UPDATE – BIC Innovation – Their Employee Ownership journey

BIC Innovation – Employee ownership

“Employee ownership has helped us create a culture of collaboration and contribution. It has helped us recruit and retain top talent… in the marketplace, being employee owned is a meaningful point of difference.”  

Who are they?

Based in Anglesey and soon to have an additional office in Bridgend, BIC Innovation Ltd is a private consultancy firm specialising in innovation and growth. Their strengths lie in facilitating innovation, building effective strategies, enhancing performance, internationalisation, marketing and scaling up. Innovation is at the heart of everything that BIC Innovation do. They bring fresh thinking, new ways of working and are not afraid to challenge the status quo. In 2018 BIC Innovation transitioned to become a Hybrid Employee-Owned Business (EOB). At this time there were 13 employees in the business.

What did the Social Business Wales employee ownership team provide?

In 2018 BIC Innovation were looking at long term succession planning, thoughts turned to how to ensure the business remained in Wales, close to its roots, so that it could continue to support the employees and the communities within which it operated. The Wales Co-operative Centre’s small team of specialist business transition advisors focus on employee ownership and supported BIC Innovation on their employee ownership journey. The Employee Ownership team is part of the Social Business Wales programme, funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund. Specific support included:
  • Helping BIC Innovation navigate through a major change in the way the business was structured. The support identified that the company’s values were very much aligned with the ethos of becoming employee owned.
  • Created a platform to manage future succession issues.
  • Developed a pan to prioritise key actions.
  • Gave confidence to initiate the process and adapt accordingly.

What were the benefits of Employee Ownership to BIC Innovation Ltd?

Huw Watkins, a Founding Director of BIC Innovation Ltd is very enthusiastic about the firm’s transition into Employee Ownership, and their adoption of a hybrid structure. The benefits of the hybrid employee ownership structure were:
  • It was a mechanism to keep the company rooted in Wales
  • It could provide a structure that lent itself to creating an environment for staff to contribute to shaping the future of the business.
  • It promoted workforce empowerment, buy-in and engagement.
  • Employees have an ethos of everyone achieving future success, together.
  • Key performance Information is shared more widely, building a stronger bond between staff and the leadership team.
Huw commented: “Becoming employee owned and the sense of ownership it brings with it, 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 made us much more resilient to the pandemic and is helping us adapt and evolve as we move forward post-Covid.”

What are the company values and how has EO supported this?

Culture is crucial and always has been to BIC. Being a business based on providing clients with innovative solutions, BIC ensure that every employee and employee/owner contributes to creating an environment fit for maximising value from innovation. Their values of equality, trust, openness, collaboration and sharing and accessing knowledge fits perfectly within an employee-owned structure and ethos. These values drive interaction internally with employees and externally with the community in which the business operates, or indeed, with those served by BIC Innovation. Huw and fellow employee/owners believe that employee ownership has reinforced the company values. Employee surveys have found that:
  1. Employees feel more accountability
  2. They have a more personal interest in how the business runs and its success.
  3. Collective and individual success and contribution is seen as hugely important.

What has happened since becoming an EOB?

The business has grown in terms of its client base, the value of the projects it works on. Productivity is up, as is client satisfaction. BIC Innovation Ltd has more than trebled its workforce and currently employs 42 people. Employees are spread across Wales and there is a 50/50 gender balance. This remains important to BIC Innovation Ltd as they continue to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion are key drivers in realising benefit from innovation.

Recruitment

Being an employee owned business was actively promoted by BIC as part of their on-going recruitment strategy. Huw Watkins firmly believes that employee ownership has contributed to attracting new talent with diverse perspectives, who provide different perspectives, deliver improved services for clients and add value to the brand.. Indeed, some employees taken on as part of an internship, have become permanent employees and have an eye to taking out their share options when eligible after a year of employment.

Communication

A governance arrangement is in place which is strongly established and working. A new minority shareholder Director has been appointed. This is a direct link between minority shareholders, their day-to-day activities and decision making at board level. They have regular meetings which cover more than just financials and give employees an overview of several elements of the business. As a result, employees have more than just a ‘voice’, and have a meaningful way of addressing issues and contributing to strategy and future direction of their business.
Anna Pearce, Marketing Manager at BIC commented, “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 2-way communication for addressing issues and contributing ideas for the future direction of the business.

A final word from Huw

At BIC Innovation a collective contribution to success is not only encouraged, but sought by employees.
As Huw Watkins puts it: “Employees feel it is a natural progression from staff engagement to ownership – giving everyone empowerment and a passion to drive the business forward in terms of innovation and how they steer the business. Employees at all levels have increased their involvement in the running of BIC Innovation and as a result, it has created something special, a real feeling of belonging.”
BIC Innovation Ltd M-Sparc, Menai Science Park, Gaerwen, Isle of Anglesey, LL60 6AG.