Cliff McMaster started C-Mac Industries in his garage in 1962. Half a century later he had passed away, leaving his son Rob with a successful medium-sized company employing 47 people and turning over $4.5 million per annum.
In his mid-fifties and facing impending retirement, Rob, general manager and sole family member remaining in the company, started seeking a succession plan. How would he extract the assets for the sole remaining shareholder and director, his retired mother? How would he prepare for his golden years? After initial investigations his options appeared limited:
- Family members didn’t want the business
- No one wanted to buy the company
- His employees lacked the necessary resources to buy the business
- Closing the company would leave his family in debt
In short, Rob faced a dilemma common to many business-owners facing retirement, especially Baby Boomers.
After several attempts and driven by his looming retirement Rob widened his research and discovered an overseas option uncommon in Australia; a 100% employee-owned and operated workers’ cooperative. With the assistance of local academics and business advisors, Rob converted ownership of his family company to his employees. Now one of 30 owners of the ex-family business, Rob works one day a week at something he loves. His father’s legacy has been preserved, as have 40 jobs together with the attendant work skills.
Although Rob had no Australian precedents to guide him, he persevered, eventually transferring his business to his employees. By engaging in a research-driven methodology that informed his decision-making process that is called “Participant Action Research” conducted by Dr. Anthony Jensen of Newcastle University.
Rob’s experience offers a tantalising glimpse into the attitudes of workers when offered the opportunity of owning their own enterprise, and provides an alternative model for other business owners contemplating retirement.
This book is about people who became entrepreneurs not by choice but by necessity as a way of preserving their livelihoods. It is about how a company and jobs were preserved by a group of workers who had the initiative and determination to take over an enterprise when no one else was prepared to. An organisation was transformed and industrial capacity preserved and reconstructed. New ways of working have developed, challenging social and political ideas which are being re-evaluated. It has shown how new networks and economic formations could emerge, and how men and women have surprised themselves by what they have become and have achieved.