EV SME Loans

Buyout at national fitness education provider puts employees in control

L-r: Brendan Chaplin with Chris Pestell of Mercia and Anne Haworth and Ashley Suter of RSM

A Yorkshire-based firm which trains personal trainers and sports coaches nationwide is one of the first in the region to become an employee-owned business.

Strength and Conditioning Education has undergone a seven figure buy-out, supported by a loan from Mercia. The deal gives the staff control of the business while allowing founder and CEO Brendan Chaplin to retain a minority share. The business has now joined the ranks of organisations like John Lewis and Waitrose by becoming an Employee Ownership Trust.

Strength and Conditioning Education delivers world-class education and development for fitness professionals from 20 locations across the UK. The business, which specialises in strength and conditioning, trains around 1,000 students each year, ranging from independent coaches to staff from gym chains such as David Lloyd.

Brendan, who has worked with clients including UFC fighters, Huddersfield Giants, British Tennis and England Golf, set up the firm in 2011 and was instrumental in deciding to convert to employee ownership.

He explained: “We are very much a people business. Our staff, led by Managing Director Paul Dorkings and Operations Director Dave Christophi, are at the heart of our success and in recent years they have been playing an increasing role in driving the business forward. I wanted to empower them further and allow them to benefit directly from its success.”

The deal was supported by a loan from Mercia’s EV SME Loans fund. Chris Pestell, Investment Director with Mercia, added: “We would like to congratulate Brendan and the team. Employee ownership is becoming an increasingly popular option for businesses, particularly those looking to engage and reward staff, and can be a genuine alternative to a management buy-out. We want other business owners to be aware that funding is available to support those going down this route.”

Martin Cooper, Anna Haworth, Ashley Suter and Helen Wood of RSM advised Brendan on the deal. Anna said: “It was great to support Brendan and his team in the company’s journey to becoming employee-owned. It’s an exciting time for the business as it embarks on the next step of its growth strategy, with the employees playing a greater role in its success. With RSM’s experience as a leading adviser on EOT transactions and our multidisciplinary approach, including leading the fundraising process for the transaction, we were well placed to navigate the company through the complex transition. We wish them every success in the future as an employee-owned business.”