Pros and Cons of Employee Ownership

Posted by Victor Aspengren on May 25, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Victor Aspengren, Employee Ownership Consultant, talks with Steve and Rich about the pros and cons of employee ownership, and how employee-owned companies can more than double the wealth share of the bottom 50%. 

Click to Listen

Victor Aspengren header 5-25


Episode with guest: Victor Aspengren

Employee Ownership Consultant

(This episode was recorded in May of 2021.)



Key Episode Take-Aways:

1. The company structure and culture plays a part, but people are given the opportunity to have a voice and maybe a vote in employee owned companies. (click to jump to this topic below)  I think the upside of ownership is that you are giving people the opportunity to have a voice and maybe a vote, depending again, on the structure and the culture of the company.

2. One of the biggest drivers of a successful employee owned company is trust. (click to jump to this topic below)  Trust is the number one driver of return on investment, high trust organizations, and cultures do more. And if you're going to have a bunch of owners, you better have trust, if you don't have trust, you're not going to have ownership, they think you're not going to have as high of returns..

3. If you're considering employee ownership, open-book management should be a prerequisite. (click to jump to this topic below)  I believe I'm a strong believer that open book management should be a prerequisite, if anybody is going to consider employee ownership. Because as if you're the owner of a company, you want to sell your company for as much as you can get. 


Continue scrolling to read the full episode transcription.

Sponsor Ad 0:03

The "Change the Game" Podcast is sponsored by Prairie Capital Advisors, helping businesses think forward. For more information, visit That's

Announcer 0:24

Welcome to the "Change the Game" Podcast, where we share stories of open book management and highlight capitalism at its best. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the "Change the Game" Podcast with special guest Victor Aspengren. In this episode Victor discusses the pros and cons of employee ownership, and how employee-owned companies can more than double the wealth share of the bottom 50%. Here's your hosts Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker.

Steve Baker 0:53

Welcome to the "Change the Game" Podcast where we are changing the game by doing business differently and highlighting stories of capitalism at its best. I'm Steve Baker and with me as always is Rich Armstrong, president of the Great Game of Business and co-author of our new book Get in The Game: How to Create Rapid Financial Results and Lasting Cultural Change. Hello, Rich.

Rich Armstrong 1:15

Hi, Steve, how are you?

Steve Baker 1:17

I am exceptional. And I'll tell you why. Because we have a very special guest today our friend Victor Aspengren Victor has been heavily involved in the employee ownership world for more than 20 years. He's got a real brand in the employee ownership world. He's currently the vice chair of the National Center for Employee Ownership or NCEO. He has led two employee-owned companies from the C suite and worked into others. He's been an advisor at several companies that service employee-owned companies. He's been a creativity central trainer, a Dale Carnegie instructor. He's even been a Great Game coach. This guy is a renaissance man. Victor has recently entered what he is affectionately calling his final stage of work and is now focused on helping existing employee-owned companies and those that may be considering employee ownership. Victor is a longtime friend, as you know, Rich and proponent of the Great Game of business. Victor, welcome to the podcast.

Victor A. 2:24

Happy to be here and excited for our time together.

Steve Baker 2:28

Yeah, me too. But we've talked a lot about life, you and I and Rich at all the different conferences and meetings that we've been to together. And it sounds like a lot is new with you as you enter your next third of life. Would you tell us a little bit about what you're calling your final stage of work master plan?

Victor A. 2:49

Well, my final stage of work master plan is to really focus on serving companies through Board of Directors work and then other consulting in regard to employee ownership. I've just I made the choice a few weeks back to step down from the daily routine of getting up at a certain time and ending at a certain time and being on call. I guess in today's world 24 hours a day whenever a text or an email dings on your phone. But part of that rolls out of I had a little open-heart surgery A while back and gives you a new perspective. So, I've always been a fan of live with your choices or that ownership mentality. And I owned myself and said it is time. And I'm very, very happy to be at this stage of life.

Steve Baker 3:36

That's good. And I know you are Victor. It's awesome.

Rich Armstrong 3:39

Yeah, Victor, I think I'm excited for you. Because I know it's your passion. And you're going to have a whole lot of fun in this final third stage or whatever you call it. final stage of work master plan. I love that. I love it. I need a master plan. As you know, Victor, we believe businesses have potential to make a positive difference in the world. And we also believe that business itself can be an answer to closing the gap between the haves and have nots. Specifically, employee ownership is a powerful way to help close that gap. So, can you describe to our listeners some of the different ways organizations share broad based employee ownership and what it is and what's it's what it's all about?

