What would I like East Ridge to be?

NICK ELLIS, MARCH 2019

East Ridge Technology was founded for three reasons:

  • As a response to the economic uncertainty of 2019 which made it difficult to secure permanent work

  • As a platform to enable contracting

  • As a base to create something larger

That ‘something larger’ is the longest term and the most exciting. I have long held an ambition to create a company which brings together the best attributes of the companies I admire most. It will take time to get there, and there will be setbacks as well as advances, trials as well as successes.

I am sincere in my admiration for companies which manage to operate successfully while side-stepping the ‘norms’ of modern business. The John Lewis Partnership in retail, Arup in architecture, Agilisys in technology - these are all large, employee owned businesses with fantastic track records. Of course, at the time of writing East Ridge is employee owned since there is one owner and one employee. That’s a small start, but it means that any model can be used in the future.

As and when East Ridge grows to provide a professional home for others, I want it to be on the basis of partnership. I once saw a speech by the CEO of my then employer in which he talked about how the success of the business was based on its people, which I support. But he then went on to say that he measured his success by the number of people employed, going to five, then ten and eventually fifty thousand people. That struck me then and strikes me now as egotism - he wasn’t talking about how success comes from the quality of people’s efforts, rather he was talking about building an empire. That’s not for me, and it’s not what East Ridge should be.

In fact, I don’t really want to ‘employ’ anyone in the conventional sense. I want to partner with good people who have exciting ideas and the ability to implement them. That may be a commercial partnership or a customer/supplier relationship. But at times it may make sense for it to be a collaboration using East Ridge as the shared home. When that happens those people will be partners in the business, their compensation connected directly the performance of the business (not through a voluntary bonus scheme that depends on the whims of decision makers). The profits they create will be directly theirs, not as commission or incentive but as a fact of their being the owners of the value they produce.

Ove Arup, when discussing the already hugely successful partnership he founded, said “I do not see the point in having such a large firm […] unless there is something which binds us together”. He also said that the pursuit of quality should in itself be useful, that profit and perhaps even wealth are a by-product of quality rather than ends in themselves. Although some of the language is now dated, I find his ‘Key Speech’ from 1970 hugely inspiring and recommend it to anyone with an interest in doing business in a humane fashion.

Where there is a possibility to build something which stands out, which offers something different to people wishing to provide - or consume - technology services then I think it is worth trying.