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London tech start-up Outlandish gives itself away on Employee Ownership Day

Founders believe staff should have ownership of what they create

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Outlandish, a web design consultancy focusing on applications, rapid-prototyping and social media, has joined a growing number of businesses that are giving ownership to their employees.

The North London firm, co-founded by Harry Robbins and Tamlyn Rhodes in 2010, said it decided to mark today’s Employee Ownership Day by offering company shares to its staff. Prior to today the company ownership rested in the hands of just four of the company's 10 staff. 

Rhodes said: “The value of Outlandish is the people that work for it. If people are creating the value through their hard work and ingenuity, it’s only right that they should get to own what they create.”

The company, which builds next-generation data tools and websites for organisations such as the BBC, King’s College London and the British Council, claims that people who work in an employee-owned business have higher levels of job satisfaction, feel a greater sense of achievement and job security and are more likely to recommend their workplace than employees that do not have a stake in their employer's businesses.

Other companies to go down the root of handing ownership to the employees include retail giant John Lewis.

Robbins said: “John Lewis was gifted to its workers because its founder also believed that the best way to make satisfied workers and clients was to make sure that the people that really understood the business – the workers – also owned company." 

John Lewis Group communications manager Neil Spring said: “It’s great to see that an ownership model that works so well in retailing is just as relevant to an industry that didn’t even exist when the Partnership entered into employee ownership.”

Meanwhile, Outlandish's local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “I welcome and applaud this great local effort to create fulfilling jobs and provide training in Islington and hope that Outlandish’s model can be replicated in many areas.”

Outlandish is now calling on political parties across government to make it easier to start an employee-owned company.

“The government provides virtually no guidance, and company structures such as cooperatives that are popular in other countries are largely missing in the UK,” said Robbins. “There’s a lot of talk about getting rid of red-tape which is actually about undermining workers’ rights. Politicians should be focusing on making it easier for people to get together and create fulfilling jobs for themselves and others – that means providing support, making employee-owned companies easier to start and making sure the market is not dominated by tax-dodging corporations.”

UK employee owned companies have a turnover of around three percent of GDP (over £30 billion) per annum but the Employee Ownership Association wants this to rise to 10 percent of UK GDP to by 2020.


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