Victor A. 4:22

Absolutely, well, the big beast and employee ownership is the ESOP or Employee Stock Ownership Plan. It's governed by ERISA, the DLL, it's got some great tax advantages. We won't get into all those details, but it is a qualified plan. So, it's you cannot discriminate. everybody participates basically on the same way, and it's a long-term play on equity. If you stick around in the company for 20-25-30 years, you should have a nice nest egg. And the reason for that is the original owner sold it to the ESOP, so they got their payday, but that's usually one or two Maybe three people that got all that equity within an ESOP that equity is spread across all the participants. Typically, once you've worked there a year or full time, you're a participant in the Aesop, one of the other ones. It's not a large audience, but it's still very prevalent and had a much longer history are worker cooperatives, where people can buy in. Sometimes you buy in for $1. Sometimes you buy in for $10,000, but it's one person, one vote. It's very democratic. It is not a retirement plan, but it is a form of equity. If the company does well, then the owners of the company share in that equity, as they call it, patronage. So that's the employee or worker cooperative. And then you have other forms of stock purchase plans, and all those other things. There's a variety but if you really talk about ownership, and engagement, I think you're ESOP and your worker owned cooperative is one of the ones where the culture really matters, where there's openness about what goes on in the company, and people can truly get engaged at all levels.

Steve Baker 6:05

That's a great overview. There's a lot of options out there. And we know that employee ownership is not an all or nothing proposition too. In fact, just last week, Harvard Business Review published an article that stated if just 10% of every business in the US were employee owned, that the wealth share of the bottom 50% would be more than doubled, as would the specifically they mentioned the median wealth of black households. That said, why do you think more companies haven't explored employee ownership?

Victor A. 6:39

Well, one, employee ownership for many years was not really taught in business schools in the education system. So, I believe, probably prior to about 15 years ago, when the employee ownership community really got engaged, started doing white papers, started getting into the curriculum, you might be lucky to find a paragraph on ESOP's or worker cooperatives back in the day. But I think as time has went on, there's been momentum. ESOP's, I believe, started back in 1972, like I said, worker cooperatives have been around pre-America, they started over in Europe. So that's the prevalent form in Europe is the worker cooperative model. But part of it is, is some people just don't want to share it. Employee ownership can be a lot of hard work when you're trying to educate everybody versus just a couple people being an owner. So, I think there's a certain population of people that say, no, I'm not going to share equity, I want to concentrate it on the owner. And I want to reap the rewards of the risks that I've taken, which is the right of an owner, if you think about it. The other side of it is it is work. And some people they go down the path, but then they really don't like the path because they don't realize what does that mean? Because if you think about it, you say employee ownership is not broad. So, when people do put an employee ownership, if you say how many people have ever owned a business, you're talking about a very small percentage of people, but when they create a worker cooperative, or they create an ESOP, they miraculously think that everybody should know how to act like an owner. And it's like, come on, folks. Think about it. Your you just put in the model, but you didn't teach them how to be owners. Most people have never owned a business but for It's crazy how many people will just act like an owner? It's like, okay, well, you bet you should probably Teach me, tell me what I need to know. Let me understand. What are the numbers? How does this all affect me? You know, all the things that you would typically think when you're an owner, you should know everything? If I do know everything, well then maybe I can act like an owner. But if I don't, don't ask me to act like an owner there, Mr. Boss, man.

Rich Armstrong 8:55

Yep. And they can be the rub right with employee ownership is the same thing as we teach here. But the concept of open book management and teaching people the business but that's another area that some entrepreneurs are not as comfortable in doing right of opening up the business to their people. But as you've seen over the years and all your experience, Victor that, you know, there's certainly been a, you know, a lot of pros and cons to employee ownership. Can you share some more pros and cons basically, what are some of the biggest benefits that you've seen first and organizations that that you've worked for? And then let's touch a little bit on some of the downsides or pitfalls?

Victor A. 9:40


1. The company structure and culture plays a part, but people are given the opportunity to have a voice and maybe a vote in employee owned companies.

