“Our employee owners are committed because they personally have shares in the business – this leaves us in a great position to innovate and grow,” says Hugh Facey, founder of Gripple.
Gripple, which is a market-leading manufacturer of wire joining and tensioning devices for construction and agricultural markets, is 100% employee-owned.
This has been the case since 1994 and was formalised in 2011, with the establishment of Glide – an acronym of ‘Growth Led Innovation Driven Employee Company Limited’ – which is its share ownership model and holding company that represents all the employees in its partner companies.
New employees are required to buy £1,000 worth of shares within one year of joining the firm, with Gripple offering loans to enable them to purchase equity, which is paid back over five years – or sooner if an employee wishes. On the flip side, a third of all post-tax profits are paid as dividends.
“It comes directly out of your wages, so it’s all sorted through the business and is pretty simple to do,” explains Jake Hallatt, 22, pictured, a graduate management trainee at Gripple who is an elected member of the Glide board.
“It’s in the recruitment stage that we’re progressing this information that you have to buy the shares and you have to commit not just physically to the business, but financially as well."
Employee ownership ‘allows everyone to share success’
Glide was established to allow its founding chairman, Hugh, to pass ownership to the employees.
He says: “As founder and owner, I consider myself a custodian of the business for the next generation. There is no better way to exercise that role than to implement some form of employee ownership.
“I have been able to step back from the business which is now run by employees who have moved up and will keep it alive for future generations through employee ownership.
“I want everyone in our business to share in the success and wealth they create as in my mind staff are more important than capital.”
The role of the employee board
Managed by a board of 38 elected representatives, including Jake, Glide exists to embody the culture of the business, voice the opinions of its members, hold leaders to account and help support the facilitation of shares.
It is also responsible for ensuring the Gripple commercial board meets its main objectives, which are:
- To grow sales by a minimum of 10% each year
- To ensure 25% of annual turnover comes from patented products younger than four years old
- To donate 1% of budgeted profits to charity
- To fly the employee ownership flag
Spreading the word about employee ownership
Gripple is making sure that as well as ensuring its own people reap the benefits of employee ownership, it is also spreading the word to encourage other businesses to follow suit.
“It’s about making sure the business is promoting employee ownership, not just internally, but externally as well. We want to become a big advocate for employee ownership and make sure we share our experience with everyone,” says Jake.
Its global footprint sees it exporting 85% of its trade to 80 countries, but it is proudly headquartered in Sheffield. This love for employee ownership and the South Yorkshire city was evidenced when Gripple was on hand to help launch the Ownership Hub in June 2021.
“The challenge is making sure new starters are aware it’s not just about the share price and the dividend, it’s about creating a fun environment we all want to be around, creating this good culture and making sure we develop it in our people," he added.
“It’s making sure they’re all aware of what the whole package of employee ownership is, it’s not just about the financial contribution.”
Embedding the ‘Gripple Spirit’
The business believes its values and culture are a reason why “we are able to attract and retain the best people into our business”.
“We may have grown, but our shared values remain the same. We expect our people to be passionate, to be team players, to be honest and willing and able to challenge convention. We call this ‘Gripple Spirit’,” the firm states.
Gripple fosters that culture by recruiting people who share its values, by finding committed people with vision and passion, and “we make sure we look after those people, our greatest asset”.