Interview with Cambridge Weight Plan on Becoming an Employee-Owned Company

Our Interview with the HR Director at the 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan

The following is the transcript of a fascinating interview conducted by Pam Anthony with Tyrone Douglas on Cambridge Weight Plan’s transition from a traditional company set-up to an employee-owned company:

1) What prompted the move from a traditional company set-up, to an employee-owned company?

“In 2009 our three Company Owners were retiring and considered various options for the existing business. They had bought the Company through a Management Buy Out (MBO) but a second MBO was not possible because the business had grown so substantially.

Various options were suggested by our company solicitors, and Employee Ownership came up as an exciting prospect because it would protect the employees and preserve the company ethos and culture.

The Employee Ownership Trust Model was chosen – similar to the John Lewis business model. In this indirect ownership model, 100% of all the employee shares are held by the Trust, meaning no individual in the business owns shares, however every employee has an equal stake in the business.

In 2010, CWP set up the Employee Benefit Trust and the Company bought 49% of the shares from the owners, secured through a bank loan. In December 2014, the remaining 51% shares were transferred and CWP became 100% employee-owned.

In June 2018 the complete bank loan was paid off ahead of schedule, and CWP Employees celebrated what we call ‘Financial Freedom Day’.”

2) Was it an ‘easy sell’ to your employees? Any doubts / reservations?

“At the start in 2010, when the 49% of the shares were bought – it didn’t make much difference, whilst the owners were still here. However, in 2014 – when the last owner, MD retired and CWP became 100% employee-owned, we had to re-evaluate what ownership actually meant for us.

We understood the employee ownership concept legally and financially, but culturally this was another matter!

The main thought was what would we do differently now that we were 100% employee- owned?

Our starting point was to conduct a Perception Survey: asking every single employee “What Employee Ownership means to them?” As part of this survey every employee had the opportunity to attend a workshop and have their say, we were then able to collate all the results and address any misunderstandings.

One of the findings was that employees found it difficult to be called an owner when they hadn’t paid for anything, in comparison to buying shares and obtaining a shares certificate. We therefore decided to call all staff ‘Employee Stakeholders’ (John Lewis ‘Partners’) and we issue everyone with an ‘Employee Ownership’ certificate, which has no monetary value but gives each Employee Stakeholder their individual recognition and gives everyone a voice and an equal stake in the business.

As ‘Employees’ we have different pay grades etc, but as ‘Stakeholders’ we all have an equal stake in the company and everyone has an equal say, which is a real mindset change.  Transparency is key.”

3) What are the main benefits to the employees?

“There wasn’t much money to share in the early days as our main objective was to use profits to pay off the bank loan.

To encourage engagement, we started to define who we are by consulting with every Employee Stakeholder to define and agree who we are as owners.

For the first time ever, we had to decide what our Core Values should be, in line with the expectations of an Employee Stakeholder, and we defined 6 core values.

To further engage and empower our Employee Stakeholders, we set up 11 Voice Groups across the company – and this proved to be VERY engaging! Through the Voice Groups Employee Stakeholders discuss what is important to them, bring proposals to the Directors on improvements, and the leadership team within the business can also gain collective views from the groups on business direction that affects them.

On the contrary, earlier views that ‘Empowering’ people would lead to a revolution, have proven to be totally unfounded.

Employees are meeting and working in project teams across the business and are finding meaningful solutions to the way we work and add value to the business performance.

We are so proud to be Employee-Owned and as a result of engagement and shared ownership, all our Stakeholders have received fantastic financial and non-financial rewards.”

4) As a company, have you noticed a difference in performance and productivity since becoming employee-owned?

“It is difficult to measure the difference because the Company has always been successful and performance and productivity has always been high.

What we have noticed however is, that by providing more opportunities for engagement this has encouraged our Employee Stakeholders to have a different approach to their work. We have a common purpose/goal and we all share equally in the financial success that this success brings.