I think the upside of ownership is that you are giving people the opportunity to have a voice and maybe a vote, depending again, on the structure and the culture of the company. You may actually vote on certain topics or decisions. But in many cases, I think a lot of people would just like to have a voice Most people, I think in the US go to work. And they get a paycheck, they get their benefits, but do they really feel that they have a voice and what goes on in the day to day or even the strategic. So, it's just kind of like their robot. They go in, they go out and work. It's just something you have to do because you need a paycheck. Ownership, I think engages people to think about it. Not that you jump for joy when you walk through the door every morning. But you're definitely more challenged in a different way. And then obviously, at the end of it, there should be some type of equity play, where it whether it's cash in the hand bonuses or something. Stock appreciation rights are in the end a retirement plan like the ESOP. But there should be a spreading of that equity that if it's not there, you're just getting a paycheck. And they, the owners reap the rewards of your sweat equity, because it's concentrated in broad based employee ownership. Everybody is reaping the award of the sweat equity, not just a very small group of people. So that's the bigger upside. The downside to employee ownership, I think people talk about employee ownership. And I've just come to believe, you know, I think I went to my first-grade game event back in 1997. And to me, it just resonated that was before we became an ESOP or employee owned. But if you say you're going to be an owner, and you're not sharing the numbers, it's like, what the heck, then don't call them owners, and don't expect them to act like owners, because if you're not going to share the numbers of the business, you cannot expect anybody to truly be an owner, and create an ownership mindset in the purest form without those numbers. Now I know people get scared all What about wages? Or what about this? It's like, well, guess what, folks, everybody talks about it anyways. And the problem is, is what they're talking about isn't accurate. So just get the elephants out in the room, figure out how to present it, you don't have to share everybody's name. But there's ways to do open book that meets every marketplace, every different culture, there's ways to work around it. But there's no reason in my mind. In fact, I've said this, for many years, it should be a prerequisite, before any kind of ownership is actually put in, people need to understand the numbers of the business and how they impact those numbers. And if they know that, then they understand how the benefits package rolls out, that impacts their life. If they can have flexible work time that impacts their lives, all those things, all those rules of the business world come to light, if you understand the numbers and why decisions are made the way they are in the business world. If you don't have that you just sit back and you have to take it no matter what comes down. It's like Oh, well. And you have no understanding of why people are making the decisions. They are.

Rich Armstrong 12:58

Very, very good point. Hey, just a little bit of follow up question. You talked a little you've talked a lot about like the benefits to really an employee and the benefit of the opportunity to really spread wealth further and wider than we do in typical organizations. But the audience that we may have on this podcast may be considering ESOP's So what are some of the what are some of the benefits for the owner in making a transition like this than the traditional transition?

Victor A. 13:28

Well, I think whether it's a ESOP or whether it's a worker cooperative, the first I let's go with the kind of the, the emotional side of it is I think there's a lot of business owners that feel a lot of loyalty and allegiance to their employees, that when they sell, they would like the structure to be something that is a benefit to their employees, they can sell to a private equity fund, they can sell to a strategic buyer, but then whoever owns that company can do whatever they want. With a worker cooperative or an ESOP, the business kind of stays intact. And yes, there's new leadership. But it provides a way for the people to stay there, there's less likelihood that the company is going to close the doors and get sucked up somewhere get moved somewhere else. So, I think from the emotional side, that's a big thing. There are tax advantages, depending on if they're a C corporation that they can roll it over, and basically never pay tax if they don't need to monetize that money. So, if they have kids or grandkids and they've made all the money they need, and they just want to roll it over on in the event of their passing, then there's some huge tax advantages if they're a C Corp. And then the other side of it is if they're an S Corp while an S Corp. ESOP does not pay any corporate tax. It's deferred until the participants retire, which allows the company to take care of the debt to buy out the owners and then that impact on cash flow, assuming profitability. should be negligible. So, you can buy out the owners and still run the business like you were before. Because you're using those savings on tax dollars to fund all that. And the government gets its money when everybody retires, then you'll pay the tax just like you would on any retirement money. Whether it's a 401k or your personal IRA. That's when you get taxed on your ESOP dollars in a worker cooperative. They tend to not have the retirement plans like that they may have a 401k. But they don't have the ESOP structure.

