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Shetland consultancy completes transfer of ownership to employees

Published: 17/04/2019

A pharmaceutical consultancy business based in Shetland has completed its transition A pharmaceutical consultancy business based in Shetland has completed its transition to become Scotland’s latest employee-owned become Scotland’s latest employee-owned business.

ESPL Regulatory Consulting operates internationally from historic Lunna House, in Vidlin, on the north-east corner of mainland Shetland and is being supported by a £10,500 grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Ownership of the company has been transferred from the Erwood family to its staff members to secure the long-term future of the business.

A team of ten people are employed at Lunna as well as in Glasgow, England, Italy  and Australia and others work as freelance consultants across the globe.

ESPL was originally established as an electronics company in England in 1996 and switched to pharmaceutical regulatory affairs as its main activity in 2000 when Chief Executive Dr Helen Erwood moved to work full time on the business.

The company provides regulatory advice and support for pharmaceutical and related submissions. ESPL work on a broad range of projects from medical device submissions, regulatory compliance, clinical trial applications and much more. They have a varied client base from ‘blue chip’ pharmaceutical companies right through to university incubator start-ups.

In considering their long-term succession options owners, Helen, Tony, and Chris Erwood, were keen to identify a solution that would allow the business to continue to thrive for the benefit of the employees and remain rooted in Scotland.

Dr Erwood will continue to be involved in the business. She said: “It’s approaching time for Tony and me to hand over to the next generation. We have built up a successful business from our Shetland base and we couldn’t have done that without the talents and efforts of Chris and the team. One of our core values is collaboration, and the employee ownership model reinforces that.

“We’re a virtual business, making everyday use of digital technology to ensure that our international team can fully support our clients. We’ve proved that running an international company from a remote location can work and physical location isn’t that important. However, our heart is here. Our preference would be that the firm stays in Shetland, but we didn’t want to impose too many constraints on the new leadership.”

Andrew Gear, HIE account manager for ESPL, said: “Employee ownership will give the whole ESPL team a stake in the continued growth of the business. Employee owned companies generally achieve good results and have a motivated, innovative, productive workforce with profits retained locally. HIE is delighted to have supported ESPL in making this significant move to employee ownership. The company provides unique and quality  jobs to people in Shetland. By making this move, the owners have secured these jobs and the long-term presence of the company in Shetland.”

The latest figures show that there are 92 employee-owned companies operating in Scotland, with approximately 7,000 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £930million.   

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