Apr 132017

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

Bob Bain, partner at Hall Morrice LLP, welcomes Tom Faichnie and Melanie Gilmour to head up the new Hall Morrice Corporate Finance team.

Aberdeen chartered accountants Hall Morrice LLP has launched a new corporate finance division as part of its strategy to prepare for the north east’s economic recovery.

The independent firm has made two key appointments to lead the new team, which will largely focus on working with corporate entities and private equity houses seeking to invest in oilfield services companies.

Tom Faichnie has been appointed to the post of managing director with Hall Morrice Corporate Finance, while Melanie Gilmour takes up the post of manager.

Both have come from RSM Aberdeen, where they specialised on deals activity within the energy sector.

Mr Faichnie has a strong track record in corporate finance, having previously worked for international accountancy firms and leading banks. He has been based in Aberdeen for almost 20 years, and believes that Hall Morrice has launched its new division at exactly the right time as the region readies itself for recovery.

He says,

“We have been seeing the green shoots of recovery for the region since the middle of last year and this is absolutely the right time to get ahead of the game and invest in Aberdeen.

“The decline in trading results seen during the period of low oil price appears to have stabilised and we can see that order books are now tipping back in the right direction. As companies start to build up again, they will need working capital to deliver and grow their order books and many will require funding.

“We also anticipate that we will see a lot of exits coming in the next six months, especially from companies at the smaller end of the scale. There now appears to be a steady base level of profitability upon which to structure a transaction and many shareholders who may have delayed selling their businesses are likely to see increased interest from the UK and overseas.

“Hall Morrice has been operating in Aberdeen for over 40 years: they understand the city and they understand corporate finance, and that, combined with our knowledge and experience, creates an excellent platform that will allow Melanie and I to build a very strong proposition.”

In addition to the external engagements, the new division will also undertake corporate finance and financial due diligence services for existing Hall Morrice clients. The firm, which employs a team of over 50 people in its offices in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh, works across a number of different sectors from property and construction to retail and leisure.

Miss Gilmour is a qualified chartered accountant having previously worked for one of the big four, and has extensive transactional experience across different industries in addition to her oil and gas background.

Hall Morrice Partner Bob Bain says the new team arrives with an exceptional track record in deal initiation and advisory services which will benefit the firm’s existing clients and new prospects.

He adds,

“The marketplace has been volatile for the past two years, but despite that we are confident that there is a now a requirement – and more so in the future – to service corporate entities and private equity houses from a diligence capacity.

“Although we remain cautious, we are optimistic of an increase in deals activity and believe that we have an excellent team in place to respond to that uplift. Tom has worked in Aberdeen for almost 20 years and during that time has established a first-class reputation as being the ‘go to’ for oil and gas corporate finance and diligence.

“Working alongside Tom, Melanie has been able to benefit from his wealth of experience and has emerged as an incredibly knowledgeable individual who will be a valuable asset to the corporate finance team.  With support from the wider Hall Morrice team, we believe that this provides a strong platform to develop our transactional offering in both Aberdeen and the wider oilfield services market.”

Founded in 1976, Hall Morrice is one of Scotland’s leading independent firms of chartered accountants and has offices in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh. Based at 6 and 7 Queens Terrace in Aberdeen, Hall Morrice can be contacted on 01224 647394 or at accounts@hallmorrice.co.uk

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Dec 012016

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix


L to R – Jasmine Holdings managing director Danny Cowie with the new company managing director Andrew Hall.

Four leading Aberdeen businesses have joined forces to create a dynamic communications company in the Granite City, the only one of its kind in Scotland, following a six-figure investment.
Aberdeen group Jasmine Holdings has invested around £300,000 in the newly merged business including the purchase and refurbishment of New Jasmine House on Greenbank Place to bring staff together.

It will offer a unique service covering every stage of corporate communications from concept creation to campaign implementation.

A total of 48 employees from print management company, Printagraph, integrated communications agency Citrus:Mix, document solutions provider Revolve Systems, and event management company 46 Degrees are now based in the newly refurbished headquarters in East Tullos.

