By Scott Wright

A GRANGEMOUTH-based provider of IT support has become the latest firm in Scotland to transition into employee hands in a move heralded for protecting jobs in the area.

Nine members of staff have been given a stake in Exmos as owner Gordon Coulter looked to safeguard the future of the business as he planned his eventual exit, after ruling out a sale to a competitor.

Mr Coulter established the firm, which specialises in remote support for manufacturing and industrial processing companies, in 1991.

He said: “A trade sale just didn’t appeal to me. We’ve still got things to do at Exmos in terms of developing the business and expanding our offering.

“I didn’t want to sell to a larger competitor that was more interested in our intellectual property and customer base than the growth of the business and the security of the staff. Many staff have been with us for years and I felt it would be selfish of me to put them in a position where they were potentially going to have the rug pulled from under their feet, or be pulled into a big corporation with a different culture from the one they had chosen at Exmos.”

Under the terms of the transition deal, an Employee Ownership Trust has been formed to hold 60% of the shares on behalf of the employees. The process was supported by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS).

There are now around 110 employee-owned companies in Scotland with around 7,500 employee owners and turning over a combined £950m, according to CDS. Among the big names to have made the switch is the popular Auchrannie resort on the Isle of Arran.

Mr Coulter added: “It was never about making a complete exit for me, and I’ll still be very involved in the business for several years to come as we continue to evolve.

“The reaction from the staff has been very positive, and they have expressed gratitude over the move to EO (employee ownership), which has ensured their jobs remain in the local area and gives them more of a say in how the company is run.”