Is now the time for more employee ownership?
It was just a happy coincidence Thursday that after a briefing by the senior executives at Agilex that I saw a notice on Facebook about the documentary We the Owners being released on DVD.
We the Owners tells the story of three employee-owned companies: New Belgium Brewing, Namaste Solar and DPR Construction. One of the points of the film, which I haven’t seen, but I have watched the trailer, is extolling the benefits of employee-ownership.
Why should we care in the government market, and what’s the connection to a government contractor like Agilex?
First, Agilex is one of several employee-owned companies in the government market. Others include Calibre Systems, picked as one of the best contractors of 2012 as part of the Greater Washington Government Contractor Awards program, and American Systems Corp. And there are others that are either partially or totally employee-owned.
And while We the Owners does not look at government contractors, the movie is the brainchild of Mary Ann Beyster, the daughter of Robert Beyster, the founder of Science Applications International Corp., and a true believer in employee-ownership. Before he retired from SAIC, he founded the Beyster Institute at the University of California-San Diego and the Foundation for Enterprise Development, both of which promote entrepreneurship and employee-ownership. Mary Ann Beyster is the executive producer of the film and president of the foundation.
Whether we talk to someone such as Agilex vice chairman Jay Nussbaum, or Bill Hoover, the CEO of American Systems, or Joseph A. Martore, Calibre president and CEO, the fact their companies are employee-owned is front and center when they talk about their companies.
They attribute morale, the quality of their employees, and the quality of the work they do to being employee-owned. For them, it is a differentiator from competitors.
We had a guest column back in October by Jamie Waldren of Wells Fargo, talking about employee-ownership as a viable option over a traditional sale for owners looking to cash out and retire.
From the traffic on our website, and from the comments we received, I know the story resonated with readers. Not surprising in a market full of small businesses owned by entrepreneurs.
As I stacked up my conversation with Agilex on top of the release of We the Owners, and conversations and coverage we’ve over the last year, I began to wonder if conditions are right for a surge in employee-ownership.
I know employee-ownership isn’t the right answer for every situation, but I can't help but think, as companies feel the budget squeeze and the need to bring innovation and lower costs, that having a company full of owners has got to be an advantage.
I haven’t fleshed out all of my thinking, and maybe I’m on the wrong track, but I’m curious what others think.
Posted by Nick Wakeman on Feb 15, 2013 at 9:03 AM