Employee ownership puts VW campervan firm in the slipstream

by Chris Fairbairn

Monday, July 20th, 2020

Productivity gains boost business at specialist converters

Ian Adkins, Senior Mastercraftsman with Jerba Campervans, carries out work in front of a VW Transporter at its North Berwick workshop

A COMPANY controlled by its employees has reported continued improvements as it targets a strong second half to 2020.

Jerba Campervans, which moved to become an employee-owned business in early 2018, has reported major improvement to productivity and profit in its most recent financial year.

For the year up to January 2020, the North Berwick-based converter of bespoke VW T6.1 campervans completed 54 full conversions of the popular German campervan, with a team of 14.

While turnover for the year remained steady at £2.6million, a 9% increase in productivity helped drive a 19% boost in profits, leading to an increase in the company’s annual employee profit share bonus.

Simon Poole, who with his wife Cath founded Jerba, believes the model is already delivering far-reaching benefits.

He said: “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.

“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 members to its premises on the outskirts of the East Lothian town, following its decision to return to work in line with the latest government guidelines.

While placing its team on furlough, early into lockdown Simon 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 is symbolic of the open culture that exists within most employee-owned organisations.

Now, with early evidence from AutoTrader suggesting demand for motorhomes, caravans and campers is increasing in line with an anticipated “staycation boom”, Jerba has seen its own web traffic for June jump nearly 80% year on year.

Nathan Avenue with Jerba Campervans, carries out work creating one of its bespoke VW Transporters at its North Berwick workshop

Simon 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.”

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 14 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.

Its employee 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.

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

For more on its employee-ownership, visit: https://www.jerbacampervans.co.uk/employee-owned-company/

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    Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

    Chris Fairbairn

    Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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