Propellernet is an award winning digital marketing agency based in Brighton. It has consistently been voted a top 20 UK workplace by the Great Place To Work Institute for the last 5 years. Learn how the business thought through setting up its company share scheme.
Like any business, we are just the sum of our people. It would be short sighted to think it’s the founders that are responsible for making a success of a company.
Why are you sharing ownership with the team?
As much as we can reward people with bonuses, salaries, perks and do wonderful things for them, it's right to share the overall success in the company with the key people that helped us get there. We started doing that from an early stage.
It’s more complicated to give shares but it’s driven from a gut feeling, a belief that this is our company and what you put in you get back directly by having ownership.
What share ownership means is an ongoing and evolving conversation for us. We work quite hard in doing that. Propellernet is transparent about its management accounts so the whole team understands how the business is performing. Because we are rewarding them as shareholders alongside the founders, people see that we all share our success in the same way.
How does it fit in with Propellernet’s culture?
Share options are just one part of the picture. If we didn't live our values, focus on our culture, involve people in important decisions and invest in the wellbeing of our staff, I don’t think it would be as effective.
A share scheme is one important part of the mix.
What problems were you experiencing setting up your share scheme?
There are certain jobs you give your accountant and there are certain jobs you give your lawyer, and granting options is typically a job you actually end up giving to both of them. You know there’s complexity and you don’t want to make mistakes. As much as you feel like it’s a simple process and the final outcome just looks like the same document with different people’s names on it, you still have to go through this time consuming and costly process every time you want to add more people. That is all a significant shift with Vestd. Vestd have really made the complex simple.
Issuing shares or options is not a DIY job for a business owner, you have too much going on in the background. You hand it over because of the fear of missing something like a filing date, or not having a document signed in the right way. It’d be a bit a risk to do it yourself. You either need a lawyer or Vestd. Or in our case, both.
The biggest barriers are cost, time and sheer hassle. I hadn't looked for an option like Vestd because I didn't think another option existed.
Any advice for other business owners considering sharing ownership?
It depends on the size of the operation. If you are a startup, then dont lose focus on the job at hand, which would be growing the business. Just setup with Vestd and get the options and shares out there. It's that simple.
If you are an existing business with a turnover over a few £million, I would suggest doing something similar to what we’ve done. We had a long legacy of agreements that formalised the business and you may well have the same and you'd want to make sure you include your legal council and work with them when scoping out your share scheme.
Vestd’s flexibility means it would always be our execution tool of choice.
Why do you use Vestd?
Vestd gets everyone on the same page. Our lawyers, accountants, directors, shareholders and option holders.
I used to have a spreadsheet that was constantly changing and every time I issued more shares I had to revisit it, make changes and share it around. That's gone now and I have everything in one place and can create options, EMI or growth shares whenever I need. It’s invaluable.
For the option holders it makes it more real. They can log in to see it, feel it, touch it, and that makes a big difference. Gone are the days of people signing a piece of paper and forgetting all about it. This keeps it real.
We use Vestd to make sure that ongoing record keeping, notifications, submissions, documents, all the admin stuff just happens automatically in the background so we stay compliant and everything stays in good order.
For me Vestd is much more than a software business. I had some really hard questions and got excellent support and advice. That’s what you need in the real world.
It was a combination of extremely knowledgeable support and really simple and intuitive technology. You’ve massively simplified the whole share scheme process for everyone involved.