Robert Bridges is 38 and has a baby on the way. For the past 12 years he’s worked for Richer Sounds, and is currently duty manager of their Mansfield Road branch in Nottingham.
He’s also about to get £12,000 richer, after the owner of the chain decided to hand control of the company over to its workers, along with £1,000 for each year they’ve worked there.
“It is just elation. We were never expecting any sort of bonus. We have not got the full details but we will get half this year and half next year,” Robert told Nottinghamshire Live .
“The first payment is coming in June’s pay packet. It is just nice to have recognition. We work hard and it is a competitive sector.”
He added: “I have a baby on the way – due in October – so I will put some money aside for them and buy a new car if the wife will allow me.”
Richer Sounds was founded in 1978, and now has more than 50 stores across the UK.
Until now it’s been 100% owned by its founder, Julian Richer.
Julian has always been one of the more forward-looking bosses in terms of how he treats his staff.
Zero-hours contracts are banned, the Living Wage thoroughly embraced, its gender pay gap actually favours women.
There are even company holiday homes in cities across the world employees can use, as well as a “Helping Hand Fund” in case staff get into financial difficulties.
And now he decided that it’s time to step down, it’s his staff he’s handing the company too – transferring 60% of his shares into a trust fund to be run on behalf of the store’s staff.
More than that, he’s handing them all a bonus – worth £1,000 for each year they’ve worked for the TV and hi-fi firm, with the average payout of £8,000.
“This is to thank loyal, hardworking colleagues,” Julian said.
“I felt the time was right, rather than leaving it until I’m not around, to ensure the transition goes smoothly and I can be part of it. I still really, really care but it is time for the next generation.”
The news has gone down remarkably well with the workers.
Ian Briggs, 43, of Beeston, has worked at the store for five years after leaving Blockbusters.
“Julian is quite an enigma,” he said, smiling. “He comes to the store every year.”
“I think it is the attention for detail. Julian is never afraid to change anything. I do home visits – how many retailers do that?
“It sets us apart from other retailers, and that is why we are still on the high street.”
What will he do with his share of the payout?
“I have a boiler issue so it will pay to replace it but I would like a holiday for me, my wife and little boy,” Ian said.
Tom Silver, 32, has worked for the company for just over a year, but used to shop at the store when he was a kid.
He said: “It is an extremely generous gesture. I am getting married in four weeks so that will pay for bits of the wedding and a fancier honeymoon. It came at the right time.”
How the new structure will work
Called the Richer Sounds Trust, the employee ownership plan will run according to a set of principles to make sure the firm “continues to operate in a responsible manner, and is based on honesty, commitment, trust and respect”, according to the group.
Richer Sounds has been working on the employee ownership trust plans for the past 18 months with legal and accountancy firm RSM.
The colleagues’ advisory council will be chaired by a trustee and will be made up of current staff and will represent their interests and concerns.
David Robinson, chairman of Richer Sounds, said: “It’s incredibly exciting times and allows our colleagues to feel even more connected to the company.
“They have a real stake in the success of the business and can take pride in knowing that they are shareholders, building for the future.”