In September, the National Center for Employee Ownership held its first-ever virtual Fall Forum, attracting record-breaking attendance, with more than 600 attendees from six continents. As NCEO founder Corey Rosen put it, many ESOP companies today have to think about reinventing their business plans, reinventing the rules for their ESOP, or reinventing their culture. It seemed natural that the Forum’s theme would be reinvention.
For the NCEO, the reinvention was to transform the Forum from a live event to a virtual event—and make sure it really was an event, not just a series of webinars. Reinventing the Forum was an overhaul but not a revolution; the NCEO leaned on its years of event experience to make incremental changes that ultimately resulted in a new and improved event.
That is the same kind of reinvention Joe Motz and Adam Coleman of the Motz Group talked about in the keynote address Reinventing Your ESOP: How to Stay Ahead of the Curve. The Motz Group is one of the leading providers of turf solutions for sports stadiums. The pandemic, of course, changed the game. In the keynote, Adam said, “We don’t rely solely on those pivotal innovations to carry us through or keep us moving and changing. We really depend a lot on continual improvement and incremental innovation while we continue to seek that breakthrough or leap innovation. That doesn’t happen as often as people think it does.”
Motz employee-owners found new ways to deliver value to their clients; employee-owners learned to work remotely and retain the same culture of collaboration and innovation that came from working together. What they have learned from that will add value even after the pandemic.
“If we’re each feeling generous and we’re willing to share what we have but more importantly, willing to hear what others contribute, we can do awesome things together… It’s cool for us to be on this journey together and be more diversified than ever were in the past and much stronger for it.”– Joe Motz, the Motz Group
Reinvention applies to plan structures, as discussed in the Forum sessions on distribution policies. Companies may want to update payout distribution policies, rethink whether they could segregate accounts at termination, or offer diversification earlier. It makes sense for companies to have a periodic diagnostic to see if that still works for them.
The Forum also featured speakers on reinventing your culture, such as Dallan Guzinski, the NCEO’s director of culture and engagement. Sessions in the culture track covered strategies to engage employees in teams, how to share financials at all levels, ways to involve a whole team in strategic planning, and other great ideas from ESOP companies. Small changes to a culture can transform a company into a nimble, adaptive organization, better able to deal with the disrupted economy.
In between sessions, the NCEO offered numerous opportunities for attendees to interact and share their stories. Roundtable discussions covered diversity and inclusion at ESOP companies, COVID communications, contingency planning, and more. Attendees could unwind during a guided yoga and stretching session or opening night Trivia, and a speed networking event, the virtual exhibit hall, and other virtual meeting places allowed for casual conversation.
If you are not familiar with the NCEO, you should be. The Employee Benefits Law Group has been a long-time sponsor of NCEO events and looks forward to the NCEO’s next event, the virtual Employee Ownership Conference coming April 2021.