As people who study and invest in strategies to address poverty and improve jobs, we have seen and heard the impact employee ownership creates. When you talk to leaders and workers at employee owned companies, you hear stories of deep collaboration and people pulling together to make their company successful. People talk about their co-workers as family. They talk about the dignity the work offers and how the workplace is often participatory, where everyone’s voices and ideas are heard. You hear the pride as they talk about their company and their role as owner. And in many companies, you hear about the wealth and savings being an employee-owned company has offered them, and the impact that will have on their children and retirement. You hear these quintessential stories of the American dream, of people building communities and of entrepreneurs making our country better and more resilient.
Yet despite its benefits, awareness and knowledge of employee ownership remains a big challenge. Few business schools teach students about employee ownership. The Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations, the Beyster Institute at the Rady School of Business at University of California-San Diego are a few of a handful of exceptions.
Awareness is also low among business owners and their legal and financial advisers, but better knowledge and guidance could be especially effective for retiring business owners who are evaluating options to exit and sell their business. Strong expertise and resources could help guide business owners through a sale to their employees — leaving a lasting legacy of their leadership and a tremendous impact on employees’ futures.