Posts

Our Exciting Journey from Inc. to an Employee-Owned Business

Our beginning as an Inc.

How can the tough necessities of succeeding in the rough and tumble world of business be combined with a passion to build a more equitable and more sustainable world? How to build a business that has common good embedded in its legal framework?

This was the challenge I faced when I embarked on a voyage to build a successful and progressive consulting business.

Like many women, I came into entrepreneurship late. In 2007 at the age of 40, I left my cushy government job, and started Percolab. My vision was to build a purpose-driven firm growing healthy and courageous collaborations for social innovation. Fortunately I wasn’t alone, I had a business partner. We were clear that our business would operate both locally in Canada and internationally. We were clear that we would live the business as a lab, experimenting with new ways of learning, working and governing. We were also clear that we would open source our methods and learnings. What we weren’t so clear about was the best legal structure for our business!

Our organization needed:

  1. Agilityto get up and running right away — we didn’t want to recruit other founders to join, we just wanted to get going.
  2. A huge creative sandbox to experiment and develop new approaches — we didn’t want to dampen our wild ideas or convince others.
  3. Protection of our personal assets — we were aware of the financial risks of a business.

In Canada, two people with a business idea and internet can incorporate in a matter of minutes. Incorporation is the go-to business structure to which almost everyone gravitates. We self-declared that our corporation was a social enterprise and we agreed to run it as such, even if it had no particular legal structure that spoke to that desire.

Awakening to collective entrepreneurship

Fast forward 10 years, where the words social enterprise, sharing economy, triple bottom line, B-Corps, employee stock ownership plans (ESOP) have become popular (and entangled). Ten years is the time it took for my company, Percolab, to make its way to coherence. A business working in collaboration and co-operation, dedicated to creating a more equitable, fair and thrivable world should logically have a conscious and coherent ownership model. This is the exciting, eventful story of our journey from an incorporated company to a fully employee owned business.

I fumbled into collective entrepreneurship the hard way. After 7 years of operation, our business hit a hurdle, a moment of financial hardship. We did what many owners do, we moved to protect the team from what was going on versus dealing with it collectively. Even though everyone was impacted, the situation was not shared thereby creating much frustration, anxiety and misinformation for the team and great stress for the owners. The strong relationships that we had developed began to fray. It was a few months later, when things had stabilized, that I began to see that the business was not functioning based on its core values — co-creation, community, openness. This incident served as a gift to help me realize that both co-management and shared ownership were non-negotiables for me. If we were going to be hit again by major hurdles in the future, it needed to be a collective experience, one that we would see coming together, live together, own together and resolve together.

With that, I brought some key proposals to my business partner, and then together, we took them to the team. Our bold plan proposed several big changes, including these:

  1. We formally transition to a self-managing company — the informal good intention to be non-hierarchical was not enough as we had learned.
  2. We shift to transparent financesand a self-determined salarymodel — as a way of us engaging everyone in the finances.
  3. We transition from an incorporated business to a co-operative— so we would all co-own the business.

Because I come from Quebec, a place in the world that values co-operatives as a popular and logical option for collective entrepreneurship, I chose the co-operative legal form. Co-operatives have seven internationally agreed principles from democratic member control to concern for the community.

There was energy and excitement around the three proposals and all were easily adopted. The first two proposals were to be effective within days, and we gave ourselves seven months to transition to a co-operative legal structure.

The first bump in the road

Initially things flowed. The shift to self-management was natural. Step by step, we moved forward developing a growing ease with roles that rotated, distributed authority, consent based decision-making.

Same thing for the shift to transparent finances. There was a moment of discomfort and then a relief. The self-determined compensation model had instant effect. We each had control over our own earnings, we were owning our value more clearly and we were engaging more directly with the company finances.

The shift to our co-operative form however, stalled. The deadline for this re-organization in our legal form sailed by and tasks were delayed. There came a feeling of uncertainty of who in the team would actually join the co-op. What was going on? A colleague called a collective dinner entitled “Are you in, or are you out?”

