IT Services firm clicks with employee ownership

2e-volve team

AN IT SERVICES company has ignored multiple buy-out approaches in favour of entering an employee ownership trust to secure its long-term future.

Stirling-based 2e-volve, which has more than 200 clients in the Forth Valley area, acts as an outsourced IT department as well as providing IT, network and cyber security consultancy.

The brainchild of entrepreneur Craig Lemmon, its reputation has been built on its “15 minute fix” mentality, whereby if it can be sorted over the phone in that time, its teams are encouraged to act.

Since the start of the pandemic it has enabled more than 400 of its clients’ employees to work securely and seamlessly from home.

Craig, 60, who also lives in Stirling, founded the firm in 2000 and has seen it grow. Now 10 strong, 2e-volve has bucked industry trends for high staff turnover, with four of the team serving more than 14 years while the rest have all been with the company between seven and 10 years.

Craig said: “One of the first things I did when I started 2e-volve was to seek out brilliant people who are frankly better than me at the technical side of things. From there I’ve made sure that we look after our people and they are empowered to look after the business.

“We might not all be related but we are very much a family firm. These individuals have been very loyal to me over the years and I wanted to repay that loyalty by making them owners.” 

Craig first explored employee ownership three years ago amid a spate of approaches from similar sized firms seeking to tap into their geographical advantage within the heart of Scotland.

He added: “It didn’t feel right exploring a buyout because it would have thrown our people and clients into uncertainty. This option means they have the reins and with my input for the years ahead, they can take the business where they want to.”

The father-of-three will step back into a more advisory role as well as taking on more business development, with a view to retiring fully when he reaches 65. Craig also founded Miigen, a platform that allows older adults to build “a life raft” of voice enhanced memories, saved as digital time capsules, to use as memory triggers in later life and for sharing with family.

Stuart Winter, who has been with 2e-volve for 13 years and will become a Director, said:  “I don’t believe we will see a lot of change as employees.  We’ve always worked in a very open way and I see employee ownership more as an evolutionary step for 2e-volve rather than a major shift in how we operate.  However, we are now in control of our own destiny and that’s an exciting prospect.”

James Travers joined 2e-volve 10 years ago after running his own business. He said: “It’s up to us to make sure that 2e-volve continues to be successful, always being one step ahead with technology and delivering the very best service to our customers.”

The firm celebrated its 20th birthday on the same day it signed the contracts to enter the EOT.  The majority of the shareholding has transferred to the EOT which will hold the shares on behalf of the employees. 

2e-volve joins a growing number of Scottish-headquartered entrepreneurial businesses opting for this model of ownership, with close to 100 firms now employee-owned.

Stirling-based Ownership Associates, founded by Carole Leslie, provides full support for a business seeking to go through the employee-ownership journey and assisted 2e-volve throughout.

Carole said: “I work across the UK, so it’s lovely to be able to work on a local success story. 2e-volve should act as a model for so many similar firms. Its success is borne out of its positive culture – and that same progressive mindset has directly led to it becoming employee owned.  

An advisory team supported the firm’s landmark move to employee-ownership, including legal advice provided by Anderson Strathern and accountancy guidance by D&A Pearston, also based in Stirling.

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