Trailblazing with our new agency model

When I look back on my 20-year  journey  building Cirkle from a one-woman band in a converted garage into a highly successful and well-respected agency with nearly 40 staff, two offices, £5m turnover and a client list to die for, it leaves me quite speechless….and of course very proud.

But no business is built on one person. It is built on the aggregate contribution of all the people who have worked at Cirkle, all the clients who have believed in us, all the ideas that have come to us at the most unexpected times, all the sleepless nights we have had when taking a risk, all the passion and energy invested by the team, all the challenges from which we have learnt.

So, at this anniversary milestone, I had been weighing all this up and thinking what next? How can I start to step down from the business and allow the Board, the Management Team and the wider Cirkle team to be even more motivated and incentivised to take Cirkle into its next chapter.

Personally I had always been inspired by the John Lewis business model. Where everyone is a “partner”. Where everyone feels a sense of ownership of the company. Where everyone understands their role in building the business. Where everyone gets a relative share of the profits. You just need to walk into any John Lewis to experience that heightened customer care and loyalty.

Thanks to a change in legislation in 2014, Cirkle has now effectively re-created this business model.   As founder / Owner/ Chairman of Cirkle, I have sold a majority shareholding of 60% into an “Employee Ownership Trust” (EOT) which benefits ALL staff for their contribution, from the most junior to the most senior, whilst preserving the integrity and continuity of the business.

As employees, the team are automatically beneficiaries of the Trust and are now “partners” in Cirkle. Our newly introduced Partnership bonus means we can pay the first £3.6k tax free in bonuses. And should we ever sell to a third party, the distribution to all staff will be based on the principles of the EOT legislation concerning salary, hours worked and length of service. Employees could potentially receive seriously substantial sums so a sale would not be met with such foreboding and concern.

Ironically Forbes quote of the day today reads “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society”. This model creates nearly 40 Cirkle “mini –owners” who will all be better rewarded for their contribution rather than contain it to the chosen few. That’s got to be positive.

Cirkle is the first PRCA-accredited agency to adopt this model, further reinforcing our commitment to upholding a great company culture and driving innovation within the industry. The feedback from clients, media, friends, influencers and of course the fabulous team has been overwhelming calling it “bold”, “innovative” and “reflective of the spirit of Cirkle”. It is an entirely different agency model and I believe one which has already piqued a lot of interest from other agency heads.

I personally feel so proud of the legacy this creates. And I am pretty certain we will see more of these EOT structures in the future.

Team pic


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