The ESOP Association Blog

Covering ESOPs and employee ownership

Release: ESOP Companies Report Economic Growth in 2013

We normally don’t post more than once a day but we wanted to share this release sent out by the Employee Ownership Foundation today announcing the results of the 23rd Annual Economic Performance Survey.

FoundationFor Immediate Release: September 15, 2014

ESOP Companies Report Economic Growth in 2013

September 15, 2014 (Washington, DC) – Results from the Employee Ownership Foundation’s 23rd Annual Economic Performance Survey of ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) companies show that ESOPs continue to see increased economic growth. Additionally, ESOP companies continue to have increased share value, report high productivity among employee owners, and have overwhelming support for the ESOP among leaders of the companies, according to the results of this 2014 survey which was conducted among members of The ESOP Association in the summer of 2014.

Since the Employee Ownership Foundation’s annual economic survey began 23 years ago, a very high percentage, 93% of survey respondents, have consistently agreed that creating employee ownership through an ESOP was “a good business decision that has helped the company.” It should be noted that this figure has been over 85% for the last 14 years the survey has been conducted. In addition, 76% of respondents indicated the ESOP positively affected the overall productivity of the employee owners. In terms of revenue and profitability — 70% of respondents noted that revenue increased and 64% of respondents reported that profitability increased. In terms of stock value, the majority of respondents, 80%, stated the company’s stock value increased as determined by outside independent valuations; 18% of the respondents reported a decline in share value; 2% reported no change. The survey also asked respondents what year the ESOP was established. Among those responding to this survey, the average age of the ESOP was 16 years with the average year for establishment being 1998.

“As we’ve said before, research proves that ESOPs, and companies with other forms of broad-based employee ownership, provide more sustainable employment for U.S. workers,” said Employee Ownership Foundation President, J. Michael Keeling. “Our national leaders need to take note, step up, and encourage broad-based inclusive capitalism and increase employee ownership to ensure sustainable employment and more income for average pay employee owners. It’s the best jobs policy we have in this country.”

The survey asked companies to indicate their performance in 2013 relative to 2012:

  • 65% indicated a better performance; 21% indicated a worse performance; and 14% indicated a nearly identical performance to the previous year
  • 70% indicated revenue increased; 30% indicated revenue decreased
  • 64% indicated profitability increased; 36% indicated profitability decreased
  • 64% of companies have created an ESOP education program or ESOP advisory committee since establishing the ESOP

The 2014 Economic Performance Survey was distributed by the Employee Ownership Foundation to The ESOP Association’s 1,500+ members in June 2014. The results are based on 503 responses, a 34% response rate.


The Employee Ownership Foundation is The ESOP Association’s affiliated 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting employee ownership –

The ESOP Association is the national trade association for companies with employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and the leading voice in America for employee ownership. The core cause of The ESOP Association is the belief that employee ownership will improve American competitiveness, increase productivity through greater employee participation, and strengthen our free enterprise economy. More information: website – and blog –

Filed under: Economic Performance, Employee Ownership Foundation, Retirement Issues,

The Founding Fathers Feared a Powerful One Percent

Dr. Joseph Blasi, a preeminent researcher of employee ownership, published an interesting article on the founding fathers and how they feared a powerful one percent. We thought we’d share a link to the article with our readers today.

The Founding Fathers backed Thomas Piketty – and feared a powerful 1 percent

This 4th of July, remember the truth about founding fathers, and their prescient warnings about income inequality

Filed under: Employee Ownership Foundation, Employee Ownership Message, ,

May 2014 Wrap-Up

It’s June and that means it’s time for a May link round up.

Moody’s Collision Centers, Inc. hosted an event with Senator Susan Collins in Gorham, ME

We shared a photo of the 2014 Employee Ownership Month Poster Contest Winner

The May 2014 ESOP Report was released

We highlighted the ABCs of ESOPs

The Employee Owner Retreat is open for registration

Big G Express hosted at event with Congresswoman Diane Black in Shelbyville, TN

We shared some photos from the 2014 Annual Conference in Washington, DC

The Leading in an Ownership Setting Program is open for registration

We featured items from the Employee Ownership Foundation Auction that took place at the Annual Conference

We announced the 2014 ESOP Award Winners

We shared video highlights from the Awards Ceremony

We shared a link to the Annual Conference Lobbying Kit

We extended an invitation to Conference attendees to visit the AACE Awards display

The Annual Conference App was announced

Filed under: AACE - Annual Awards for Communications Excellence, Conference Information, Employee Ownership Foundation, Employee Ownership Month (EOM), Government Affairs, Member Services, Publication, Silver ESOP Awards, TEA Members,

2014 Employee Owner Retreat

The Employee Owner Retreat is a course in capitalism for average pay employees that enhances each participant’s understanding of, and contribution to, her or his ESOP company.

