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i4 Product Design chooses employee ownership

Ewan Maxwell, Gordon Miller and Brian Combe

Team leaders: Ewan Maxwell, Gordon Miller and Brian Combe


An Edinburgh-based company has become the latest employee-owned business, with 14 members of staff becoming majority owners.

i4 Product Design was formed in 2003 by four founding directors, Brian Combe, Ewan Maxwell, Gordon Miller and Jim Ward. Mr Combe, Mr Maxwell and Mr Miller, are still with the business and form the current board of directors.

The company has a mix of designers, innovators and engineers and worked for brands such as Flymo and Bosch.

Mr Combe, i4’s managing director, said:  “The main objective of establishing an employee ownership structure was to provide a stable platform for growth by allowing our employees to feel more engaged, informed and integrated into the company.

“Many exit options had been considered over the years, even employee ownership which at the time we wrongly assumed would be too complicated for us. However, it soon became clear that employee ownership was an ideal fit for the aspirations of the directors, for leaving a legacy of a sustainable and profitable company.

“Since the company’s inception we have always strived to do the right thing by our employees, and so once we understood the principles of employee ownership, we knew it was the perfect vehicle for us to begin the process of engaging our team for the next chapter of our company’s development.”

An Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) has been formed and currently holds 75% of the shares on behalf of the employees; the co-founders have an equal share of the remaining 25% but it is envisaged the EOT will eventually hold 100%.

The transition to employee ownership was supported by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), with legal advice from Anderson Strathern and financial advice from Business Equilibrium.

Mr Combe said:  “We were extremely satisfied with the support we received from CDS and our legal and financial teams on implementation. Although there is a lot of hard work still to complete to make employee ownership work for us, we firmly believe that this will be good in the long-term for everyone involved.

Sarah Deas, director at Co-operative Development Scotland, the arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies which promotes employee ownership, said:  “By becoming employee-owned, the company is also safeguarding highly-skilled jobs.  Employee ownership is a succession option that should be explored by businesses of all sizes and sectors.”

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