemic, and on a practical level, love helping them by delivering meals on a Sunday with my wife.”
Full Steam Ahead
Pete has a love for smart technology and has made his home a smart home, where even the Christmas tree lights were operated remotely. Pete’s other love is model railways, which also came from his father who took him to mend locomotives at a railway yard from a young age. Pete said: “I started a lockdown project to build a model railway, which I’ve wanted to do for ages. I can see it taking a while but it’s a multi-faceted hobby, as it combines my love of electrics with craftsmanship, so it’s a relaxing way to spend an hour or two. Oh, and it has to be computer-controlled.”
At Network ROI we have a shared purpose. We are not just employees, we are employee-owners. With a strong culture and an emphasis on training, we believe our people are our greatest asset. We look after our people, so they’re ready to look after your people. Working with Network ROI, you have a UK-wide team of technology experts available to help with strategy, give you feedback on your plans, and guide your business growth. You’re getting more than an “IT person”—you’re getting a strategy team.
Richard Smith has been appointed the Service Delivery Manager for Network ROI. He previously worked at Network ROI as the Client Services Manager.
He brings 35 years’ experience from a career in information technology, having worked in many large corporates including Royal London, Unisys, Scottish Provident, Edinburgh Airport, Murray Group, Lloyds, RBS, Clydesdale Bank and Virgin Money.
Richard said “I join Network ROI at an exciting time, with the chance to help develop and shape the companies service delivery management. As an employee-owned business, I have the opportunity to positively influence the company’s future direction, be part of the decision making and mentor colleagues in the service desk team.”
Keith Bevan, CEO, said “Our clients are the heart of our business, so this role represents one of our most important core activities, where the ITIL framework helps shape our data-driven decision-making business model and gives our customers the peace of mind that we are committed to delivering exceptional service standards. Richard brings not only a deep understanding of best practice but a key understanding of how this can be applied to our diverse UK client base.”