Conference spotlight: Riverford Organics

Riverford Organics founder Guy Watson started his business as one man and a wheelbarrow and has grown it to an award-winning organic delivery company.

It now employs 550 staff to help provide and deliver around 47,000 food boxes a week to homes around the UK from its regional farms.

Guy has made no secret that he is looking into employee ownership as part of his future succession plans, driven by what he calls ‘leftie views’ but which currently chime with the government’s narrative around better businesses that benefits everyone not just the few.

To further his understanding of the best model of employee ownership for his company and to find out ‘how to get it right’ Guy attended the EOA’s Conference with three of his colleagues each on a fact finding mission.

Guy said: “I’ve been some time looking at employee ownership as I am a passionate believer that better staff engagement gets better results for the staff and for the business including more activity, creativity and drive.

“The business model you adopt dictates how it is run and organised, and getting that right for me and my employees for the future is the best way to make sure the values, brand and assets of the business stay intact.

“So we’ve come to the conference to hear those first hand real-life experiences, to pick up tips and try to make sense of it for our business by learning from others. We need to understand the resources needed and understanding the journeys of others through seminars and workshops and informal conversations is valuable to us in making sure we get it right and minimise any mistakes.”

Guys team were keen to learn at the Best in Class sessions from last year’s winners Greenlight Pharmacy, Gripple, Quintessa and Remploy and from key note speakers Jack Stack and Union Industries.

Guy added: “Meeting staff, the MD and former owners of Union Industries and hearing their story was inspirational. It is clear that those who put most efforts into engaging staff in the process of becoming Employee Owned get most out of it.

“It is not a panacea for engagement and better performance but can certainly help if well done. We plan to consult more with our staff to assess if we will get the benefits from direct ownership that Gripple and Union Industries have enjoyed.”