Manufacturer Gripple puts its future in the hands of employees

GRIPPLE is an unusual business. Since 1994, employees have been able to purchase shares in the wire joiner manufacturer.

This model has evolved to the point where all employees purchase at least £1,000 in shares within their first 12 months.

Employees now own 36% of the business. Andy Davies, development director of Sheffield-based Gripple is also chairman of private employee owned company GLIDE.

GLIDE represents all the shareholder members working in its partner companies with an employee elected board of directors.

Hugh Facey, founder of Gripple and Loadhog, has been looking at ways of passing his legacy on to employees since the 1990s, and came up with their version of employee ownership.

With Gripple vice chairman Roger Hall, both have donated personal shares to GLIDE.

Now, staff even have a say in the latest managing director of the firm, Ed Stubbs, and the company was crowned Best Employee-Owned Business of the Year at its industry awards.

Mr Davies said: “Employee ownership is a fundamental part of our culture.

The company offers a loan to buy shares, and employees can buy more after that.

“The shared ownership model is symbolic they are taking part of the risk,” said Mr Davies.
“Nothing is given to them, all our employees take responsibility.”

This is particularly evident after a “disappointing” year in 2014, despite turnover of £41.7m up from £38.3m the year before.

However Mr Davies said the company had invested heavily in research and development that year, causing pre-tax profits to dip to £1.14m from £1.56m. However he said that 2015’s results were looking a lot healthier.

Mr Davies said: “We have greatly improved on our targets and this is down to the fact that we are a team, we have to work and connect together.”

Mr Davies said dividends were up from 5p to 14.5p for 2015.

The company is undertaking a major recruitment drive for 2016, and is appealing for graduates to fill engineering, business and technical roles. It has six sites worldwide and employs 450 across its operations.

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