2014 Employee Owner Retreat

August 14 – 16, 2014

Doubletree Suites

2111 Butterfield Rd

Downers Grove, IL 60515

Questions? Contact: Maya Van Buren 202-293-2971, meetings AT or Chris Cooper at the Ohio Employee Ownership Center 330-672-0338, ccooper1 AT

More information about the Employee Owner Retreat.

Filed under: Conference Information, Employee Ownership Foundation, ,

2014 Leading in an Ownership Setting: The Program for CEOs

FoundationThe Employee Ownership Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice offer CEOs/Presidents and/or the CEO/President designee, of ESOP companies a breakthrough Certificate Program — Leading in an Ownership Setting: The Program for CEOs.

This ESOP Leadership program is focused on enhancing each participant’s leadership effectiveness in his or her own company.

Session Dates: Session I: June 15 – 20, 2014, Session II: October 19 – 22, 2014

Gettysburg Tour: June 21, 2014 (Optional Leadership Lessons Tour at Gettysburg)

Tuition: $11,000 (ESOP Association Members), $13,000 (Non-Members)

Who should attend? CEOs, Presidents, and CEO/President formal designees, or other designated functional leader of the company.

  • To have the time to reflect on your leadership strengths and impact
  • To become more aware of effectively driving your leadership agenda
  • To learn about new leadership tools for strengthening your effectiveness
  • To gain skills for increasing your team’s effectiveness
  • To enhance your ability to coach team members
  • To create a more coherent plan for building your firm’s culture
  • To maximize the performance opportunity of employee ownership
  • To strengthen your firm’s succession system to sustain your company

Location: The Certificate Program will be held on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. One of the most beautiful of the Ivy League institutions with green lawns, landmark architecture, a rich “university city” cultural life, and all of Penn’s 12 graduate and professional schools within walking distance of one another.

Questions about registration for this prestigious program, contact Rosemary Clements at rose AT or 202-293-2971. For more information about program content, contact Ginny Vanderslice at virginiv AT or 215-292-4865.

Filed under: Employee Ownership Foundation, ,

Reminder — Employee Ownership Foundation Auction!

On Friday, May 9, 2014, the Employee Ownership Foundation will hold a live auction during the Friday luncheon to benefit the Foundation and to support programs that will increase the level of awareness and appreciation of the benefits of employee ownership in America.

Come prepared to bid on a favorite prize and support the Foundation and employee ownership in America!




Filed under: Employee Ownership Foundation,

April 2014 Wrap-Up

It’s been a while, so we thought, why not share some links. Here’s a look back at some April 2014 info.

The 2014 AACE Award winners were announced.

ESOPs were debated at the Supreme Court.

The 2014 Silver ESOP Award Recipients were announced.

We updated the Association’s Outside Board Registry.

We noted a few resources on the Association’s website.

The April 2014 ESOP Report was published.

The 37th Annual Conference App was released.

If you’re joining us at the 37th Annual Conference, here are a few bits of useful info.

The Employee Ownership Foundation announced prizes for the Auction being held at the Annual Conference.

Congratulations to this year’s Chapter award winners.

Filed under: AACE - Annual Awards for Communications Excellence, Chapter News, Conference Information, Employee Ownership Foundation, Government Affairs, Silver ESOP Awards, TEA Members, , , ,

Employee Ownership Foundation to Hold Live Auction at the 37th Annual Conference in Washington, DC in May

A few more updates about the upcoming Annual Conference next week…

On Friday, May 9, 2014, the Employee Ownership Foundation will hold a live auction during the Friday luncheon to benefit the Foundation and to support programs that will increase the level of awareness and appreciation of the benefits of employee ownership in America.

Come prepared to bid on a favorite prize and support the Foundation and employee ownership in America!

(click the photos to enlarge)

EOF_PubAuction_4.21.14_(2)In addition to the live auction at the Friday lunch, a silent auction will also take place. Some great prizes are available.

EOF_SilentAuction_Pg1EOF_SilentAuction_Pg2The Employee Ownership Foundation Booth will also have copies of The Citizen’s Share: Putting Ownership Back into Democracy by Joseph R. Blasi, Richard B. Freeman, and Douglas L. Kruse. A $20 minimum contribution to the Employee Ownership Foundation is suggested per copy. A review is here.

