New Beginnings in 2022: Our shift to employee ownership

New Beginnings in 2022: Our shift to employee ownership

There are many reasons 2021 will remain a memorable year – let’s face it, most of them not particularly positive – but a main one has to be our decision to reshape Formative Content into an employee-owned business.

This was not a step to be taken lightly, but making major decisions like this comes with the territory of running a small business. Paul and I have spent more than seven years building Formative into a thriving, globally respected content agency, working with the world’s leading brands and employing more than 70 people. We’ve built a great culture, and a flexible and inclusive place to work, so it was important to maintain this whilst looking to the future.

Looking ahead

Back in the heady days pre-Covid, we were approached by a worldwide agency wanting to, as the global CEO put it during our meeting, “marry us”. We dated for a while, but the relationship just didn’t take off and nuptials were soon far from mind, for all of us. Instead, Paul and I concentrated on building a resilient, lockdown business and supporting our team as we moved to a hybrid working environment. Thankfully, with the global shift to digital comms, we were able to increase revenue and continue to grow our client base. 

But that brief foray into a potential sale piqued our interest and forced us to think in more detail about a clear plan for Formative into the longer term – for our team and for the two of us as owners. A transaction involving a big agency group, or private equity or sale to a big corporation, just didn’t appeal. Employee ownership (EO) seemed the solution that would deliver all the outcomes we were looking for. 

A shared vision

As a creative agency, with no ‘off the shelf’ products, it’s crucial for us that we continue to nurture our people. EO enables us to run the company to the benefit of the staff, with their long-term futures in mind. The new structure means both Paul and I have sold all our shares in Formative to a stand-alone trust, and that trust must ensure the company continues to be run for its people. 

In the coming months we will establish an Employee Council with elected members who will provide ongoing feedback and guidance to the trust, our expanded board of directors and our management team. We will continue to talk to our team about how we can make this a meaningful experience for us all as we grow the company.

Plus ça change

It has already been an inclusive, emotional and affirming experience, gathering insights from other companies and agencies ahead of us on their EO journey. The support of Yogita Johnston and her team at the Employee Ownership Association has also been invaluable. 

Our clients have wholeheartedly welcomed the move. We believe they appreciate that this transition will help protect our unique culture and approach to the work we hold dear. Paul and I are ‘on deck’ and, with our management team, continue to run the company.

To crib from the well-known proverb ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, our commitment as leaders of Formative and our dedication to producing quality output remain. 


About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content
Author:Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content