2019 Annual Conference to be Held June 12 at UVM

The 17th Annual Vermont Employee Ownership Conference!

Date: Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Location: UVM Davis Center, 590 Main Street, Burlington, VT


The VEOC's 17th annual Vermont Employee Ownership Conference will be held on Wednesday, June 12th at the UVM Davis Center! Featuring 19 workshops, the one-day conference is the largest annual gathering of Vermont's employee-ownership community, and is a great opportunity for newcomers to get oriented and old hands to deepen their knowledge.

Discounts Available: we offer a variety of discounted tickets for students, academics, first-time attendees exploring employee ownership, and economic development professionals. If you're interested in learning more, please email info@veoc.org.


Tuesday, June 11:

6-8:30pm: Pre-Conference Dinner at Halvorson's. Details and registration info to come.

Wednesday, June 12:

7:30-8:30: Registration & Breakfast

Photo of Janet Edmunson

8:30-9:30: Morning Plenary
Grand Maple Ballroom

KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Enhance Your Employee Ownership Culture—Lessons from Charles Edmunson
Janet Edmunson, President of JME Insights
Just having the financial and legal mechanism for an employee-owned company doesn’t guarantee that a rich culture will spring forth. It takes focus and effort. The strength of employee-owned companies springs from the strength of the relationships within the company. In this keynote, we’ll explore the many ways that the late Charles Edmunson enhanced the ownership culture in his company as well as within the employee ownership community at large. Through his example, we’ll see how to encourage people to be their better selves and grow to their best potential. 


9:45-11:00: Workshops, Session A

1. An Introduction to Employee Ownership

Room TBD

Matt Cropp, Vermont Employee Ownership Center; Elias Gardner, New School; Cindy Turcot, Gardener's Supply Company

This is the place to start if you’re thinking about bringing employee ownership to your company. We’ll explore the reasons for doing so, the basic structures and the ways to implement them. You’ll learn about the two most common forms of employee ownership, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and worker cooperatives. Leaders from ESOP-owned Gardener’s Supply Company and cooperatively-owned The New School of Montpelier will share their companies’ stories.


2. Troubleshooting Together: Hot Topics for Worker Co-ops

Room TBD

Lane Fury, CFNE; Esteban Kelly, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

In this year’s version of this annual session, participants will join small groups based on points of interest, and facilitators will guide groups in troubleshooting and learning together. Topics for group conversations may include: structure and decision-making; democratic financial management; leadership transitions; hiring & on-boarding worker-owners; accountability & conflict; HR policies & benefits; start-up phase. The facilitators have experience facilitating this style of workshop, which will be less focused on the content expertise of the facilitators and more focused on drawing out the collective experience and wisdom of the session participants.


3. Enhance Your Employee Ownership Culture with Positivity

Room TBD

Janet Edmunson, JME Insights

Want to flourish at work? Whether you are an optimist, pessimist or somewhere in between, come explore the many practical and science-backed principles of authentic positivity to enhance your employee ownership culture.  In this session, you’ll explore how to flip negativity, enhance relationships, discover strengths, spread positivity and find meaning in your work. You’ll walk away with concrete strategies you can implement immediately to tap your own and your fellow employee-owners’ potential, leading to a more effective and supportive work culture.


4. ESOP Committee Roundtable

Room TBD

Matt Hancock, Praxis Consulting Group

Instead of offering a presentation about ESOP Committees, this semi-structured and participant-driven workshop will harness the wisdom of the group. Employee owners on established ESOP Committees or those interested in creating a new one will break out into small groups, identify common challenges and themes, and design their own mini-workshops to help solve the problems most important to them.


5. Hot Topics for ESOPs

Room TBD

Kjersti Cory, GreatBanc Trust Company; Dolores Lawrence, Blue Ridge ESOP Associates; John Murphy, Atlantic Management; Rob Schatz, ESOP Plus: Schatz Brown Glassman LLP  

Our panelists promise an open and lively discussion regarding what ESOP fiduciaries need to know about valuation issues, fiduciary issues, plan governance, litigation trends, DOL ESOP examinations, DOL subpoena concerns, and more.


11:00-11:30: Morning Break
Livak Fireplace Lounge

11:30-12:45: Workshops, Session B

6. Is an ESOP Feasible for My Company?

Room TBD

Chuck Coyne, Empire Valuation; Tabitha Croscut, Devine Millimet; Nick Van Alstine, Van Alstine & Sons

Using an actual ESOP feasibility analysis completed in 2018, the presenters will walk through feasibility considerations, including census indicators, valuation indicators and financing indicators, to give someone new to ESOPs an opportunity to better understand what's contained in ESOP feasibility analysis.


7. Ownership Transitions: Laying the Groundwork for Becoming a Worker-Owned Co-op

Room TBD

Rob Brown, Cooperative Development Institute; Joe Marrafino, Democracy At Work Institute

Small businesses that are planning to become worker-owned often make adjustments in the period before the sale that strengthen the financial health, legal structure, and leadership capacity of the company. This session will show how a business can assess its readiness -- and its gaps in readiness -- and how it can put in place operational practices that build capacity for a successful transition that can increase worker productivity, retention, and pride.


