Two Years On With Force 8 Employee-Owned Trust

This article appeared in the December Issue of Window News

It has now been two years since Force 8 pioneered the Employee-Owned Trust (EOT), and now they can reflect on the strategic decision, which has proven to be an outstanding success.

In an industry where staff and skill shortages are starting to bite, Force 8 has found what it believes is a unique and long-lasting solution to part of the problem, particularly staff retention. In the last two years, other companies within the industry have also followed Force 8’s lead, by instigating similar schemes.

The industry is currently grappling with a significant challenge: a notable shortage of skilled staff. As the demand for windows and doors continues, finding qualified staff with the expertise and retaining them has become increasingly difficult. This shortage not only poses operational challenges for companies within the window and door market, but also puts pressure on meeting the growing consumer demand for energy-efficient and durable window and door solutions. Addressing this shortage is crucial for sustaining growth, maintaining quality standards, and ensuring customer satisfaction within a the competitive a market.

“An EOT (Employee-Owned company) is one where 51% or over of the shares are in a trust for the benefit of all employees,” comments Lisa Mottershead operations director for Force 8. “The trust, which oversees the management of the company, includes shop floor representative and one non-working independent person. The trustee board must meet certain legal requirements and ensure that the company is always acting in the best interest of all the employees. Alongside this, a Forum is made up from staff and directors with the aim of improving the company and discussing new ideas.

“Companies embracing employee ownership frequently witness heightened productivity, decreased absenteeism, augmented revenue streams, and enhanced profitability. These positive outcomes tend to persist over the long term, fuelled by the sustained motivation of the workforce. In the case of Force 8, it was decided that the full 100% of the shares should be within the trust. Every eligible staff member, having been employed over 12 months, can receive a tax-free amount of up to £3600 within the fiscal year. This was recently manifested in a £500 tax-free bonus for the Easter holidays, mirroring a similar pay-out preceding Christmas. The workforce expresses genuine satisfaction in reaping the rewards of the company’s success, acknowledging the tangible recognition for their dedicated time and effort.

“The EOT has totally altered the company dynamics and created the perfect team spirit within the workforce, everyone has become a quality control expert making sure every product is perfect and delivered on time. When Dennis Sumner, our MD first explained the EOT to the workforce, not everyone within the company was on board with the scheme, so Dennis took the decision to put the plan on hold until everyone was happy to proceed.

“As you could imagine, there were a lot of questions as to how it would all work. But with the help from JMW Solicitors LLP, and Clarke Nicklin accountants everyone was eventually satisfied with the plan, and the EOT went ahead in October 2021. It was Dennis who decided to go with the full 100% rather than the normal 51%. His view was if you are going to do this, you need to fully commit to it, which also helped to convince the staff that this was the way forward for the company.

“In the past two years, we’ve implemented several enhancements, including the establishment of our in-house paint facility. This tactical move empowers us with comprehensive quality control throughout the entire composite door manufacturing process. We also took the decision to specialise in just two profiles for the bending process, Veka and Halo, which has enabled us to make investments in specific software and state-of-the-art CNC machinery. The choice of these profiles has stemmed from its versatility, offering a wide array of sections that make it the ideal choice for bending profiles for various installations in either windows or doors. We can also ensure that a wide array of sections is consistently available, which would be almost impossible with multiple profile brands and sections.

“The decisions to undertake these initiatives was a collaborative effort, involving the entire company. Prior to making these changes, thorough discussions were conducted, reflecting our commitment to inclusivity, and ensuring that every team member feels not only informed but also genuinely valued. Adopting this transparent and participatory approach to company operations has fostered a sense of unity and shared ownership among our team”.

Force 8 were the first to implement an EOT within the industry, and others have now followed suit. While it may not be the sole remedy for the current skills shortage prevalent in the market, Force 8 sees it as a pivotal piece of the puzzle that has been successfully addressed. The positive impact of the EOT is reflected in the team’s longevity and unwavering support, showcasing a workforce that is not only staying, but thriving within the company.

Dennis Sumner, the founder of Force 8, reflects on the Employee Ownership Trust decision, stating, “Opting for the EOT was among the best choices we’ve made. I only regret not making it sooner. While it involves a complex process with substantial paperwork, the outcome more than justifies the effort invested. If you are contemplating the EOT route for the future and would like some insights, I’m open to a conversation. I’d be glad to share my experience and offer assistance where possible.”

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