Firms given insight into working for business owned and run by its employees

Rob Hallam, head of democratic engagement at John Lewis Partnership, Councillor Roger Fern, Mayor of

Rob Hallam, head of democratic engagement at John Lewis Partnership, Councillor Roger Fern, Mayor of Ipswich, and Swaraj Jeyasingh of Ipswich Christian Central at the Ipswich Christian Central business seminar and lunch. - Credit: Archant

The Ipswich business community was given an insight into a different way of operating as they were told about what it’s like to work for John Lewis Partnership at an event hosted by a Christian organisation.

Delegates at the Ipswich Christian Central business seminar and lunch.

Delegates at the Ipswich Christian Central business seminar and lunch. - Credit: Archant

Around 60 business people attended Ipswich Christian Central’s business seminar, which took place at St Nicholas Centre last month and included a keynote speech from Rob Hallam, head of democratic engagement for the retail group, which operates along radical lines.

Rob, who has been with the chain for 25 years, is currently on a six month paid sabbatical.

This is the standard reward for all partners, as employees of his organisation are known, who have worked for the company for this length of time.

He used this as an example of the partnership’s unique business model in which democratic governance and the fair treatment of all employees are fundamental.

Founder John Lewis’s son, Spedan, had the radical and transformational idea to give ownership of the family business to its employees. Rob explained the importance that its written constitution, which dates back to the 1920s, and how it still plays a central role in the governance of the group.

Last year, John Lewis had turnover of £11.4b, with profits of £370m, and of this £89m was shared out at 6% between approximately 87,000 partners.

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The chairman’s salary is capped at 75 times the average basic pay of non management partners, compared with the average FTSE 100 chief executives’ salary, which is currently reported at 387 times the living wage.

Rob explained how he balanced the commercial demands of his job with his Christian beliefs. He said he had never had to make uncomfortable compromises. However, he acknowledged that the John Lewis Partnership model is not for everyone, and that it was hard to imagine today’s owners of companies giving away their business to their staff.

The next seminar is due to be held in the autumn. To register, contact David Pawson at events@cofesuffolk.org.