UK EO AWARDS: For Hugh’s a jolly good fellow!

When speaking about his recent OBE, innovator and entrepreneur Hugh Facey did what he has always done – deferred to his employees.

“I received this because of you – Our Brilliant Employees – thank you for what you do…” he said revealing one of the secrets at the heart of Hugh’s drive and success.

Hugh who was awarded his OBE in 2018 for services to manufacturing, innovation, exports and employee ownership. Hugh is famed for saying “I came into it with nowt and I’ll go out of it with nowt”, expressing his ambition to make a good living for him and his employees, rather than amassing wealth for wealth’s sake. He is instead looking to leave a legacy of sustainable jobs not just in Sheffield but also via the business’ global offices and distribution centres.

Hugh invented and launched the iconic ‘Gripple’ wire joiner in 1989 and has since gone on to build a world-beating, award-winning employee owned company, employing 670 people, manufacturing 6,000 different products and which last year turned over £67m, exporting products to 80 countries. Gripple was established in the 1990s with its employee ownership structure being formalised when GLIDE (Growth Led Innovation Driven Employee Company), its share ownership model and holding company was established in 2011. Since then Gripple has been joined by various other innovative spin-off businesses which now all sit under the GLIDE umbrella.

Through his personal experience of employee ownership, Hugh has developed a formidable and persuasive passion for championing EO and helping other business explore EO. He regularly personally hosts networking meetings or invites business to visit Gripple in Sheffield to experience the culture and speak to the employee owners. This offer was recently taken up by Nick Hewer, Lord Sugar’s former right hand man on the BBC’s The Apprentice, when he visited Gripple with a film crew from the BBC’s The One Show.

Hugh has also encouraged his team to join him to champion and advocate EO inside and outside Gripple, reaching out to MPs and other influencers including the media, with their story inspiring both new employee owned businesses and innovations. In addition, Hugh has been an active and vocal member of the EOA Board, supporting the EOA team in many of its activities and being a constant source of encouragement and undoubtedly the sector has experienced huge benefits because of his personal investment.

Gripple has his own spirit and unique DNA, which includes a description of a ‘Gripple Person’ and how they would behave, a careers academy, an entirely open plan office space in which board meetings take place and a lack of formal job descriptions. In fact the only task description everyone at Gripple shares is the phrase Hugh has made his own, “If you see a ball about to drop, catch it!”. But make no mistake just because Hugh puts people first does not mean he is not ambitious, and in his own words “if you put people first the profit will follow”. And as we can see he’s not wrong!