Since March, in-person ESOP meetings have been difficult to conduct. Given the current situation, here are two strategies ESOP companies have used successfully with Workplace Development’s help to engage employees as owners.
Going 100% virtual at DC Elevator
DC Elevator is an elevator installation, maintenance and service ESOP headquartered in Lexington, KY. It has a tradition of holding an in-person annual meeting where employee owners:
- Get updates on business performance
- Learn what was contributed to their ESOP accounts
- Receive hands-on ownership training
- Hear a 401k update
- Get their annual ESOP statements
“Because of the virus, we decided to move our annual meeting to a virtual format,” said company President, Steve Bowlds. “Our guys are used to having a meeting, so doing nothing wasn’t an option.”
To communicate its ownership message, the company developed a series of videos. It housed them on an annual meeting page within the employee portal of its intranet. The format enabled employee owners in the field or office to access the videos at any time, from any device that connects to the internet, including their television at home.
“We miss the live interaction with employees and felt it was critical to keep them updated on their company,” Bowlds commented. The videos include:
- An update on DC Elevator’s business, featuring animated performance information
- An analysis of ESOP stock value and the trustee’s role in the process (by the external trustee, Mark Mills of Mills, Potoczak and Company)
- An overview of the company’s 401k provided by PNC Bank
- A personalized ESOP update, featuring a sample DC Elevator participant statement
- Practical information on resilience
The videos communicated DC Elevator’s business results, how ESOP companies perform during challenging times, and “what I can do as an employee owner to be more resilient both in my job and personal life.”
“Given this is the first time we’ve done a virtual annual meeting, we’re pleased with how it turned out,” Bowlds said. “There’s a lot of valuable information available for our employee owners.”
A mixture of live and remote at BSC Ventures
BSC Ventures took a different path from DC Elevator for its annual meetings. The 100% ESOP with facilities in four different states normally performs a “road show” where its corporate leadership team visits each facility. The meeting agenda includes:
- Update on business results
- Share the new stock value and “guess the value” contest winners
- Illustrate what happened to employees’ ESOP accounts
- Distribute the annual participant statement and corporate SWAG
- Update employee owners on plant-level performance
“We like to visit each facility to connect with employee owners, the people who make it happen for our business every day,” said CEO Brian Sass. “It’s critical for leadership to be visible and demonstrate how important employee ownership is to our company. With the virus, it didn’t make sense to travel to all our facilities and present the meetings live to our employees. Our people wouldn’t have been able to properly social distance and maintain a safe working environment.”
BSC Ventures solution combined elements of live and remote meetings that informed its employees while maintaining personal interaction. “We split the leadership team, sending one person to each of our facilities,” Sass commented. “That way, all our employees would at least see one of the executives in person.”
All the executives participated in the live-streamed meetings from the different locations. By holding multiple meetings over several days, the company was able to socially distance employees within its facilities without interrupting production and customer service. Once the corporate update was completed, general managers from each location shared their facility’s numbers on sales, costs and EBITDA. “Given the challenges, the meetings went about as well as they could have,” said Sass. “We want to return to in-person meetings in 2021, but time will tell on that.”
By creatively using technology, both DC Elevator and BSC Ventures were able to train employee owners, communicate important business information, emphasize the value of employee ownership and, most importantly, keep everyone safe.
If you’d like to discuss how Workplace Development can help you engage employees as owners, please contact Jim Bado at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-427-2435.