There was a cheekiness to the invitation, but it was what was needed to get beyond the rumblings and side conversations going on. After receiving the invitation, one member clarified that he would not be joining the co-op and announced his departure. I had serious questions if my business partner was going to join or not. It had been 17 years of professional life together. Perhaps understandably, I was avoiding the conversation with him.

The day of the collective dinner arrived. My business partner worked at home that day. One hour prior to the dinner the email arrived. It was a long one, one that must have been painful to write. He wanted to dedicate himself more to his family and so our paths were to part. This added an extra layer in the process: I was becoming an employee/member/owner of a co-op that was buying the company that I half owned.

Working through the details

Ensued a period of information seeking and support. What form of a coop was a match for us? In Quebec we have three options, worker coop, producer coop and solidarity coop. How did our self-managing system map onto the legal obligations of a cooperative? We were delighted by coop regulation protecting the financial well-being of the company. We were surprised by hierarchical bias in some of the governance, making our self-managing system feel quite radical.

Then it was time to get on with the transfer. Our team expected to be involved in the process while the external professionals supporting us were more accustomed to a private process with only the company owners. Our non-hierarchical culture clashed with this process, but we made it work.

  1. Transfer plan

Normally a company transfer requires a plan to pass on the company management capacity to the team. We learned that in our case it would not be necessary; the team was already co-managing the business. In a self-managing organization everyone is already brought into the various aspects of the business and were capable of running it. Check.

  1. Valuation

The cooperative needed to purchase the inc. This is a regulated purchase at market value. An official evaluator determines the value of the business. Together, we interviewed potential evaluators with a focus to understanding the process and chose one together. The evaluation process itself was lengthy due to the non-conventional nature of our business. Check.

  1. Appropriate legal pathway

When the owners continue into the new business you can transfer the business. Since one owner was leaving, this was not an option for us. With a closure you shut down the business and start a new business under a new name, but with a 10 year reputation and client base, this was not an option for us. A fusion allows you to start the new business and have the old one function along side for a while, giving time to purchase it and close it down. Fusion it would be. Check.

And so we were ready for the final legal steps—start the coop and sell the Inc. The adventure however continued when we encountered a second bump in our route forward.

Second bump in the road

To start a coop in Quebec you need to complete a simple short form. We agreed that it was important that someone else then me, the founder of the Inc, complete the coop form. I went on a business trip for a few weeks and when I returned it wasn’t done. The initial excitement had back tracked to concerns and issues.

Thankfully our team retreat arrived. Two key moments at the retreat provided ground-shifting support for the shift in dynamics. A “Fun with metrics” activity, helped us all gather a fuller view and understanding of the company. It was an invaluable and timely reminder that we all ran this company together.

Then I asked everyone to stand on a spectrum based on our level of energy for starting the co-op. I went to the middle and shared my frustration that despite our commitment a full year had passed and the co-op was stuck again. Our agreement had not been honored. Maybe we weren’t ripe for becoming a co-op, I pondered out loud. Maybe the offer should be taken off the table? An honest conversation ensued in which misperceptions and fears were unravelled.

Within a week the co-operative creation form was sent and our regulations drafted. As easy as that, the co-op was formed and we held our founding assembly. Luckily, the legal process itself proved not to be especially complicated.

After that came the uncomfortable meeting with our business lawyer, during which I, as owner of the inc, negotiated a selling price to the buyers which included me! I was ready to move into shared ownership and at the same time I was happy that I was being financially compensated for all the founder’s work I had done.

Collective ownership reality check

Our long climb had certainly not been all roses. As an established entrepreneur, I naively underestimated the fundamental shift involved for others to step into co-owning a business. Joining a new organization as an employee is one thing, but becoming a co-owner of an already functioning company at the same time is something else. It can be a tough journey to shift identities, to challenge fears, to understand the implications. It takes time and it’s not for everyone.

Indeed, many people join the company for the interesting work we do; to collaborate with our amazing team; or, to experience our autonomy and shared leadership, but few join because they are driven to co-own, manage and grow a company with others. That’s the interesting bit though, where we learn to walk the talk of what the world might be and learn to be in business together consciously. It hasn’t been easy, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Honestly, I can’t think of a more aligned legal form for a company committed to a more equitable world than a co-operative model.

