i2C Architects has launched its Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP), an innovative ownership model that will nurture company culture and help to retain studio talent.

Through the implementation of the ESOP, i2C employees will earn ownership through their performance. Eight Senior Associates are expected to earn shares of i2C by the end of the year, providing the practice achieves its profit targets.

i2C Co-Founder, Anthony Merlin, says the plan has been created in order to enhance the culture of the practice and to ensure strong design talent is recruited and retained.

“The plan aims to retain our strong existing talent while offering unprecedented opportunities; we look forward to providing our senior associates with a pathway to business ownership that they may not otherwise get in other companies,” he says.

“We truly value our team, and we want them to find value too, have a sense of ownership and become more aware of the business’ performance. Additionally, we are confident we will also be able to attract strong talent within the industry once we have built up further equity in the trust, as a result of this unique offering.”

While ESOPs remain uncommon in Australia, the model is utilised by 6,300 companies in the United States, with 14 million employee-owners holding more than $1.4 trillion in total assets. The most recent State of Owner Readiness survey outlines most Australian business owners are unprepared to address business succession, with 48.6 percent of owners between 50-59 years having no formal succession plan, and a further 34.6 percent having a non-documented one.

“We’ve seen a growing number of clients in professional services move towards an employee share plan model. Typically in professional services, it's difficult to get good people and to keep them, motivate them and reward them. Thus, a lot of our clients, including i2C Architects, are moving towards this innovative model,” says CEO of Succession Plus, a business succession and exit planning firm, Craig West.

“Not only is this of huge benefit to the business who retains top talent and to staff members who can build additional wealth, it’s a fantastic way to attract customers, too.”

Merlin says the new ownership model only works to benefit current and future clients.

“We’re excited to offer this additional level of assurance amongst our client base, as they know the Senior Associate they’re working with has some ‘skin in the game’ - they are truly brought into the business and are passionate about service, delivery and performance,” says Anthony.

i2C Senior Associate and General Manager Scott Palmer acquired an equity stake in the practice in December 2021. Palmer’s journey with i2C commenced in March 2013 as Interiors Manager, before making his way up the ranks to Senior Associate and General Manager in January 2018.

i2C was founded in 1999 by Brian Jende and Anthony Merlin, with Rod Rose joining the ownership team in 2018. 23 years on, the practice turns over $16 million a year with studios in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

For more information, visit i2c.com.au.

Images: Supplied