They began building a Tayside civil engineering contracting business with a £20 million annual turnover from their kitchens.

Now Kilmac founding directors Athole McDonald and Richard Kilcullen are laying the foundations for an Employee Ownership Trust to take forward the company.

The Trust is being set-up to ensure a smooth handover and to preserve 130 jobs – a figure which is an all-time high.

Many of the Kilmac workforce live in Perth and Kinross and current projects include the transformation of Perth City Hall, the new North Muirton Primary School and the latest development phase of the James Hutton Institute.

Perth-based Athole, and Richard, plan to remain in place at least for the next three years. at a company which is a long-standing member of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce.

“We have to look to the future and, given the quality of our senior management team, creating the trust ensures Kilmac will be in safe hands going forward,” explained Athole (53), who was honoured by the Chamber in 2019 with the inaugural “Inspirational Business Leader” accolade.

“It’s good news for Tayside, with the vast majority of our staff living in Dundee, Perthshire and Fife.

“The Trust is being established with input from our accountant Andy Ritchie, regional managing partner with Azets, and supported by Thorntons Solicitors and employee ownership specialists Ownership Associates.

“It ensures the company will continue to provide stability for our customers and job security for our employees.”

Athole noted that a carefully planned succession plan was being put in place.

“The structure is being created to take the business forward, provide clarity to our staff and customers and to avoid unnecessary disruption.

“We could have found a buyer but we have an experienced and talented team who are more than capable of taking on the reins over the next few years.

“The company will be in safe hands. The leadership team knows how Kilmac operates, what makes it tick and what has made us a successful business over many years. So why would we look around for a buyer?”

The Kilmac founders first met at the then Dundee Institute of Technology – now Abertay University – and got together 18 years ago to create Kilmac.

“We knew what we wanted to deliver and have remained true to our principles,” said Athole.

“We have come a long way from the days when our biggest headache was getting the photocopier to work and stop the kitchen worktop being covered in ink.”

Turnover in the first year was around £800,000.

Four years ago, it was £10 million but a strategy designed to look beyond their traditional Tayside heartland has resulted in a £20 million turnover and £1.4 million profits being reported in accounts being unveiled shortly.

Kilmac joins a number of successful businesses in the area who have opted for an employee ownership trust structure.

The move has been warmly welcomed by staff.

Finance manager Julie Scobie said: “Kilmac has always felt like a big family and it’s comforting for everyone to know that Athole and Richard have full confidence in their staff to be able to hand the legacy of their company into employee ownership as they navigate their next steps.”