Trevor Robinson, OBE, and his leadership team are celebrating agency Quiet Storm’s 25th birthday by shifting to an Employee Ownership Trust model.
An Employee Ownership Trust entails a shift of business ownership from the current shareholders to a trust that is set up to act in the interests and ultimate benefit of the staff. While staff does not have physical shares in the business, they financially benefit from future profit sharing.
Quiet Storm’s Trust Board is made up of independent trustees, employees and directors. Quiet Storm CEO Rania Robinson will serve as the Chair of the Trustees.
Trevor Robinson states in terms of day-to-day perspective, nothing will change operationally or culturally.
Both Robinsons (who are married) along with the rest of the management board, will continue to lead and direct the business under the new structure. That said, the new Trust will ensure all major decisions are made for the future sustainability and prosperity of the company and the benefit of all employees.
“The only potential downside that I can envisage is that the valuation is set, even if the business ends up delivering significant increases in profits in upcoming years,” states Rania Robinson. “With a more traditional sale, there’s usually a scaled valuation that takes into account past but also future commercial performance.”
Trevor Robinson did explore other options while contemplating the agency’s future. “We did have some fairly progressed conversations with potential buyers and were getting regularly approached by private equity firms, but it was at that point that we realized instinctively going down that route wasn’t for us,” he says. Both he and Rania felt a “sense of dread, which led us to hesitate,” he adds. “It was at that point that I had an off the cuff conversation with an industry figure who I really respect who brought EOTs to our attention. As soon as we understood it, it felt like a no brainer.”
He explains when he originally founded Quiet Storm “it was to have the freedom to work in a way that I believed fostered the best culture and creative work. This has always been a priority above all else,” says Robinson. “Having put 25 years of hard graft into the agency, being able to realize the value of that, whilst also being able to reward staff without affecting the original vision is amazing.”
While the silver anniversary makes for a celebratory occasion, Rania Robinson adds timing wasn’t intentionally focused on this milestone since there was always a decision to “release equity from the business at some point.” Yet, she admits, “There may have been some subconscious trigger that often comes with the approach of any key milestone.”
Although this type of ownership still remains rare within the ad world, Quiet Storm joins Barkley and John Lewis as two other high-profile agencies that operate under similar structures.