After operating as a limited company for nearly two decades, Plymouth based architecture firm McCaren Design became an employee ownership trust on 1 June 2020.
It was a journey that began in 2018, when directors Andrew Paterson and Hilary Kolinsky decided to align their business model with their core value: equality. “We were seeking to have a company structure that reflected our desire for our employees to be on an equal footing,” Hilary explains.
McCaren Design carry out work for residential developers and commercial businesses, as well as third sector organisations. Projects span social and sustainable housing and heritage. “We enjoy working with our community, co-ops and social enterprise clients. We take a very holistic approach and share similar values and principles”, says Hilary.
“Plymouth has set out a strategic plan to double the local co-operative economy in Plymouth by 2025 and we look forward to being part of this growth and partnering with more social enterprises in future.”
The Hive support helped Hilary and her colleagues to transition to employee ownership. Their support provider, Chris Crookall-Fallon worked with them for six months. He facilitated some round table discussions that helped to move the transition along.
He also met with employees and they had an opportunity to talk through anything they didn’t want to raise in front of us in the first instance. The Hive’s help was really valuable and supported our path to employee ownership.
Several employees became directors when the firm transformed. They now have five directors and one employee – and everyone has a chance to have an equal say in how the firm is run.
“It’s in our five-year plan to become 10 to 12 people. We’ve structured it so that the directors are accountable to our Employee Council. As we grow and more employees join, their interests will be represented through the council,” Hilary explains. For her, changing to a co‑operative way of doing business has been a valuable experience that is reaping rewards:
“Everybody has a say on how we deliver and manage projects – and it’s up to them to take ownership of their suggestions. It’s very proactive and creative too. I feel that we are now making decisions from a much broader knowledge base because we have the strength of everybody’s view behind that.”