For thirty-five years, I owned and managed Fenwick Software, the professional services consultancy that I founded in 1976. The culture of the firm is to create the greatest opportunities for individuals to thrive. Its employees are granted autonomy and responsibility for their own actions, are provided with opportunities to grow, and are encouraged to apply their skills to help each other and to deliver value for their clients.

Over the years, we had worked to refine this culture; to build relationships with our staff, clients and suppliers; to develop methodologies for the sale and delivery of our services; and to run our business in a consistently profitable way. Creating Fenwick Software had been my life’s work; it was something I was very proud of.

As I approached retirement, I was faced with a dilemma. Who would own the firm and who would manage it when I was gone? We march to a different beat to most of our competitors. To sell to a competitor risked having everything I valued destroyed. Money seemed inadequate compensation.

Yet the obvious alternative, to pass it on to those staff who had worked with me make it what it was, faced what appeared to be insuperable difficulties. They would have to make a long-term commitment. Were they ready for that? Was this the future they wished for? They had limited capital to purchase the business. Yet if I gave it to them as a reward for years of service, the tax office would treat that as an attempt to avoid income tax and demand half of the value from them, in cash —immediately.

We worked together on the details over a period of years and eventually determined who should be shareholders, how their shareholdings should be funded, how the firm should be valued, what the rules would be for future sales and so on.

In 2011, we established our employee-shareholder scheme and I sold seventy-five percent of the business in equal parts to five key staff, one of whom, Greg Galloway, is now CEO. The firm is thriving and the culture is being maintained under his leadership.

Like old Mr Grace, from the TV programme Are You Being Served? now I just potter in once a week and say “You’ve all done very well.” And so they have. And so have I.

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Written By Peter Fenwick

Peter was born in Geelong and educated at Geelong College. He studied Civil Engineering at the Gordon Institute of Technology and Melbourne University, graduating in 1966. In 1972 he completed an MBA with distinction at Melbourne University. He studied philosophy under Fr. Eric Darcy and is an alumni of the Cranlana Colloquium and a member of the Mises Institute. For thirty-five years, Peter managed Fenwick Software which he founded in 1976. In 2011, he established an employee shareholder scheme and five of his long-term staff now own seventy–five percent of the company; one of them, Greg Galloway, manages the business. Peter remains involved part-time as chairman. He has been married to Jill, a school teacher and author, since 1966. They have three sons and three grandchildren. He enjoys jazz, film and theatre, and plays tennis, royal tennis and chess. He has written two books: The Fragility of Freedom: Why Subsidiarity Matters and Liberty at Risk: Tackling Today’s Political Problems. Both are published by Connor Court. His blogs appear on his website

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