As we move forward building capacity for co-creative ways of working and horizontal ways of governing, it feels like a tiny extra step to tip over into the land of co-operatives. What if businesses began to see themselves as a lever for social change, a learning platform to help people strengthen their agency and become more engaged human beings? What if?

 

 

Cooperatives, provide jobs or work for 10% of the employed population of the world: for more information visit The International Cooperative Alliance.

Learn more about horizontal leadership in my book: Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-Hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time.

Listen to my TEDxGeneva lecture: The Future is in Business as Commons.

This article is an adaptation and update of an article originally published in the magazine Reimagining.

Much thanks to all those who supported me with this article, Cédric Jamet, Ria Baeck, Simon Grant, Stéphanie Bossé, Denis Côté, Olivia Horge, Brian Joseph and others. Special thanks to the Cooperative Network of Quebec for all its support.

Domains:
Segments:
Methodologies and tools:

Going Horizontal, Read for You

Author: Denis Cristol
Translation: Oscar Chica
Originally published in MagRH, No 5 (March 2019)

 

Samantha Slade is a Quebec specialist in learning and self-management. She puts her talent at the service of the great causes of human development, about which she is passionate. Her book Going Horizontal is a compendium of collective intelligence practices taken from the management of Percolab, the company she created and developed in several countries.

Samantha starts from a simple observation. While we know how to lead our private lives, we are completely disempowered in our professional environments. The intention behind Going Horizontal is to initiate a movement towards greater engagement regardless of one’s place in the organization, starting with small steps, one after another. It is less about waiting for a hierarchy to solve all the problems than about thinking and acting horizontally while relying on one’s own talent and the talents of others.

For Samantha Slade, horizontal is not flat. In a horizontal company, everyone finds their place. The practices that are proposed in this book help us to progress in a world where the hierarchical way of doing things is more and more obsolete.

 

Samantha Slade. Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-Hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018.

Domains:

Segments:

Methodologies and tools:

The future is in business as commons | Samantha Slade | TEDxGeneva

The future is in business as commons. In a world where business models are changing and even the traditional notion of work has lost its fit with current paradigms, Samantha Slade an innovator and pioneer in organizational and business models will present a new organization mindset focused on compensation as conversation, co-governance and sharing and collaboration.

Samantha is driven by the transition to future paradigms. With a background in anthropology, she pioneers novel organizational models and practices. Ten years ago she co-founded two businesses – Percolab, an international co-creation and co-design company and Ecto a co-working cooperative in her home city Montreal, Canada. Samantha works with governments, startups, and professional associations and foundations to tackle their complex challenges. She also co-creates commons-based collective impact initiatives and platforms. Engaged in the commons and social innovation movements, Samantha is currently writing a book – Going Horizontal – Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time (to be released in October 2018 with Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Samantha believes that organizations can be a microcosm of the world we want to live in.

Domains:


Segments:

| |
Methodologies and tools:


Events

Women Taking Flight

So many women have said to us: “I know it’s time to think bigger, to step into my power, to rise to the next level. But I don’t know how!” We long to tell our stories and be seen. We’re searching for the wisdom that will help us put the final pieces in place. We know we need the support and encouragement of others and often, that can be hard to find in the workplace or sometimes even at home.

If you want to step into the New Year clear, focused, and with that sense of wind beneath your wings, then Women Taking Flight is for you.

During the first part of the day we’ll be sharing stories that help us to focus on what we most value and find the gold in our learning so far this year. We’ll use what we uncover to craft a powerful question that can support us to think higher and move beyond our present view of what’s possible.

During the afternoon we’ll join together in wisdom circles, bringing our questions to the Flow Game and supporting each other to gain clarity, ground and insights to power up the future. We’ll use both our experiences and one of our most powerful gifts as women—our intuition.

This will be a highly interactive day focused on investing in your most potent resource—yourself. Come with your questions and an open mind. Come prepared to support and be supported. Come prepared to meet the next most powerful version of yourself.

The day will be hosted by Mary Alice Arthur and Samantha Slade and will take place both in English and French. During the afternoon Flow Games will be offered by trained Flow Hosts, supporting you to find wisdom and companionship in your circle around the game.

