What 100% employee ownership means for clients

Two McCownGordon Construction associates laughing and collaborating while looking at plans on a job site

The National Center for Employee Ownership reports there are more than 2,420 privately held companies with large (100+ participants) employee stock ownership plans (ESOP), with more than 1.3 million active participants. Twelve percent of those companies are construction firms, according to NCEO.

There are 98 ESOPs in Kansas, including McCownGordon Construction. The founders, Pat McCown and Brett Gordon, converted the company to an ESOP in 2015. There were obvious perks for associates, including financial well-being and seamless transitions of ownership over the years. However, McCown and Gordon knew there would be benefits for the client as well. Here are their insights and advice on converting a company into an ESOP.

Constantly pushing the envelope

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” – Albert Einstein

Methods and processes are constantly evolving and when you don’t embrace change, you risk falling behind. In a 100% employee-owned culture, every person is empowered to bring new ideas to the table and challenge the status quo, which benefits us all. For instance, Dustin Burns, vice president of information technology, has leveraged technology throughout the firm by ensuring every associate is equipped with the most current hardware and software.

Over the past 10 years, Burns continued to stay ahead of the curve and ensured the firm embraced all digital tools for optimization on the jobsite. When the 2020 pandemic hit last March and most associates were forced to work remotely, the transition was seamless for clients. The company experienced little, if any, downtime because of the connectivity that had been established long before it was a necessity.

  • Mobile phones for all associates rather than desk phones provided instant access for clients to their project team by the method they were already accustomed to.
  • An upfront investment in virtual private network (VPN) capacity coupled with laptops allowed remote workers to be up and running in the time it took them to drive home, ensuring no delays in project schedules.

Engaged employees deliver a better customer experience

Have you ever hired a consulting company for your business and felt the staff assigned to your project were only there to collect a paycheck? At a 100%-employee-owned business, it is proven that staff on all levels are more engaged because they have a stake in your success. At McCownGordon, Gallup surveys have shown more than 98% of associates are engaged — they know what is expected, feel they are doing important work, receive regular recognition, and have opportunities to grow. When an employee is engaged, they deliver a better customer experience. They are willing to go above and beyond normal expectations to ensure a happy client and quality product.

Long-term relationships

Employee owners are more likely to stay at a company for multiple years, if not their entire career, and create long-term relationships with clients. This is beneficial for the client because the team that starts on their project has little chance of moving to the next company before completion. A break in project team continuity could risk project success. Also, years after the project if a problem arises, it is easy for the client to find the project team because they are more likely to be with the firm.

When clients buy professional services, people and the talent they bring to the table stand out as the greatest asset in any engagement. When clients get to work with the same team that delivered quality service on their first project, they are more likely to come back again and again. A standard of service is created, and continuity of care is established.