AN ABERDEEN-BASED training company whose clients include corporate giants BP, Centrica and Rolls-Royce has become the latest business in Scotland to move into employee ownership.

The directors of 20/20 Business Insight, which delivers courses and consulting services throughout the world, made the transition after an assessment of succession options led them to conclude it offered the best route to achieve its long-term goals.

The firm, which offers open-course and in-house training, as well as an online training platform, turned over £3 million in its most recent financial year.

Under the terms of the deal, an Employee Ownership Trust has been formed and holds 61 per cent of the shares in the company on behalf of its 20 employees. The agreement comes with an option for the staff to acquire the remaining shares from its three directors in the future.

Tony Marks established the business with Graham Chapman in 2003, with the pair joined by a third director, Neil Harkin, when he bought into the company in 2010.

Mr Marks said the terms of the employee ownership deal allow the directors to remain with the business while they develop the staff who can move into leadership roles in the future.

He became the convinced of the strategy after attending a succession masterclass held by Cooperative Development Scotland (CDS), which has advised on the transition of a host of Scottish businesses into employee hands. These include Auchrannie on the Isle of Arran, which announced that its directors had passed the ownership of the popular resort to its 160 employees in January.

Commenting on the rationale behind the 20/20 move, Mr Marks said: “We had developed a future leaders programme with the eventual aim of preparing some of our staff to oversee business operations.

“Myself and two fellow directors were the three main shareholders in the business and we still hadn’t resolved the issue of realising the value of our individual shares.

“Hearing first-hand about the process and experience of becoming employee-owned really helped us understand the potential benefits, and we agreed it was an effective solution to our succession issues.

“The prospect of a more engaged workforce and a culture which encouraged greater innovation really appealed to us. We held a team meeting to tell our staff, and the news was very well-received.”

Emma Davidson, employee trustee at 20/20, said: “The employees see this as a very positive thing and are collectively looking forward to building on 20/20’s business success for years to come.

“By becoming an employee-owned company, we feel empowered to create an environment that suits us as a workforce, ultimately increasing our productivity to bring 20/20’s success to the next level.”

CDS estimates there are now around 100 employee-owned companies in Scotland, which between them employ around 2,000 staff and turn over £940 million.

The organisation said the trend towards employee ownership is growing and increasingly being favoured by senior directors as a means to resolve succession issues and to safeguard employment. There is a growing conviction that companies can improve their profitability by having staff who are better engaged, and that the model derives greater employee satisfaction.

Sarah Deas, director of CDS, said: “2020 went down the employee ownership route after hearing about some of the benefits first-hand.

“It will help retain jobs and the company’s ethos, whilst allowing the owners to plan their future over time as they put an effective management team in place.”