Cornwall’s fastest growing tech business becomes employee-owned

Cornwall’s fastest-growing tech company, Bluefruit Software, has handed control of the business to its staff after 51% of the business was placed into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). The move to employee ownership will preserve the values of the business and its culture, which have been fundamental drivers of its success.

Bluefruit Software provides Lean-Agile embedded software development for clients across a broad range of sectors worldwide and was founded by Paul Massey 20 years ago around a core ethos that a happy workforce leads to successful projects.

Staff will now have a direct say and stake in how the business operates and their clients will benefit too; research shows employee-owned businesses are more productive, have higher levels of staff engagement and are more resilient during periods of economic downturn.

Paul Massey, Director and Founder of Bluefruit Software said:

“This move to employee ownership will ensure that no matter how much Bluefruit grows, we will never lose sight of the positive, supportive culture that made us so successful in the first place. Bluefruit’s future is brighter than ever before because each and every member of our team is now invested in our collective success.

“The profits of the business are going directly to the team delivering the projects so our clients can be sure that the team they are working with are 100% committed to delivering the very best project to the highest standards as owners of the business. With a personal stake and a seat at the table, the goals of our people and the business are inherently aligned.”

Whilst the UK’s growth has been recorded at the slowest levels for a decade, Bluefruit Software is bucking the trend with continued growth and investment in its people and the region. In 2020, Bluefruit is on track to grow to a team of over 85 people living and working in Cornwall, along with revenue over £5m.

The move to employee ownership brings with it a number of benefits for employees too. Staff who have been at Bluefruit Software longer than three months received a tax-free bonus of up to £1200 each. Two members the team have also been elected as non-director Trustees to represent the interests of staff at board level.

Employee ownership is one of the fastest growing business models in the UK, with EOTs growing at a rate of 30% per annum since their introduction in 2014.

Deb Oxley OBE, Chief Executive of the Employee Ownership Association said:

“We congratulate Bluefruit Software on their transition to employee ownership. By placing the business into the hands of its employees, Bluefruit Software is securing the future of the business, including its ethos, values and employees. Their transition comes at a time of accelerated growth for the EO sector, as more and more high-profile businesses, such as Richer Sounds, make the transition to employee ownership.”

The Bluefruit team has a strict policy against working overtime. Instead, staff are encouraged to make the most of weekly yoga classes and the free gym membership on offer. There’s also the option of participating in an outreach programme, with staff being paid if they if they teach or help within an educational programme in Cornwall. To promote diversity and equality, Bluefruit recently increased their paternity leave to six weeks.

A recent internal team survey produced an ePNS score of 71, well above the industry average. By empowering their staff to take greater accountability and ownership of their work, Bluefruit hasn’t succumbed to some of the issues that the tech sector is commonly known for, such as staff burnout and low retention.

Caitlin Gould, Director at Bluefruit said:

“We’ve cultivated a unique work environment which supports our employees and gives them the space they need to thrive. There’s a real problem with businesses in tech saying that they’re empowering their people, but they’re not. That leads to high turnover in a sector that’s hurting for lack of talent. We have an employee turnover rate of 4%—the tech industry average is 23%1.

“Our clients rely on us having skilled software teams that can scale to meet their needs. That is only possible if we are able to continue to attract, train and retain talented people. While some companies struggle to hire two or three developers, we have been able to hire 10 in the last 12 months. This gives us a very strong competitive advantage and makes us great software partners for our clients.

“When you look at the growth we’ve had from being people first, it makes sense to protect that. Employee ownership is a natural fit to promoting employee wellbeing and collaborative working, which will ensure Bluefruit continues to appeal to experienced and aspiring tech workers.”

For more information on Bluefruit Software, please visit www.bluefruit.co.uk