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Some Reflections on our AGM 2024

Yesterday was the Baxendale Annual General Meeting (AGM).  As an employee-owned business, every year, this event is, in many ways, the best barometer we have for our business strategy, performance and most importantly culture.

It requires us, as a leadership team, to articulate clearly how well we’ve performed against our statutory duties as Directors and how well we’ve delivered against our Trust Deed alongside performance in our functional responsibilities.  And, most importantly, it is the opportunity to our team, our owners to scrutinise, challenge and hold us to account.

This is a daunting process, as it should be.  My very wise Chair, John Alexander, once told me – if you’re not nervous you’re not doing it right (by ‘it’ he meant employee-ownership).

What he was saying was that the depth and quality of the challenge by our team is the best performance indicator we can have, far better than any internal survey because this challenge can only happen if your ownership foundations are in place.

Firstly, a team can only offer meaningful scrutiny if they are suitably informed about strategy and performance. This requires full transparency on finances, performance and being open and honest when things get challenging.  Secondly, the team have to feel safe yet empowered to provide this scrutiny.

This is difficult balance to get right and it’s something we spend a lot of time on, supporting and encouraging the team as a whole and as individuals throughout the year, through a network of 1-1s, team meetings and updates.  Finally, they have to care, and be fully bought in to the organisation.

I’ve been part of an employee-owned organisation for more than 12 years and attended numerous AGMs both at Baxendale and at our partners.  It’s hard to articulate what good looks like, in terms of this challenge, and even harder to measure – you just get a sense of it.  But yesterday I was so proud of our employee owners who demonstrated it in abundance.

Our growth plans mean that Baxendale will, like many other organisations, change of the coming years. This will inevitably mean an evolution to our culture. But understanding what we have now, why it works and what we can try to do to protect will help us extend this engagement and challenge to our future employee owners.