Rich Armstrong 15:30

Got it. Got it. Now. Sorry, Steve just one little extra follow up question is that, and I know this is more complicated than this. But is there also a benefit for owners not to, you know, if they're wanting to exit, they don't have to completely exit, they can exit over time. And make it a little bit of a lengthier succession process than just saying, okay, I'm going to sell out today or sell this to a different company.

Victor A. 15:56

Yep. So, whether it's a worker cooperative or an ESOP, you could sell a minority portion of that, quote, take some chips off the table, because a lot of owners have a spouse at home saying when we are going to start to reap the rewards of all this time, sweat, blood and tears we put into this business. So, it's a way to get some chips off the table to start enjoying it, but you don't have to leave the business.

Rich Armstrong 16:19

Got it.

Victor A. 16:19

So, in many cases, people take a chunk, maybe 25 or 30%, then they might do another one up to 45. And then the big one is when they go to majority, most employee-owned companies tend to go to that 100%, there are some out there that may stay 70, or 80%, which is fine. There's just some unique dynamics around that. But a lot of them once you go majority, the owners tend to just go the 100%. And they can still stay and be the CEO or president or salesperson or wherever they can still be involved in the company. It's just that they don't own it anymore. But you need to be smart about that the owners need to be smarter, they got to realize they gave up ownership. And the people need to understand the role that the former owners may play in the business moving forward.

Steve Baker 17:08

Makes sense? There are a lot of dynamics to it. But there's a lot of good resources out there, of course NCEO is one of them. In fact, a recent NCEO article mentioned that 2021 can be the year of employee ownership. And I wondered if you could share because you've seen it from all different sides. What is your view of the current political climate, both locally and state and federal? And what you know if any impact that might have on employee ownership?

Victor A. 17:41

Well, I think employee ownerships kind of come to the forefront. One of the big reasons just the disparity and wealth in this country. Anyway, you want to skip it, there's a disparity. Well, employee ownership is a way to help change all that. And there's been a lot of activities at the state level, we have the employee ownership expansion network, which I was a part of in the early days, which is all about creating state centers for employee ownership to educate and do all those things. Then you have the NCEO, you have the ESOP Association. And I also believe that the politics, the political world, because of this disparity, I think it's starting to wake up saying, hey, this is a tool that we should get behind. Now as a Democrat or Republican. In the past, employee ownership has kind of been supported, it's been bipartisan, there's not one party's taken control of the employee ownership thinking, the employee ownership world has for many, many years, catered to both sides of the political parties. And there is quite a bit of unity when it comes to that. Now, there's always you know, the politics of sticking something else, or employee ownership gets thrown in with something bigger, and you got to be careful. But I believe the evolution of fairness in this country has brought employee ownership to light because employee ownership inherently brings more fairness to it. It's not everybody makes the same. But there is a spread of equity across everywhere. That is way more fair than the traditional business model where you just get a paycheck.

Steve Baker 19:26

Yeah, absolutely. Well, in fact, the word equitable, you know, is rooted in fair not equal. So, I think that's interesting. And I love the fact that you're pointing out that it said, bipartisan support. I hope that continues because it really is that's where it needs to stay right to more as more of a unifying factor rather than a divisive one.

Victor A. 19:48

Absolutely. The employee ownership world has been very conscious of that, and the past leaders and the current leaders are all very aware of how important that is to have that by bipartisan support.

Rich Armstrong 20:01

Great, great. You know, recently it's it seemed like a lot of private equity investment firms, including KKR, which is I think the third largest in the country, are supporting this idea of employee ownership. They're making that part of their purchase or their acquisition strategy? What do you know about that trend? And how do you think that may support the growth of employee ownership?

