12TH MAY 2015 •

What does it take to give away your company?

Would you give away your company? John Lewis opened their London drapery shop in 1864 at 132 Oxford Street and celebrated their 150th birthday last year.

In 1904, Spedan Lewis, then aged 19, joined his father’s John Lewis department store on Oxford Street. On his 21st birthday he was given a quarter share in the business and was due to become a director of Peter Jones, his father’s other store.

It was around this time that he first realised that he, his brother and his father were earning the same amount of money as the combined salaries of everyone employed by the John Lewis stores. But it wasn’t until 1909 when, after a serious horse-riding accident in Hyde Park meant that he could not work for nearly two years, he began the catalyst for the dramatic change. It is reported that delirious and concerned about the implication of dying and what would happen to the company, he seems to have first evolved the desire to share profits with his employees, which grew over time in scope and detail to become the underpinnings of the John Lewis Partnership.

Every employee (around 100,000 in March 2015) is a ‘Partner’ in the John Lewis Partnership and they are referred to as partners, not employees. They are given the opportunity to influence the business through branch forums and take a share in the success and profits.

For those of you who have shopped at any John Lewis store, it is clearly apparent that the ‘partners’ care. They work hard as they are directly responsible for the profit of the company. If every partner does the same, the accumulative effect brings rewards both in job satisfaction and also financially.


So does this successful model translate from retail to the professional services environment? Should you give away your company?

Yes. With the right leadership and vision this can be a very effective change, and more and more businesses are doing the same.

Contact us at [email protected] if you would like any advice on effective leadership – https://www.elevate2.com/contact-us/

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"Rightly or wrongly I feel quite certain that the general idea of substituting partnership for exploiting employment is now-a-days in the air and will spread through industry of all kinds." - John Spedan Lewis

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