Employee-owned Jerba Campervans grows turnover

A North Berwick business is on track to grow turnover by almost a quarter since becoming 100 per cent employee-owned.

Co-founder and co-director Simon Poole with the Jerba Campervan team, who own the business. Picture: Contributed
Co-founder and co-director Simon Poole with the Jerba Campervan team, who own the business. Picture: Contributed

Jerba Campervans, which manufactures bespoke Volkswagen campervans, is expecting a 23 per cent boost in annual turnover to £2.7 million following its transition to employee ownership in January.

The business, now fully owned by its 15 members of staff, has experienced an 11 per cent surge in productivity since the start of the year.

Co-founder and director Simon Poole, who previously held roles at Cancer Research UK and John Waddingtons, believes the new ownership model has far-reaching benefits and credited the transition for energising the company’s workforce.

He said: “This is a rural firm and we employ people who love what they do. As a result, we’ve benefited from amazing loyalty from those who have been instrumental in building the business.

“Becoming employee owned was simply the right thing to do, both morally and practically.

“It is safe to say that it has truly energised the place. Everyone is acutely aware of the importance of minimising waste and tackling projects thoughtfully and creatively, as it impacts the profit-sharing bonus scheme.

“As you may imagine, that is having a real impact on the business, too – and our productivity and growth figures for the year demonstrate what can be achieved with employee ownership.”

Poole founded Jerba with his wife Cath Brookes in 2005.

The business specialises in luxury conversions of the VW Transporter T6, which it sources for its clients from the German automobile giant, before transforming them into homes on wheels. It hopes to complete conversions of 55 vehicles in 2018.

In becoming employee-owned, Poole and Brookes transferred all shares into the Jerba Campervans Trust. The trust’s board is made up of one employee appointed by the directors, one employee elected directly by staff, and a person independent to the business, which in Jerba’s case is an external accountant.

As co-directors, Poole and Brookes report to the trust board, which ensures the business is being run for the benefit of the employees, with the co-directors’ shares to be paid back in a portion of profits over the coming years.

Poole added: “Being employee-owned is benefitting every aspect of the business.

“Our staff are just that bit more invested in what we do, and the new-found wind in their sails doesn’t seem to be letting up.

“We’ve got a solid team who understand that the quality and safety of our products is what helps Jerba stand apart from a number of other companies out there.”

The number of employee-owned companies in Scotland has trebled in the past five years, with Jerba now one of around 100 such firms north of the Border.

There are now around 7,000 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of some £940m.

In August, the Scottish Government unveiled plans to increase the number of worker-owned businesses in Scotland five-fold, to some 500 companies, by 2030.