Montala protect their independence with move to Employee Ownership

Montala is an Oxfordshire based software provider, with its sole focus on its opensource Digital Asset Management (DAM) software, ResourceSpace; which is used extensively in the not-for-profit sector.

The company was founded by Dan Huby in 2005 and for the first five years Dan worked, and grew Montala, largely by himself – building the company into the formative version of the business it is today.

Montala has always had a strong values-led culture and taken pride in its open source business model and ethical policies.  These things were important to Dan as he founded and grew the business and as he began to recruit new employees to the company, the values of the business, as well as its ongoing independence, became important to them too.

As the business grew from micro business into a small committed team, its ownership structure, of one founder director and shareholder, no longer seemed to fit.  Dan began looking at the best way to change this for the future.  He investigated employee share schemes and co-operative models, but he did not find anything that was quite the right for Montala.  Then he came across Employee Ownership Trusts (EOT).  In EOT Dan found exactly what he needed to move the business into a more collective form of ownership.  By selling his shares to an EOT, Dan would be fairly rewarded for his years of hard work founding and building the business, and the business would be able to move forwards with everyone as co-owners; with its independence, culture and values secured for the future.

EOTs have largely come to the attention of business owners, advisers and the media, as a method of facilitating an exit.  There has been a focus on business owners at the end of their careers, who wish to sell their businesses, realise capital and retire, without a sale to a third party.  Montala’s story reminds us that there is much more to employee ownership than just solving the succession puzzle.  For Dan and Montala the move was never about an exit.  Dan hopes to continue with Montala as Managing Director long into the future.  For Montala, the sale of shares to an EOT was about recognising the contribution to and the ownership of, the business by the people who work in it, made possible by Dan’s acknowledgment that it is no longer him alone who is building the business and making it successful.

Trust ownership also delivered on some of Dan’s other concerns about the future of the business:

  1. Protecting the independence of Montala: Employee ownership ensures that Montala cannot be sold unless it is in the best interests of the employees to do so.  As well as Trust and Board consent, a majority of employees would need to consent to a sale.
  2. Future Governance: Employee ownership gave Montala the chance to design a future proof governance structure that puts the employees at the heart of the business.  In its role as majority shareholder and guardian of Montala’s values, the Trust Board is able to provide both support and challenge to Dan as Managing Director.
  3. Protecting the culture and values: Protecting the ethical principles of Montala is a responsibility of the Trust Board.  Montala’s Trustee Directors are all employees of the company, who understand the importance of retaining the things that are special about Montala for the future.
  4. Future Succession: The future succession of the business is now secured and Montala has a long term independent future.  This gives the company a stable platform for continued innovation and future growth.
  5. Employee Retention: Employees are invested in the success of the organisation and are more likely to stay with the company for a long time, ensuring Montala can continue to build its team of committed and talented employee owners.

Montala moved into employee ownership with the sale of 100% of the share capital to and employee ownership trust in October 2020.

Reflecting on the move Dan said  “This transition allows Montala to draw a line between the work that I did, founding the business, and a new era of collective ownership which reflects the efforts of everyone now involved. It’s a very exciting time for us all.”

Deb Oxley OBE, Chief Executive of the EOA said: “We congratulate Montala on its move to employee ownership working with EO adviser Baxendale. Businesses that give employees a stake and a say sustain its values and independence for the longer term by making its employees custodians of the business for future generations. This leaves the business in a better position to flex, innovate and adapt.”

To find out more about employee ownership and employee ownership trusts and how they might work for your business, contact Emily Alston emily.alston@baxendale.co.uk

Emily Alston

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