Filed under: Conference Information, Employee Ownership Foundation, , , ,

Employee Ownership Foundation – Charles R. Edmunson Scholarships

FoundationThe Employee Ownership Foundation is accepting applications for the 2014 Charles R. Edmunson Scholarships. Information is available on the Employee Ownership Foundation website. The deadline for all 2014 Edmunson Scholarship Application is March 7, 2014.

This Scholarship program honors employee ownership leader and advocate Charles R. Edmunson who dedicated a significant part of his life to educating employee owners of the benefits of widespread ownership in a free enterprise system. Mr. Edmunson was also instrumental in the creation of the Employee Ownership Foundation.

An Edmunson Scholarship awards an ESOP employer up to $1,250 to defray the expense of sending employee owners to employee ownership training programs such as the Employee Ownership Foundation’s Employee Owner Retreat or the Association’s Annual Conference in Washington, DC. The Scholarship may also be used for Association Chapter and Regional Conferences. The Scholarship is for non-managerial employee owners.

Filed under: Employee Ownership Foundation, ,

Thoughts on the Leading in an Ownership Setting Program


We wanted to highlight this guest post from Dave Ferraro of Carris Reels who shares a few thoughts on his experience at the Leading in an Ownership Setting Program. More information about the program is here. 

Leading in an Ownership Setting – A Participant’s First-Hand Experience.

By Dave Ferraro, Carris Reels, Proctor, VT

Eighteen months before our current CEO had planned to retire, I was tapped as the next CEO of Carris Reels, 1 100% ESOP company headquartered in Proctor, Vermont. At the time I have spent 33 years in the sales and marketing side of the business. As we discussed the possibility of my assuming the CEO role, I became deeply aware of the enormity of the responsibility that went with the position. On the recommendation of the CEO I was succeeding who had attended an earlier program, I signed up for the Penn ESOP CEO Leadership Development Program.

Seventeen of us arrived on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania one Sunday in late June to begin the program. Our self introductions were stiff, our apprehension was apparent, and the tension in the room was palpable. Yet after the first day, between a well-planned exercise and break outs into smaller groups, the group opened up, people relaxed, conversation flowed, and humor ensued – the class was engaged.

Later in the week, we would realize we had only scratched the surface of the trust, sincerity and frank discussions that would follow. Our facilitator had the pleasure of telling us that we were to disconnect from our electronic communication tools for the week as much as we possibly could so that we could focus on our work together, and we did. For 8 days over two sessions, this group met at 7:30, remained in the meeting room where lunch was served, took 30 minutes out before dinner together and then returned to our rooms to do some ‘homework’ to prepare for the next day. The result was that we grew together in many ways.

I want to touch on just a few of the gifts I gained from these sessions.

The content and agenda for the program was well-planned and targeted to what we would find useful as ESOP company leaders. The credentialed presenters, people with faculty experience at Penn, had relevant building blocks, much of which we’d later debate and mold into something that we could use in our respective companies.

Dr. Michael Baime, Director of the Mindfulness Center at Penn’s School of Medicine, conducted an impressionable session on mindfulness. He had the room captive as he spoke. However, you probably can imagine the looks around the room when he said – ‘OK we’re going to meditate.’ More than a few eyes rolled, but we tried it. 45 minutes later I heard remarks like – ‘wow, I’ve never been THERE before’ and ‘I think I found my happy place.’ We learned the importance of mindfulness in being fully aware of ourselves and those around us so that we could listen more effectively and be better attuned to our responses to people and situations.

It is just this type of experiential learning that resonated. The depth and relevance of data and research presented by other faculty provided fresh concepts to bring back to our companies.

The class was composed of 9 current CEO’s and 8 people who would be incoming CEOs sometime in the next couple of years. We shared key successes and mistakes – which is second best to experiencing them oneself. The real world learning was so much deeper that what you could ever expect from a class, a course or even a good read. The integration of our personal experience with the material presented throughout the program was one of the real highlights of our learning.

As participants, we had open and honest exchanges around philosophies, practices and failures of 17 company leaders that seeded our minds with experience. So many other classroom-based programs or seminars are taught from the perspective of academia, that they aren’t really useful in practice. This program was different. It really was directed at giving us concepts, research and ideas and then having us talk through with one another how the ideas applied or could apply to building the culture in our company.

There was one overwhelming theme woven through the program – CULTURE IS EVERYTHING. So what is it that makes a culture strong? By the end of session 2, we departed with the 5 key elements to further culture; 1)clarity of vision 2)passion for vision/mission/company 3) communication and transparency 4) focused attention, and, 5) alignment.

