Jeff Mounts: 2019 Employee Owner of the Year

Jeff Mounts, Marketing Manager at ESP International, absolutely loves a certain quote. When you hear it, you understand a lot about Jeff, why he has become an invaluable member of the Communications Committee at ESP International, and why he earned The ESOP Association award for 2019 Employee Owner of the Year.

That quote? It’s from Albert Einstein, who said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Take a look at what Jeff has helped ESP accomplish in a short time, and you see a living representation of that blend of intelligence and fun Einstein so eloquently described.

In the Beginning

When Jeff joined ESP five years ago, he did so based on the recommendation of his college roommate and with the goal of shortening his commute. The ESOP? He had no idea what that was. But he learned quickly. And as a member of the Marketing Department, he soon joined the Communications Committee and became involved in marketing ESP’s ESOP.

Initially, Jeff wanted simply to educate himself, but the committee soon found he was a natural at educating others too. Leveraging his graphics and video skills, Jeff personally produced a series of short videos that are now some of the company’s best ESOP education content.

Later, as co-chair, he led the creation of the committee’s strategic plan and challenged the team to create innovative ideas to educate and engage employee-owners.

Communicating Internally and Externally

ESP’s Communications Committee exists primarily to educate ESP employees about their ESOP and to increase employee owners’ business literacy. But it also works to share information about ESOPs to external audiences. For example, the company has repeatedly and successfully engaged its elected officials in Congress. In fact, Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA-2), has visited ESP locations multiple times.

The group also works externally to educate the community about employee ownership—or, as Jeff puts it, to “make the ESP story public.” He has found that the website has become an incredibly important vehicle for carrying ESP’s message about its ESOP to a broader audience.

One of the ways the company engages the broader community is through its Charitable Foundation. Each year, ESP employees vote for the charity they would like to see the Foundation sponsor. Throughout the year they host fundraisers and donate a majority of the proceeds to that charity; the remaining funds are used to support other local non-profits.
The 2019 Charity of the Year was The Freedom Foundation.

How Does ESP Celebrate EOM?

Another way that ESP educates employees and the community is through its October Employee Ownership Month (EOM) activities. With a full calendar of events planned down to the day, ESP takes EOM to the next level. Activities include an EOM poster competition, company-wide ESOP Trivia Tuesdays, Business Literacy Thursdays, a can drive for charity, and more!

Clearly Jeff and his fellow committee members have taken his favorite quote to heart, using creativity to make business intelligence and ESOP education fun. (For EOM resources check out The ESOP Association’s EOM web page.)

Sharing: Key to Success

One of Jeff’s suggestions is to tap the existing knowledge of employee owners in other companies.

“Don’t be afraid to lean on other employee owned companies,” he says. “The Association has some pretty amazing members who are open to sharing ideas, who are willing to share what worked, what didn’t work.”

Jeff Mounts

He notes that ESP is fortunate to be located in an area with lots of employee owned companies, and he and his fellow employee owners regularly reach out to the region’s employee ownership brain trust. “We do a lot of networking and information sharing,” Jeff says. “We’ve held round tables and attended networking events in between conferences to discuss challenges, opportunities, new ideas.”

His final bit of advice: “Enjoy the fact that your owner decided to sell the company to you, the employee. It’s such a unique and amazing benefit.”

Pennsylvania State Representative Kerry Benninghoff issues a resolution declaring October employee ownership month in the state of Pennsylvania

Penn Rep Kerry Benninghoff - Restek IIPenn 2015 Proclamation

On October 1, 2015, Pennsylvania State Representative Kerry Benninghoff presents the employee owners of RESTEK Corporation, Bellefonte, PA., with a Resolution declaring October employee ownership month in the state of Pennsylvania.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad proclaims October to be Employee Ownership Month

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad officially proclaims October to be Employee Ownership Month in the State of Iowa during an official signing ceremony held at the Governor’s office on September 29, 2015. The signing was witnessed by several Iowa/Nebraska Chapter members.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad officially proclaims October to be Employee Ownership Month in the State of Iowa
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad officially proclaims October to be Employee Ownership Month in the State of Iowa.

