Atlanta Heats Up For Employee Ownership

By Brian Khorsand and Maria Zorrilla

This year Atlanta hosted the 2014 National Employee Ownership Conference (NCEO). With more than 1,200 attendees and record attendance, the event was a huge success! Employee-owned companies and professionals from around the country gathered together at this event to share their knowledge, experiences and unique perspective on employee ownership. Employee ownership has been gaining more and more attention by a growing number of companies in the country as evidenced by the large percentage of first-time attendees to the conference. The conference underscores the fact that the benefits of employee ownership extend far beyond the bottom line.

As Martin Staubus, executive director of the Beyster Institute, so eloquently said during the conference's closing remarks, "Employee ownership impacts individuals, business organizations and our society as a whole." This year's conference was a true testament to that, and one could clearly witness these three levels of employee-ownership impact all around.

The impact of employee ownership at the individual level was apparent with almost each person we spoke with at the event. Some individuals discussed their path towards employee ownership, and others, who were just beginning their journey, were eager to learn more. The conference offers something for everyone, from beginners to experienced veterans. Regardless of industry or function, attendees find common ground on many of the issues they face in their companies. Much like employee owners at a company, the people we met were happy to work together for the greater good.

Martin Staubus,
executive director, Beyster Institute

On a business level, evidence on how employee ownership transforms companies, improves performance and accelerates growth is overwhelming. The number of firms attending the conference confirms these facts. But more importantly, the stories and experiences shared during the sessions offer living proof of the benefits. Time and time again we heard stories about employees coming together to talk about their role as owners and to motivate one another into working harder and smarter for everyone's sake. The emergence of "ownership champions" who motivate their fellow employees into embracing their role as owners also was commonplace among the attendees. This interaction leads to the creation of strong teams among different work groups, increasing overall collaboration and promoting efficiency and productivity.

The benefits of employee ownership are far reaching and can be seen in society as a whole. The keynote speaker for the conference and author of The Citizen's Share, Prof. Joseph Blasi, Rutgers University, highlighted the importance that broad-based employee ownership plays in addressing wealth inequality in today's society. The conference demonstrated the impact that equity ownership can provide to employees at all levels of an organization. Aligning incentives across a broader segment of the population creates the economic motivation that ultimately benefits society-at-large. We look forward to witnessing the continued positive impact of employee ownership in our community as well as across the country.

Thank you to the NCEO for all their hard work and preparation for this year's conference. We had a great time in Atlanta and thank you to all the great people we met along the way. As NCEO Conference Director, Deborah Krant, expressed regarding the event, "So much of its success is due to the contribution of so many people. The professionals who speak, as well as the experts from employee-owned companies who participate are on the top of that list."

We look forward to participating in next year's annual conference in Denver. See you then!

Brian Khorsand, consultant, Beyster Institute

Maria Zorrilla, 2014 Rady MBA graduate