AVIAN Media Network

Employee Ownership – Going All In

Work Awesome EP206

Employee Ownership – Going All In

Work Awesome EP206

If I told you, you could own part of the company you worked for, would you believe me? Employee ownership is just that! Working for an employee-owned company has its benefits, and in this episode, we’ll chat about what we’ve learned about employee ownership in the first two (three?) years of working at an employee-owned company.

The Work Awesome Podcast is a part of the Work Awesome Network, powered by AVIAN.

Follow the Work Awesome Network where ever you get your content: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok: @workawesomenetwork


Hey podcast listeners, I just want to jump in and say first of all, thank you for listening to this episode of the work. Awesome podcast If you aren't following us on social media, please head over to Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. Wherever you get your content from and make sure you're following so that you have the latest updates on blogs on new videos on new episodes coming out all on the work. Awesome network. If you haven't looked into the company behind the work. Awesome network.

Alien, I encourage you to do that as well. Please head over to 18.com to learn more about avian and how you can make your next transition in your career. If you're on a platform that allows you to rate or comment or interact with the podcast in some way, please do that helps out tremendously. Thanks again and now back to the podcast. Welcome to the workouts and podcast. This is Episode 6 employee ownership going all in so fun. Fact avian is a partially employee owned company. We are 49% employee owned. We'll talk more about that later.

But today I have Sarah and Tara to talk about this topic with me.

The description for this episode, if I told you you could own part of the company you work for, would you believe me employee ownership is just that? Working on and working for an employee owned company has its benefits. In this episode we'll chat about what we've learned about employee ownership in the first two or three years of working at an employee owned company.

Anne Terry, you can. You can probably give me a more accurate number. 'cause is it two years?

Or three years that will be.

Three years this summer. That's why I thought so almost three years. Avon has been employee owned pretty.

Pretty much still in the infancy stages, I would say you're a baby. Yeah, yeah, so long longer to have ahead of us, but it is still very exciting and a really cool topic to talk about both internally and externally.

So Tara, this will be on.

This is the second episode or recording with you, or maybe third episode or recording with you. I don't know, but the first one I think that will be released. What episodes are you on? I don't remember.

Maybe this isn't the first one either way.

I could still tell.

You please explain what you do for the company as the Director of Communications.

Yes, I will so.

I'm Terra circle and I'm the director of communications here at avian, and what I do is manage and oversee all of our internal and external communication products, so those are written visual everything that he is doing from a digital standpoint, some really exciting things, yeah?

She is our.


and then Sarah of course is our talent Resource Manager in IMR integrated communications and marketing specialist. I feel like every once in awhile I switched those words. I'm like integrated marketing communication specialist for integrated communications marketing. I don't know that it matters but I switch on everyone's well.

I couldn't wait to hear what you're going to say next.

About what?

By your title.

Oh yes.

Well, maybe I should just start making him up. That would be more fun I.

Think right think that it would be a lot of.

Fun, yeah, alright, let's do that next time next round 'cause we're almost done recording the first few episodes for this season.

So let's just start off with a very basic, complex question. What is?

Basic complex question. Got it what?

IS employee ownership.

So do you want my definition of the benefit to employees as far as like stock ownership or what it means?

Let's go with like if I were to open up a Dictionary of business terms, what would that dictionary say? Employee ownership? And then we'll talk more about the benefits and stuff later.

Yeah, so I guess the way that I explain employee ownership, especially to new hires that are joining the company it is it is actively playing a role in what your organization is doing and and kind of.

Being a part of is its success, so I guess that's kind of a basic explanation of it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you make all the decisions within the company. I far from make all of the decisions, but as an employee owner I actively seek out ways to contribute to the company's overall growth and success.

Yeah, and I guess the only term, not the only term one of the terms that pops into my head is like investment. So by coming to work every day by doing the best job that we can, we're investing in the company that we work for. Does that make sense?

