Paula Willmore and Andrew Iles founded the practice in 1999 to work with a newly formed client in a new market sector – the private provision of student accommodation. Willmore Iles Architects has grown from a two person ‘back bedroom’ practice to a recognised leader in its field, employing over 30 people [meet the team] and serving large complex schemes throughout the UK.
Since September 2016, the controlling share ownership in Willmore Iles Architects has been a 100% Employee Owned Trust (EOT). Often recognised as the ‘John Lewis Model’ this indirect approach to employee ownership – through a trust – gives a collective voice to employees while still allowing continuity around how the practice is managed.
The Employee Trust business model offers a neat succession solution, giving all staff a meaningful stake in the company, and offering a meritocratic route to succession within the practice. This in turn promotes high levels of engagement and sustainable growth.
All our staff are keen to influence their workplace and the EOT gives them an opportunity to do this. The EOT has represented staff in securing improved holiday benefits, access to local cycle schemes, a monthly practice lunch, weekly exercise sessions and a healthy eating initiative. The EOT also receives a percentage of annual profits which is distributed amongst staff.
The Employee Ownership Association says its membership is growing by 10% a year as more and more business founders, particularly in companies such as ours with an ethical or community focus, look for a way to preserve their legacy.
We’ve come a long way since 1999, but our very first client, University Partnerships Programme, is still a valued client today.