“There’s the bank balance”: How an employee-owned firm reassured its furloughed team

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THE TEAM at one of Scotland’s most prominent employee-owned businesses have revealed the extent to which its model of ownership has boosted morale during lockdown.

While it may have been the last thing on the minds of most business owners, 15-strong Jerba Campervans even took the decision to share full details of its financial position, to reassure its team after its workshop was forced to close before grants or furlough payments were received.

The North Berwick-based VW T6 Transporter converters has now welcomed back all of its workers as production on its bespoke and sought-after vans began this week.

Finishing Carpenter, Ian Adkins, said: “The company shares all of its financial information and encourages us to ask questions and be fully involved in the day to day running of the business.

Finishing Carpenter, Ian Adkin

“It’s given us all great reassurance during these very difficult times. Everyone has been open and transparent throughout this process and has left everyone here feeling secure.

“It is another example of why employee-ownership is the answer.”

The team at Jerba were in regular discussion over the lockdown period with a weekly WhatsApp update giving the staff the opportunity to share all of their concerns and ideas moving forward.

Simon Poole, founder of Jerba Campervans, said: “As an employee-owned business it is, put simply, common sense for us to share everything with our team – salaries, payments, expenses, the lot.

“I notified early on ‘here’s what’s in the bank’ and reassured that thanks to a number of van sales completing before lockdown, we were in a secure position to pay everyone’s full pay for months to come, regardless of when we receive our due grants.

“It felt obvious to do this – and on reflection that alone seems to encapsulate how different employee ownership businesses can be.”

Jerba became a 100% employee-owned business in 2018, and has seen an increase in productivity year on year, with employees fully engaged in the running of the business.

Employee ownership is one of the fastest growing business formats in the UK and is due to be celebrated on Friday 26 June, which is being marked as EO Day by the Employee Ownership Association.

The model enables greater transparency between directing staff and workers, involves employees in decision-making and gives them a real say in their working environment and staff benefits.

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.

To find out more about Jerba Campervans, visit www.jerbacampervans.co.uk

 
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