Observations on Employee Ownership
Proud of Your Employee Ownership Plan? Let Other People Know
October 17, 2011People often ask me why, if employee ownership is such a good idea, more people don't do it. There are a lot of reasons, but the main one is that most business owners don't know much (or anything) about it, and what they do know is often wrong. You can help solve that problem and help your own employee ownership plan at the same time.
The NCEO currently is running a project funded by the Rosen Ownership Opportunities Fund to develop articles on employee ownership for trade publications and local media, and to encourage trade associations to set up panels on employee ownership at their next conference or host Webinars on the topic. You can help us by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know that you'd like to be profiled in your trade publication and/or you would be willing to contact your trade organization to urge they set up a panel or a Webinar. We will work with you from there—it will take very little of your time. You can also contact the business editor of your local paper and tell them you have a great story. Most business editors are eager to get these kinds of calls.
Getting a story in your local paper or your trade publication can be good business. You might find a new customer but, even if you do not, you can make copies of the story to give to employees and customers. Having a positive story about your company creates a great deal of pride and can provide a significant marketing advantage. In fact, some companies even hire their own public relations firms to help them make this happen. But you don't have to—we'll do it for free.
If you are promoting your own story to the media, there are a few things that reporters find especially interesting. These days, if you have managed to maintain or increase employment, that is a compelling story. If you have been able to reward employees with substantial payouts, that makes a great contrast with the difficulties most people are having coming up with enough money to retire on. If you use open-book management or other high involvement practices and can point to how that has worked for you, reporters' ears perk up, often because they wished they worked for a company like that. If your employee ownership plan meant that your company was not sold to someone else who might have moved it out of your community, that's another great story lead.
Sometimes these stories can even become viral. When Bob Moore, the owner of Bob's Red Mill, sold to an ESOP the story got picked up nationally by several major media outlets. That was in part because they got the story wrong—the initial headlines said the owner gave the company to the employees—but even after that was corrected, interest remained very high. The story line was that here was this successful, well-known enterprise that could have been sold to an outside buyer, but Bob decided he would rather keep it in the community and the employees' hands. Imagine how proud the employees must have been to see all this press.
Business leaders often think it is difficult to get media coverage. It isn't. It just takes a little effort, and we can help.