Organisational ownership

Own it

Who owns the business that you want to work for?  Does it matter? 

The ownership structure of a business can tell you a lot about how the business is run, how the business is governed, who is making decisions and what your prospects may be.  At the very least investigating this will give you some useful insight into the business and demonstrate a level of due diligence which will represent you well.  Ideally however it will give you the insight that you require to understand if this is the career move for you. 

PLCs, Corporations or Incs operations are regulated and they are required to publish periodic reports to shareholders and the market on its financial health.  They are open to influence and pressure from shareholders as well as being vulnerable to takeover bids from rivals.  PLCs are often run with the key focus of delivering value to shareholders.  Due to a quarterly reporting model this can lead to a short term focus to maintain and grow share price to satisfy shareholders.  The regulations a publicly traded business will adhere to will likely mean there is a high level of professionalism within the business and they will have a obvious means of funding.  It is also very easy for you to investigate the business’s history and track record, so you should be able to get a good idea of what you are potentially entering into. 

Privately owned businesses can come in all shapes and sizes, owner managed and funded, PE/VC funded, angel investors, silent partners, parent companies, holding groups.  It’s complicated and it’s tempting to largely ignore this side of things but it’s so so important that you don’t.  The ownership structure of a private business can mean that one single person can have decision making power.  Understanding the structure of the business that you are considering working for, including the ownership, is vital.  Ideally you will be fully informed as soon as you ask, but it may help to review the business on companies house to see who the registered directors are, as well as to see what financial information is available.  You can use this information to facilitate the conversation and to see if it aligns to what you are told when you ask. Be wary of and clarify any inconsistencies. 

If the decision making power lies with people outside of the day to day operations of the business then how and when are they involved in the running of the business? Does their vision and ethos align to the people that you’ll be working with?  What is the track record of the ownership and does that align to the vision and strategy of the leadership team? 

These conversations might seem unusual as part of an interview and due diligence process but it’s well worth your while to investigate these elements as they play a key role in the direction of the business.