So we'll talk about some success stories. There's one big one that we always bring up that I like talking about, 'cause I like to think that it's going to happen to us, and at some point. But yeah, investing in the company that you work for by showing up.

So I think that yeah, I think that's the basic.

I mean, it's it's the idea that you're you're doing more than just a job, it's it's. Yes, you are doing a job. You are completing a task, you produce a product, but employee ownership is really how you do that to to continue to make the company and yourself successful.

Yeah, I do want to say at the very beginning of this podcast episode that we are going to talk a lot about like what employee ownership is in a lot of just like definitions and what it does for a company.

At the end, we're going to tie it back to recruiting so Sarah be ready for that.

I'm ready.

But it's not going to be delivery and.

So the next question, why would a company want to be employee and what are the benefits to the company as a whole I guess.

So to me, that's an easy one, because when you have employees that are invested in a different way, you're not just punching your time Clock in and kind of going home and not thinking about it holistically. You get employees that then provide you with really great solutions. We get some really wonderful suggestions when people feel as though this is.

This is our company and and we have thoughts and ideas to make it the best it can be. So as as an employee or as a business owner that that's what you want. You want people to feel like it's there's treat it like it's theirs.

Right, and so we're going on year three. That means I was and Sarah were both here. Probably, I think one or two years before we want to employ on maybe one and a.

Half years, almost five years. Yeah this.

This next January will be my.

Five year, which is weird to say, but.

Five years, right?

So I forget where I was going with that statement. Oh, I remember now this meeting that we have internally horizons. So I, I'm pretty comfortable saying before we are employee owned horizons.

It served a purpose, but I don't know that the people within Avian knew what that purpose was. Now that we're employee owned, now that we all have this investment, the stake in the company.

Pause, I'm sorry for everybody listening. I always hit the table and it makes really known noises in the speakers. I'm going to try to stop doing that.

So horizons they it's.

A very basic overview. It's kind of like a business development meeting where we come up with new ideas for the company and kind of decide if it's something that is feasible to follow and to go down the path of.

But before we were employee owned.

I don't think there was the same investment. Same understanding of what it did for the company. Now that we're employee owned, everyone wants the company to grow. So it seems like there's more participation in horizons because everyone has this understanding of if they come up with good ideas that potentially make money for the company, that's going to help them in the long run. I guess the one thing we didn't explain is what?

What's the monetary value of employee ownership for?

Yeah, so so I gave the general description of employee ownership. Kind of high in the Sky like way up High View employee ownership in what it comes with when you decide to become an employee owned company it has stock benefits. So you you start an employee stock ownership plan an those stock benefits. Every year. The company is valuated and based on how well your company is performing.

You get a stamp that says your company is worth X, which then translates into based on how different esops do it differently. But.

You then get a retirement benefit from that if you are a plan participant in that plan, so it's the benefits side to employees. The monetary side is that if the company continues to perform well year after year and that stock price grows your your stock that you get allocated based on your vesting schedules and all kinds of great formulas.

You then potentially get a pretty substantial payout when you retire. We know companies that have people have been ESOP for 10 plus years or more, and they retire and they have six figures in their employee ownership account. So really, really crazy to think about that. But yeah, those are the monetary rewards.

Right, so I guess there to tie this a little bit back into recruiting. Before that big question I have at the end.

Has have you received any questions thus far about us being an employee owned company and what are those questions look like? What are the answers just?

Stairwell ideas, I think the initial response that I typically get is that people are really interested in that because they don't get that very often when there are jobs job seeking, but and then they kind of want to know the details, I want to understand is it you know, are they just given stock are they? Is there vesting schedule so?

Some of those similar questions that people would ask about a 401K or other benefits, but I think the general feeling is that it's a. It's a huge benefit to have a situation where your success is contributing to the success of the company.

And I think that's a great point. Is that how you TIE employee ownership into the actual benefit you get from it? Is every day we come to work with the potential to affect that stock price in a positive way. So you go into that knowing that an maybe you, maybe you.

React to things a little bit differently, yeah?