For the first time last year, we paid out an Employee Stakeholder dividend of £1500 per individual on ‘Financial Freedom Day’ and in the same year we were also able to give a 20% bonus on annual salary. In June 2019, 10% of Company profits were paid back to employees and every Employee Stakeholder received £4,488.10 – Collective engagement rewarded.

Another example of how our performance is also enhanced is by our collective commitment to our Employee Satisfaction Survey – results currently running at 75%. Each year the results are shared and 5 key areas that have scored the lowest are addressed. Voice groups and management teams form joint project teams and collectively come up with ideas of how to improve satisfaction. The new ideas and interaction are amazing – everyone has a say in making improvements.

It has been a big learning curve but people have acted very responsibly and have seen lots of wins and results.

Employee Ownership has also supported greatly in attracting and retaining talented Employee Stakeholders”

The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan in numbers

“Currently 230 Employees
Financials: – 31/3/19 – company went from £46M -> £55 million -in one year, a +23% increase
Profit – £10 million
Became a Real Living Wage employer in April 2019 (no one earns under £9 per hour)
Company introduced a recognition scheme for Direct Sales which has resulted in a +64% increase in direct sellers, bringing the numbers to 6,200 Consultants
Footprint of warehousing increased by 160k square feet which is a +12 % increase in warehousing space
Seen a 400% increase in new product development; with popular launches like our Step-Up Meals, Salted Caramel Bites and Breakfast Smoothie… to name just a few!”

Final Comments
“Employee Ownership Association is growing in the UK and the beauty is that it can be a bespoke to suit every company – additionally there are also fantastic tax incentives for business owners and employees – for more information contact the EOA directly “

Tyrone says that EDUCATION – ENGAGEMENT – ENTHUSIASM are the cornerstones for the Company’s success
With our grateful thanks to Tyrone Douglas and the 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan for sharing this information and giving us such an illuminating insight into their Company.

Interview conducted by Pam Anthony
August 2019

How to identify Culture Fit when Interviewing Part II

Another in our occasional series on recruitment tips and best practice..

To conclude our short series on identifying that all-important Culture Fit which can make such a difference to the ‘look and feel’ of your team and office environment, below are tips on how to assess exactly that during the interviews you conduct, together with some ‘red flag’ insights into candidates who will struggle to fit in:

Tips to assess Cultural Fit during Interviews
• New recruits should add to, not disrupt your company culture. If you’ve established an effective culture, recruit candidates who closely embody it, or hire people who will enhance it.
• Be aware of your future goals. Prioritise candidates who will steer your teams in the right direction.
• Make sure your questions reflect the sub-culture within the specific department you’re recruiting for, taking into account work habits and goals.
• As culture is closely tied to behaviours, talk to employees who interacted with candidates before and after the interview (e.g. the receptionist.) to gauge how they came across to others whilst not under the interview spotlight.
• Remember: Candidates should also have a say in whether they’ll fit well with your company. Let them see the job first-hand and decide if they’ll fit in. Give them a quick tour of the office and introduce them to potential teammates.

Red Flags
• Dishonesty. You can’t fault candidates who’ve done their research and give you answers that seem in line with your culture, however if you suspect they’re simply trying to impress you with their knowledge, probe deeper with follow-up questions, and ask for more specific examples.
• Mismatch in values. An employee will fit into your company if you both share the same values, work methods and have common goals. For example, a process-driven candidate might not be a good fit if your company prioritises innovation and flexibility. Similarly, an employee who is looking for quick career advancement will be hard to retain in a position with no opportunity for promotion.
• Different leadership style. When hiring for managerial roles, take into consideration how each team works. For example, an authoritative leadership style may not be the best managerial fit for a team where employees work best independently.
• Inflexibility. New employees should balance adapting to your work habits with offering new ideas of how to do things. It’s a red flag if they show signs of a “know-it-all” attitude.
• Disrespectful of policies. It’s one thing to question the status quo and another to disrespect or ignore company policies. Candidates’ previous work experiences and the right interview questions will reveal whether they follow company policies and collaboratively suggest improvements where they spot issues – or the opposite!

