Farmers Reap Record Results to Win Employee Owned Rising Star of the Year

A business that has grown from one man and his wheelbarrow to a 50,000 box a week organic veg delivery business has won an employee ownership award, just one year after its ownership transition.

Riverford Organics has scooped the UK Employee Ownership Awards Employee Owned Rising Star of the Year Award after impressing judges with the results of its first year of being an employee owned business.

Judges noted that that having employees engaged ahead of and involved in the transition has helped Riverford to benefit from the “whoosh effect” very early in its EO journey.

Riverford Organics, which is headquartered in Totnes, Devon and employs 741 employee owners, saw its founder Guy Singh-Watson, transfer 74% of the business into an Employee Owned Trust in June 2018.

Guy, who had always seen profit as a means to an end rather than a sole aim, rejected numerous investor approaches, wishing to avoid Riverford becoming an enterprise driven purely by the bottom line, or controlled by outside investors. After spending numerous years researching what he wanted the future of his business to be he arrived at employee ownership.

His efforts to put people before profit has seen the business achieve a 10% sales uplift and noting record results for the business in its first employee owned year.

Efforts to embed the culture across the business – employee involvement through its staff council which has 20 elected co-owner representatives, two elected trustees and representatives on the remuneration committee – are driving many employee initiatives.

The commitments to changes in structure have enabled employees to drive change with one success being a focus on exit interviews, which in turn has seen them develop a focus on learning and development in the business. In its first year there has been a reduction in staff turnover of 15% and a pay rise of between 5-9% for the lowest paid in the business.

The business, which has an excellent net promoter score of 51%, has also been able to deliver its first profit share with 10% of the profit being paid as a dividend to its co-owners.

Judges summary: “A real focus on getting the culture right for employee owners ahead of the transition to employee ownership has seen Riverford Organics fly in its first year as an employee owned business which is truly impressive with a real impact on individuals and the business.”