Let's just move on to this next question. What what is ownership culture?


I guess the way that we talk about internally is more a culture of ownership. So it's worded a little bit differently. It's to me, it's it's the same idea of everyone's invested in the company. Everyone should want to help the company grow, because in the long run that's going to help their stocks grow and hopefully get to that 6 figure someday at retirement.

So I think that when you brought up horizons that made me think a little bit about the company and its history.

Before we became employee owned in 2018, we had an ownership culture right and that's why the transition from being, you know, an LLC to to an employee owned business and an avian inkinen employee owned business it.

It wasn't a hard transition because people already had that thought. The corporate value of taking care of each other. That's why it's so important when you're looking for an organization to find that culture that fits your values.

This was just yet another way that the company demonstrated that value and and so when I think about like this organizational ownership culture, it's it's really about how can we collectively do something that we all find success from and we all benefit from.

Right, and I guess the so I mentioned earlier that we are 49% employee and there are some like technical reasons why we're not 100% employee owned, which I don't want to get too far into, but it was a decision on.

Kevin Sherman, who Kevin is our CEO chermas RC.

O rounder yes?

So they both found it. Avianna Sherman founded Avian before Kevin, but then there's a whole story there. If you haven't seen our 15 year anniversary, I suggest watching that.

But there are some technical aspects to why we are 49% employee and I just wanted to bring that up. So let's talk about that success story that we always talk about a government contractor that you may or may not have heard of. If you work in the government contract ING World SAIC so now present day SAIC is a public company, their stock is traded on the stock market before they were a public company. They were actually employee owned.


I guess I'll tell the story, the story goes.

So started employee owned. Very small company kind of grew rapidly and exponentially right? So at the end of the day when they shifted from employee onto public, there were a lot of really really nice payouts for those people.

Seven figures for some people, yeah.

So we actually one of our.

Chiefs work for SSC at that time and he said yes one day the executive assistants were coming in and.

Ford Taurus is and regular cars. In the next day they were coming in and Porsches and BMW's and could basically buy whatever they wanted. So really cool kind of success story there. It's cool for us because.

It's in the same sector that we were in, so it's in the same industry they were government contractor. They did more, kind of.

Product related things. I would say than we do, but it's still cool to know that that opportunity is out there.

Well, the the major correlation between SAIC an US especially in their early years. Because we we kind of study, they wrote a book about it and we kind of studied well. What did they do that was successful and why? How are we alike and how are we different? And it's really about being a purpose driven organization. And SAIC, I don't know much about the inner workings of SAIC now, but at least SAIC in there.

Early years per their book from their original founder. They were very purpose driven. They had very specific things that they were going to do, but they also gave their employees the trust and the the empowerment to go off and create their own work to go off and build and grow. And as they continue to do that they they just kind of started standing up all these different. We call them sectors. I don't know what division right?

Ann and they just kept growing and growing and growing, and with that autonomy.

That is also part of that ownership culture. They treated it like their own, and that's that's one of the main reasons why they they felt like they were so successful.


Off the top of your head, what?

Types of.

Events is the right word, but what types of things do we do? I know you're like the master because you have this all in.

Your head I hope.

What types of things do we do that directly come out of the employee ownership plan or program so like?

For example.

We've always had all hands meetings where it's a lot of internal information passed once we became an employee owned company. It's kind of a small change, but still I think significant because it helps people understand new employees. I mean, understand within the company that the titles for those meetings change from all hands, meetings to all owners, meetings, the information being passed became much more specific. So Kevin, our CEO, was giving us pretty much exact numbers on how the company was doing, because now it's something that.

We should be interested in it's.

A it's a window into the the health of the business. That and again that's part of what aliens culture overall has been over the years. They've always been very, very open with with what's going on with the organization. But yes, as an ESOP it starts to then an employee owned company. It starts to really fall into place of what those things mean. Now for individuals, not just OK or companies doing really great. That's wonderful. I love being part of a successful company, yay.

