Scotland’s most recent employee-owned businesses learns from business gurus

The Jerba Campervans team

ONE of Scotland’s most recent employee-owned businesses was inspired by its entire team’s visit to the models pioneers, Gripple.

North Berwick based campervan converters, Jerba took all 15 staff on a 460-mile round trip to Sheffield to get to grips with how an employee-owned company can excel over an extended period of time.

Gripple was created by entrepreneur Hugh Facey who came up with a device that attached two pieces of wire together.

In 2013, Gripple became 100% employee-owned and have seen their productivity increase over the years.

Simon Poole, founder and director of Jerba Campervans was blown away by the success of Gripple.

Simon said: “It was an excellent and inspirational trip. The business has employed a lot of young people, many of whom are part of families. There was a 100% work ethic with open communication and progressive innovation.

“It further enhanced our awareness of employee ownership. Gripple focuses on the personal development of its staff ensuring they apply the right attitude that co-exists with the businesses fundamental principles.

“Company values become more important than the job description, and the employees are aware of that which allows them to express their views and creates a healthier working environment where everyone chips in. It’s the Gripple spirit.”

The team at Jerba are now looking to implement some of the techniques they learned on their informed trip.

Simon added: “We will be coming together as a team to talk about what we learned from the trip and how best to effectively execute some of these techniques into our business.

“We were all inspired by the visit, and will be identifying employee points on how to take our business further in regards to employee ownership.”

This visit coincides with a talk Simon made at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance [WEA] conference in Edinburgh last week which also featured First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The WEA group consists of three nations: Scotland, Iceland, and New Zealand, which have come together to influence policy makers on how the economy can be effectively run with the welfare of people at the heart of the discussion.

Simon spoke about the positive impact employee ownership can have on the Wellbeing Alliance which was enthusiastically received by conference attendees.

Simon said: “There was a realisation in the room that this was a fantastic model, and Nicola Sturgeon seems to be supporting the initiative which can only help.”

Jerba Campervans have projected its productivity to increase for a second year after adopting the employee-owned model.

In January 2018, it became 100% employee-owned and saw a productivity surge of 11% over the following 12 months.

Jerba Campervans’ team will be hosting businesses themselves this week who are looking to adopt the employee-owned model.

Simon said: “It is exciting for us that we can share our knowledge and expertise on employee ownership, and hopefully we can encourage these businesses to adopt this model.”

Simon and his wife Cath founded Jerba in 2006 after a decade of owning and hiring campervans all over the world, before deciding they could improve the design and overall user experience themselves.

The firm is now 15 strong – and recognised by Volkswagen as a registered vehicle body builder. The German manufacturer supplies Jerba with the skeletons of the vans, which it transforms into stylish homes on wheels, made individually to the customer’s specification. 

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