Skouting out employee ownership in B2B PR

Skout is a B2B PR agency which transitioned to 100% employee ownership via an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) in 2023.

Co-founded in 2010 by Rob Skinner and Claire Lamb, Skout is based in Cheshire and employs a small, dedicated team of PR experts.

The size of the team and its belief in Skout’s values – of being a brighter, bolder B2B PR and marketing agency dedicated to building brilliant business relationships – meant that its independence is at the core of its business philosophy. As the business has grown, it has also developed an employee-led culture which has become a pivotal belief in how it operates and lives by its values day-by-day.

Skout had been subject to several acquisition enquiries from other agencies but the co-founders always declined them as they felt that something different was needed for such an individual agency as theirs and their clients.

Rob and Claire wanted Skout to remain as master of its own destiny for as long as possible, with plans in place to enable further growth and an expanded capability offering to clients.

Employee ownership was the answer. It allows Skout’s management team to put their colleagues first, which is vital because of their importance in driving growth. If they are happy, they do great work, which is good for clients.

A new ownership model would have advantages for the team including career progression, tax-free benefits and greater investment back into the company.

The transition was communicated clearly at every stage to avoid misunderstanding, particularly when describing how a trust looking after the business on behalf of the employees is defined as ‘employee-owned’ as opposed to direct ownership from the employee’s perspective.

EOTs include positives which have been built into most clients’ structures, including at Skout. Employees have real and meaningful representation on the shareholder body as the trust takes decisions in the best interests of its beneficiaries.

Employees still perform in their roles as they did before the agency was employee owned. When the debt to the founders has cleared, the business will share in profits it makes. This is a very interesting position to be in.

“With many of our clients, it is the founders who come to us and say it is the route they would like to take,” says Simon Everingham of Baxendale.

“These businesses often have a real independent streak and an identity which the owners want to protect going forward. There is often also a question of legacy, with owners wanting a business to have a life beyond themselves or any one generation of employees.

“Often, they won’t have liked the idea of an alternative like a trade sale. After a move like that, the identity of the company would be lost,” he adds.

“We chose to partner with Baxendale because employee ownership is all they do, rather than other companies which were technically qualified to help but which did not have a great deal of employee ownership experience to fall back on,” explains Rob Skinner.

“We knew that working with them would be a speedy, watertight process and that they would be with us at every step,” he concludes.

To find out more about employee ownership and employee ownership trusts and how they might work for your business, contact Simon Everingham simon.everingham@baxendale-eo.co.uk

Simon Everingham

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