Over 16 years Carollon has grown from seven to over 70 employees, and spawning spin-off companies Pharos Architectural Controls, Brompton Technology, and new start-up SixEye. Pharos and Brompton have both been regular winners of high-profile awards for their innovative products, with Brompton Technology recently winning the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2020: International Trade.
As of May 2020, Carallon is now owned by an Employee Ownership Trust, which acts for the benefit of all current and future employees, and through elected employee trustees gives all staff a say in major strategic decisions.
Managing Director, Richard Mead explained: “On day one, Carallon was set up as a business owned and run by its original seven employees. Although we’ve got bigger, we wanted to make sure that ethos was preserved and that there was a clear structure in place for the long-term future of Carallon. Employee ownership fosters a spirit of teamwork and less hierarchical management structures, so it fits with our style very well.”
Employee Ownership Trusts provide a great and empowering alternative to traditional mergers and buyouts that might try to change the direction, values or culture of a company. It provides safety and security for the employees, allowing it to be employee owned without individual employees having to make a financial investment or take on any risk.
The process works by the founders selling their shares to a trust that is set up solely for the benefit of the current and future employees of Carallon. The employees don’t own the business directly, but while they remain employees they get some additional benefits and rights because the business is owned by a trust acting on their behalf.
“While the other directors and I are remaining at Carallon’s helm for the foreseeable future, we wanted to be pro-active about putting a structure in place that wasn’t reliant on us,” Mead continued. “Crucially we wanted to empower our team, a great number of whom have been with us for many years and have been instrumental to Carallon’s success. The EOT allows all Carallon employees to feel invested in the company’s growth and to share in its successes going forward.”
Chris Hunt, Commercial Director added: “Over the last 24 months the shareholders have been discussing what would be the right long-term structure for Carallon. Employee ownership is a model being heavily promoted by government and adopted by lots of companies right now, for good reason – there is compelling evidence that it improves productivity and the working environment. After a five year period of rapid growth, the EOT was the natural next step for our development as a business.”
Director Nick Archdale commented: “We have dedicated ourselves to the design and creation of innovative, reliable, future-proofed products that solve real world problems for our customers across a variety of end industries. Everything about the transition to being an employee-owned company is us applying those same principles to our company structure.”
The board responsible for managing the trust is chaired by Mike Wood, a well-known and well-respected figure within the entertainment technology industry, who runs his own consulting service and has advised Carallon on intellectual property matters for many years. At various times he has been elected to lead trade associations on both sides of the Atlantic and has a huge breadth of experience to help guide Carallon in the next phase of its journey. He is joined by board trustees Chris Hunt, Leo Khale (Director of Engineering), Sarah Darby (Group HR Manager), and Philip Smith (Engineering Manager).
Mead concluded: “In a way it is getting back to the original vision for Carallon of a company owned and run by its employees, with a robust structure that ensures employees feel in control of their own destiny. After lots of careful preparation, it was not part of the plan to be concluding this transition just as much of our industry was reeling from the impact of the pandemic. But thanks to lots of effort and teamwork from all our employees we are coming through this most challenging year and making a strong start to this new chapter for Carallon.”