Victor A. 20:29

Well, that's a loaded, question Rich, private equity has always been about getting money from people and getting them very high returns. So, you can say that private equity has been very focused on business, not necessarily on culture, not necessarily on structure, it's how do we maximize these investors dollars, and whatever it takes to do that they do. Now, this switch to social impact, I think it's a great thing it's brought attention to it. And I think part of it is, is that you have the demographic of a lot of baby boomers that are retiring or selling their businesses. And I think there's also this appetite for many of those people to say, you know, what I don't like the traditional structures, I don't like private equity coming in and just stripping out my company and flipping it in six years to the next buyer or a strategy company coming in and doing it. Now you've got equity coming in, saying this is more of a long-term play, the returns don't need to be as high Yes, people that invest in it need to get paid back, just like if you invest in anything, you want to get paid back over time. But it's not as egregious it's more long-term play, that it can be a win for everybody. Because in some cases, employee ownership can't take place because the dollars aren't there. And they need some outside funds to come in to help make it happen. The other thing is, I think a lot of these social impact equity firms or investment funds are also looking at it that they don't have to have control the traditional private equity back in the day, if they put money in, they want to control of the company that has also changed over time to where they'll come in as a minority stakeholder to bring in the dollars. But they don't have to have control. And I think that's a switch. And that also gives people a different flavor for how those people can come in, they're still going to want to position on the board, they're still going to have a position of influence, because they want to give input because they have money on the table. But not having control. That makes a big difference. Because whenever control is given up, no matter what structure it is, that is a huge step that you have to really think through. For an organization.

Steve Baker 22:51

We're giving up full and total control is a big prerequisite just to play the Great Game of business, right? It's like, wow, can I actually trust people to do the right thing?

Victor A. 23:02

Well, I mean, you guys have seen it out there.

2. One of the biggest drivers of a successful employee owned company is trust.

Trust is the number one driver of return on investment, high trust organizations, and cultures do more. And if you're going to have a bunch of owners, you better have trust, if you don't have trust, you're not going to have ownership, thinking you're not going to have as high of returns. But trust is a very difficult thing. And I'll just give you the quick analogy that I've said for years, is how many times can you violate the trust with your spouse or your significant other or your kids at home? And I asked that question a lot. And most people say, ah, zero, maybe once. And then I say what the problem is, is we go into the business world and we butcher trust, like it's toilet paper. mean, we violated all the time. And it's not just about telling the truth. It's about having the hard conversations. And if you think about it, you have very hard conversations at home to honor the trust with your family and your relationships. But we come to business and then we just want to shirk it off. And we don't want to have the hard conversations. We don't want to do it. And then we wonder why there isn't trust. Trust is built in the tough times and in the good times. So, if we honor trust in business like we would at home, I think we would have a lot more ownership in companies.

Steve Baker 24:30

Ironically, we spend more time at work than we do at home anyway. So, Wow, that's a mind blower right there.

Victor A. 24:37


Steve Baker 24:38

Yeah, no kidding. Victor, you mentioned it. The silver tsunami is on its way, right. 75% of small businesses will change hands in the next decade, as all these lovely baby boomers retire from the workforce. And I'm kind of curious, how can we make it more attractive? How can what be done to bring employee ownership including ESOPs to the forefront as an option for their exit.

Victor A. 25:05

Well, I think the world the employee ownership world has been educating for a while, like I said, the education system. Now there's a lot more of that employee ownership as part of the business curriculum to the local state senators, the grassroots efforts and just people talking about it. I could say even 10 years ago, you bring up ESOP or a worker cooperative people look a go, what are you talking about? And just the acceleration in the last 10 years, people go, oh, yeah, I've heard about it. Now, they may not know the details, but at least they've heard about it. And I think events, podcasts like these webinars, any opportunity for somebody to at least break the ice and say, have you ever considered employee ownership? I think that's the best way now. Can we take out ads in the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times and be on the front page to say, everybody should consider it? Well, yeah, if you want to pay a lot of money, but I think we're getting there. The main part of this is the timing of people, sometimes they can plan it out, because going to employee ownership takes a little bit longer. And if there's an event, or if there's a health reason, and there's urgency than the traditional models are probably going to win, because it's quicker, but selling any business is not an easy process. Employee ownership just has a few more twists and turns, but in the end, you get a better result.

Steve Baker 26:32

And it sounds like it's a really good fit for people who have a heart for their people, as you've pointed out. And I love that for small and mid-sized businesses who really care, we've seen that, you know, all three of us have worked with companies who, when you have that first on-site meeting, and you're just sitting with the owners of the business, and they go, I just want to see my people go to the next level, or I want them to be the best they can possibly be. That's a pretty inspiring thing to see.