2015 Iowa October ESOP Month Proclamtion

A proclamation is an easy way to alert your elected officials to ESOPs in their community, district, or state. A proclamation is issued by a legislative body designating an official observance of Employee Ownership Month. You can ask your mayor, state representative, or governor to issue a proclamation.

ESOPs on YouTube

On The ESOP Association’s website, there are links to some great videos by ESOP Association members. These videos provide a laugh, some thoughtful introspection on being part of an ESOP company, and the benefits of being employee owned.  There are also a few policy based videos as well that bring a different perspective to the conversation.  In the spirit of sharing the ESOP message during Employee Ownership Month, we thought we’d share the link to let you see for yourself what a creative bunch ESOP people are.  Keep in mind, this is just a sample, there are MANY more out there.

You can find the list here.

Social Networking ESOPs and YouTube TEA page 2

NOTE: If you’re a member of The ESOP Association and would like us to highlight your video on The ESOP Association’s website and on the Employee Ownership Blog, please send an email to media AT with a link to the video and we’ll include a link.

Stay Focused

This article originally ran as the Washington Report 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.

With the conclusion of Employee Ownership Month, we thought it was an important message to stay focused on your ESOP.

There is no question that the mess in D.C. with the Congress and the President not able to keep basic government functions operational causes most people to throw their hands up and say, “Don’t bother me about possible legislative action involving ESOP laws; Congress cannot even keep the government’s doors open. Fie on all.”

This reaction dominates citizen views, be they left, right, middle of the road, or all of the above.

This column has often said that the effective advocate has to understand the Big Picture to win a specific campaign for ESOPs. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

So, ESOP advocates will be taking a very risky posture to tune down outreach to their members of Congress on the grounds that Congress will do nothing to alter current tax laws to the detriment of employee owners.

Number one, the Congressional tax committees are not Congress. What they do in developing new tax laws is not 100%, or even 50%, determined by the Congressional and White House gridlock.

Number two, what the tax committees do is 90% of the final tax law changes that will be included in a reformed tax code when action by Congress is finally taken.

In other words, the tax committees may finalize their versions of a new tax bill in 2014, and Congress may not send a new tax reform proposal to the President until 2015/2016 or even beyond. But that 2015/2016 proposal will be very likely be nearly the same as what the tax committees agreed to in 2013/2014.

Number three, what is the negative outcome of ESOP advocates continuing to make the case that the Federal tax code should continue a modest national policy to continue the best jobs policy in the U.S. because ESOP companies in the vast majority of instances are more productive, more profitable providing locally-controlled, sustainable jobs with excellent retirement savings benefits? There is none.

Some ESOP advocates also explain their sitting on the sidelines because her or his member of Congress is not on the Congressional tax committees — the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Constituent to member advocacy is the most effective advocacy work possible; the second most effective advocacy work is Congressional member to Congressional member. In other words, a Republican member of Congress not on Ways and Means advocating for ESOPs because her or his constituent has asked him or her to do so with a Republican on the tax committee, especially if from the same state or region, is very effective. In other words, a pro-ESOP statement from a Texas Republican not on Ways and Means to a Texas Republican on Ways and Means or a New England Democrat not on Ways and Means to a New England Democrat on Ways and Means is priceless.

In sum, do not let disgust with partisan shenanigans in D.C. back you off advocating for ESOPs with your Congress people.

Be safe; not sorry.

And One More Employee Ownership Month Post

Today’s Employee Ownership Month (EOM) ideas come from ESOP Association members, Carl Warren & Company and ComSonics, Inc.

