Digital entrepreneur moves agency to employee ownership

The owner of a digital and IT consultancy has passed up eight-figure offers from venture capitalists to give his employees a stake in their future through employee-ownership.

Gary Parlett and his wife Kate Parlett founded Answer Digital 21 years ago. It has offices in Leeds and London, with clients that span the NHS, international retailers and global financial institutions.

The 85 staff will each have ownership in the business through an employee ownership trust. The trust has a board that has a direct say over the operation of the business.

The Parletts will continue in their roles to actively support the business and senior members of the team, Richard Pugmire, Nigel Garner and Richard Ellis will join the Board.

Experienced technology advisor, Finbarr Joy, has re-joined the business as a non-executive director. He first worked at Answer Digital 20 years ago before taking senior technology roles at BT, William Hill and other blue-chip companies.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will be funded by the business. The Parlett family was advised by Paul Land at TLP with legal direction and advice provided by Ewan Hall of Baxendale and Dahren Naidoo at Freeths.

Despite current economic challenges, the company has been delivering record monthly growth which is set to exceed 20% in 2020 – a turnover of £9m.

Gary Parlett said: “To support the team and create a platform for what comes next, we have decided to move Answer Digital to employee ownership.

“It means everyone will have a stake in building a sustainable business that has the freedom to do great work.

“Typically, employee-owned businesses have higher productivity, greater levels of innovation and are more resilient to economic headwinds.

“The people that work in them are often more engaged, happier in their jobs and less stressed.

“We believe employee ownership can answer some of the big questions we are facing as a society and an economy.

“We are passionate that this is the best route for our business to continue to grow and deliver award-winning solutions.”

Deb Oxley, chief executive of the Employee Ownership Association (EOA), said: “We congratulate Answer on its move to employee ownership – sustaining its values and independence for the longer term.

“Businesses that give employees a stake and a say build trust and shared responsibility, therefore uniting leaders and employees behind a common purpose.

“This leaves the business in a better position to flex and adapt, key qualities needed to help the UK build back better.”