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A Brilliant Step Forward for Black Light

A Brilliant Step Forward for Black Light

UK – As of 11am 1st June, the 21 employees of Black Light Ltd, based in the Granton area of Edinburgh, own the business in which they work.

Founder, Gavin Stewart (pictured), sold 80% of his company to the staff as a first step towards his eventual exit of the business. In choosing employee ownership, Gavin hopes to ensure the business remains in Edinburgh, and continues to deliver a brilliant service to the company’s clients and vendors. To mark the occasion, Gavin gave each member of staff a teddy, asking them to care for the company as much as he had over the years.

Gavin started the business in 1983, as a mobile DJ, known as Black Vinyl, for student unions and various functions. Soon the company diversified into lighting solutions. Now the company is renowned for its innovative approach to the design and delivery of sound, light and audio visual installations across a variety of sectors.

Coincidentally, just a few hours before the documents were signed for the transfer of the business to employee ownership, one of the Black Light teams completed the finishing touches to Trump Turnberry Resort in Ayrshire. This is part of a £200m refurbishment expected to put the course back in the running to host future Open Championship events. Other projects include working on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the new home of West Ham FC and designing lighting for rehearsal studios for the National Theatre of Scotland.

The employees are taking on the business at a good time. The outlook is bright. Turnover is 10% up on previous year and the company has a healthy pipeline of exciting projects.

What was it like for Gavin, handing over the reins after more than 30 years? “The time has come for change and I wanted to make the right change. By selling to the employees, I’m acknowledging the contribution made by the employees in creating the success the company is today. Employee ownership provides Black Light with a secure platform on which to build and grow. I know this is the right decision.” The company is now owned by an Employee Ownership Trust, and there are plans to implement a share scheme to enable employees to benefit directly from the future success of the company.

Gavin insists the new structure won’t mean management by committee, and if anything the company will now be more structured. “As an owner-manager, I was accountable to no one but myself. Now we have to adopt a more transparent way of working.” One of the employees, electrician Drew Eadie, has been elected to the board of directors. The company’s board will report to the Trust. Two employees have been elected as Trustees, who alongside Gavin and an independent Trustee, will be responsible for ensuring the board delivers a successful future for Black Light.

Employee ownership specialist, Carole Leslie, supported the company through the move. “This was a relatively straightforward transition. Gavin had a clear idea of what we wanted, and the employees were enthusiastic from the start. Customer feedback has been very positive.”

Kylie Drysdale, administrator, was elected as a Trustee. Kylie says: “We are indebted to Gavin for giving us this tremendous opportunity. He has built up a great company and a brilliant place to work. The future of Black Light is in our hands. It’s up to us now!”

6th June 2016

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