Understanding the factors and processes that are inherent to founding and sustaining a successful business is at the heart of much of literature in entrepreneurship. Successful business founders make a critical contribution to the economy. All business founders must one day exit the business that they have founded. As opposed to the wealth of literature that exists in the field of business start-up and entrepreneurial business creation, far less is known about the ‘other end of the spectrum' – the exit of the business founder from their firm. This has implications and consequences for the individuals concerned, for the firm and for the wider economy.
A business founder that wishes to exit the firm that they founded can do so by selling the business (i.e. to a third party), by transferring the business through an act of ‘succession' - or by closing it down altogether. One exit option for business founders to transfer the ownership of their firm to those that are working within the business. This is a common pathway for family businesses, yet where family succession is not possible this has rarely been studied. Within this context ‘Employee Ownership', as a strategy or exit pathway for business founders – i.e. where the founder transfers some or all of their business to employees specifically to facilitate their exit – is attracting increasing levels of attention in commercial and media circles. However, the nascent entrepreneurial exit literature has not considered this emerging phenomenon in any consequential way, whether in terms of its antecedents or its processual manifestations. This research explores why founders choose to transfer their businesses as an exit strategy into the partial or full ownership of their employees.
I am a company founder who has developed my practice in social innovation and economic development over the past 30 years. I have designed and directed training and development programmes that have assisted over 20,000 start-ups, SMEs and social enterprises and others that have supported many thousands of learners. I have directed an extensive portfolio of commercial consultancy, evaluation and research, with a particular emphasis on the 'practical' implementation of solutions arising from this work.
I am the Founder and Director of Rinova Ltd, which is based in Canary Wharf in London. Founded in 2010, Rinova designs and implements a wide range of vocational education, lifelong learning, enterprise and social innovation initiatives, both in the UK and internationally. Prior to Rinova, I was widely known for being the founder of Prevista, which I started from scratch as a one-man band in 1995. Before selling it to a private investor group in 2008, I grew it into a (then) successful professional service company employing over 100 staff and associates. I have twice won the prestigious Inner City 100 award from the New Economics Foundation for my achievements in combining successful business growth with corporate social responsibility.
I commenced a full-time PhD with the Small Business Research Centre at Kingston in 2015 and am specialising in entrepreneurial exit and employee ownership. I continue to act as Director and Chairman of Rinova, while concentrating my efforts on supporting the company's staff and its partners. I have a Masters degree in Research Methods from Kingston University, a joint Honours degree in Music and Education and Community Studies from York St John, studied for a postgraduate Diploma in Management and Personnel at the University of Westminster and am a trained assessor for Investors in People and an accredited Verifier for vocational qualifications. Over the years, I have designed and participated in over 300 European Union-funded transnational projects with an emphasis on social innovation. I have acted as a visiting lecturer to Middlesex University and the University of East London on regeneration and economic development. Previously, I had a commercial association with the Small Business Research Centre (SBC) at Kingston University that goes back some 20 years, comprising joint venture projects and research. I have also been an Industrial Fellow to the SBRC and a member of the Business Faculty Advisory Board prior to commencing my PhD. In 2003 I was appointed by the European Commission as an advisory expert in the areas of learning, skills and entrepreneurship - a position I still hold and, as someone with both UK and Irish citizenship, I hope to do so for some time to come!