“The employees have been loyal to us over the years. We wanted to repay that loyalty.”
As the owners of an Angus engineering company considered their retirement, they worried about the consequences of their decision.
Fraser and Sheila Dunphy, of Arbroath-based Finesse Control Systems, had seen many companies in the area sold to buyers that ended in relocation or closure.
They sought a solution that would allow the business to continue to manufacture in Arbroath and maintain the strong customer and supplier relationships that had been built over the years.
Most importantly, they wanted to protect the jobs of the 18-strong workforce as much as possible.
They believe these aims have been met by reaching an agreement to sell the majority shareholding in the company to an Employee Ownership Trust.
“We didn’t want to sell to an external buyer,” Ms Dunphy said.
“The employees of Finesse have been loyal to us over the years, and we wanted to repay that loyalty.”
The Kirkton Industrial Estate business designs and manufactures industrial automation and process control systems.
The 20-years-old firm supplies to a diverse range of sectors including oil and gas, marine, nuclear and renewable energy, utilities, agriculture, food processing, pharmaceutical, brewing and quarries.
Employee ownership is an increasingly popular exit route for business owners, conferring certain tax advantages on the sellers and on the employees.
The Trust holds the shares on behalf of employees and provides scrutiny and oversight of the company board, to make sure it is always acting in the best interests of the employees.
Lornette Parker, who was recently elected as one of the Trustees to the Employee Ownership Trust, said staff were very enthusiastic to get on board with the plans.
She said: “This is a great place to work and there was always a concern about what would happen when Sheila and Fraser decided to retire. We were delighted to hear of the plans.”
Thorntons advised on the transaction and employee ownership specialists Ownership Associates project managed the business transfer process.
The company has committed to donating 10% of future profits to charity as part of the new arrangement.
Mr Dunphy added: “Finesse has always been a company that has taken civic duty seriously.”
“We are fortunate to be in the position to be able to give back and improve life for others. It was important to us that this continued.”
The company has also committed to continue to recruit and train local apprentices.