Marketing consultancy MindWorks transitions to employee-owned firm

06 October 2017

The ownership of Hampshire-based marketing consultancy, MindWorks Marketing, has changed hands. Managing Director John Harris-Burland is selling his majority stake in the firm, presently in its 20th year of business, to create an employee partnership structure comparable to that of John Lewis.

Employee ownership is now the fastest growing form of business ownership in the UK – with companies in multiple sectors working to join famous examples like John Lewis in the practice. John Lewis regularly tops lists denoting the best employers in the United Kingdom, including the annual LinkedIn rankings for the past two years thanks to its innovative ownership structure. As the retailer reported a 21% increase in pre-tax profit in March this year, many firms have been prompted to follow suit from a perspective of prudent business sense as well. Subsequently, companies that are employee-owned, or that have large and significant employee ownership stakes, contribute £30 billion to the national GDP of the UK today.

Last year, the decision of one of the fastest-growing consulting firms in the US, 300-professional MorganFranklin Consulting, based in suburban Washington D.C., made headlines for selecting this model as the way forward for its corporate strategy. The firm, founded in 1998, made a choice that was heralded as offering a path to long-term sustainability for other professional services firms at the time, while offering financial rewards for founders and employees alike.Marketing consultancy MindWorks transitions to employee-owned firm

MindWorks Marketing

Now, in the UK, MindWorks Marketing, which was founded in the same year, has become the latest member of the consulting industry to choose an employee ownership model. The British marketing consultancy, which boasts clients including Suzuki, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Royal Navy, Ford and Wiggle, has opted for what the firm’s website describes as a “historic” step – becoming an employee-owned company as they begin their 20th year in business.

Following the announcement of the changes, Deb Oxley, CEO of the Employee Ownership Association, said, “We are seeing a trend of businesses which rely on people to differentiate their offer to consider employee ownership as a sustainable business model that empowers employees in a more meaningful way, which helps them to attract and retain the best talent and in turn helps to develop and maintain great relationships with clients.”

Managing Director and majority shareholder, John Harris-Burland, announced his intention to sell his ownership to a combination of the senior management team and a Trust, which will hold shares on behalf of all the employees – seeing all employees share directly in the future profits of the company. As part of the transition, the company has added an elected member of staff to the board – which also creates a female majority, contrasting with reports of a lack of female leaders at board level costing top companies in the US, UK and India as much as $655 billion  – and a further elected member of staff as a Trustee. Additionally, all the Directors are also now shareholders, which the group believes gives them added interest in the prosperity of the firm in the future.

One further step in the overhaul of the firm’s ownership structure sees Harris-Burland vacate his position as Managing Director (MD) to take on a new role as Chairman. Stepping aside formally next year, he will be replaced by new Managing Director Designate, Michelle Leggatt – a chartered marketer who has worked alongside the out-going MD for over 16 years.

MindWorks - Directors

John Harris-Burland said of his motivations for the sweeping changes, “Over the years, we have built a strong caring ethos at MindWorks. This is driven by our company values that dictate how we should work to deliver the best marketing possible for our clients, while working together in a caring and respectful way. By setting up an Employee Owned Trust, I can ensure this ethos continues as the new agreement specifies that the trust will be guardians of these brand values and responsible for overseeing the success of the company.”

Talking of the changes, inbound MD Michelle Leggatt meanwhile praised Harris-Burland, “As the company has grown – now to some 34 members of staff – it has become increasingly difficult for John to balance the company administration with the client work that he loves so much. Now he can spend more time on marketing, while I look forward to taking on this wonderful new challenge of leading the company forward into its next phase of development.”


SQW Group purchases property-based regeneration consultancy

19 April 2019

UK consulting firm SQW Group has completed its first acquisition since it completed a management buyout in January 2019. BBP Regeneration joins the company having collaborated with SQW for more than 20 years.

Established in 1983, SQW Group now operates all over the world. Comprising SQW, Oxford Innovation, Oxford Innovation Services – one of the UK’s leading innovation centre operators – and Oxford Investment Opportunities Network, the organisation’s origins can be traced to Britain’s two ancient university cities: Oxford, through Oxford Trust founders, Martin and Audrey Wood, and Cambridge, through SQW’s work in producing The Cambridge Phenomenon.

The consultancy specialises in public policy, working with entities from the public, private and voluntary sectors to research, develop, implement and evaluate social and economic development interventions. It now employs over 250 people across regional offices in London, Oxford and Edinburgh, and provides business support to over 4,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses each year. At the start of 2019, SQW secured its independence in a management buyout, advised on by M&A experts from Liberty Corporate Finance and Penningtons Manches.

SQW Group purchases property-based regeneration consultancy

SQW has strengthened its position as a provider of services across the business spectrum with the acquisition of BBP Regeneration. Founded in 1994, the consulting firm specialises in land and property-based regeneration and growth schemes, and is a leading social and economic development consultancy. 

The two firms first worked together over 20 years ago, when SQW and BBP collaborated to develop the first Regional Economic Strategy for the South East. More recently, they developed an economic strategy for Thanet and are now working together in locations stretching from Cwmbran via Oxfordshire to London.

With the addition of BBP, SQW can now provide an integrated advisory service for organisations developing property schemes which deliver economic benefit to their local area. By joining SQW, meanwhile, BBP hopes to further enhance its ability to support clients in delivering property and place-making ambitions. 

Speaking about the deal, SQW CEO David Crichton-Miller commented, “The UK more than ever needs solutions to the challenges of places – of high streets under threat, of meeting housing delivery targets, and of both economically over-successful and economically challenged towns and cities – and the combination of SQW and BBP is uniquely suited to developing those solutions. [This deal] brings together critical and complementary services relating to places to serve our clients with leading edge and practical advice.”

Andy Smith, Director of BBP Regeneration, added, “SQW shares with BBP the same values of seeking to provide outstanding, practical, real world advice that helps get buildings built and places developed.  We greatly look forward to the opportunities that come from joining our two organisations together.”