Cwmni Da chooses Employee Ownership as good for business

As proud contributors to the Welsh economy and culture, it is fitting that award-winning TV production company Cwmni Da (‘good company’ in English!) have chosen to become employee owned.

See this page in: Cymraeg

The Caernarfon based business was founded in 1996 and employs 50 people. Its expertise is in making factual, documentary, drama, children’s and entertainment programmes, mainly in the Welsh language for S4C but also for the international co-production market.

Speaking about the transition to employee ownership, which happened in December last year, Managing Director Dylan Huws explains that he wanted the company to remain in the hands of the staff who helped make it a success.

Employee ownership, he says, felt like the perfect fit because he feels passionately that the company’s staff are a key part of the business and that they should all benefit from the company’s efforts. But there were also wider concerns.
‘In recent years, consolidation in the independent production sector has seen several Welsh companies being sold to larger entities, and this means more often than not that ownership is no longer in Welsh hands.

‘It would be easy to sell Cwmni Da and then step away but I wouldn’t like to think that people that I believe in and respect suddenly lost their jobs because new owners had come in and wanted to do something different.’

‘Although we work in all parts of the world we feel rooted in this area and feel a connection to the audiences we serve, so it feels important for the business to continue to be rooted here in the local community.’

Talking about going through Employee Ownership, Dylan says: ‘Social Business Wales was our first point of contact, they project managed the process from beginning to end, and we have an ongoing relationship with them, which is really important. I can’t emphasise enough how instrumental they were and how they continue to ask the right questions and help us get our thoughts in order.’

He emphasises that Employee Ownership is a process of culture change, which needs to be managed on an ongoing basis. That process, he says, involves engaging staff, and mentoring and empowering people to feel that they have a say in their own futures. He says that he now shares more company information than ever before and that the team are getting better at understanding how the business works.

The main difference though for the company staff is that there could be a profit share at the end of the year, if the company makes profits. The maximum an employee shareholder can earn tax free on top of their salary is £3,600.

Asked whether he would recommend Employee Ownership to other businesses, Dylan Huws says: ‘It certainly should be something that businesses should seriously look at. It won’t suit everybody, as it does involve setting up a new entity, but there are tax advantages for both outgoing and incoming shareholders. We’ve got an experienced core staff here, and I had confidence that the team could move forward. As a business decision it was the right one for us’

Find out more about employee ownership

Employee ownership is a succession solution for the 21st century