Leith design company Shore makes switch to employee ownership

Edinburgh-based product design company Shore has become the latest Scottish firm to transition to employee ownership, with more than 30 staff given a stake in the business.

Monday, 21st September 2020, 12:31 pm
Some members of the Shore team pictured at a company event in Leith in pre-Covid times.
Some members of the Shore team pictured at a company event in Leith in pre-Covid times.

The company, which was founded in 2003 and operates from Leith, designs, engineers and develops drug delivery products, diagnostic devices and medical training products.

It has built up a global customer base with more than 80 per cent of its clients in the US, the EU, Switzerland and Japan. Major medical and pharmaceutical clients include Johnson & Johnson, Smith & Nephew, Eli Lilly and Ypsomed.

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The move to employee ownership comes after owner and managing director Nick Foley eyed options for his eventual exit by considering succession options early. Employee ownership was suggested by Scottish Enterprise, which put Foley in touch directly with Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS).

Foley said: “In due course I will want to exit the business, however having founded and developed it into a market leading company over the past 17 years, I didn’t want to sell to a third party and see the team’s hard work absorbed into another organisation with different values or a long-term strategy that might not match ours.

“We have developed a strong team ethic and a culture based on collaboration, support and respect. We’re not a group of individuals sharing an office – we are a team.

“Our people are hand-picked for the skills, creativity, experience and spirit they bring to our company, so it was important to me to give the company, the jobs and the brand the best chance of continued independent existence following my exit.

“The business should work for the employees, rather than the other way around, so employee ownership was the perfect fit for us.”

An employee ownership trust has been created that will hold a majority of the shares on behalf of the employees. Foley will remain a “significant” shareholder in the business.

Clare Alexander, head of CDS, said: “Nick wanted a long-term succession option which would enable him to gradually exit the business that he worked extremely hard to build, with the knowledge that the future is taken care of.

“It will also help safeguard highly-skilled jobs and keep specialist skills alive whilst creating new opportunities.”

Within Scotland, there are now thought to be about 110 employee-owned companies operating, with some 7,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of about £950 million.

Foley added: “The staff are very excited about the transition, so it’s been a very positive experience and they’ve been really engaged in the process. Moving into employee ownership gives the opportunity for continued job security for all staff and enables them to have collective control of their future.

“Thankfully we’ve not been negatively affected by the impact of the virus; we’re very busy with both new and ongoing projects given our work in the medical and pharmaceutical industries and we’re very fortunate that the team is able to work from home.”

The transition to employee ownership was supported by CDS, with the process managed by Ownership Associates, legal services by Anderson Strathern and accountancy services by Scholes.

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