Their combined experience and skills mean that customers can now benefit from a full range of complementary communications solutions ranging from: brand development, design, public relations, marketing, social media, emergency response, media training, web design, document solutions, print production, corporate gifts, health and safety material, display, exhibition and signage, and event management.

A new brand for the company will be launched early next year and the businesses will continue to trade under their own names until then.

The new company directors, who have all held senior management positions in the merged Jasmine Group businesses, are: Andrew Hall, Danny Cowie, Sean Hills, Keith Adams, Mairi Prior and Morven Mackenzie.

New Jasmine House boasts 7,000 square feet of office space and 3,000 square feet of warehouse capacity which adds to the existing neighbouring Printagraph building capacity of 20,000 square feet.

Jasmine Holdings managing director, Danny Cowie, said:

“The merger of a number of Jasmine Group businesses is an exciting development which means we can now offer our wide range of complementary communications services to customers from one company.

“It’s a unique offering which isn’t available anywhere else in Scotland and will mean an enhanced experience for clients who won’t need to shop around to find the services they are looking for.

“The businesses are all strong, local brands in Aberdeen and our significant investment in New Jasmine House shows our commitment to the area as we look to grow the business in the north-east while also looking to develop further afield as well.”

Andrew Hall, managing director of the new company, added:

“We’re very proud to have concluded the merger which is a very positive move for us and our customers.

“We have significant skills and experience across a range of communications fields which are now based under one roof. The ability to offer new products and services is essential and our new company will offer a comprehensive customer journey for our clients.

“New Jasmine House is a terrific new headquarters and will give us a fantastic platform to showcase the very best of what we can offer and also gives us room for growth as the company expands in the months and years to come.”

James Aitken Engineering Solutions is also part of Jasmine Group but will continue to trade as an independent company.

For more information about Jasmine Group, please visit: www.jasmineholdings.com

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May 302014
Saltire Award

Shannon Milne, Volunteer Co-ordinator awarding the Saltire Award ( for 50 and 100 hours volunteering ) and Summit Award recognising outstanding contribution as a volunteer to Francesca Falcone.

With thanks to Kathryn Russell.

An Aberdeen student has been recognised for the time she has contributed to volunteering, as well as receiving a further award recognising her outstanding contribution as a volunteer.

Francesca Falcone has achieved Saltire Awards for 50 and 100 hours of volunteering as a Volunteer Support Worker with local charity RAS (Rape and Abuse Support).

RAS provides support for survivors of rape, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation, as well as working within the community to develop awareness of these and surrounding issues.

Ms Falcone started the sixty hours of training with RAS in 2012, completing it in spring 2013 after passing the assessment, and began volunteering with RAS providing telephone support on the helpline, and also working one-to-one with survivors of sexual violence.

Chair of RAS, Kathryn Russell praised the commitment of the Aberdeen student saying:

“We are delighted that Francesca’s commitment to volunteering has been recognised in this way. It is not only a fantastic achievement in terms of the hours she has committed to providing vital support to the users of our service but we are also pleased that Francesca has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to RAS by being awarded the Summit Award, which is peer assessed by a panel of Saltire Ambassadors who decide who merits the Award.”

Volunteer Co-ordinator Shannon Milne added:

“At RAS, we have a strong volunteer program offering a range of opportunities for anyone to join our team of fantastic volunteers. If anyone is interested in volunteering, I would encourage them to get in touch for more information.”

RAS can be contacted for details on volunteering at info@rasane.org.uk.

Ms Falcone has also completed her Social Work degree at RGU, and her dissertation was entitled:  ‘Surviving? An exploration of the impact of rape and barriers for survivors in disclosing to professional services‘.

Ms Falcone expects to continue volunteering with people who have experienced sexual violence, as well as developing a career in social work.

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Dec 132013

howwesupportWith thanks to Kathryn Russell.

Rape and Abuse Support (RAS) are delighted to accept a generous donation of £1,000 from the Fine Piece Community Cafe based in Sheddocksley Baptist Church, which marks its 5th Anniversary on Friday 13th December.

The Fine Peace Community Cafe launched almost five years ago and this year won an Aberdeen Impact Award for Best Emerging Social Enterprise.

Supported by 30 volunteers, the Cafe has established a reputation for providing good food and good service.

To mark their 5th Anniversary, the Cafe will make a series of donations to local community groups and schools as recognition of the good work being carried out locally.

Rape and Abuse Support provides support for anyone who has experienced rape, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation at any point in their life, as well as working within the community to develop awareness of the issues surround rape, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

Lorraine Dobson, Volunteer Co-ordinator at RAS says:

“We are delighted to accept such a generous donation from the Fine Piece Community Cafe.

“It is always uplifting to have the hard work of our staff and volunteers recognised and the donation will allow us to progress with plans to develop the service we provide.”

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Mar 142013

Duncan Harley reflects on Life, the Universe and Everything. A sideways look at the world and its foibles.

SLAPP and the EDF Climb down

I don’t make a habit of visiting fast food outlets although my brother-in law (long deceased investigative journalist and sometime paratrooper) once took me to what I believe was the very first McDonald’s UK establishment based in Woolwich in the autumn of 1974.

It served the same stuff then as it no doubt still sells to an unsuspecting public and I have not been tempted to revisit the experience.

I also learned over the years that the brand and others like it would pursue through the courts anyone using the word McDonald in a business context.

Business Gateway used to deliver a seminar on just this topic although they called it something like “Intellectual Property” on the basis that businesses should be entitled to protect their interests through the courts if necessary. I do not recall if the seminar included the rights of the public but perhaps that was in another module which I missed for some reason.

It seems that some companies are of the opinion that their name is their intellectual property and that no one else is allowed to use it. God help you if you are a McDonald and want to run a business in Scotland! Come to think of it, god help you if you are a Virgin also!

Even using the prefix “Mc” seems to upset the corporate lawyers as the aptly named McMunchies  case showed when in 1996 McDonalds successfully forced a Stratford sandwich shop to drop the trading name of “McMunchies” on the basis that,

“if someone used the Mc prefix, even unintentionally, they were using something that does not belong to them”.

In a 2001 case though McDonald’s lost a nine-year legal action against Frank Yuen, owner of McChina Wok Away, a small chain of Chinese takeaway outlets in London. Justice David Neuberger ruled the McChina name,

“would not cause any confusion among customers and that McDonald’s had no right to the prefix Mc”. 

A win for the small man of course but who would want to have to undergo nine years of litigation just to prove a point?

Then there was the McLibel case where McDonalds took environmental campaigners Helen Steel and Dave Morris to court for distributing leaflets entitled “What’s Wrong with McDonald’s”. The case began in 1990 and lasted nearly eight years with an estimated £10m in legal costs being spent by the corporation with McDonald’s being  awarded £60,000 damages, later reduced to £40,000 by the Court of Appeal. When Steel and Morris announced they had no intention of ever paying, the company decided not to pursue the award.

As the above cases illustrate, the big corporations have lots of time and money to spend defending the brand and silencing opposition and criticism.

This well trodden path is often known as the SLAPP.

A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon criticism or opposition.

This week EDF Energy abandoned plans to sue a group of climate activists for £5m in damages in respect of Criminal Trespass following a protest by “No Dash for Gas”.

On 29th October, sixteen climate protesters had scaled the chimneys of West Burton gas-fired power station forcing a shutdown of construction on the site. West Burton being one of the first of up to 20 new gas-fired power planned by the Government to meet the UK’s future energy needs.

At first EDF had seemed happy to employ legal SLAPP means to beat down the opposition. However after quite a bit of media coverage they seem to have done a complete about turn.

According to the “No Dash for Gas” media website:

“The record £5m claim against members of No Dash for Gas was described by commentators as “a disgraceful attempt to close down peaceful protest” and “vindictive bullying”, while anti-cuts group UK Uncut and Greenpeace warned that it could change the face of protest in Britain. After three weeks of campaigning and a public outcry, EDF’s lawyers approached the campaigners offering to withdraw the lawsuit before formally surrendering.”

All in all a victory for protest and a lesson for companies who suffer from corporate hubris.

In common with all energy firms EDF Energy are required by UK law to publish figures relating to customer complaints. In its last quarterly report in July, watchdog Consumer Focus found EDF was the most complained about of the energy giants after it was the only one of the six to see an increase in complaints last year.

Scottish Power came out pretty well with 1,359 complaints per hundred thousand customers with npower close behind at 4,001 complaints per hundred thousand customers. EDF had a massive 8,072 complaints per hundred thousand customers.

Do the maths when you shift energy suppliers. The cost per unit is of course important in the short time but you may want to look at customer service and how your chosen supplier deals with environmental and ecological issues.

Plus of course you might also want to support Scottish Power. After all who turns up to fix things when the power goes off?

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Nov 092012

With funding cuts currently affecting services to the vulnerable everywhere, many vital services like Rape And Abuse Support (RAS) are increasingly dependent on donations from local businesses and the public simply to survive on a day to day basis. With thanks to Kathryn Russell.

RAS (Rape and Abuse Support) provides support and advocacy to female survivors of sexual violence, whether recent or historical, as well as challenging public attitudes towards rape through outreach work.

The good news is that on Wednesday 7th November, RAS were delighted to receive a donation of £3,000 from Oceaneering.

Following a cut in their funding, they have been actively fundraising to ensure the future of the service and this donation will go some way to help meet the shortfall.

Volunteer Support Worker Gaynor Cowie accepted the cheque on behalf of RAS and spoke about her experience as a volunteer:

“I am often asked for my views on rape and sexual abuse when people discover that I volunteer with RAS but here my views don’t matter. What I and the other volunteers do at the centre is not about us. It is all about the women who come to us. If you’re struggling to make it through each day – if you feel overwhelmed, sad and alone and perhaps unable to share those feelings with those closest to you – the centre offers the opportunity to share those feelings.  

“The centre operates with only two paid employees and the fact that the rest of the work is undertaken by volunteers is a testament to everyone’s commitment to maintain this service within the City of Aberdeen.

“It can take a very long time to establish a reputation as a provider of quality services and it would be a great pity if the city was to lose this service at a point when it is recognised the work it does is so very much needed.”

Although they still require donations, those received so far from local businesses and the public have ensured the future of the RAS centres in Aberdeen and Fraserburgh are secure for the immediate future.

To donate to the cause, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/rapeandabusesupportaberdeen

Oct 182012

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly. Photography by Alan Jamieson. 

The Scottish Government reduced its funding to Rape and Abuse Support by 50%; this has gone largely unnoticed.  Sadly, one in every four women statistically experience some form of sexual abuse (including violent attacks and rape) in their lifetime.  Education and awareness are the answer, allowing the subject to remain taboo is the status quo – and the problem.

Stalking, human trafficking, spousal abuse are all problems we know exist in the North East of Scotland, yet there are few support services, which makes the work of RAS all the more important.

Aberdeen’s RAS premises and staff offer a safe, secure comfortable haven for people who have experienced sexual violence and rape.  They have not met their entire financial shortfall yet, but Nexen Petroleum Ltd. has stepped in with a timely, generous donation.

Many large companies of course make financial contributions to charity.  In the world of corporate giving, some charities are more ‘popular’ than others, and helping victims of rape sadly has historically not been a great draw of corporate money.  Nexen is to be complimented on its generosity to this important local group.

Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd. made a donation of £6,000 to RAS (Rape and Abuse Support) who provide services for survivors of sexual violence in the North East.

Earlier this year RAS launched its Just Giving campaign in order to supplement a funding shortfall and it has been thrilled with the response from local businesses and the public.

Volunteer Co-ordinator and Outreach Support Worker Shannon Milne said:

“We have been so pleased by the level of support we have received. The most recent donation of £6,000 from Nexen recognises the importance of the service we provide.”

“At Nexen, giving back to the communities where we operate is deeply rooted in our values. Supporting RAS and other local volunteer organisations through engagement with employee volunteering and financial support is at the heart of social responsibility,” said Colin Taylor, Field Manager of Nexen’s Golden Eagle development.

“RAS is an essential part of our community and we are proud to support them.”

Nexen’s total contribution of £6,000 reflects a £5,000 corporate donation and a £1,000 grant through the company’s employee volunteer program to support the contributions of Jane McTavish, an employee of Nexen who volunteers her time as an RAS Director.

Mrs McTavish stated:

“Nexen takes their social corporate responsibility seriously and encourages their employees to volunteer in their communities. Rewards such as this are a great incentive and I am pleased that my employer, Nexen, recognises my commitment to RAS in this way.”

RAS is currently the only organisation in the North East offering support and advocacy to female survivors of sexual violence, whether recent or historical. They are also involved in prevention and outreach work which the donation from Nexen will help support.

Mar 092012

By Bob Smith.

Noo the mannie a’m thinkin o
Is nae a chiel fae Roman stock
Nae an emperor nor a general
Mair a gairden pinchin bloke

The fowk in the Acsef’ “Senate”
“Hail Seizer” they micht roar
“The plebeians o oor gweed city
Wi them ye’ve settled a score”

Julius Caesar wore a laurel wreath
T’wis ti hide his baldy heid
Oor “Seizer” micht weer a money belt
Ti hide proceeds o corporate greed

Like an assassin in Roman times
Oor “Seizer” he wields the dagger
Syne stiks it in the city’s hairt
An the bonnie gairdens stagger

Anither Caesar kent as Nero
He fiddled fyle Rome burned
Wull oor “Seizer” play bagpipes
As the UTG grun’s owerturn’t?

Oor “Seizer” shud read history
The Roman Empire it did faa
Helpit by “ower the tap” spendin
On thingies nae needed ava

Aa ye fowk o Aiberdeen toon
Faa voted fer the “Web” design
A hope iss ye dinna live ti regret
Somewye awa doon the line

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

Feb 032012

In the concluding part of Voice’s interview with author Maggie Craig, she talks of life as a NE inabootcomer who’s only been here for 20 years. By David Innes.

How do you write? A laptop in a particular place? The classic 500 words every day no matter what, which you go back and edit later on?

Not quite. 500 is a paltry number of words. 2000 is a good total for the day. I have a computer upstairs and I go up there and work for the morning until about one or two o’ clock. I write about ten thousand words, six or seven chapters, and then go back and start shaping it. I think of it like how my auntie used to make butter, patting it into shape.

The book I’m writing just now started because I saw a photo of a man’s face and there was something about his eyes made him look very sad.

He’s turned into a character in eighteenth century Edinburgh although his name’s Catto. His family’s from around the Methlick area, so Aberdeenshire is coming into it.

You’ve said that you admire what Aberdeen Voice is doing, but you believe there’s a lack of radicalism in the North East.

It’s not something I’ve ever been made aware of, although living out here I feel very dislocated from the city. But when I go into Aberdeen I don’t feel a heartbeat. You get that heartbeat in Glasgow although I know because that’s my own place, I would feel it. I was almost surprised when I saw Aberdeen Voice and I thought, “That’s great, there are radicals in Aberdeen!”, but the whole presentation of Aberdeen is that corporate, business “let’s go to the Oilmen’s Ball and we’re all doing charity for Marie Curie”  thing, so you’re not seeing that radicalism on the street.

I’ve been coming to Aberdeen and the North East since I was a wee girl and there’s so much there but much of it’s occult. I’m really interested in the folklore but it needs to be explored. North East people seem to be terribly backward at coming forward. What infuriates me is when you go into the bank or the Post Office and they stand so far back and you go, “Go forward! You’re the bloody customer!” It’s almost like you’ve got your cap in your hand.

Well, let’s discuss the Turra Coo.  Let’s marshal the arguments

When I was speaking to the kids in Ellon, I said, “I don’t think the Turra Coo reflects very well on the North East”, and one girl looked horrified. She’d obviously been brought up to think that the Turra Coo was a great story, but you had to be very careful about political views as you could lose your job.

I have this friend who, when she was at school, only twenty or thirty years ago, was told because she was a farm labourer’s daughter, “You’ll never make anything of yourself”. That’s what’s been done to young minds. She’s an intelligent girl, but doesn’t think that she is because she’s been told she’s a neep. There are a lot of entrenched attitudes, I think. You have to teach people to think for themselves, to give them self-esteem. That’s so important.

The kids at Ellon Academy impressed me. They’re getting a good education, but it’s so focussed on them passing exams and not, “Well, let’s discuss the Turra Coo. Let’s see what you think. Let’s marshal the arguments”. It’s stimulating to change your mind on something you were brought up with. Or not, of course.

There’s a meeting in January about some cultural development in Aberdeen. They’re using the usual jargon, it’s going to be a “step change” in the cultural life of the city and Aberdeenshire, but what I liked was that they’re saying that culture should not always be associated with the money it can earn. Culture and creativity should be there for their own sakes. Aberdeen needs more of that, I think, as it all seems to come down to the bottom line.

I’m sure industry’s highly-successful. I’ve met radical people who have worked for oil companies but you don’t say anything there either, do you? You might be the equivalent of Not Required Back.

It would be interesting to research it, to see who got into trouble for standing up for the laird.

So will you write something about this area?

People always ask if I’m going to write about Aberdeenshire, but I’ve not really got under the skin of it. When I found out my mother was from the Haddo House estate I thought that was interesting and could be something to look into, to find out what was going on, but that’s going to come later.

There are wee snippets. I’m fascinated byAberdeen Harbour, the Shore Porters and so on, so I’d love to write something about that.

I did a talk about a non-fiction book to an Aberdeen Ladies lunch a couple of years ago and that tribal thing was so funny. I don’t sound like I come from the North East, so people make judgements that you’re an inabootcomer. But when I said to them that my mother came from Barthol Chapel, it was like, “come in”, they embraced me.

That’s not always the way though. Naively, I thought that since my mother came from near Oldmeldrum, that might help, but to some people even not that far away from there, it might as well be Istanbul!

Thanks to Maggie for giving her time to talk so passionately about her work and what drives it. We fervently hope that her muse inspires a book about her adopted Aberdeenshire and NE Scotland.

Jan 272012

In these bleak and pessimistic economic times, it’s always heartening to hear of a thriving business looking to expand. All the better when its success is built on an alternative business model which genuinely appreciates its staff, rewards and motivates them appropriately,and involves them at the core of decision-making. Surely this can’t work in the cut-throat commercial world? Jeremy Miles, MD of the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative has proved it can. David Innes cruised alongside him in high gear (definitely NO Lycra though) to ask him how it works.

Expanding? In the current economic climate? 

What looks like a sudden announcement of expansion is really a plan we have been quietly executing for just over ten years. For 25 years we only operated in Edinburgh where we built up a £3m store. We decided to expand in 2001 and acquired Cycling World in Aberdeen’s George Street.

By 2011, turnover increased to £12m, with stores operating in Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield. We were developing our online presence at the same time. Our aim was to double in size in each of the two five-year periods – every self-respecting socialist-minded business has to have a five-year plan!  These are among the most challenging times traders have ever faced. Our business is no different. Customer spending on discretionary items is down, on bicycles as much as sofas and flat screen TVs. We’re seeing growth, but its hard work to keep that going, although it’s very positive in current conditions.

Our optimism and our ambitions are based of a number of factors. Cycling is enjoying a very positive momentum at present with concerns over health, transport costs, congestion and the environment all helping the industry to grow. We also feel that our co-operative structure presents an alternative to discerning customers who want to spend with a company with real values as well as a genuine focus on high levels of service delivered by owners of the business.

  we work within our general vision of doubling turnover every five years.

Look how the Co-op has positioned itself against the corporate strength of the major supermarkets. The Co-op has heavily engaged with its local communities to help fund projects. It projects an image of being off the beaten track in terms of their offer.

Since we face similar challenges as our competitors become more organised and supported financially by private equity, we must also target a particular market where the growth in cycling is focused – in family leisure cycling and commuting.

Our previous expansion plans were about big stores in big cities with the right demographic spread; a fairly rigid plan which worked well for us in good times. The bike market is changing, however, with the development of some huge internet players in Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles. Significant retail chains like Evans and Cyclesurgery are expanding rapidly and bicycle retail is very different from even five years ago. We’re also seeing more established brands such as Specialized and Giant opening branded stores, whilst the government-driven Cycle to Work initiative has also helped change the landscape.

Expansion opportunities are broader and more flexible as the customer base widens. Business-to-business relationships develop through government-funded initiatives and the internet offers new ways to market and support the bricks and mortar business. We look to capitalise on these opportunities when they emerge. We don’t have plans for x stores in y years, but we work within our general vision of doubling turnover every five years.

This co-operative structure – how does that work?

Within the spectrum of employee-owned businesses we are a traditional workers’ co-operative, so as hardline as it gets!

We have around 180 employees, full-time and part-time, of whom 135 are co-operative members. Members are invited to join after 12 months service by purchasing a single £2.75 business share. Around 75% of our workforce are owners of the business.

Having secured membership, they’re entitled to receive a share of profits, free shares awarded annually, a single vote on issues put to the membership and the opportunity to be elected to the Board. They have access to communication mechanisms allowing information to move freely from top to bottom and vice versa, ensuring that opinions and ideas are fully utilised. It’s an open and consultative approach to management and operations.

Aside from the ownership model, our business structure is fairly traditional with a board of directors, including an executive management team where I am MD, a group of elected employee directors to represent the membership, and an external non-executive director to provide guidance and expertise. I manage the staff in a conventional manner via Divisional and Department Managers.

This obviously works – tell me why

We’ve always been structured this way. We started out in 1977; seven hippies fixing bikes in a small repair centre in Edinburgh. Two of these hippies are still with us today!

The central philosophy was always to have an alternative view of how a business was structured, but I don’t suppose your readership is all that interested in very deep philosophical musings about the prevailing mood of the 1970s and detailed Marxist rhetoric!

We are very much a business which values its people. We see them as the key asset of the business, so it makes sense that they control the business.

We spend 10% of our targeted profit every year on supporting grass-roots cycling projects

A prime retail challenge is delivering an all-round quality customer experience. To be effective at this, you must ensure that customer-facing staff are heavily engaged with your business. Many retailers struggle, paying minimum wage rates and providing a fairly uninteresting working environment.  They turn staff over very regularly.

As a co-operative, we put owners in front of customers in most instances. This makes it much more likely that customers are speaking to someone with a deeply-vested interest in making sure the experience is positive. The fact they are almost always very passionate about the product they are selling helps too!

We see ourselves as much more than just a shop selling bikes and bits. We’re all about added value and the wider customer experience. Promoting cycling as a leisure activity and a genuine alternative mode of transport is at the heart of our vision and mission. We spend 10% of our targeted profit every year on supporting grass-roots cycling projects, from school fairs to individual charity rides through Vietnam. We support key charity-focused cycling events which also promote cycling, for example the Edinburgh to St Andrews Ride and the Great North Ride in Newcastle.

We don’t just write a cheque. We’re hands-on involved, with starting line presence, repair services en route, food stops, and finish line presentation. We’ve run a range of hugely-successful maintenance and training skills classes for customers for years, and have a real commitment to providing repairs services to a high level. Our workshops are prominent in our stores rather than tucked away in a back room.

We see our engagement with customers as a vital part of the character of our business and put huge effort into getting feedback from them. Customers contribute to the content of our catalogues with family photos, and will soon be helping with blogs and social media content.

We have a very loyal base who are genuinely interested in our values and want to be part of our success as a genuine community co-operative.