Flood risk and water engineering firm Waterco looks to surf the wave of employee ownership

Another business has been supported by the Employee Ownership team at Cwmpas.
Another business has been supported by the Employee Ownership team at Cwmpas, with Waterco, one of the UK’s leading water and environmental engineering consultancies, becoming employee owned 25 years since its inception.

Established in 1998, the Ruthin-based company was founded by Peter Jones, who having spent 10 years with Hyder (now Welsh Water), spotted a gap in the market for a water infrastructure design and consultancy business based in North Wales.

With an eye on retirement, Peter has now sold his majority shareholding in the business to an employee ownership trust (EOT) – resulting in all employees now having a share in the ownership of the company.

Twenty-five years on, blue chip clients such as Dwr Cymru Welsh Water and Severn Trent Water remain key clients. It is focussed on helping water companies achieve the key objectives of improving supply and reducing leakage within water networks, as well as upgrading the ageing sewer infrastructure which can be responsible for pollution in rivers and seas. The company, which employs 60 people, has expanded its technical service into the drainage and flood risk management space, supporting national housebuilders and local councils.

WaterCo team

Peter explained what drew him to the employee ownership model:

“Employee ownership was a way in ensuring we could keep our great team, continue to invest in the business and keep the future of the company here in North Wales.

“We did look at a trade sale, but as many small businesses have found, we could see a real risk that the operation would move away from Ruthin, losing skills and jobs in the area”.

Peter’s children, Pedr Jones and Rachel Davies will remain as Commercial and Financial Directors respectively, but when discussing their father exiting the business, they didn’t want the company passed down to them in the traditional way.

Commercial Director, Pedr, said:

“My father has worked really hard in building this business to be the success it is today, and my sister and I are very proud to have played our part in that, but when it came to my dad looking at the best option for retirement, we knew that the usual family succession route wasn’t for us.

“We wanted our father to realise the investment he had made in the company and following some research found EO to be a great option for a business founder to get financial reward from his years of work building the business.”

“Now, as an employee-owned company, we all have a vested interest in the success of the business to drive us forward. That sense of ownership, the ability to shape the future of the business will help us continue to attract new talent, develop new markets and help us grow Waterco further. We have an opportunity to make Waterco an even bigger success together.”

Waterco’s company board otherwise remains as Peter Jones, Waterco founder, Pedr Jones, Commercial Director, and Rachel Davies, Financial Director.

The Employee Ownership Trust comprises of Peter Jones, Michael Spray, Waterco Project Manager, and Independent Trustee Board member John Miller, former head of IT at a national construction company.

Branwen Elis, specialist EO Consultant for Cwmpas, said:

“What I loved about Waterco’s story and reason for using the EO model for succession planning is that it was a family decision. It was one that they all came to for the benefit of the company and not just themselves.

“It demonstrates how Employee Ownership is seen as a long-term, sustainable way to run a thriving and ambitious business. The Directors of Waterco know they have an invested workforce; realise they need that expertise to remain in-house and see the way of retaining that is to give their employees ownership of the business and a real stake in its success.”

Branwen Ellis

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An Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) is a relatively simple way for a company to become employee owned and is far simpler to manage than allocating all the shares to employees individually.