KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From healthcare to housing, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inequalities across American society. Greg Graves believes wealth inequality will be one of the most eye-opening gaps once the pandemic ends. He has a solution: employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs).
Graves was chairman and CEO of Kansas City, Missouri, based Burns & McDonnell. The engineering firm is employee-owned. That basically means each employee owns stock in the company. As the company does well, the stock value increases, thus the employees gain value.
“Employee ownership is a huge trend within grocery stores in America,” Graves pointed out. “There are several famous stories out there about grocery clerks who retire with a million dollars in their employee ownership plans.”
Since retiring, Graves authored the new book Create Amazing: Turning Your Employees into Owners for Explosive Growth which is set to reach bookshelves and online stores next week. The book praises the ESOP model.
“An employee-owned firm will outcompete one that is not, and will generate more wealth for its workers over their careers," Graves said referring to a study by Rutgers University. "It is not only something that you think might happen, it's actually predictable."
The former CEO admitted leading an employee-owned company brings certain challenges. For one, each of his employees was his boss at Burns & McDonnell.
“Your duty is no longer to some outside shareholder or mutual fund - it is the people who are showing up there every day,” Graves said.
His book takes business owners on a step-by-step process become an ESOP. He believes America will be more competitive, productive and equitable with more ESOPs.