Paul Heat Recovery becomes latest employee-owned business in Scotland

Dunfermline-based ventilation company Sustainable Homes Scotland, trading as Paul Heat Recovery Scotland, has joined the growing number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland, with twelve staff given a stake in the business.

Paul Heat Recovery becomes latest employee-owned business in Scotland

New employee trustees Craig Hutcheson and Garrie Glasgow with director Stefan Huber

Established in 2007, the company provides energy-efficient ventilation solutions for sustainable homes, specialising in the supply, design, installation and commissioning of high-quality MVHR systems (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery).

Its trading name originated from a close relationship with the German company ‘Paul Wärmerückgewinnung’, which pioneered Passivhaus MVHR systems.

Director Stefan Huber started the business in 2007 together with a German master craftsman and saw the company grow organically in a challenging environment.

Stefan Huber said: “Over the years we’ve worked extremely hard to grow the business and to be at the forefront of domestic ventilation and MVHR in Scotland, making our mark on the industry through best practice methods, materials, installation, service and training. Our non-compromise approach has taken us in a different direction than many of our competitors, but we have focused on building a highly skilled, dedicated team and providing the best service possible.

“I am proud of my team, their dedication, hard work and loyalty. I wanted to reward them whilst opening up a door for myself to concentrate more on charitable work in Perth, which I have been doing for the last few years in my leisure time. My team has basically been working as if it was their own business anyway, so it was only natural to take this course.”

Employee ownership was suggested by Business Gateway, who put Mr Huber in touch with Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), the arm of Scotland’s enterprise agencies that supports company growth through collaborative and employee ownership business models. After learning more from an adviser and undergoing a feasibility study, he concluded that employee ownership would be the perfect fit.

Mr Huber added: “Employee ownership is the ideal solution for us; it fits well with our ethos and allows me to pass ownership and responsibilities to my hard working team. We already have an open and inclusive culture, so employee ownership allows us to keep operating as normal and ensures the protection of the company we’ve worked hard to build together.”

An Employee Ownership Trust has been formed and holds 100% of the shares on behalf of the employees. The process was managed by Ownership Associates with legal services by Anderson Strathern and accountancy services by Donohue & Co. As part of the new structure, two employees have been promoted to directors and two have been made employee trustees.

The company’s main focus is on heat recovery ventilation, which hygienically provides fresh air inside homes and smaller commercial premises without re-circulation of air and without the heat losses that all other forms of ventilation carry with them. Following the COVID outbreak, sufficient ventilation is now seen as one of the key drivers in order to combat the viral transmission indoors. As a result, the business has seen demand soar and is busier than ever.

Mr Huber said: “Whilst the business has not been negatively affected by the pandemic, the news has helped to lift the spirits of the team in the current climate. The staff are very excited about becoming owners of the company and have reacted very positively to the news. It has increased morale and ensures everyone shares both the responsibility of running the company but also the success and rewards too. Moving into employee ownership gives the opportunity for continued job security for all staff and enables them to have collective control of their future.”

Clare Alexander, head of Co-operative Development Scotland, said: “The number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland continues to grow and we’re delighted to be adding Paul Heat Recovery to the list. This is a great business and hugely successful in its field.

“Stefan wanted a succession option which would enable him to gradually exit the business that he worked so hard to build, with the knowledge that the future is taken care of for such a loyal and long-serving team. It will help safeguard jobs and maintain existing customer relationships whilst creating new opportunities. Employee ownership is the perfect fit for Paul Heat Recovery and its culture, and we look forward to following the company’s success under its new ownership model.”

Statistics demonstrate that employee-owned businesses consistently outperform their non-EO counterparts in terms of higher levels of profitability, increased productivity brought about by higher levels of engagement and enhanced employee wellbeing, as well as improved business resilience during times of economic crisis.

Within Scotland, there are now around 120 employee-owned companies operating, with approximately 7,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £950 million.

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