20/20’s History and why we became Employee-owned.
20/20 was founded in 2003 by Tony Marks and Graham Chapman who had combined their project management and learning & development experience to develop project management training courses to help individuals and organisations improve project performance.
20/20’s first Clients were in the oil & gas industry and the international nature of oil & gas led to the delivery of training programmes across the world. During this period The Association for Project Management (APM) accreditation structure became established as the benchmark for project management best practice in the UK and 20/20 offered all levels from Fundamentals to what has now become the Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) standard.
The cyclical nature of the oil & gas industry led to new work with many of the engineering & construction companies from that sector who also worked elsewhere and 20/20 became accredited by the UK’s Engineering & Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB). 20/20 now work across a wide range of sectors, primarily involved with large capital projects, such as Nuclear, Utilities, Aerospace & Defence, Transport, Engineering & Construction, Construction and The Built Environment in partnership with the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), Oil & Gas and Renewables.
In recent years 20/20 have been focused on developing and delivering project management best practice via a range of new technologies, providing a more flexible and blended approach for its learners. This includes eLearning, Virtual Classroom and Blended options for every level of the APM’s accreditation structure and for bespoke Client programmes.
20/20 is now recognised as one of the world’s leading project management learning & development companies with many household names as Clients including BAE Systems, Balfour Beatty, BP, Centrica, Costain, Diageo, EDF Energy, Jacobs, Mott MacDonald, Network Rail, NHS, Ocado, RBS, Sellafield & William Grant
20/20 also focuses on the development of its own people and was recently awarded Investors in People (IIP) Gold accreditation. Why Employee Ownership?
As the original founders and management team entered their later 50s and early 60s, they recognised that they would need a gradual exit strategy. Emerging talent had been identified and developed and a structure was put in place to support the growth of a new management team. A succession plan was developed to ensure the company, its employees and its Clients needs were met and that the company would continue to grow & develop.
The original owners recognised the pitfalls of many potential exit strategies. These included extracting the value to the detriment of the business’ future, a trade sale that could lead to asset stripping, external investors with only financial motives or – perhaps the worst options of all – staying on for too long and not benefiting from new talent.
The owners then found out about the benefits of an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). Using external expertise provided by Ownership Associates and supported by Scottish Enterprise an independent valuation was provided and control was passed to the 20/20 Employee Ownership Trust to be held on behalf of all employees. In return, a payment plan was agreed between the Trust and the original owners over several years. These payments are funded by the Company’s profitable trading so the employees themselves do not need to contribute and the scheme is tax efficient and HMRC-approved. The owners receive a fair valuation and follow a succession plan to ensure that the transition is smooth for all concerned.
The 20/20 Employee Ownership Trust includes an elected Employee Trustee who also attends Board meetings. The Trustees ensure that the Trust Deed is followed, and the Company is run for the benefit of all Employees. The Company’s Board of Directors are entrusted to run the company on a day-to-day basis and are ultimately responsible to the Trust. What have been the benefits of Employee-ownership?
The employee-owned business sector in the UK is growing because co-owned companies tend to be more successful, competitive, profitable, and sustainable. But why is this? Below are some statements from the Employee Ownership Association and how they have demonstrated to be true for 20/20.
Because they are co-owners, the staff in employee-owned businesses tend to be more entrepreneurial and committed to the company and its success. At 20/20 this was put to the test early with COVID-19 pandemic. In just weeks the business had to re-orientate itself from a primarily classroom-based delivery model to virtual and eLearning delivery of its programmes. This huge task was undertaken with the total commitment of the learning & development team, sales & marketing team and customer services team working in harmony to transform the business. The company is now thriving with this new model. For the employees, this led to another year of receiving a tax-free bonus which is allowable under HMRC guidelines for Employee-owned companies.
Because Employee-owned Companies have high employment standards, involve staff, and give everyone a stake, they are better at recruiting and retaining talented, committed staff. 20/20 are finalists in the UK Business Awards categories of Best Place to Work, Health & Wellbeing, Best Business Response to the Crisis (COVID-19) and E-Learning. Our commitment to our staff was also instrumental in achieving the Investors in People Gold Standard earlier this year.
Because they are run in an open way, employee-owned businesses tend to have a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and involvement with the communities they operate in. Apart from individual volunteering, 20/20 has joined Social Good Connect which is a purpose-driven social enterprise whose search and match technology makes employee volunteering simple by connecting employees with their perfect volunteering opportunities. They help businesses to support employee wellbeing and forge closer connections to their communities and give non-profits and charities access to a wider audience of motivated, skilled volunteers. The Social Connect team are doing great work with many businesses already and are looking to connect with businesses who believe in putting their people and purpose at the heart of their work, and who want to make a difference in their communities.
Independent research suggests that a combination of shared ownership and employee participation delivers superior business performance. 66% of the Top 50 Employee-owned companies have no debt and staff engagement means that they are agile. 20/20’s business performance has improved markedly since it became employee-owned in 2018 – including during the pandemic - and the staff see a direct link between that performance and their own rewards via the HMRC-approved bonus scheme. This improved business performance has also enabled us to introduce a wide range of new staff benefits.
Employee-owned companies are more innovative because managers go out of their way to consult, share information about the company, and give staff responsibility. Communication and consultation are key at 20/20. We live our values which are Empowerment – Respectful – Innovation – Fun and our team support each other to ensure we are true to them. We have weekly all staff meetings, employee representation on our Board, our own EO Day in August to commemorate when we became employee-owned, and we believe that it is impossible to over communicate. Why we aren’t alone
We are also not alone as an Employee-owned Company and share this philosophy with household names such as The John Lewis Partnership, Arup Group and Unipart, and Clients such as Mott MacDonald.
According to the Employee Ownership Association, The Top 50 UK Employee-owned companies have sales over £20.5Bn, 151,000 employees, a 4.6% increase in sales year-on-year, a 25.5% increase in operating profit (EBITDA) year-on-year, a 4.5% increase in productivity year-on-year, and 38 of them have no net debt (including us). Tony MarksCEO of 20/20 Business Group & Trustee of the 20/20 Employee Ownership Trust