What does it mean to lead in this new era?

It’s helpful to hear from others who live and work inside an ESOP culture. Matt Cortez, President of GLMV Architecture, a Conco client and industry peer/partner, speaks from eight years of experience. Saying it’s the best thing that’s happened to GLMV, he offers words of wisdom and challenge to Conco managers:

“This is playing the long game. Whatever tenure you have in this company there is value in the ESOP for you and your colleagues. This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon… every day, every decision matters. You can’t get sloppy with leadership. You have to make decisions that sometimes aren’t on the surface very favorable, but you make them for the long-term benefit of the company.”

There’s pressure in it, Cortez says. “Profitability relates to what we can pay back to shareholders and that affects employees. Every step, every move we make affects what we earn down the road. Teammates are no longer on the sidelines watching others underperform. They’re actively engaging…you’re screwing around affecting my companyget with the program or pack it up.

“Everything we do is about the why—our ownership and moving the company forward.”

Rob Davis, Director of National Accounts, spent 20 years inside an ESOP culture. When he joined Conco he called it best in class, never ordinary and always working to improve. He says the ESOP is evidence of that. “The long-term opportunities for Conco and its employees can’t be overstated. I am absolutely 100 percent excited to be a part of it. It’s a tremendous opportunity and I can personally testify to the magnitude by which this can grow and provide additional income or supplement a retirement plan.”

Davis wants his peers to understand that decisions and quality of effort directly affect company performance and valuation. “It adds a layer of motivation for all of us. You hear people talk about decisions that ‘affect the value of my retirement’ and they express opinions more boisterously than before because they have direct investment.”

I was hired as a finish carpenter in 2003, and became a superintendent in the last four years. But I was running work even when I wasn’t a super. When I was a foreman I ran a job out of my own pickup before we had enough company vehicles to go around. Now we have 50 or 60 company vehicles around here and we continue to get more. I’ve watched Conco grow a lot.

Jim Reber, superintendent

Ryan Pearson, VP of Field & Equipment Operations, was a client before he joined us and watched several business partners become ESOPs. “I observed the impact on their organizations. I’ve seen what happens when a workforce is totally engaged. Typically, ESOPs outperform non-ESOP companies and I’m excited to watch it come to fruition here. The continuity of leadership is a big win/win for everyone.

“From a client perspective, it’s meaningful that the relationships you’ve had will stand because leadership is intact. You’re effectively positioning yourself with a partner of greater strength.”

Pearson shares a cautionary tale from his previous experience inside a company that bought two different dealers. “I was on the buying end of that succession plan for those companies. I saw what it was like for the organizations that we purchased. It was the end of an era.

“To be part of an ESOP that continues on its leadership path and satisfies the succession plan is a huge deal. Our culture won’t shift and change.”

Pearson says employees at different levels will now see something and question him about it…Why are we doing this? What is the impact of this? The ESOP empowers employees to challenge leadership.

“Ultimately, everyone will understand that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and the intrinsic benefit of a good decision is that it goes directly to a Conco employee’s retirement account.

“I’m a mid-career manager, so the end game is not so far away. This is a tangible enticement. The finish line is out there and the reward is in sight and obtainable. For a 22-year-old coming right out of college 40 years is a long way to retirement. Having that in front of me now is a driving point. I want to make sure we perform. I want to make sure the ESOP balance increases.”

Director of Field Operations Aaron Korte is responsible for getting all of Conco’s craftsmen in the right place at the right time. He’s also heavily involved in recruitment at the college level. He used to tell students, “Conco was built on a merit basis. There’s no last name on the door at Conco. Leadership is earned, not given. You set your own career trajectory based on performance and capabilities, not bloodlines.” Now he can tell prospective Conconians they will have the additional benefit of being an owner.

“We can recruit the attitude of an owner from day one and cultivate a great sense of pride and inclusion from the start. Graduates getting in at ground level, when the ESOP is so new, will learn there is power in the account.”

Korte plants the seeds for training and mentoring before recruits even become Conconians:

Every decision you make will affect you financially.

Everything you do will impact your own bottom line and your personal future.

What you put in is what you will get out…even more so now.

It will take some time, he says, to communicate that Conco is setting everyone up to retire comfortably. This goes way beyond putting clothes on our backs, food on our tables and gasoline in our cars. “It’s about communicating that 10 shares today might be worth $10,000 in 10 years.”

Director of Field Operations Aaron Korte says Conco loves to recruit the farm kid with great work ethic. They find something they like and stick with it and ride it out because it’s the old-school mentality typical of several generations of a farm family. This is a patented reward for that loyalty.