Victor A. 27:00

Well, it is for the individuals. But the other side of this, this is also a big time for smaller communities. I mean, you think about it, I'm in my first ESOP 120 employees in a community of 800. If you don't think that business was important to the community, it was so employee ownership makes businesses a lot more sticky to the local community, which impacts a lot of other people. So, employee ownership is not just the workers, it's also the community in the regions, it's a way to make them more sticky, because when they get bought up by big companies, they just closed the doors and move them away and take the product and take that intellectual property and everything and they move it somewhere else. This keeps them more local. And that is something that I think a lot of people don't think about, they go all employee ownership with that. But it's also the community. And if you're an owner, when you like to be able to walk down the street or go to church without everybody looking at you and throat, giving you the evil darts of Yeah, you're the one that sold to those people and they closed it, which started the downhill slide for our whole community. Because it does happen.

Steve Baker 28:05


Rich Armstrong 28:05

Interesting. Interesting. Well, when you're talking about that, Victor, it reminds me there's a lot of alignment between the potential growth of employee ownership and great games big, hairy, audacious goal of transforming 10 million lives in 10 years. And what we mean by transformation is giving employees that opportunity that you've described so well on this podcast, to be part of the business to understand the business to create wealth from the business and then potentially trickle that out to the entire community. How can the listeners help with this? How can they help us do this and move this forward the idea of employee ownership or just the idea of connecting people more to the business where they have more opportunities than they ever could imagine? What can the listeners do to help move that forward?

Victor A. 29:00

Well, I think like I said earlier,

3. If you're considering employee ownership, open-book management should be a prerequisite.

I believe I'm a strong believer that open book management should be a prerequisite, if anybody is going to consider employee ownership. Because as if you're the owner of a company, you want to sell your company for as much as you can get. That's why you created the business, right? Well, if you say I want to get as much as I can get well, if you unleash the power of all the employees, understanding the business and let them help you grow the value, along with let them share in some of the success of that through bonus plans. It may not be employee ownership, but it's a step towards you start to share it, that pie becomes bigger. What if your company's worth 5 million and your employees can help you get it to 10 million? What do you care about giving away a half a million dollars in bonuses over the time, which is a big deal to people that they didn't have before because they're helping you drive the value and in the end of it is employee ownership, then they're getting a company that's even more valuable when they're going to start Sharing in that pie down the road? So open book management to me, helps the individuals it can help the current owners of the business. And it also sets it up that you have better success when you truly become employee owned. Because the thing about open book management and the thing about employee ownership, employee ownership does not miraculously make a business successful. And I said it a gazillion times bad business bad ESOP bad business, bad worker cooperative. So, all the great things of employee ownership. In the words of Kim Jordan and New Belgium broody, you can be as groovy as you want to. But if you take your eye off the ball of business, then it doesn't matter. Because all that goes away because the business can't survive. open book management teaches everybody in the organization of what it takes for the company, not just to survive, but to thrive. And I think that's where, if it isn't employee ownership, because that's a big leap, well, then take the next the next best step, which is get, start practicing open book management use the Great Game methodology to crack that open. And that will make the transition to employee ownership that much easier. And the people will appreciate what ownership means because now they understand the business. And I can tell you this from my firsthand experience, and that first company I was in, privately held did not share one number with anybody in the company other than the quote management team. We became an ESOP, the ESOP did nothing. It really didn't do anything. It wasn't until we did open book management, and started to teach them the business, then it all started to connect, because the whole concept of equity, and how you build equity, made no sense to them, even though we were employee owned, it's like, oh, you should be happy, you're going to get all this Well, okay. How do I get out? I don't understand it. Well, if we have been doing open work prior to that, they would have connected those dots way quicker. And we would have accelerated the performance of that company. It shouldn't have taken us three years; we should have had that already to go when we made the transition to employee ownership. But we did. And in many, many cases that transition whether it's a worker cooperative already, ESOP, they don't, they're not ready for it, the people are not ready, you didn't prepare him, you didn't get them ready for what is really going to take because you were scared of open book management. Well, if you're not scared of employee ownership, you shouldn't be scared of open book management.

Steve Baker 32:43

Those are big points. It makes me think of two of Jack Stack’s ownership rules. You know, the stock is not a magic pill and ownership has to be taught. So not only do you have to get people ready, but then you're always going to be hiring people. So, you never get to stop teaching. That's a big takeaway. I think. Victor, we always like to ask a weird question to wrap up the podcast by asking this question. What's the one question we should be asking you?

