EO Today Member Spotlight: ESP Projects

Sheffield based ESP Projects was founded in 2002 to service the need in the third sector (i.e. charities and not-for-profit organisations) for cost effective I.T. solutions. Initially focusing on website support, the business has since expanded its service offering to become a full and comprehensive I.T. support service, including the installation and maintenance of telephone systems and other hardware.

Starting life with a small element of employee ownership (less than 5%), currently 45.8% of ESP Projects is owned by its 26 employees under a direct share ownership model, with a further 4.6% of the company’s shares reserved to provide dividends for the third sector and charitable organisations. The company boasts incredibly low staff turnover and very high levels of staff engagement, with there being 100% attendance at all AGM’s, and all staff being incredibly willing to come forward with ideas.

Indeed it is this staff engagement that precipitated the most exciting recent development for ESP Projects. The staff came forward, of their own accord, to identify that more and more branding agencies were beginning to develop their own web support services rather than outsourcing them, and so were beginning to cut ESP Projects out of that particular market. As a direct result of identifying this issue, in the last month a deal has been secured to purchase a local branding agency, enabling ESP Projects to create a true end-to-end service on the web side of the business. This, along with sustained growth in their customer base, has meant that the number of employee owners has increased by 50% over the last 18 months, and this trend is very much set to continue.

This growth is fantastic news for ESP Projects, and opens up many exciting avenues for their future development. However, as the business very quickly transitions into what has become a much larger organisation, it has become apparent that the current EO model may not be the best fit for the current size and progression, and so Jason Francis, Managing Director of ESP Projects, has begun to investigate potential alternatives.

“We are looking to change the model slightly as we grow quickly to a size that the current model wasn’t designed to suit – and to further secure our long-term sustainability. We’re currently researching our options and have been put in touch with other EOA members who’ve decided to adapt their models to discuss the reasons that led them to this decision, and how they’ve gone about making this transition.”

The ability of a business to develop and evolve their EO model as it grows demonstrates the inherent flexibility of employee ownership to engage and involve staff in the ownership of the organisation.  It is a relatively common occurrence – particularly in businesses that introduced employee ownership very early in their timeline, as ESP Projects did. The EOA supports its members and other business owners and founders during their succession, growth or start up stages, so do get in touch if you require advice or guidance for your own organisation.