Staff at a security company worked for more than two months for free to stop the firm going bust.

Jason McCreanney, managing director of South Coast Locksmiths, which traded as Keyhole Security, was ready to throw in the towel because of heavy losses at the business.

And a bid to keep the company afloat by winning a contract with the Environment Agency, worth £1.3 million, failed at the final hurdle.

However, with administrators ready to step in and shut the firm down, Mr McCreanney was amazed when 11 workers said they were willing to go without pay.

He said: “We had five shops across Sussex, including our head office in Portslade, and we all know what has happened to the retail industry.

“People just stopped coming into the shops.

“Our business model was in desperate trouble and we were losing £5,000 a month per shop.”

Mr McCreanney made all 25 employees redundant, including himself and his wife, and was in despair when he arrived at his head office the following Monday after making the difficult decision to wind up his business.

He said: “I came in feeling sorry for myself and found 11 staff already there, asking me what they could do to help.”

They decided to go without wages all through October and November last year as well as in the first week of December.

This gave Mr McCreanney enough time to wind up South Coast Locksmiths and start again as AB Cameras, which will continue to trade as Keyhole Security.

He said: “It is testament to the quality of people we have got here. One day, my wife said we weren’t around during the war but this must have been what it was like in the Blitz.

“We kept up a great atmosphere because we were all going through the pain together. Now we have a healthier business model and our customers have stuck with us.”

Operations manager Steve Hatton, who had only been with the company 15 months at the time of the decision, said: “We were all too involved in the business to let it go down the pan. It was very difficult. I had to stretch myself but, at the end of the day, we had a good feeling about the firm.

Now we are elated. All the frustration and the anguish has disappeared.”

Mike Cahill, a locksmith and safe engineer, added: “It was hard because I didn’t have a lot of savings.

“I spent hardly any money and barely went out or did anything.

“It’s much more friendly and relaxed now that we are pushing to build a new company, rather than pushing ourselves to save it.”

To say thanks to his staff, Mr McCreanney is sharing out 10% of the company’s net profits among staff and eventually wants to give them shares.

Often when a new company rises out of a failed one, creditors are left out of pocket but Mr McCreanney is determined to pay off all the old company’s debts.

He said: “When you work in security you have to take the moral high ground and be whiter than white.

“All the small companies we trade with have already been paid back.”