Dawn Goestenkors, ESOP trustee, TI-TRUST:
The big question of course was what Craig as majority owner was going to do when he transitioned out. There was the unknown of what the future can be and that causes angst. A lot of majority owners sell out to a third party and that changes what was built. A competitor buying it changes it. And it’s the nature of mergers and acquisitions to extract the most profit.
People see Conco as a world-class partner and want them on their projects. The ESOP creates a long-term plan of ownership so the company is not distracted or growth slowed in the future.
This is such a great opportunity, and a great asset to onboarding. I’m excited that this will create more camaraderie and inspire more progress.
Building the right ESOP advisory team was crucial. Then providing full support and transparency as they supported us through the planning phase and ultimately implementation of the ESOP.
The transaction was to be fair not only to Craig as the seller but also to the employees who are in effect buying the company.
Clear, concise, consistent and effective implementation after the transition was complete along with a robust communication plan.
Aaron Bastian, president and CEO of Fidelity Bank (Conco’s banker and a client):
Had Craig sold the company to an outside party we would have likely evaluated whether to remain a Conco client. I would worry about losing really quality people committed to getting the job done right.
Conco has top-tier talent. We haven’t had an experience with Conco that wasn’t focused on exceeding the expectations for a job. Even when there’s a miss the response is so strong that you forget about the initial miss.
Ryan Pearson, VP of yard & equipment and former client:
The beauty of the ESOP is that it allows for continuity of leadership at Craig’s level. He stays actively engaged while oversight extends from him and the executive team to the entire company. In my opinion, the structuring of this drives a higher, companywide level of engagement.
We have to get the right people. It’s not bad pressure, but holy cow, we have to get granular with onboarding and really think through how to integrate people into the decision.
A longer career path is not something younger people typically strive for…it’s about what you can do for me now rather than what you can prepare me for later. Talking to this group can be difficult because they focus on jobs, not careers, and move on after four or five years. I want to say this is for your future, your kids’ futures…stick with it…improve your processes…work to improve the company’s bottom line for your future!
You can already see the impact of this on a micro level. The conversation tones and context have changed. People are asking how we can do things more efficiently or effectively…innovation is on the table in a new way. People are willing to participate in planning and conversation and showing greater initiative. Now, you might see someone check with three different people about something they’re thinking, and sometimes it sticks.
It’s easier in this environment to have tough conversations…now there’s the mentality that I have some investment here and it’s going to impact me. Naturally we’re all conflict resistant, but if the person is here for the right reasons and has the right values they’re going to appreciate the conversation. If not, we’ll self-select. We’ll also equip managers to lead the conversation based on shared interest.
It’s the nature of our industry to hold people accountable to a high standard. With an ESOP we empower not via the hierarchy but to the level of the person sitting next to you. Hey, we’re in this together…let’s do this like we own it.
They’re our most supportive champions, and that has been a really positive thing through this. They quickly bought into this and their support through implementation of the ESOP is not surprising at all…they’re Conconians. They’re happy for the next generation!