John Lewis Partnership MD presents ‘Embedding a Culture of Ownership’ (#EmbeddingEO) session at Scottish Enterprise.

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The John Lewis Partnership – the UK’s largest employee-owned company – shared insights with over 30 Scottish businesses on the retailer’s successful business model today (Thursday 9 January).

The session, titled ‘Embedding a Culture of Ownership’, was hosted by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), Scottish Enterprise’s employee ownership support arm. A presentation was given by John Lewis Glasgow managing director Kim Lowe at Scottish Enterprise’s offices at Apex House in Edinburgh.

Lowe, who has worked for the John Lewis Partnership for more than 30 years, explained why she believes that providing employees with better access to knowledge, power and profits has played a huge part in the Partnership’s overall success.

The John Lewis Partnership has annual gross sales of over £9.5bn and operates 40 John Lewis shops and 300 Waitrose shops across the UK, as well as two online stores: johnlewis.com and waitrose.com. Each of the 87,500 partners are co-owners of the business and receive the same percentage of partnership bonus each year.

With experience of leading 650 John Lewis partners in Glasgow, Lowe explained how being more transparent with employees, giving them more influence in operational decisions and rewarding all employees with a share of the company’s annual profits has boosted working culture across the organisation.

It has also helped them to deliver sustainable, long-term growth in a highly competitive marketplace.

Speaking to an audience of existing and prospective employee-owned businesses in Scotland, Lowe said: “The employee ownership business model succeeds by empowering all staff to unlock their full potential.

“Our partners service our customers and our customers drive our profits. We distribute our profits back to our partners as it drives them to keep servicing our customers at the highest level possible.

“Because each and every partner shares in the profits of the business, they feel a real sense of ownership and so take responsibility for its performance.

“The millions of individual decisions and actions taken by partners in our shops, offices and distribution centres every day breeds a powerful working culture which feeds through into our customer experience and therefore also to our commercial success.”

Sarah Deas, chief executive of CDS, said: “John Lewis and Waitrose are two of the most renowned names on the British High Street and the Partnership is one of the best known employee-owned organisations in the world.

“Kim’s presentation has shown us how the John Lewis Partnership’s business model has given its employees a real stake in the company they work for, which drives them to perform at their very best and adds greater value to the organisation.

“I hope the insights into the John Lewis Partnership’s success inspire even more businesses in Scotland to consider the benefits of adopting this business model.”

In Scotland, employee-owned businesses employ more than 8,000 people and account for a combined annual turnover of just under £1bn. The number of employee-owned businesses headquartered in Scotland has doubled since 2009.

Examples of other employee-owned businesses in Scotland include paper and board manufacturers Tullis Russell, engineering consultants Arup, manufacturing firm Clansman Dynamics and animal feed manufacturer and agricultural merchant Galloway & MacLeod.
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