AN ENTERPRISING manufacturer of bespoke and lovingly-created Volkswagen campervans is reaping the rewards of becoming one of Scotland’s first employee-owned businesses.
North Berwick-based Jerba Campervans specialises in luxury conversions of the VW Transporter T6, which it sources for its clients from the German giant, before transforming them into discreet and stylish homes on wheels.
It made the move to become 100% owned by its staff in January 2018 – and in the months following has experienced an instant 11% surge in productivity, with revenue on track to grow 23% to £2.7m for the year.
The firm, which is recognised by Volkswagen as a registered vehicle body builder, was founded in 2005 by Directors and husband and wife team Simon Poole and Cath Brookes. From humble beginnings, it hopes to complete 55 vehicles in 2018 alone.
Simon, who previously held roles at Cancer Research UK and John Waddingtons, believes the model for the 15-strong business has far-reaching benefits.
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.”
Prior to creating the firm, Simon and Cath had spent a decade owning and hiring campervans in countries all around the world. In that time, they had believed they could improve or adapt the designs to become more user-friendly, creating a significantly better lifestyle experience.
In becoming employee-owned, Cath and Simon transferred all shares into the Jerba Campervans Trust. The Trust Board is made up of one employee appointed by them, one elected employee and a person independent to the business (in Jerba’s case, an external accountant).
The Co-Directors report to the Trust board, which ensures the business is being run for the benefit of the employees, with Cath and Simon’s shares paid back in a share of profits over the coming years.
Jerba prides itself on its brand and its position in the market, delivering a premium product with top-notch customer service, while remaining attainable for its passionate client-base.
It produces six models including both short wheelbase and long wheelbase versions of the T6, however regularly works with its discerning customers to customise around individual requirements.
High-quality craftsmanship has also led to innovations including its patented pop top roof with a canvas interior.
Simon 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 newfound 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. We don’t cut corners when it comes to ensuring our designs are safe for their users.”
Safety is also of utmost importance to the business, with all vehicles adhering to all current European safety standards.
Unlike many customised vehicles, which only have an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA), (which takes around two hours and does not include physical testing), Jerba Campervans are put through the most rigorous tests to achieve Whole Vehicle Type Approval.
In addition, all Jerba vehicles carry National Caravan Council approval, which also covers accommodation aspects of campervan safety.
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