East Lothian's Jerba Campervans speeds up profits and productivity

East Lothian firm Jerba Campervans has welcomed accelerated productivity and profit in its most recent financial year – saying it is very much seeing the benefits of employee ownership.
Jerba’s Ian Adkins at work at the firm’s premises in North Berwick. Picture: contributed.Jerba’s Ian Adkins at work at the firm’s premises in North Berwick. Picture: contributed.
Jerba’s Ian Adkins at work at the firm’s premises in North Berwick. Picture: contributed.

The North Berwick-based business converts VW T6.1 campervans into bespoke motorhomes. For the year to January, it completed 54 full conversions of the German campervan.

While turnover for the year remained steady at £2.6 million, a 9 per cent increase in productivity helped grow profits by a fifth, leading to an increase in the firm’s annual employee profit share bonus.

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Simon Poole, who founded the firm with his wife Cath, believes the ownership model – introduced in early 2018 – is already delivering far-reaching benefits. He commented: “Everyone has a voice and is very motivated to use it. The last financial year saw a bedding in of the new business model and its benefits start to really shine through.

Nathan Avenue, one of the team at Jerba. Picture: contributed.Nathan Avenue, one of the team at Jerba. Picture: contributed.
Nathan Avenue, one of the team at Jerba. Picture: contributed.
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“What that means now is our team really is together and united. Everyone takes an active role in assessing our productivity, knowing full well that it boosts the business and directly impacts both their long-term job security and their annual bonus.

“Since coming back from lockdown, the togetherness has been exceptional, as we strive to catch up on customer orders and ensure everyone feels safe and able to do their job to the fullest extent.”

Jerba recently brought back all 14 staff to its premises, following its decision to return to work in line with the latest government guidelines. While placing its team on furlough, early into lockdown Poole was able to share a full financial breakdown “to reassure workers that their salaries could be covered for months to come, should it have been required”. He believes this typifies the open culture that exists within most employee-owned organisations.

Increasing staycations

Now, amid an expected increase in demand for motorhomes, caravans and campers in line with an anticipated “staycation boom,” Jerba has seen its own web traffic for June jump nearly 80 per cent year on year.

Poole added: “Like with all businesses, the pandemic threw everything up in the air for us. But I’m relieved to be in the situation we are in – knowing we are in a very fortunate position.

“Whether or not the predicted boom in staycations fully materialises or not, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, working with our small team to build bespoke campervans that we hope go on to become beloved by their owners.”

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

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

Jerba says benefits of its employee model include greater transparency between directing staff and workers, involving employees in decision-making, and giving them “a real say in their working environment and staff benefits".

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