Victor A. 33:18

What's the one question you should be asking me?

Rich Armstrong 33:21


Steve Baker 33:25

I considered asking you what kind of tree you want it to be. But I think that's copyrighted by Barbara Walters.

Victor A. 33:34

Well, I think the question for everybody, and I've talked about this, as we went through COVID, I think it's enlightened people to a different way of thinking. So, everybody, there might be somebody that might still be alive. But they were maybe they were just born when the Spanish Flu hit. And that was the last real true worldwide pandemic, where millions and millions of people died. And there's been other pockets of everything. But COVID has been something that the world as we know it today, never has experienced before. So, this is all new to the business models to everybody. And I think, as I look at all of this, if you boil it down, we work we play, we have families, we are born, and we pass away. And I think COVID has pushed people to face mortality. Because it was in front of everybody's face. It wasn't you know, it happened in my 50s or the random case where a child gets ill or whatever it forced societies, not just the US everywhere to face the fact you could pass away tomorrow if you get COVID. And I think that maybe has opened up an opportunity for people to think a little bigger, which employee ownership is thinking a little bigger If we don't have to keep doing things the way we always have, there's an opportunity to change it. And when you're faced with the end, well, what do you want to do between now and then? Now, that could be between the time you graduate from high school to your first job, from college, to your first job, or in between? What do you want to do? And I think COVID has maybe unleashed people to start thinking about that more, because we're all balancing work, and life, and how that all comes together. And I think the employee ownership is a way to bring more balance, and a more healthier lifestyle, to everybody. And I think that kind of come out of COVID. That may be one of the reasons why it's accelerated up. Just my crazy way of thinking about things. But who knows,

Steve Baker 35:55

No, I love it. I love it. Well, that's great, Victor, I always have fun. And I always learned something when I talked to you. So, these are my takeaways from the podcast today. When you make people owners, you better teach them business, you said it was a prerequisite to learn business and the numbers first, otherwise, you know, if you're an employee, you're just going to have to sit back and take it. So, make sure that that people know they become businesspeople, as well as owners. Here's another one with employee ownership. The upside is that the wealth created by a business is actually shared, not just by a select few, but with those who created it. I think that's really big, high trust organizations have the highest ROI. You followed that up with how many times can you violate the trust with your family and relationships, and then consider that in your business. Employee ownership keeps it local. I think that's a really big one. It makes businesses stickier. And then I really love this one, because it's four words that even I can understand bad business bad, Esau, make sure it's a good business. Before you get into it. I love it. So those are some great takeaways. And Victor, it's, it's always great to see you. It's great to have you on the podcast. Thank you for being a tireless advocate of not only employee ownership, but also closing the gap between the haves and have nots. Thank you very much. My pleasure.

Victor A. 37:23

And I look forward to seeing you all at the gathering in September.

Rich Armstrong 37:27

All right, Victor.

Steve Baker 37:29

Well, folks, you can hear more from Victor at our employee ownership roundtable with John Williams and Anne-Claire Broughton. On June 8, 2021, at 1pm Central, this roundtable will be focused on the current challenges facing employee-owned companies and building a culture of ownership. There's no charge for the event, but seats are limited. Learn more and So, let's keep the conversation going. Send us your questions, your stories, your best practices, ideas, your challenges, and your victories. That is capitalism at its best. Thanks for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

Announcer 38:08

The "Change the Game" Podcast is produced by the Great Game of Business. To learn more visit

Conference Ad 38:23

Each year for the last 29 years, a community of game changers have gathered together from around the world to learn, share, and celebrate the principles and practices of the Great Game of Business at the world's largest conference on open-book management. This year. We are back in Dallas baby stronger than ever because let's face it, we are better together. Join us virtually or in person in Dallas September 8 through 10th for the Great Game of Business conference. Visit for more information.

Topics: Employee Ownership, Leadership, Transparency, Sustainable Business

About The Podcast

Podcast Banner

Hosted by Rich Armstrong and Steve Baker the Change the Game podcast highlights true life stories of organizations influencing positive change by doing business differently. They’re teaching people how business works and closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. It’s capitalism at its best. Inside each episode, you’ll discover stories of entrepreneurs who are Changing the Game.

Change the Game Podcast Trailer


Subscribe to Get notified about new episodes!