The Road To Become Employee Owned Trust

September 1, 2023 thehrobserver-hrobserver-employeeownedtrust

Darren Barker and Eric Langham, Co-founders, of Barker Langham talk about their experience on running their firm and turning it into employee owned trust. They share some of the key learning lessons.

This summer, Global Consultancy firm, Barker Langham has announced a change in company structure to become an employee-owned trust. This innovative and progressive approach will secure the company’s long-term future and put the decision making firmly in the hands of the people who work there.  

Darren Barker and Eric Langham, Co-founders, Barker Langham write about their experience below:

We first met at university when we were studying archaeology together – after graduating, we both moved to London to work in the cultural sector, and we founded Barker Langham in 2005. A strong spirit of friendship and passion have been the firm’s guiding principles since those very early days.  

Since 2005, we have been planning and realising incredible cultural projects, and today our team includes several more archaeologists, but also writers, curators, business planners, designers, interpreters and researchers. We began in the UK, but our work has taken us all over the world, and we now have people in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, Riyadh, Jeddah and Shanghai. This global network both supports and defines us – as we have a constant source of different perspectives and best practices feeding into everything we do.  

We have always taken an ethical and innovation-first approach to running the business and the move to employee ownership is a natural extension of this founding philosophy. Something we have been thinking about for a long time is how to evolve the business and protect the long-term future of the organisation and the brand. One of the crucial things for us in making this transition was to find a way to reward and recognise the important contribution made by those who have helped to drive the growth of the firm over the last 18 years. When we started to research the Employee Owned Trust (EOT) model it quickly became clear that it aligned closely with our values-driven approach and would help us to secure the future of the business as it continues to grow. It allows teams to celebrate past achievements and for us to retain valued staff, reward hard work, and cultivate young talent. By transitioning to this model, we are writing the next chapter of the company hand-in-hand with our team, who will share in the success they have been integral to building.  

We have an exceptionally talented and passionate global team leading their fields with a distinctive blend of local experience and international expertise. When you look at what we have accomplished together on an incredible variety of projects around the globe – the deep research, the captivating storytelling and the genuine partnerships, cultivated over the long-term – these things are only possible because of our team. Our move to an EOT will allow our people to continue expanding and innovating – delivering Barker Langham’s unparalleled support for the global cultural sector. 

Designed to empower employees, EOTs are an important ownership model for creative businesses and are becoming increasingly common in the cultural sector as it matures and expands. They acknowledge the importance of people in a company’s success, ensuring they are stakeholders in its future and encouraging innovation at all levels. EOTs also offer an important alternative to other established models of long-term expansion such as management buy-outs or venture capital investment.  

Put simply, the new EOT framework means that Barker Langham employees now own a majority of the company, and this new structure brings the very ownership of the organisation into alignment with our beliefs. The response from the team has been hugely positive and we’re already seeing the results. We have become more consultative as we make big decisions- an example of this is our recent company-wide consultation process that has led to us deciding to pilot a ‘9-day working fortnight’ model from September. All of our people are also highly involved in the continual development and betterment of the organisation- right now we are collectively working towards achieving B-Corp accreditation.   

Although we will continue to lead the business day-to-day – which is important for continuity – we have a large, diverse and talented team of global directors who are tasked with driving the business forward across all services and geographies. Longer term, the EOT model will allow us to continue to innovate and support the next generation of cultural specialists through training and skills development. Research and data have always been very important to our work, and this model will also allow us to develop bespoke research programmes and expand our thought-leadership work.  

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