Scotland now has 110 employee-owned businesses after Glasgow firm makes switch

A Glasgow-headquartered civil engineering firm has seen 40 members of staff given a stake in the business as it switches to employee ownership.

Hendrie Barbour, Alistair Gray, Fergus Aitchison of MHB Consultants, which has its headquarters in Glasgow and regional offices in Edinburgh and York. Picture: Guy Hinks
Hendrie Barbour, Alistair Gray, Fergus Aitchison of MHB Consultants, which has its headquarters in Glasgow and regional offices in Edinburgh and York. Picture: Guy Hinks

Founded by managing director Hendrie Barbour in 2006, MHB Consultants is an engineering design consultancy specialising in bridge design, civil and geotechnical engineering, temporary works and land surveying. It has its headquarters in Glasgow and regional offices in Edinburgh and York.

Together with fellow directors Fergus Aitchison and Alistair Gray, Barbour has grown the business organically to 40 staff. He is said to have wanted to plan for his eventual exit over a number of years by considering succession options early, allowing for a “smooth transition”.

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An employee ownership trust has been formed and holds 100 per cent of the shares on behalf of the employees. The transition to employee ownership was supported by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), with the process managed by Co-ownership Solutions and legal services provided by Lindsays.

Barbour said: “All of us have been involved in building MHB, and we are proud of the successful business that it has become and the team of employees that we have. We don’t want any exit plans to impact what we’ve all built or change the way the business operates and our way of doing things.

“We are all genuinely enthused by the idea that there is a way of transferring ownership without needing to sell MHB to another company and risk destroying what has been built up over the years. We believe that employee ownership will be the start of an exciting new chapter at MHB.”

With a planned deal completion date of mid-2020, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic is said to have created “some uncertainty” over the timing of the deal.

“Goodwill from employees is important right now as we must all pull together in the right direction. What better way to do this than with all of us as owners,” added Barbour.

Clare Alexander, head of Co-operative Development Scotland, added: “It is fantastic news that MHB Consultants has chosen to transfer ownership to its employees.

“Employee ownership drives engagement, productivity, long-term thinking and innovation, brought about by enhanced employee wellbeing.

“Employee-owned businesses also tend to be more resilient than their non-employee-owned counterparts, something which stands them in better stead for the new world we now find ourselves in following the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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Within Scotland, there are now around 110 employee-owned companies operating.

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