AGA staff, p AGA

The staff of Ainsley Gommon Architects now own the 44-year-old company. Credit: via AGA

AGA embraces employee ownership

All of the shares in the Wirral-headquartered Ainsley Gommon Architects now reside in an Employee Ownership Trust.

As an employee-owned company, the staff of AGA will enjoy tax-free annual bonuses based on the studio’s success and have a greater voice when it comes to the firm’s future.

AGA has 20 employees and has offices in Birkenhead and Hawarden. Formed in 1979 by the now-retired David Ainsley and Peter Gommon, AGA specialises in community, education, urban regeneration, conservation, and housing projects.

Past projects include the remodelling of Crown Buildings for Wrexham Council, restoration works at Birkenhead Priory Scheduled Monument, and the Birkenhead Park visitor centre.

AGA’s EOT board will include associate Tom McEvoy and associate director Arwyn Lloyd as employee representatives and director Paul Lester as the company representative.

While the EOT holds all of the company’s shares, the day-to-day business of the firm will continue to be run by directors Simon Venables, Alf Plant, Paul Lester, and Steve Geary. Mark French has stepped down from the board of directors, but continues to be a principal architect and senior manager at AGA.

French was one of the leaders in the EOT process, having been inspired after a presentation on employee ownership at a Royal Society of Architects in Wales webinar.

“It was a ‘lightbulb moment’, as employee ownership seemed to be perfectly aligned with our practice culture and values,” French recalled.

“I know a lot of companies say it, but we really do regard our colleagues at AGA as a family and want the best for each other, and EO encapsulates that ethos,” he continued.

“We hope the fact we are Employee Owned will also appeal to new staff and make us stand out to those seeking to further their career in architecture.”

AGA director Venables said: “We see the transfer to an EOT as a great opportunity for all our staff to share in the success and prosperity of the practice while participating more fully in the running of the company at every level.”

Associate McEvoy remarked: “It feels like a natural progression for us really. I joined AGA on my placement from university in 2005 and then got a job here when I qualified, so to now have a proper stake in the company is great.”

Fellow EOT board member Lloyd praised the company’s decision.

’The EOT will ensure the business will be run in the best interests of the employees and gives staff a clearer understanding of the long-term future of practice,” Lloyd said. “It will allow for greater employee engagement and reinforce the values-led office culture’’.

AGA received employee ownership transition support from Social Business Wales.

Employee ownership has become more prevalent in the North West over the past two years. Current EOTs include Planit-IE, Crookes Walker, Day Architectural, DB3, Futureserv, B8 Real Estate, Curtins, and Place North West.

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