With 35+ years recruitment experience, we are well versed in all of the above techniques and make sure we take the time to get to know our clients’ culture and our candidates’ expectations to ensure the optimum fit. As your Recruitment Partner we will weed out the wheat from the chaff prior to presenting you with shortlisted candidates!

For more information and interview support and assistance, please call us on +44 (0)1706 231354 or email

How do you identify Culture Fit in an Interview?

Another in our occasional series on recruitment tips and best practice..

The importance of identifying a ‘culture fit’ when recruiting for your business cannot be underestimated. Although it is a concept that can be hard to define, everyone knows when it is missing!

Essentially ‘cultural fit’ means that employees’ beliefs and behaviours are in alignment with their employer’s core values and company culture – and hiring for culture fit means recruiting people who will thrive in your environment.

Before you start interviewing candidates, it is worth going through the exercise of defining your company’s values and long-term objectives, so that evaluating whether candidates share the same ethos as you should be a relatively straightforward process.

Some examples of ‘culture fit’ interview questions:

• Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team? Why?
• Describe the type of work environment in which you are most productive.
• How do you prefer to get feedback from your manager: through formal performance reviews or daily/weekly meetings? Why?
• What do you hope to achieve during your first six months here?
• What would make you leave a job in the first month?
• What would you say or do to motivate your team during a challenging project?
• What’s one thing you like about your current (or previous) job and you’d want here as well?
• Have you ever found a company policy unfair or inefficient? If so, what was the policy and why? What did you do or what would you do, in this case?
• Your manager assigns you a big task right before the end of the day. How would you reply?
• How would you change an institutional “this is how we always do it” attitude, if you felt there was a better approach?

Coming soon in Part II: tips to assess cultural fit during your interviews, and ‘red flag’ insights into candidate who will never fit in.

At Pam Anthony Recruitment, questions on culture fit are part and parcel of our interview process. The questions we ask both clients and candidates are designed to give us a full picture of ‘best fit’, and we are proud of our excellent retention rate as a result.

For more information and interview support and assistance, please call us on +44 (0)1706 231354 or email

Make sure you have the winning team for success in 2019

During our recent attendance at Seldia’s 50th Anniversary event, it was great to have time to talk with clients from a variety of different Direct Selling companies across Europe about how they are changing the infrastructure within their companies to respond to the movement of digitalisation and social media that is impacting our world today.

Needless to say, they are also having to ensure that their companies are attracting the best workforce by offering what the Millennials are looking for.

Did you know?
• Millennials are now the largest generation in the work force
• Millennials are also open to, and seek out, more flexible ways of working than any other generation

(Millennials are the population who were born between roughly 1980 and 1994 – so they are now between 24 and 38 years old)

Are you offering the right type of package to attract this generation to join your business at corporate level and add value with their social media savvy, energy, drive and understanding of what your leaders and customers want from your company?

We are constantly refreshing our database of candidates and we have oodles of talent both here in the UK and Europe that could meet your needs, across every department within your business including:
• Sales
• Marketing
• Logistics
• Event Management
• Training….. and so much more!

For more information on how we can help you make the best choices to reinforce your team, email us, or connect with us on LinkedIn. Alternatively, call us on +44 (0)1706 231354.


On the countdown to the Seldia Conference

Seldia - Direct Selling Service Provider

We will be heading to Brussels next week for the 7th European Direct Selling Conference in celebration of Seldia’s 50th Birthday!

As a fully-accredited Service Provider for Seldia we will be based in the Exhibition Hall and showcasing our award-winning recruitment services, and we are really looking forward to meeting up with friends and colleagues old and new.

The Awards and Anniversary Dinner on Tuesday evening will be the perfect start to this fabulous networking event, and the Conference the following day will no doubt be an inspiring and informative mix of industry news, hot topics and innovation courtesy of the keynote speakers and industry leaders, as Seldia looks ahead to the next 50 years!

If you are attending please do come and say hello!