LAURA GORE Make was founded as a 100% employee-owned company. I don’t know of any other companies that started out that way, so I’d say that’s a distinguishing factor for us, especially in terms of our culture. When companies become employee-owned after operating in a different way, they sometimes struggle to adapt their culture in line with their goals. But being employee-owned to begin with meant we could shape our culture that way from the start.
JASON PARKER Yes, it’s worked for us because we had a blank sheet of paper at the beginning – we’ve evolved and grown around this, writing our own story and changing it as needed. Without a set hierarchy, we’ve always been able to respond quickly to demands from inside and outside. There’s a value to being responsive and listening to each other.
LG It’s interesting to think about how our approach has evolved as we’ve grown. It shows that there’s no set structure. For example, we had a forum for several years – a place to help voices be heard and listened to – and then it went on hiatus, but now there’s a group of people interested in bringing it back in a new form. We’ve also revisited things like how we calculate our profit share over the years to ensure it’s done in the fairest way. There’s a lot of knowledge sharing in these kinds of actions, and they also have the value of prompting people to ask the right questions and engage with the way the company’s run.
JP You have to work at something like the forum. You’ve got to be prepared to make mistakes and think about what works and what doesn’t. Geographically speaking, I’d say we’re certainly thinking about how the model flourishes across different countries, including in our studios in Australia and Hong Kong. Ultimately, I think it helps us stay connected as One Make. And of course from a design point of view, the whole process is much more energised. The best idea wins; there’s no top-down instruction, which is empowering. Design is not necessarily A to B; it requires lots of directions and voices. So the more diverse and collaborative our teams can be, the better. Employee ownership underpins that.