A consultant structural and civil engineering firm in Scotland has transitioned to employee ownership. Founded 28 years ago, David Narro Associates (DNA) is a leading consultant and civil engineering firm, with offices in Glasgow and Edinburgh. DNA has worked on over 4,000 projects, including the refurbishment of the National Museum of Scotland, and has received several awards.
Managing director David Narro, who plans to retire in the next five years, wanted to give the employees the chance to own the business. He thinks the employee ownership model will help secure a sustainable future for the enterprise.
“I didn’t just want to retire. I wanted to make sure the company itself would continue without me. The best way to do that was to allow the employees who know the business so well to take it forward – they are just as responsible for its success as anyone,” he explained. “The way I have run the practice has always been co-operative, so employee ownership is a natural fit for the company’s future.”
He decided to hand control of the business to its employees in 2012 after attending a half-day seminar run by Co-operative Development Scotland.
“The seminar was really helpful and for me it was the final nudge I needed towards employee ownership. It was great to hear first-hand from those who have gone through the process what the benefits were and how it affected them,” he said.
Under the guidance of CDS, the company has sold 80% of shares to employees via an employee ownership trust, with the remainder due to be made available to staff for purchase directly as part of a share incentive scheme.
Sarah Deas, chief executive of CDS, said: “This is terrific news for David Narro Associates. For David, it is the ideal succession route, knowing the future of the company he built from scratch is in safe hands – as well as protecting the jobs he helped create.”
Throughout the process, they have also worked with Baxendale, which has also provided the feasibility study as well as legal, financial and employee engagement advice.
Ewan Hall, legal director at Baxendale who led the transition at DNA, said: “It has been great working with the team at DNA. This transition was not just about the transfer of ownership, but also broadening participation and responsibility throughout the organisation.”
Since becoming employee-owned, the firm has witnessed an improvement in productivity and staff engagement. Practice manager Amanda Douglas joined DNA in 2005. She is now one of the firm’s 30 employee owners.
“David has kept us involved every step of the way and it is an exciting time not just for the business, but for everyone who works here,” she said. “Knowing that each of us will play a vital role in the practice’s long-term success has given us all an extra incentive to do well.”
According to the Employee Ownership Association, employee owned firms enjoy an average 35% annual increase in profits and 4.5% year-on-year productivity increases. “The response within the company has been very positive and we’re looking forward to the next few years with a great deal of optimism,” added Mr Narro.
With the introduction of new tax reliefs for employee owned businesses this year, the number of enterprises transitioning to employee ownership has increased.