We have space for a maximum of 25 participants. Please reserve your spot to avoid disappointment.

 

Your hosts

 

Mary Alice Arthur

Mary Alice is a Story Activist, using story to help create positive systemic shift and for applying collective intelligence to the critical issues of our times. Her art is in creating brave and transformational spaces where people can find and live into the stories that take them to their most flourishing future. Building the capacity for participatory practice supports people to take back the power of their stories so they can make wiser choices together. She is a sought after process consultant and event host, and an engaging speaker. As an international steward of the Art of Hosting, she teaches participatory practice around the world. Through Story the Future, she is spreading the meme of Story Activism, supporting people to develop their skills and practice, and engaging in leading edge conversations about the power and potential in our world.

More about Mary Alice: www.getsoaring.com

 

Samantha Slade

Samantha is a social innovator, supporting teams, organizations and ecosystems to work with complexity and grow a conscious innovation mindset. Samantha co-founded Percolab, an international self-governing network of for more than profit co-design firms. Based in Montreal, Canada, Samantha is a member of the Quebec Social Innovation Network. Engaged in the living lab, Fab City and commons movements, Business as Commons is the theme of Samantha’s TedX. With a background in cultural anthropology and education, Samantha connects the social practices and parameters we give ourselves to conscious governance and ownership for a more equitable world. Author of Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time (2018), Samantha believes that organizations can and should be a microcosm of the world we want to live in.

More about Samantha’s work and resources to support her book: www.samanthaslade.ca

 

Costs

You have two options for payment. Please choose according to your situation and interest. The price includes training, lunch and snacks.

A) Traditional pricing
  • BUSINESS: $350 (before January 20: $300)
  • NGO/SELF-EMPLOYED: $250 (before January 20: $200)
B) Shared economy pricing

Shared economy is a system that allows you to self-determine how much you pay and to partake in the budget responsibly. It requires an initial payment to cover minimal costs, in this case $125 (plus taxes). At the event, you will be invited to make a second payment based on your financial context, information on the event budget and your experience of the training.

 

Venue

The workshop will take place at Flowland Montreal, 5369 Boul St Laurent, Studio 310, in Montreal, from 9:00am-4:00pm

Domains:
Segments:
Methodologies and tools:

Visual Thinking Workshop, Moncton

Discover how visual thinking can propel your projects and ideas

 

Have you ever finished sharing an idea or at the end of a project, looked at your final report and really wished you had a more visual way to present your ideas? Do you want to find creative ways to help people better understand the impact of your work? Then this workshop is for you!

Through this workshop, you will discover how visual thinking can help you better understand your projects, communicate your ideas with others and co-create together. More than drawing techniques, it will include techniques to think visually in order to free up space to act in complexity.

Who is this for?

This workshop, whatever your drawing skills, will take your visual thinking towards becoming a natural habit!

Facilitation team

Samantha Slade

A conscious entrepreneur, Samantha co-founded the Percolab network and the ECTO co-working coop in Montreal. For more than 20 years, she has put her knowledge of anthropology and education at the service of social and organizational innovation, both in North America and internationally. Her tools include the implementation of emerging processes, ethnography, design thinking and a wide range of participatory approaches. Samantha is actively engaged in the future of cities, the commons movement and the Art of Hosting international community. She supports teams, organizations and ecosystems in renewing their approach to participatory leadership, collaborative practices and prototyping. She recently published Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-Hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time (Berrett-Koehler Publishers).

Paul Messer

Trained as an industrial designer, Paul applies design thinking to everyday life. Paul is our very own ninja on organizational culture and service design innovation. As a graphic facilitator and expert in visual thinking, Paul creates on the spot visual maps to support group innovation and co-design. Creator of Visual Thinking Lab workshops and coaching to support visual thinking in working in complexity and business strategy.

 

 

 

Venue

Venn Innovation

735 Main Street, #201

Moncton, New Brunswick

Costs

  • Non-profit organization: $125.00 plus fees and taxes
  • Corporate, government, other: $175.00 plus fees and taxes

Registration includes: training, coffee, lunch and material.

 

Training content will mostly be offered in English. Support will be offered in the language of your choice.

