East Lothian business founder awarded National Director of the Year at IoD Awards

Simon Poole with his IoD Awards.

THE CO-FOUNDER and MD of a North Berwick campervan converter is a double winner at one of Scotland’s most prestigious business awards ceremonies.  

After being praised for his leadership on customer service and championing high levels of employee wellbeing, Simon Poole was awarded Director of the Year for Small-Medium Businesses and the Edinburgh and the Lothians regional award at the Institute of Directors (IoD) Director of the Year Awards. 

The double win recognises his work managing employee-owned and independently-run Jerba Campervans, which he co-founded with his wife Cath in 2006 building on his passion for VW Transporter conversions.  

Consistently reinvesting profits in order to achieve sustainable growth, with the exception of 2020, the company has witnessed increased turnover every year since its inception – with business surging again over the last year as it capitalises on the staycation boom. 

The highly coveted accreditation was awarded to Simon for his efforts at the North Berwick-based business, with judges describing him as a great example of an authentic leader.

Simon, who is originally from Chester and lives in North Berwick, said: “Since founding Jerba, my vision has been clear: long term market growth, job security for all employees with fair work and healthy sustainable profits.

“I feel that I understand our customers, I know our market and I value the team. Employee engagement is at the core of the business and all employees are involved in innovation, continual improvement and future strategy. 

“We are very collaborative, which was only enhanced by our move to employee ownership in 2018.

“I recognise that my success would not be possible without the help of every employee so becoming employee owned was a perfect fit with both my values and the business strategy and listening to, trusting and respecting the employees has had a massively positive impact on the business.

“I see trust and leadership as going hand in hand. Experience has shown that if you are honest and open with employees then they return in volumes – through increased commitment, diligence, effort, teamwork and so much more. Our employee turnover rate is almost unmeasurable. 

“I’m so grateful to be receiving both these awards and that the IoD Scotland judges and so many of our customers are able to recognise the company’s commitment to its employees and customers.”

In making the move to employee ownership, Jerba’s 14-strong team benefit from a yearly, equal profit share, regardless of their position.

Completing around 55 conversions every year, with reservations until mid 2023, the firm has customers throughout the UK and is the only VW accredited campervan converter based north of the Border.

A Living Wage employer, the firm has been recognised for ethical tax conduct, receiving the Fair Tax Mark accreditation for responsible tax conduct for 2021/22 and was awarded the Good Business Charter for responsible business practices in 2020.

Established in 1903, the IoD Awards celebrate Managing Directors across the country for their commitment to their firms – celebrating outstanding leadership. 

Simon’s win coincides with an exciting time for Jerba Campervans, as plans are already underway for him to move into the role of Chairman with a new Managing Director to be recruited in 2022. 

Simon added: “As of 2022, the search will be on for a person who will be able to continue to consolidate Jerba’s position in the high-quality sector of the UK campervan market. 

We will be aiming to find someone capable of rolling out a diversification strategy to also take the business into new market areas while also demonstrating a real commitment to the employee ownership model of fair work and long-term job security.” 

Jerba Campervans specialise in converting Volkswagen Transporter T6.1 Models and is officially recognised by Volkswagen as a converter of the model. In 2015, Jerba Campervans gained a patent for their unique pop-up roof, which they add to all of their Volkswagen conversions.

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