Carl Warren & Company Reaches Out to Members of Congress

While not specifically related to Employee Ownership Month, it’s a great year round project by the employee owners of Carl Warren & Company to raise the company profile and get the most out of their ESOP Company of the Year title in 2013. The employee owners are reaching out to their members of Congress and telling them about being named the 2013 ESOP Company of the Year.

Earlier in the year, the company received letters of congratulations from Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) congratulating the employee owners in the Georgia location; a certificate of recognition from Placentia Mayor, Scott Nelson; and a letter of congratulations from Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) to the employee owners in the Kansas location. See this post for the letters. Additionally, former Congressman Joe Baca (D-CA) stopped by the company’s office.

Thanks to Caryn Siebert and Mark Bernstein for sharing the letters.

 Carl Warren – Letter from Congressman Scott Peters

Carl Warren – Letter from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren

Carl Warren - Joe Baca with CWC team

ComSonics Inc. Pinks Out

From ComSonics, Inc.:

This year, our company has been directly impacted by breast cancer as we learned several months ago that one of our owners was diagnosed with this disease. As her treatment continues, we wanted to do something to show our support so we turned our day “Pink” on October 22nd and challenged owners to wear pink in honor of not just our fellow owner, but in honor of any loved ones who have faced this or any other health challenge in the last year. We served healthy snacks on this day also in keeping with our wellness incentives.

We were amazed by the number of guys who were proud to break out in pink and we were touched by the stories of survival and loss that were openly shared with our committee. And rather than giving the most “pink” person of the day a prize, we are preparing a special package that will be delivered to our recovering owner at home this week complete with a scrapbook from the day and special t-shirt from all of us who continue to keep her in our thoughts and prayers!

P.S. Even owners who had traveled to ATL for our national trade show on this date wore pink!

Thanks to Markita Madden for sharing the information and photos.

ComSonics 2ndshift_hbg

ComSonics christy_atl

ComSonics EOM 2

ComSonics EOM 3

ComSonics EOM

Two More EOM Celebration Ideas to Share

Today’s Employee Ownership Month (EOM) ideas come from ESOP Association members, Carris Reels and Entertainment Partners.

Carris Reels Raises a Flag and Cash

From Carris Reels:

To start off Employee Ownership Month, Carris Reels raised the ESOP flag over the company’s headquarters in Proctor, VT and employee owners in the company’s Virginia site donated an ESOP money tree to the Employee Ownership Foundation at the Mid-Atlantic Chapter conference held in early October. Employee owner, Kevin Hedrick, suggested a logo during Virginia’s October Planning Committee meeting and it was used on picnic t-shirts and throughout the month.

Carris EOM FLAG - 072


Carris EOM PaulTreeSteve

Thanks to Carris Reels for sharing photos.

Entertainment Partners Goes Old School and Sends out Employee Ownership Month Cards

The ESOP Association received this card from the employee owners of Entertainment Partners wishing everyone a happy Employee Ownership Month! Needless to say, we love it.

Entertainment Partners EOM Card 2

Entertainment Partners EOM Card

Restek Celebrates EOM with Life Long Learning

Today’s Employee Ownership Month (EOM) story comes from ESOP Association member, Restek Corporation.

On October 1st, Restek had two L3 (Life Long Learning) ESOP presentations from Jeff Gelburd of Murray Securus and Loren Rodgers of the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) to kick-off ESOP month. Jeff’s presentation outlined his ESOP history, what Murray Securus has achieved as an ESOP and what it means to be a successful ESOP. Loren’s presentation outlined the varieties of ESOPs around the world, the state of ESOPs and data on effective ESOPs. We also had a Roundtable event with our ESOP Trustees and EOCT (Employee Owners Communication Team) where we received great suggestions, ideas and feedback from Loren. We also started our ESOP trivia game the same day. I attached our agenda for ESOP month as well. Our first day of events was very informative for our employees.