The program design included frequent small group breakout sessions of 3 – 4 people which provided a forum of thinking through application with trusted peers. Our interaction opened a door for subsequent provocative inner reflection. As full as our days and evenings were, all admitted to spending time with their notes following dinner each evening.

One of the days the program included an out-of-classroom experience participating in Philadelphia’s extensive Mural Arts program. The program founder, Jane Golden, first shared the profound story of how, through her passion, she orchestrated the funding and creation by community artists and residents of more than 3000 murals in some of the poorest sections of Philadelphia. Her inspiration has generated pride and participation in communities where hope was just a dream. We had the pleasure to work on a mural as a group (some said we painted but the local artists said that was kind). Some of these murals occupy 4-6 story buildings and take months to complete. They’ve reduced crime and drug activity in some communities as residents recognize what they can accomplish with a little encouragement.

Our program facilitators kept us busy as well between the two sessions at Penn. We each visited at least 2 other companies of other participants to observe their company’s culture. We looked for the answers to questions such as:

  • How do employee owners have a voice?
  • What do you see that tells you what is important in the culture?
  • How do employee owners act like co-owners of the company?
  • What ownership structures and committees exist?
  • How do the leaders maintain, reinforce or strengthen culture?

We had three program participants visit Carris. The unexpected surprise was the value of the learning that occurred for our own employee owners as a result of talking to our visitors about their respective companies. Their discussion afforded an important reference point that could serve as a benchmark for us. In the second session at Penn (four months after the first session) we shared what we had learned from our visits. This discussion was very revealing, in that some things we each had taken for granted were recognized as best practices. At the same time the entire classroom was taking copious notes of collective observations and ideas that they could investigate further with individual leaders whose company they may not have had a chance to visit.

While you can’t take someone else’s culture wholesale and drop it into your company, you can take pieces and modify them to fit in your culture to reinforce or model specific values. Just as we learned, culture is not a unrelated set of disconnected parts, but rather a set of practices, policies, and structures that are aligned to develop and reinforce an articulated set of values and behaviors that connect to the concept of shared ownership.

Despite a well-planned agenda and set of faculty presentations, it was often the space left for “emerging topics” where some of the more relevant content came to the surface. One day we had a session where the group initially divided into those who had been in the CEO role for more than 2 or 3 years and those who were new to the role or not yet in the role. Then the two groups came together in a circle so that the new CEOs or CEOs-to-be could question the experienced CEO’s about what they had learned and what they might do differently as they entered the CEO role. The take-aways from this 90 minute discussion have proven invaluable to me as I am about to take up my new position as CEO.

The first day of session two, we were given a tough assignment. We had to write a tribute to OURSELVES as we would like it to be at our future retirement:

Tonight hundreds of people will gather to honor you as The Employee-owned Company Leader of the Year. People will praise your character, performance, accomplishments, passions, frustrations.

The groans were deafening as the assignment was made (pity the instructor). For the next three days we’d ask one another, “Have you started yet?” When Day 4 arrived, everyone was watching the clock hoping we’d run out of time – but our ‘taskmaster’ would not have it. With a big smile she said those dreaded words: ‘it’s time for your tributes’! We had one individual who had been outspoken and full of humor throughout our time together. He volunteered to go first. He began by getting up and passing a box of tissues around the table for any tears he knew were imminent. Next he opened his Ipad and started to read his self-tribute as the theme from Rocky began playing in the background. That was the icebreaker we needed. These tributes were another example of opening oneself amidst a group of authentic and caring ESOP company leaders who are driven to make their companies the best.

Looking back – calling this “a class” is misleading –it’s more like 8 days of immersion into a veteran ownership pool of CEOs and soon-to-bes. People committed to the same ends, sharing common challenges, opportunities and strategies.

So, what did I gain from spending the extensive and intensive time in this program?

1. A Network. First, I developed a network of 16 other people I can pick up the phone and ask ANY, and I mean ANY, question about their business, their ESOP or to gain their input on my plans. They know they can do the same with me. Though the formal program ended, the learning has continued. I visited another company later in the year on my own and have had calls and meetings with others in the program when we have been able to get together.

2. Succession. I am moving into the CEO role at the beginning of this year. I am committed to using my own style to effect change as a leader, rather than trying to become the people who have had the role before me.

3. A plan. The program helped me to develop a roadmap for what I want to accomplish as the CEO of Carris. I know there will be many secondary roads and detours. However, I discovered how to avoid many of the potential potholes along the way and I am aware of the many stops I will need to take to check whether our culture is developing the way we want it to.

I cannot imagine a better preparation for soon to be CEO’s than being a participant in Leading in an Ownership Setting.

Filed under: Employee Ownership Foundation, , , ,

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