 

Domains:

Segments:

Methodologies and tools:

Going Horizontal Practicum, London, UK

Propelling personal, organizational and system change through practical methods, tools and strategies at the core of collaborative ways of working.

We are thrilled to be welcoming Samantha Slade and Paul Messer to London to lead a workshop with Phoebe Tickell to develop your mindset & practices in less-hierarchical ways of working. Her recently published book, Going Horizontal, has been making waves around the world and has struck a chord with those who are seeking practices for working in teams and organizations with shared responsibility and self-organization.

This 1-day training is a hands-on experience, where you will explore seven concrete practices to develop and expand more horizontal ways of working. Rooted in practical application – tried and tested with organisations around the world – you will live the experience of truly working with a leaderful mindset and develop practices and tools that can immediately be put to use.

“The seven dimensions in the horizontal framework can help you be grounded and calm and still work in hurricane environments.” (Hollie Hollister, participant)

Who is this for?

The Going Horizontal practices and tools have been integrated into private sector organizations, start-ups, government, non-profits, community organizations, arts and cultural organizations, co-ops and cross sector initiatives.  No matter what your role is, these sets of practices can help you work more effectively with others.

These practices are heart-centered.

Thought-provoking and feeling-provoking!

Venue

The event will take place at the Here and Now School: 47 Thames Road, Barking, LONDON, IG11 0HQ.

Tip: We look like an unloved industrial building at the end of Thames Road. To enter, go through the black car park gates marked with “47 Thames Road” and enter via the side door on your left. If the door is closed, ring the bell.

From Barking station via public transport: It’s a 15 minute bus ride using routes EL1 from Barking station. Get off at the stop called Estuary Close. Then it’s a 1 minute walk to us- cross over the road, head in the direction of the travel of the bus, and we’re the first big warehouse on the right.

Driving and parking: There’s loads of free parking available in our car park. Please drive carefully.

Pricing

You can choose between 2 options:

  1. Traditional pricing: £260 plus tax;
  2. *Shared economy pricing: First instalment is £75 plus tax and you commit to paying a second instalment, you determine, at the training.

 

Resources

Check out www.goinghorizontal.co to learn more about Samantha’s work, the university accredited Going Horizontal program, and other training opportunities.

Going Horizontal is available in print, audio and e-book format at all major stores and Amazon.

 

 

Domains:


Segments:


Methodologies and tools:


Going Horizontal Practice Workshop

 

Every change starts with practice.

 

How do we gain agility and efficiency?

How do we offer a healthier workplace?

How do we present ourselves differently and embody the changes we want to see happen around us?

Develop your non-hierarchical thinking and practices by experiencing seven fields of collaborative practices. This one-day activity will allow you to consolidate, accelerate and deepen the work you have begun.

Live the experience of working collaboratively, with shared leadership. Explore practices and tools that are immediately transferable to your work or personal context. Focused on practical and concrete exercises, this activity has been offered in organizations all over the world.

 

Your hosts

 

Samantha Slade

A conscious entrepreneur, Samantha co-founded the Percolab network and the ECTO co-working coop in Montreal. For more than 20 years, she has put her knowledge of anthropology and education at the service of social and organizational innovation, both in North America and internationally. Her tools include the implementation of emerging processes, ethnography, design thinking and a wide range of participatory approaches. Samantha is actively engaged in the future of cities, the commons movement and the Art of Hosting international community. She supports teams, organizations and ecosystems in renewing their approach to participatory leadership, collaborative practices and prototyping.

 

 

Stéphanie Bossé, CRHA

Certified HR professional (CRHA), expert in organizational development and change management, Stéphanie chose to integrate creativity into her practice, focusing on people because they are the ones who create value in organizations and systems. She uses a strengths-based approach to mobilize stakeholders through return to meaning, autonomy and commitment. Practitioner of appreciative inquiry and black belt in lean, Stéphanie developed the approach known as the “Appreciative Kata”. She brings a vast experience in executive coaching to her work in cultural and organizational innovation. She mixes individual and team coaching into culture change and co-creation processes.

 

 

Costs

 

You have two options for payment. Please choose according to your situation and interest.

