Tech and Telecoms

CEO Pete Byrne leaves esphr after nearly two decades at helm

After 17 years as CEO and founder, Pete Byrne has stepped down from esphr having helped the organisation complete the first phase of its mid-market expansion and successful acquisition by Marlowe plc.

Established in 2003 to support medium to large enterprises, the new-model employment law firm and employee relations (ER) technology organisation provides specialist employment law advice, an online portal of best-practice HR resources, access to a cloud-based ER case management system and add-on subscription services such as HR compliance E-Learning.

In March 2021, esphr announced it was formally part of AIM-listed Marlowe plc, joining as the group’s leading Solicitors Regulation Authority-regulated law firm. With this part of the migration now complete, Pete leaves the business on 28 February 2022.

Gavin Snell, the CEO of WorkNest – a major division within Marlowe plc – will take on overall responsibility for esphr, as part of the wider business portfolio.

Reflecting on the past two decades of leadership, Pete said: “Building esphr has been the proudest moment of my career. I feel truly privileged to have worked with great colleagues and customers, whom I respect and admire. They have all played a pivotal role in proving that a disruptive law firm business model can work – despite many others telling me it never would.

“I’d always planned to get the organisation ready for its next level of growth before handing it over. Now, is the perfect time to step aside and let WorkNest’s fresh, exciting talent take the company even further.”

Formerly a deputy managing director at an HR and resource consultancy, Pete was inspired to set-up esphr having witnessed – and being frustrated by – HR teams self-creating service programmes to tackle ER caseloads. Additionally, he wanted to address why HR professionals often only had access to basic advice via an HR helpline, and expensive, disparate, on-the-clock law firm support for complex cases.

He wanted to bring employment law and HR together as a genuine joined-up team driving meaningful change to their businesses. This resulted in the establishment of esphr – an organisation driven to challenge the status quo and provide innovative subscription pricing mechanisms instead of the traditional hourly rate, pay-as-you-go approach.

Today, esphr is an award-winning company that has supported over 700 UK employers – including Greene King, Randstad and Entain – to expertly manage all complex ER matters.

A career highlight for Pete was the introduction of ESP Law in 2015 – a team of specialist legal advisors who not only bolstered the business’s offering, but also ensured esphr became one of the UK’s first integrated Alternative Business Structure employment law firms to be approved by the SRA.

Having proved the concept that a disruptive law firm business model can work, Pete planned for further mid-market expansion. This was achieved following his management of esphr’s successful acquisition by Marlowe plc and co-brand with employment law, HR and health and safety specialist WorkNest in the Spring of 2021.

He leaves an impressive legacy and the business at an exciting point with a highly professional team. Gavin added: “It’s been great working with Pete, and he should be extremely proud of the business he’s built and the culture that has been created.

“The feedback from esphr customers would be the envy of any business – their words reflect the passion and dedication he has had in terms of disrupting the status quo. He’s also brought a customer-centric obsession to the provision of employment law and ER technology services.

“Pete has played an invaluable role in helping to bring esphr into the wider WorkNest organisation and we’re really excited to continue to build on the legacy he leaves. I wish him all the best for the future.”

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