North Ayrshire bus firm gives all employees a company stake

North Ayrshire bus firm gives all employees a company stake

Kilwinning-based Shuttle Buses has become employee-owned, giving all 70 employees a stake in the business as the current managing director plans for his eventual retirement.

Established in 1990, the bus and coach company has 60 vehicles and operates both commercial and subsidised local bus services – including school and private contracts, the MyBus on-demand service and private coach hire. A key motivation for transitioning to employee ownership was to retain the ethos and culture of the company whilst anchoring it in the local community – something that could not be guaranteed with a trade sale.

Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) – part of Scottish Enterprise and the arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies that supports company growth through collaborative and employee ownership business models – assisted the company in its transition.

David Granger, managing director of Shuttle Buses, said: “Having considered various exit strategies, it was clear that employee ownership was the best way forward for both me and the business. We have a great workforce, some of whom have been with the company for almost as long as I have, and safeguarding their future was equally important to me as my own.

“Despite having grown to 70 employees we have managed to retain much of the ethos of a family company; my son and youngest daughter both work here and I think a trade sale could have been disastrous for both them and our other employees. Employee ownership gave me a tax-efficient exit, yet retaining both a role and a shareholding in the business, whilst passing on the role of Managing Director to my son.”

In May this year, an employee ownership census commissioned by CDS showed that there were 195 employee-owned businesses operating in Scotland. That number has now grown to more than 200.

Employee ownership gives employees a meaningful stake in their organisation together with a genuine say in how it is run. Employee-owned businesses (EOBs) are also more resilient than non-employee-owned businesses during times of economic crisis, as well as being more profitable, more productive and having greater staff engagement.

Clare Alexander, head of CDS, added: “It’s wonderful to see a company like Shuttle Buses embracing employee ownership. Adopting this business model is a great way to preserve the company’s culture even after the original founder retires – something that’s especially important when that company is providing vital lifeline services to the local community.

“More and more Scottish businesses are transitioning to employee ownership and we’re proud to support them on that journey. The fact that we’ve already reached more than 200 employee-owned businesses in Scotland is a fantastic achievement, but with a Scottish government target of growing that to 500 by 2030, we’re working hard to raise awareness and facilitate even more transitions.”

The company commissioned a feasibility study, which allowed it to make an informed decision on whether to move to employee ownership. Once the company had decided to proceed, its transition was project-managed by 4-consulting, with legal services from Blackadders and financial inputs from Williams & Company.

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