Stringing Pieces Together for the Future of ESOPs

This article originally ran as the President’s Page column in the October 2013 issue of the ESOP Report, the newsletter of The ESOP Association. The ESOP Report newsletter is available to Association members on the website.

While Employee Ownership Month (EOM), the Annual Awards for Communications Excellence (AACE), and a national policy sanctioned by the Federal government, might seem disconnected, as a package all are important to each and every employee owner in the United States.

A note about each:

2013 EOM Poster ComSonics - ESOP Poster 2013 72 dpiEOM (see page one for more info; the 2013 poster contest winner is at left) was born in the late 80s as an idea promoted by former Executive Director of the National Center for Employee Ownership, Corey Rosen. When it was presented to the then primary governing body of the Association, the seven person Executive Committee of the Association’s 40 person Board of Directors, the reaction was not enthusiastic. Two or three men on the Executive Committee — in those days all leaders of the Association were men — were of the same mind that it would be an intrusion on the individual plans of each Association member who was doing their “own” thing. As one leader said, “Every month at my company is Employee Ownership Month!” On the other hand, two or three of the men were of the mind that Mr. Rosen had an excellent idea.

With the passage of a few years, and the view that EOM would be a good thing, the Association went all in to promote employee ownership among its corporate members and the idea of “celebrating” the unique, and positive, impact broad based ownership has on an ESOP company and its employees.

Go to our blog and/or YouTube Channel to see what is happening today — special events, visits by decision makers, both local government and national, and meaningful education about how an ESOP company can make each employee more satisfied, with more financial security, than any other organizational structure of a for profit enterprise. And, if you are not into learning from blogs and YouTube, just take time to peruse the Association’s priceless Press and Event Planning Kit for EOM. It contains a “how to” with examples of all the steps and activities an ESOP company can take to enhance ownership among employees, become more noticed and respected in their community, and impact those who consider laws that affect their companies and their employees’ retirement security.

esopaacedarkerBut the one Association program, and this has been stated over and over, that has motivated more to put emphasis on making an ESOP company be all it can be, which only happens when employee owners commit to the fact that, when individual effort is maximized, the “team” wins. This Association program is the AACE program. While thrilling to win a “national” AACE Award recognition, with a modest financial “prize” such as complimentary registration to the Association’s Annual Conference, it’s not the only point of the AACE program. The mere process of cataloging what a company is doing to enhance the impact of wide spread ownership among all full-time employees is a “winner.” Employee owners in a company working on an AACE entry begin to appreciate what their company is doing to make the company special, learning how the more subjective power of ownership is being perceived by fellow employees, and utilizing that learning process more effectively that results in a higher performing company. Each year the process becomes more professional; in turn the Association has to conform AACE rules to new methods of communications, internal and external, that make the process even more professional.

And never ever overlook that part and parcel of the AACE process is the generation of creativity, for example, the posters for the poster contest. Creativity builds team spirit and appreciation. Photos of all poster entries going back to 2007 can be viewed on the Association’s website. Login using the Members Login button at the top of the homepage. Go to About the Association. On the left side menu, under Leadership, click Advisory Committees. The posters are located on the Ownership Culture Committee page.

Our nation has a very modest national policy to encourage employee ownership through the ESOP model. Never kid yourself; there are people who love being cynics and who are by nature, naysayers. Some of these folks occupy positions that influence leaders of the Executive Branch of the government, as evidenced by the Administration’s position that a company with over $5 million in gross revenue a year should not have an ESOP. Some of these folks occupy top positions in the decision making process of the Congress where tax and labor laws are made. I know as I have listened to many a member of Congress talk about lower tax rates, and eliminating special rules for certain behavior, which would include ESOPs, as the best thing Congress can do for American business.

But what EOM and AACE do is prove the pudding is an excellent pudding the vast majority of time. The ESOP pudding proves its worth in a vivid manner when showcasing its ingredients with EOM activities, and posters that become visible in communities across America.

Together, EOM and AACE are key elements in saving ESOPs from the cynics.

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