California Center for Employee Ownership Update: CCEO Comes Online

By Anthony Mathews

Last May, we introduced you to a new effort aimed at spreading the word about employee ownership at local and regional levels throughout the country. Building on pioneering efforts in Ohio and Vermont, the idea of proliferating state centers throughout the U. S. was initiated by the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) and was designed to help local and regional groups form and operate centers that would be commissioned to provide information and assistance to those who are interested in employee ownership across the country. The California Center for Employee Ownership (CCEO) was born to do that here in our home state through a joint effort of the Beyster Institute at UCSD and the NCEO.

During the last year, much has happened getting the CCEO on its feet. Foremost, CCEO has taken up permanent residence at the Rady School of Management at UCSD right next to its older sibling, the Beyster Institute. Our two employee ownership efforts at the UCSD Rady School of Management now stand with different, but very much complimentary, goals.

The Beyster Institute does and will continue to provide significant educational support related to employee ownership. Our MBA classes in employee ownership remain the only curricula of their type that are expressly educating the next generation of financial advisors and entrepreneurs on the potentials of employee ownership in building and sustaining a healthy, successful business. The Beyster Institute executive development programs and its Governance Curriculum on Employee Ownership provide a ready source of training and development for both professional financial advisors and key strategic management personnel who oversee the success of employee ownership companies around the country. The Institute also will continue to enhance the education of our MBA students by incorporating them into our consulting practice that is designed to enhance their experience with real company issues, and put our graduates in the position to be leaders in employee ownership theory and practice into the future.

Our Institute has been dedicated to these efforts for many years, and has been guided in developing new efforts by concentrating on our obvious constituents and the range of services we can provide them. We illustrated this interaction with a graph we call our visual budgeting tool (Fig. A below). We use this to prioritize our efforts.

Figure A

As this graph illustrates, we have six key constituents: business leaders (owners); employees of employee ownership companies; professional advisors; students of business and entrepreneurship; professors of business and entrepreneurship; and civic leaders and other framers of public policy.

It has always been a bit of a frustration for us at the Institute that we were not able to effectively provide services to the last column constituent - civic leaders/framers of public policy; and particularly so in the last two rows – outreach and research. The CCEO gives us the opportunity to become equally engaged with these important constituents. Like all other state centers, the CCEO will be dedicated to outreach to local and civic groups to spread the word and promote the idea of employee ownership through the stories of local employee ownership companies.

Between the Beyster Institute and the CCEO, it is the University’s goal to provide both quality educational experiences in the university setting, and locally delivered information that helps businesses and communities see the benefit of employee ownership for them in their own communities.

This relationship is perhaps the most important linkage to be made both for the future of employee ownership and for the very future of our communities themselves. Recently, significant research is being conducted aimed at investigating the potential relationship between the existence of employee ownership in communities, and how that might influence significant measures of the health of those communities. The research is in early stages, but the initial indications are intriguing, to say the least – employee ownership seems positively related to a healthy community. The more employee ownership in an area; the better off the area seems to be in many of the ways “better” is measurable for a community – job stability, median income, tax base, etc.

It always has been intuitively clear that employees buying a company would be better for the community than any of the several alternatives. Where a business owner who is looking for liquidity finds a buyer in an ESOP, the result is an enhanced local tax base; wealth creation that stays in the community where it is being created; creating more stable work environments; and forging a wealthier community overall. The CCEO and its counterparts in other states are developing ways to facilitate and enhance that effect.

At the recent National Center for Employee Ownership annual conference, the state center folks met with representatives of NCEO and the ESOP Association for purposes of coordinating our efforts; got briefed on some upcoming ESOP legislation that deserves our support; and generally got connected with several of the other existing centers. We agreed that all of us would treat our work as “open source” sharing everything we do with each other, and that the NCEO would serve as a clearing house for event plans, materials, great ideas, cries for help, or whatever we need from or can provide to each other.

Our California effort is off to a running start. CCEO is a board-governed effort, and we are very pleased to have recruited nine founding directors to help get this project off the ground. Each of our founding directors is the highest level executive of an employee-ownership company, and only one of the members is the original selling shareholder. Each of our founding directors also has expressed a real interest in helping promote the idea of ESOPs and a willingness to apply their considerable influence and wisdom to assisting CCEO to reach the right audience.

So far, for 2016, we are planning to have: an ESOP potentials meeting with the Kiwanis club in Truckee, Calif. In cooperation with The ESOP Association, CCEO will have a slot on the CAWS chapter conference for a lunch presentation on the State Center project to all the attendees. The CAWS Chapter conference will be held this year Reno, Nev., October 5–7, 2016.

So, if you are interested in helping support our communities or in helping support the rebuilding of a sound middle-class through support of efforts to increase employee ownership at the local level, drop me a line at amathews@ownershipcalifornia.org. I’ll be serving as secretary of the center until it gets off the ground, and I’ll be glad to hear from you.

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