Restek’s October ESOP Month Activities

  • October 1st
    • Jeff Gelburd from Murray Securus will talk to us about how the ESOP at Murray Securus functions
    • Loren Rodgers from the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) will present on the current state of ESOPs and will share some motivational words about being an ESOP company
  • October 10th
    • The EOCT will be re-showing the “We the Owners” DVD – A documentary about 3 different ESOPs are set up
    • We’ll be giving out a limited number of Restek’s ESOP poster magnets!
  • October 24th
    • Another screening of “What the Heck is an ESOP,” narrated by your favorite mad scientist, Scott Grossman, explaining how Restek’s ESOP works
    • Attendees will be entered into a raffle to win full sized Restek ESOP posters!
  • October 30th
    • Rebecca DeHainuat from our 401(k) provider will be coming to explain:
      • Accessing & Using the John Hancock Participant Website, including
      • Retirement Goal Setting
      • Retirement Fitness Quiz and Calculators

Restek EOM - JeffGelburd2013  Restek EOM - LorenRodgers2013

Restek EOM - LorenRodgersRoundtableThanks to Mike Shuey of Restek for sharing the company’s 2013 EOM events.

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Employee Ownership Month – Rodeo!

Today’s Employee Ownership Month (EOM) story comes from ESOP Association member, First National Bank of Bemidji.

Howdy! Since 2006, First National Bank of Bemidji has chosen a week in October to celebrate employee ownership. The ESOP Communications Committee began planning this year’s events in mid-August to ensure a fun-filled week for all employee owners. Celebrating our 28th year being employee-owned, this year’s theme encompassed everything “Rodeo!”

The events began on Thursday, October 3rd, with a kick-off meeting to share all of the fun events planned for the following week. The bank’s President, Tom Welle, gave our quarterly business update, and then the Rodeo commenced! With the ESOP Communications Committee dressed as rodeo clowns, rodeo queens, and a rodeo announcer, members of our Executive Management team competed in tricycle barrel racing, lassoing, and a cowboy boot putting contest. Many laughs were had, and ultimately, Tom “Leader of the Pack” Welle, won the competition, riding his horse, “Nice Guy!”

The events planned for ESOP Week included: Lassoing, Cowboy Boot Ball, a Cow-Tipping Contest, Horseshoes, and of course the return of our favorite game from last year, Sling-Shotting. The goal of Sling-Shotting this year was to knock over cans of Pork ‘n Beans! All games were played in our bank’s courtyard. Throughout our ESOP Week, there was also a Western-Themed Baking Contest, an “ESOP-Themed” Belt Buckle Contest, and “ESOP-Themed” Stick Horse Competition, and an ESOP’m Poker Tournament where cards for each employee’s poker hand were earned by answering ESOP quiz questions correctly. Employee owners wore nametags throughout the week stating, “I’m and owner,” and local media outlets covered the events throughout the week, helping to promote Employee Ownership Month. With employees dressing in casual Western-Wear throughout the week, many questions arose from customers, and many opportunities were taken to share the benefits of employee ownership!

Bemidji ESOP 3-Legged Race

Bemidji ESOP Belt Buckle Winner

Bemidji ESOP Communications Committee 2013

Bemidji ESOP Lasso

Bemidji ESOP Rodeo Clowns

Bemidji ESOP S'Mores

Bemidji ESOP Tricycle

Thanks to Nikki Brink of First National Bank of Bemidji for sharing the company’s EOM story with the Association.

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Celebrating Employee Owners – Another Employee Ownership Month Story to Share

Today’s Employee Ownership Month (EOM) story comes from ESOP Association member, Wenck Associates Inc.

Since Wenck’s founding, we have celebrated our successes together at our annual retreat. At each year’s retreat we reflect on the past year together and focus on the strengths and talents of our people as we plan for the next year. In 2006, Wenck became a 100% ESOP owned company. Our ESOP culture is driven by our members, who each act as an owner of this firm. We’re now 200+ people strong and excited about where we’re going.

Thanks to Lisa Willing of Wenck Associates Inc. for sharing this info with the Association.

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