You you get to experience it in a different way, and especially when the company then provides you with opportunities to to again actually help with some of those ways that are going to increase our company value in the stop.

Right and the one other thing that may go over some folks. Heads within Alien is that our business development team is growing pretty rapidly. I would say, and that isn't just because they want to grow rapidly. That's because.

Kevin wants to grow the company, which in the long run is going to help everyone's employee ownership.

Really helps things to start click together, right?

They provide some of that context. Some of that glue behind you know you are a an employee that is providing a direct service to a particular customer and that is your job an but you work for a larger organization an our organizational purpose or organizational goals. You start to then maybe understand them differently and how what you are doing in with your customer plays a bigger role right in the big.

Picture yeah, definitely. Alright. So Sarah.

The big question this one may throw you for a loop not going to lie.

So let's say scenario, I'm a candidate sitting in an interview and you.

Are trying to sell employee ownership to them? What is it that you would tell them about employee ownership basically?

I think the biggest an an as you mentioned in I have been here I was here before. I was here about two years, I think before yeah, two years before we became an ESOP. So I kind of saw that transition. I mean, I do feel like we had a very strong employee culture prior to the ESOP, so I don't think that that I'm not trans with less than that at all. But what I would say is that.

Having a culture in an employee ownership program is you really do feel like you have you are doing more than just filling a seat or filling a billet or filling a role and you it's maybe a little bit of an added responsibility with that bonus, but it but it, but it does make it very meaningful to work. You're going to work to support.

Your part in the ownership as well as your team's part in the ownership, and I think that's an important Part 2 is that I really want Terra to feel success in her ownership at AVN. I want Terra to have a healthy position here for a long, long time, so when I'm going to work and trying to do my best, and you know, employees trying to bring new business or think of an innovative new ways.

To do business?

We're doing that for our team as well as ourselves, and I think that that's a good feeling that's more than just punching a time Clock and and I feel like many of us really want to do more than just punch a time Clock when we come to work. I also believe that when you have a company that you have that much buy in, and that much.

Ownership then you want to stay with that company and grow an Ann. Develop an you know.

Work, work your way up as well and I I believe that that having that type of employee in the company just strengthens it.

Yeah, and there's some past episodes that I kind of directly into this where we talk about finding your path and all kinds of different things that may seem kind of out there, but they all do tie together and kind of fall under this umbrella of like you're saying, making sure that you're.

Working for something a little bit more valuable than just punching your timecard, yeah.

And and something that Sarah said about kind of celebrating team successes or or really recognizing within other people when they do a great job. I think it for me. It is added more awareness for me of when people do a great job when there they're doing wonderful amazing work for their customers because that'll, again, that. Then it's like. Yes, this is awesome. This is awesome for you personally.

This is awesome for the company and I get to then celebrate that as well because I am part owner in this organization. Yeah, absolutely.

Alright, I think there's a as always with these general topics. There's a lot more that we could talk about with employee ownership and.

I think maybe this Season 4.

Will touch on employee ownership again.

But I do want to wrap it up here. Are there any last minute thoughts that you guys have on employee ownership?

I do think that employee ownership can be separate from employee stock ownership plans like you can have. You can have an ownership culture within a company without having to have an ESOP. I think an ESOP is an excellent if you're looking for a job, and you see that the company is certified employee owned, that's great.

But if they're not there, culture, which again, we've talked about in some of our other episodes, also kind of play into those pieces about what are the benefits.

Of yeah, and I think you actually when you said that avian had an employee ownership culture before we were actually employee owned. I think like you said, again, that just made that transition so much easier. So yeah.

Alright, if that's

it, then we can wrap it up on the next episode. We're talking about the post pandemic work life, so a full 90 degree turn into what work life might look like after the pandemic. So this is a very hypothetical conversation we already had it actually, so I can tell you it's actually a really good one and I'm excited to share it with everybody.

Until then, I will see everybody next time.

Perfect, she waited until the end.

How is goodbye from Daisy?