St Andrews-based Lisle Design Ltd moves into employee ownership

St. Andrews-based Lisle Design Ltd, a tachograph technology firm that has grown to a £2 million revenue firm in 15 years, has handed control and ownership to its team.

St Andrews-based Lisle Design Ltd moves into employee ownership

The Lisle Design team

The firm implemented the succession model with the support of an employee-ownership specialist, Ownership Associates.

It means the 14-strong firm, that counts German multinationals Continental and ZF Group among its client base, became the 99th Scottish business to adopt the succession model this year, with demand growing during the pandemic.

The business was set up by managing director, 68-year-old Mike Lisle, and was the first company to develop a digital tachograph download tool, Digidown, which is now used throughout Europe to provide quick intelligence on driving data.

Starting in 2002, the business grew from Mike’s own home, before expanding in 2007 to take up residence within the St. Andrews New Technology Centre. The business was growing well until March 2020, when in common with many other businesses, sales fell off a cliff due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mike Lisle said: “Despite Covid we managed to carry on and by the end of the financial year to March 2021 had recovered the lost ground. We were extra pleased how the employees helped find ways to follow the Covid rules and still carry on without need for furlough. The current financial year is back on target for 20% growth.

“For some time, I have been looking towards a succession plan and had considered a number of options. Selling to a corporate buyer was an option, but I had reservations of what happens after that. In contrast to other companies in our market, Lisle Design explicitly works as far as possible with local suppliers and subcontractors. At the same time the company prides itself in working closely with customers as business partners.

“It was from there I decided the best route was to adopt employee ownership and seek the assurance of an Employee Ownership Trust. Given the strong relationships with our customers and suppliers, and the business itself succeeding naturally, ensuring the company continued to flourish in the hands of the employees felt like the best move for everyone involved.

“The process was made easy by Ownership Associates, who facilitated the transition, from guiding us through the technical details to acquiring the support of solicitors and accountants, the whole process was pretty straightforward.”

The Employee Ownership Trust provides a neat transfer of business control to the employees without the employees needing to find the money to buy the business. Instead the trust takes on a debt which is repaid from business proceeds over the following few years.

Ownership Associates plays a key role in business transitions within Scotland, with more than 40 transitions since the firm’s inception in 2010. Director, Carole Leslie, believes Lisle Design Ltd will become a standard bearer for employee ownership within its sector.

Carole Leslie, director, added: “Lisle Design Ltd is a perfect example of a business capitalising on a gap within its market, and gaining international recognition for its excellence.

“Lisle Design Ltd’s transition is a mark of security and progression as more and more businesses are looking to the employee ownership succession model.

“We hope this will encourage more businesses within the transportation sector to consider adopting employee ownership.”

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