A chance conversation with Simon Poole of Jerba Campervans spurred Anne-Marie Dunn to consider employee ownership for her child care business Kidzcare operates four nurseries, four breakfast clubs and six after-school clubs for children, offering options across Edinburgh, from Portobello to Bruntsfield. The company employs 150 staff and is the first employee-owned nursery business in Scotland.
When Anne-Marie came to think about her succession plans, she knew what she didn’t want. Many of the staff had been with her for many years, and all play a major part in the success of the company. It’s a childcare company where standards and values come first. Had AnneMarie sold out to one of the larger operators, the company’s unique ethos may have disappeared, and lost the special element that makes Kidzcare different.
Simon introduced Anne-Marie to Carole, and after a few conversations, Anne-Marie was dead set on this being the way forward. We discussed the plans with the senior management team because Anne-Marie was adamant that they had to support the move or it would not go ahead. She need not have worried – the management embraced the idea from the start. There were lots of questions but people genuinely appreciated this opportunity that Anne-Marie was handing them. Millie Smith, one of the longest serving employees, gave a very moving speech thanking Anne-Marie for taking this route.
Anne-Marie says “I’m delighted to be able to pay back these dedicated employees by giving them a share of this brilliant business. The staff at Kidzcare have supported me throughout this journey and it didn’t sit right with me to pass on the reins to anyone else.
“As I looked to phase myself out of the business, I wanted to find an option to let the staff reap the rewards. As soon as I heard about employee ownership, I was instantly convinced.
“This way, I can confidently say Kidzcare’s values of safety, child development, fairness and kindness can continue, greatly benefitting the children we look after.”
As for the transaction itself, Anne-Marie found it straightforward and smooth. She says “Our advisers Lindsays and Ownership Associates ensured that I did not have to worry about a thing!”
Douglas Roberts of Lindsays provided legal advice on the deal. He said, “Kidzcare has a brilliant reputation in Edinburgh and it was an honour to help the company with the legal aspects of its move to employee ownership. Parents trust the staff at Kidzcare to look after their children and Anne-Marie trusts her loyal employees to keep the values and high standards of Kidzcare. It was clear that employee ownership was ideal for Anne-Marie’s succession plans and I’m sure Kidzcare will hugely benefit from being employee owned.”
Plans are already in place for the Kidzcare’s HR manager, Julie MacKenzie, to step into the MD role as Anne-Marie takes a step back.
Let’s leave the last words to Millie Smith: “On a personal note I feels so lucky and proud to have worked here for so long – Kidzcare is such a lovely company to work for – when friends tell me about some of the negative things that go on at their workplaces, I am always struck by the fact that these type of experiences would never be tolerated at Kidzcare. That is down to Anne Marie and her strong belief in valuing and respecting each and every one of us.”
Millie continued, “Personally, I am excited and looking forward to the next chapter in the Kidzcare adventure. I’m sure we will all endeavour to further develop and improve the service to ensure the continued success of such a wonderful, caring and highly respected company. Not forgetting we will still have Anne Marie around for a while yet albeit in a more hands off, backseat role.”