Civil and Structural Engineering consultancy Grossart Associates, which is based in East Kilbride, is the latest Scottish firm to make the move to the increasingly popular business succession model of employee ownership.
Following the transfer of 100% of its shareholding to an Employee Ownership Trust, Grossart Associates’ 15 employees now share a stake in the consultancy business and can enjoy the reassurance that its future has been secured for them and they will benefit from its success going forward.
Grossart Associates provides a design and project management function on public and private sector projects across a diverse range of industries. It has over 300 active clients – of whom 90% provide regular repeat business – and they include private developers, local authorities, housing associations, insurance companies and retail, commercial and industrial organisations.
The consultancy was originally established in 1985 on a sole trader basis by Bill Grossart, who has over 40 years’ experience in the construction industry. In 1993, Bill formed a partnership with John MacDonald who had previously held senior positions within various private consultancy practices and whose experience in the industry also spans over four decades. At that time, Grossart Associates relocated from its original office in Giffnock on the south side of Glasgow to its present location in East Kilbride’s Scottish Enterprise Technology Park. The firm then became a limited company in 2002 with Bill and John as equal shareholders and directors.
Planning ahead for their eventual retirements, Bill and John were keen to identify a suitable business succession solution. Whilst a trade sale was an option, Bill and John were concerned that this could potentially cause disruption to the business and would not guarantee that it remained firmly rooted in Scotland. It was not only important to them to ensure that the respected and successful business they have built up will remain here in the long-term, continuing to thrive and grow, but also that the job security of their loyal staff, many of whom have a considerable number of years’ service, is protected.
The directors first learned about employee ownership at the end of 2017 when a mutual contact put Bill in touch with Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates, which offers specialist guidance on the business model on behalf of Co-operative Development Scotland – the arm of Scottish Enterprise which supports economic development by promoting collaborative and employee ownership models.
After finding out how employee ownership has proved highly successful in providing a stable platform for companies’ future growth, it became clear to Bill and John that this business succession route would allow them to meet their priorities, passing control of Grossart Associates over to its team who are committed to the consultancy’s continuation and future. After consulting with their fellow director Hector Munro, they began discussions with their team, conducting workshops on employee ownership as well as a series of group and individual staff meetings.
The process of setting up an employee ownership trust – a means of enabling staff to take over ownership of a business without having to invest their own money in its purchase – was then initiated, with financing being secured from Stuart Brown and Tom Every at Barclays Bank. The transition to employee ownership was supported by legal services provided by Ewan Regan at Anderson Strathern and accountancy and financial services from Kenny McAllister at McAllisters, Chartered Accountants.
Bill says: “Right from our very first discussions with them about the possibility of transitioning to employee ownership, our team were really open to hearing about the idea, and after they’d learned about the potential benefits as well as the positive impact EO has had on so many forward-thinking businesses, they really embraced the concept and were completely supportive of making it happen.”
“We all believe employee ownership will be a catalyst for enhancing the consultancy and taking it on to bigger and better things. As equal partners and beneficiaries of the business’s success, each member of the team has a chance to shape its future and a vested interest in ensuring it capitalises on every opportunity to achieve excellence.
John adds: “We’re all really excited by what lies ahead for Grossart Associates and Bill and I are very pleased that our involvement will continue so we can support the team by offering them advice and the benefit of our experience until it’s time for us to retire and take our leave.“
Head of Co-operative Development Scotland, Clare Alexander, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Grossart Associates to Scotland’s fast-growing employee-owned community and wish the team every success for the future. Whilst the business succession model is growing within the construction sector – as it is across all industries – there are still very few examples of employee-owned engineering consultancies. That means its new status will really set Grossart Associates apart in the market and give it a competitive edge.”
Statistics demonstrate that employee-owned businesses consistently outperform their non EO counterparts in terms of higher levels of profitability, increased productivity brought about by higher levels of engagement and enhanced employee wellbeing, as well as improved business resilience during times of recession.
Within Scotland, there are now around 110 employee-owned companies operating, with approximately 7,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £950 million. In addition to Grossart Associates, the Scottish businesses which have transferred to employee ownership this year include social care support services provider Aspire Housing and Personal Development Services, architecture practice Anderson Bell + Christie, and ESPL Regulatory Consulting which provides specialist services to the life sciences, pharma and medical device industries.