1. Traditional pricing
  • BUSINESS: $295
  • SELF-EMPLOYED / NGO: $195
2. Shared economy pricing

Shared economy is a system that allows you to self-determine how much you pay and to partake in the budget responsibly. It requires an initial payment to cover minimal costs, in this case $115 plus taxes. At the event, you will be invited to make a second payment based on your financial context, information on the event budget and your experience of the activity.

 

Venue

 

The event will take place at Santropol Roulant (111, Roy St., Montreal, Quebec).

 

Domains:



Segments:



Methodologies and tools:



Women Taking Flight

So many women have said to us: “I know it’s time to think bigger, to step into my power, to rise to the next level. But I don’t know how!” We long to tell our stories and be seen. We’re searching for the wisdom that will help us put the final pieces in place. We know we need the support and encouragement of others and often, that can be hard to find in the workplace or sometimes even at home.

If you want to step into the second part of the year clear, focused, and with that sense of wind beneath your wings, then Women Taking Flight is for you.

During the first part of the day we’ll be sharing stories that help us to focus on what we most value and find the gold in our learning so far this year. We’ll use what we uncover to craft a powerful question that can support us to think higher and move beyond our present view of what’s possible.

During the afternoon we’ll join together in wisdom circles, bringing our questions to the Flow Game and supporting each other to gain clarity, ground and insights to power up the future. We’ll use both our experiences and one of our most powerful gifts as women—our intuition.

This will be a highly interactive day focused on investing in your most potent resource—yourself. Come with your questions and an open mind. Come prepared to support and be supported. Come prepared to meet the next most powerful version of yourself.

The day will be hosted by Mary Alice Arthur and Samantha Slade and will take place both in English and French. During the afternoon Flow Games will be offered by trained Flow Hosts, supporting you to find wisdom and companionship in your circle around the game.

We have space for a maximum of 30 participants. Please reserve your spot to avoid disappointment.

 

Your hosts

 

Mary Alice Arthur

Mary Alice is a Story Activist, using story to help create positive systemic shift and for applying collective intelligence to the critical issues of our times. Her art is in creating brave and transformational spaces where people can find and live into the stories that take them to their most flourishing future. Building the capacity for participatory practice supports people to take back the power of their stories so they can make wiser choices together. She is a sought after process consultant and event host, and an engaging speaker. As an international steward of the Art of Hosting, she teaches participatory practice around the world. Through Story the Future, she is spreading the meme of Story Activism, supporting people to develop their skills and practice, and engaging in leading edge conversations about the power and potential in our world.

More about Mary Alice: www.getsoaring.com

 

Samantha Slade

Samantha is a social innovator, supporting teams, organizations and ecosystems to work with complexity and grow a conscious innovation mindset. Samantha co-founded Percolab, an international self-governing network of for more than profit co-design firms. Based in Montreal, Canada, Samantha is a member of the Quebec Social Innovation Network. Engaged in the living lab, Fab City and commons movements, Business as Commons is the theme of Samantha’s TedX. With a background in cultural anthropology and education, Samantha connects the social practices and parameters we give ourselves to conscious governance and ownership for a more equitable world. Author of Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time (2018), Samantha believes that organizations can and should be a microcosm of the world we want to live in.

More about Samantha’s work and resources to support her book: www.samanthaslade.ca

 

Costs

 

You have two options for payment. Please choose according to your situation and interest. The price includes training, lunch and snacks.

A) Traditional pricing
  • BUSINESS: $350 (before August 20: $300)
  • NGO/SELF-EMPLOYED: $250 (before August 20: $200)
B) Shared economy pricing

Shared economy is a system that allows you to self-determine how much you pay and to partake in the budget responsibly. It requires an initial payment to cover minimal costs, in this case $125 (plus taxes). At the event, you will be invited to make a second payment based on your financial context, information on the event budget and your experience of the training.

 

Venue

 

The workshop will take place at ECTO Coworking Cooperative, 936 Mont-Royal Avenue, Montreal. The venue will open at 9:30 for coffee and getting settled in. We will begin promptly at 9:45. A light vegan lunch (soup, bread and spread with fruit and nuts) will be provided.

Domains:




Segments:




Methodologies and tools: