Martin Precision celebrate 30th anniversary with move to employee ownership

Ownership Associates assisted Martin Precision with their transition to employee ownership.

August 7, 2023

G T Martin & Sons Ltd was formed in 1993 from the assets of two companies which had ceased trading. The lineage of one, based in Carluke, can be traced back to 1887 with documentary evidence of engineering products being shipped worldwide and as far away as Australia. The second based in Lanark, Bardrec Ltd was one of the early workers Co-operatives in the country and was started in 1976.

While the company has had three name changes since inception, the original company ‘G T Martin & Sons Ltd’ was formed in 1993, funded jointly by the Martin Family, Scottish Enterprise and UK Steel Enterprise Ltd. The company was the result of a successful ‘buy- back’ from receivers of the Lanark Division of Hugh Martin & Sons (Carluke) Ltd.   Based in Lanark it manufactured parts for the Energy and Aerospace Industries. It had sixteen employees including apprentices and a turnover of £900K split equally between Oil & Gas and Aerospace.

In 1995 after becoming a Rolls-Royce Derby supplier the company was awarded further contracts and immediately expanded to meet demand. In this year non-destructive testing (NDT) was introduced in-house which best suited the supply complete rationale of Rolls-Royce. An expansion plan in 1998 saw the site doubling manufacturing and office space this was completed in 2000. #

In 2006 the company decided to focus solely on Aerospace and changed its name to reflect this position. ‘Martin Aerospace Ltd’ grew its international customers as Rolls-Royce expanded its Joint Ventures and Risk Sharing Partnerships and the business was able to support these companies as a trusted Rolls-Royce supplier. In 2008 Martin Precision received HRH Princess Anne on site for a Royal visit.

To support the expansion strategy in 2017 Neil Lawson & Lorna Gourlay join the board, quickly embarking on a rapid change programme ensuring the business was able to compete in a globally competitive market. In 2018 Allan Caldwell joined the board as a non-executive Director to support this new strategic direction. During this period an investment program of £1.3M began to support the introduction of new technology and is being maintained to this day.

In Nov 2020 the business changed its name to ‘Martin Precision Ltd’ to help broaden its reach and to better reflect its diverse customer portfolio. This was prompted by Covid 19 which shut the economy down although the company continue to operate on a skeleton staff as an essential Defence supplier and part of the UK Ventilator Challenge initiative.

The directors  led strategy discussions on the future of the business and a key part of this was succession planning.  There had been offers to buy the company and the shareholders were very aware that a third party sale would likely have destroyed the company’s rich legacy, and endangered the employment of the loyal, local workforce. Indeed, 6 employees have been with the company since 1996. The four shareholders, William, Lorna, Neil and Hugh Martin (William’s brother) explored their options.  A sale to an EOT sounded as if it might be a good fit. As part of their fact-finding exercise, the shareholders visited some businesses who had taken this route.  They visited Chemco International in Coatbridge, Clansman Dynamics in East Kilbride and GS Brown in Ladybank.  They also tuned in to webinars broadcast by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS).  All four shareholders decided this was the way ahead, and with advice from Consilium Accountants and law firm, Bellwether Green, both firms having advised on many employee ownership transactions, the move was completed in July.

The employee ownership move coincided with the company’s 30th anniversary.  The employees gathered in the local village hall for a celebratory lunch.  William Martin talked through the company’s impressive history, and announced the news. It was unexpected, and very well-received. The company also took the opportunity to present long service awards, along with a raffle with very generous prizes.

William Martin is confident that employee ownership will support the company’s future growth. He says, “The business is performing well; it has survived and prospered despite Covid which brought the Aerospace Industry to its knees. This success is in no small part due to the commitment and skill of our employees, and it is fitting that they have a secure future. I will retain a small minority shareholding in the business and continue as Managing Director focusing on our growth strategy. Employee ownership will also benefit our customers who continue to believe in our ability to provide world-class product and I thank them for their support through the years.”

Lorna Gourlay, Financial Director, is a keen advocate of the employee ownership structure. “I knew the EOT would be a good fit for who we are and what we want to achieve as a business.  We have a fantastic team of people at Martin Precision and are proud of our reputation for quality and delivery. One of our key pillars is our commitment to developing local talent. This commitment will be reinforced now we’re employee-owned. Our future is secure for the long term, and we can only go from strength to strength.”

Neil Lawson started his career as an apprentice with Rolls Royce and is now the company's Operations Director.  He says, "I'm delighted to see Martin Precision take such a bold and visionary step. What we have achieved over the years has been remarkable and it's brilliant to think that the impressive Martin legacy will continue to thrive in the hands of local people."

Newly appointed Employee Trustee, Alan Muir said, " I was taken aback when I first heard of the plans as it was unexpected.  Now I understand more about how it will work, I feel very honoured that the shareholders have such confidence in the employees that they are entrusting us with the future of the business. It's up to us now to carry on the Martin family's legacy and drive the business forward."