Scottish civil engineering firm becomes employee-owned

L-R Hendrie Barbour, Alistair Gray, Fergus Aitchison.

CIVIL engineering firm MHB Consultants is the latest company in Scotland to become employee-owned, with 40 members of staff given a stake in the business. 

Founded by managing director Hendrie Barbour in 2006, MHB Consultants is an engineering design consultancy specialising in bridge design, civil and geotechnical engineering, temporary works and land surveying.

Together with fellow directors Fergus Aitchison and Alistair Gray, Hendrie has grown the firm organically to 40 staff, with headquarters in Glasgow and regional offices in Edinburgh and York.

Clients include construction firms, transport agencies, local authorities, engineering consultants and private clients throughout the UK. 

Mr Hendrie wanted to plan for his eventual exit over a number of years by considering succession options early, therefore allowing for a smooth transition. Along with the other two directors, Fergus Aitchison and Alistair Gray, the management team wanted a solution that would ensure the business remained independent and retained the company’s strong values and culture. 

Mr Hendrie said: “All of us have been involved in building MHB, and we are proud of the successful business that it has become and the team of employees that we have. We don’t want any exit plans to impact what we’ve all built or change the way the business operates and our way of doing things.

“Goodwill from employees is important right now as we must all pull together in the right direction. What better way to do this than with all of us as owners?”

Mr Hendrie attended seminars on succession planning delivered by Co-operative Development Scotland, the arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies that supports company growth through collaborative and employee ownership business models.

He said: “We are all genuinely enthused by the idea that there is a way of transferring ownership without needing to sell MHB to another company and risk destroying what has been built up over the years. We believe that employee ownership will be the start of an exciting new chapter at MHB.”

Due to remote working, staff meetings were held by video-conference and a ballot to elect the employee member of the Ownership Trust was carried out, with senior engineer Gillian Pettigrew being elected to the role.

Gillian said: “Staff are very much looking forward to having a say in the future of the business, and the opportunity to contribute to its success.”