No longer a member of staff

On the one-year anniversary of Riverford's move to employee ownership, van driver Vernon Smith reflects on what it means to be a co-owner of a successful business.

My name is Vernon Smith and I, along with 650 other people who are equally as fortunate, am a co-owner of Riverford.

I was lucky enough to have been an employee with the company at the time when our founder, Guy Singh-Watson decided that the best future for Riverford, lay not with investors or ‘big business’ who would take the company down a road contrary to our core beliefs, but with its employees, those people who already take pride in Riverford and have played a daily part in the success that it has become.

650 dedicated people, starting with the planters and growers and ending with the delivery driver that delivers your fresh organic veg box to your door. That’s where I come in.

As a Riverford delivery driver, I am that final link in this vast chain. I feel luckier than most, however, because I have the great privilege and honour to meet our customers face to face on their doorsteps and I can tell you that every one of them applaud Riverford for the decision we have taken and they wish us well.

Those good wishes seem to be paying off too as our first year as co-owners has been a monumental success.

As soon as you are told you are no longer just a ‘member of staff’ but a recognised co-owner of a successful company, your entire outlook changes. You feel less of a mercenary. You’re no longer just doing a job for wages. I suddenly felt a protective sense of pride in Riverford and desire to reward Guy for his faith in us all by making sure we made a success of it.

Don’t misunderstand, I’ve always loved this company and I’ve always given it 110 per cent, but now it felt a lot more personal.

The knowledge that we as a collective are doing this together, striving to make OUR business a success seems to knit us all together across the company far beyond that of mere work colleagues as we are galvanised and united around a common purpose. We share in all the excitement and the aspirations of what we can achieve.

On the 8th of June 2018, I, like all the other Riverford drivers, was out on the road delivering our veggies, so many of us were unable to attend the launch party. It was therefore a wonderful gesture and a true highlight of my first year as a co-owner that a special event was organised in October, just for drivers to welcome us on board as co-owners.

It is gestures such as these towards their staff which help set Riverford apart from any other company. I feel truly honoured just to be a part of it. 

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