Employee Ownership: Joan McCoy, White Ink Architects

Blogs 4 Oct 2021

We sat down with Joan McCoy, long-time FSB member and Director of White Ink Architects, to learn more about the company’s transition to the first wholly Northern Ireland based employee-owned consultancy.

Founded 20 years ago by Joan McCoy, Claude Maguire and Sean Tunney, White Ink Architects is the first wholly Northern Ireland based consultancy to make the move to employee ownership through an Employee Ownership Trust. Having worked on high-profile projects across the UK, including Hilton Hotel and Taylor Wimpey London, the founders believe this decision will preserve the independent spirit of the practice.  

How did you find out about employee ownership? 

Business succession has always been in our minds and so we were looking at our options as the business continues to grow. We had seen other UK-based architecture practices make the move to employee ownership having researched how it would work, felt it would suit our business too.  

With employee ownership, we’re able to put the future of the business into the hands of our talent and know that this structure ensures that they’re driven for success. Architecture is a collaborative field, but this business structure promotes that even further.  

What are the benefits of employee ownership for your business? 

We’ve been able to keep the same business structure with no sudden changes, which has ensured continuity. Our team now have a mammoth incentive to continue to drive forward the performance of the practice, helping our clients and improving lives through the buildings we create.  

This is going to benefit clients who, under the leadership of the existing directors, have a team of employee owners more connected to their success than ever before. To support this, we’ve made several promotions to strengthen our existing management team and nurture talent. 

How did you find the transition to employee ownership? 

It was a relatively straightforward process for the business because we’d done a lot of the research ourselves beforehand and had the guidance of specialists. When you’re used to running a company in the usual way as a shareholding director, it does take a mindset shift.  

What advice do you have for other small business owners looking at employee ownership? 

Seek advice and guidance from experienced organisations like the Employee Ownership Association who can help you through the process and point you in the right direction. Many business owners who have moved to the employee ownership model are enthusiastic about the structure. We spoke to people who had already been through the process and found it insightful.   

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