Employee ownership secures the future of Shetland Vets

Employee ownership secures the future of Shetland Vets

The founders of Westside Vets turned to employee ownership to secure a local, independent future for the company which is now wholly owned by its employees.

Juliet and Jim Nicolson launched Westside Vets in 1985 as a single vetinary practice in Bixter, a village in the west of Shetland.

The practice continued to grow over the years, opening a second surgery in the town of Scalloway, followed last year by a surgery in Shetland’s main town of Lerwick.

In 2014 however, Juliet and Jim were looking ahead to an eventual exit from the business and wanted to find a way to achieve that without damaging the company they’d ploughed 30 years of work into.

This led to the duo selling their stake in the company to the people who knew it best and who would ensure its reputation was kept intact, their employees.

The transaction was one of the first Employee Ownership Trust transactions in Scotland, putting each of its employees in control of their own destiny.

The practice was then renamed Shetland Vets, to mark the new ownership and the extended geographic reach ahead of the third practice opening last year.

Juliet said: “The move to employee ownership was a natural next step for us. We had a strong team ethos where we work together to deliver the highest standards of care to Shetland’s animals. Employee ownership reinforces that and protects the future of the practice for years to come.”

Shetland Vets was supported by employee ownership specialists, Baxendale, who helped the founders and employees find the right model and managed and implemented the transition process. 

An Employee Ownership Trust was established to buy the shares from the two founders. This is funded by a vendor loan, repaid by the company over a number of years.

The practice is now 100% owned by its employees and is continuing to grow having been supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Co-operative Development Scotland.