Our business is moving through a transition to an employee-ownership model. This is exciting, frustrating and even a bit scary. The main (painful) challenge for me — the need to have a much greater degree of accountability for work achievement and expenses. You can’t hide any skeletons, even tiny ones, in this business model.
As an example, everyone in the business now has access to my Amex card statement. I’ve used this card over the years primarily for business expenses, but some glaring personal items also are on the bill. There’s no intention to cheat anyone — obviously personal items, if paid by the company, have been charged as a “shareholder loan” following our accountants’ advice. These charges ultimately have been converted to dividend or salary income, within the correct reporting periods, and I’ve paid the correct taxes.
But these expense don’t look so good when employees scan the budgets and see things — or other cost items that may be perfectly legitimate form a tax write off point of view, but could at best be viewed as discretionary. Now instead of just paying these bills, I’ve got five sets of eyes looking at them and saying: “Why?”
Then there are the work descriptions/responsibilities and the challenge of determining compensation. How much am I “worth” to the business, operationally. This is a good question. I suppose if the business completes the transition and survives and everyone has a job and we can grow it in the new multi-media era, this leadership should be worth a significant amount of money. But if we are trying to manage cash flow in the short-term, do these skills provide genuine value.
It isn’t easy to be on the firing line like this, especially since I still have legal and financial responsibility for the business. But I accept this is part of the process of change. And, as we go through these painful changes, I expect a very strong and sustainable business will emerge — with me returning to the visionary and forward-looking role rooted in the business’s original values and ideals.