Marketing agency, MindWorks Marketing, is based in Emsworth in Hampshire. Now in its 20th year, MindWorks clients include: Suzuki, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Royal Navy, Ford and Wiggle. The agency provides services from strategic marketing planning, branding, on- and off-line communications campaigns, right through to PR, web design and event management.
Last year, the business became employee owned, with all staff sharing directly in the profits of the company.
MindWorks has been with Rothmans for many years, working with Partner Daren Laidlaw. MindWorks Managing Director, John Harris-Burland, said, “One of the key strengths of both Rothmans and Daren has always been their ability to advise from a tax perspective for my personal finances and pension planning, plus of course for the company.
“Daren, myself and the MindWorks Board of Directors had discussed the various exit strategies open to me for some years. My preference was always to find some way of securing the future for the staff and giving them some form of ownership scheme.”
Daren Laidlaw, said, “Over the years, I have seen MindWorks go from strength to strength. Together, we’ve developed the company’s management information systems and internal reporting structures that are vital for any business to demonstrate its performance and potential, and which inevitably impact on share value.
“John’s ultimate goal was to exit the company in an orderly way over a number of years. He did not want to just walk away and leave his company at the mercy of a new parent company that may not share the same culture as MindWorks and with no guarantee of job security for the staff or high level of service for clients.”
Further professional advice on the various exit options was provided by Rothmans Corporate Finance, whose Director, Tom McCarthy, said, “In our view, John and his team had four key options: sell the company in a trade deal which would probably raise the most amount of money, sell to management via a management buyout (MBO), sell it to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) or a combination of MBO and employee buyout. It quickly became clear that the EOT was the best fit for John’s vision.”
Two other key advisors in the process were the Employee Ownership Association and Postlethwaite Solicitors who are specialists in employee ownership. Founder, Robert Postlethwaite, is also now a trustee of MindWorks’ EOT.
There were two key parts to John’s successful exit strategy: transfer of ownership and transfer of management responsibilities. Board Director, Michelle Leggatt, took over as Managing Director when the EOT was formed and John became Chairman.
Michelle Leggatt said, “Taking over from John has meant that he has been able to reduce his hours and focus on the client-facing work and strategy he enjoys so much.
“As a marketing agency, we are in the service industry so are completely reliant on the creativity, professionalism and enthusiasm of our staff. And of course, our clients for their business. Every member of the staff, whatever their role, is now an equal and direct beneficiary of the trust and will benefit from the future success of the company. Our excellent portfolio of clients, who like a large number of our staff, have been with us for many years, have all also been immensely supportive of our transitioning to become an Employee Owned Business.”
John adds, “Freedom Fridays have finally become a reality. After putting in the hours for 20 years, I am now genuinely able to work part-time. The five-year exit strategy is in place and working. The great thing about being 100 per cent employee owned is that I can be confident in the continued future success of MindWorks.
"Daren and the Corporate Finance team have always combined expert knowledge with a highly personable and responsive approach towards understanding our business and goals.
“I have found Rothmans’ advice to be indispensable throughout the complex journey of helping us transition to an EOB.”