8. Communicating the Results: Effective Financial Information Sharing in Employee-Owned Companies

Room TBD

Alex Fischer, Open Bookkeeping; Dave Fitz-Gerald, Carris Reels

Employee-owned businesses -- both ESOPs and worker co-ops -- excel when engaged owners can participate meaningfully in goal-setting and other key organizational decisions. Getting the most out of such participation requires effectively communicating a company's financial performance and goals to staff, whose understanding is an essential part of a high-performance ownership culture. In this session, participants will learn about the importance of the budgeting process, explore, in a hands-on activity, different strategies for sharing numbers with non-financial employee-owners, and hear about approaches used at Carris Reels.


9. Nifty Fifty: Best Ideas for Communications in Employee-Owned Companies

Room TBD

Steve Merchant, Gardener’s Supply Company; Aaron Moberger, Harpoon Brewery; Jesse Tyler, Hypertherm; Caitlin Lovegrove, King Arthur Flour

Get your pen and paper ready! In this fast-paced session, our panelists from ESOP companies known for the quality of their communications will share an idea-a-minute of tried and true ways they educate and engage their employees. The panel will offer 50+ ideas you can use in your workplace.


10. Keeping Your ESOP Healthy: Issues and Solutions for Mature ESOPs

Room TBD

Kjersti Cory, GreatBanc Trust Company; Joe Marx, Principal Financial Group; Michael McGinley, Prairie Capital Advisors

As an ESOP matures, new challenges arise that must be addressed if the ESOP is to remain healthy. This presentation will discuss the internal and external factors affecting ESOP sustainability, and cover the tools needed for long-term ESOP viability.


12:45-1:45: Lunch
Grand Maple Ballroom

1:45-3:00: Workshops, Session C

11. Ready, Set, ESOP! Getting an ESOP Off to a Good Start

Room TBD

Barbara Clough, Newport Group; Kjersti Cory, GreatBanc Trust Company; Aaron Moberger, Harpoon Brewery

This session will help those considering the ESOP structure, and those in new or established ESOP companies understand the annual requirements of an ESOP in order to meet various deadlines and participant expectations. In addition to focusing on the annual tasks, this session will explore the initial rollout and explanation of the ESOP to employees, and how a "culture of ownership" can be fostered from the beginning.  


12. An Introduction to Sociocracy

Room TBD

Jerry Koch-Gonzalez, Sociocracy For All

New democratic businesses often begin with visions of deciding everything together. As organizations expand, this often comes to feel ineffective. How can we have effective egalitarian decision-making in a growing organization? How can we distribute responsibilities to teams in a way that still keeps the members of the organization connected and working synergistically? In this session, we will use the model of sociocracy (aka dynamic governance) to explore these questions.


13. Cross Class Conversation in Participatory Workplaces: Why and How

Room TBD

Angela Berkfield and Shela Linton, Equity Solutions  

Miscommunication in the workplace can lead to misunderstandings, tensions, and even resignations or terminations. In this highly interactive workshop, participants will learn about our bigger economic system, gain tools for effective, authentic cross-class communication, and practice how to begin and sustain meaningful conversation across difference in participatory workplaces.


14. Strengthening Ownership Culture through Continuous Improvement

Room TBD

Matt Hancock, Praxis Consulting Group; Alex Jaccaci, Hypertherm; Chris Moran, PC Construction

This is a session for leaders at all levels who want to engage employee owners in opportunities to improve their work and their business through Continuous Improvement (CI). This semi-structured panel discussion will allow participants to explore how to: get started with CI, integrate CI into their culture and into strategic and operational planning, and sustain efforts over time.


15. Cultivating Leaders from Within: Internal Leadership Development in EO Companies

Room TBD

Keith Flaherty, Hallam-ICS; Sarah Lipton, The Presence Point ; Suzanne McDowell, King Arthur Flour Company; Mary Steiger, PT-360

At its best, employee ownership not only provides employees with a good work life and economic security, but also opportunities to develop their capacities and leadership skills. This panel session will start with an overview of the importance and practice of leadership development, followed by representatives of Vermont EO companies discussing their experiences developing leadership talent from within. You will take home key tactics and tools that will allow your leaders to thrive and your companies to flourish.

3:15-4:30: Workshops, Session D

16. Employee Ownership Alternatives: EO Trusts and Equity-Based Incentives to Broaden Ownership

Room TBD

Christopher Michael, Newark Community Economic Development Corporation; Brian Murphy, Dinse P.C.

Selling to an employee ownership trust (EOT) should be considered when the cost of an ESOP is a concern, and/or when perpetuity of employee ownership is a goal. Attendees will learn "why" to use an EOT, "how" to transition to one, and "where" to look for further guidance. In the second part of this session, we will consider a variety of ways of sharing equity with employees: from stock option plans to restricted stock awards to phantom stock plans to stock appreciation plans to the issuance of LLC “profits interests.” We will look at the pros and cons of each of these, and how to implement an incentive compensation program.

17. Strategies for Building the Worker Co-op Movement

Room TBD

Isabel Faubert Mailloux and Erika Gaudreault, Réseau COOP; Neily Jennings, AORTA; Esteban Kelly, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives

In this session, representatives of movement-building organizations in the US and Quebec will share insights and experiences gleaned from working to spread the worker co-op model. They will discuss different strategic approaches, including start-ups, conversions, and franchising, and invite conversation about how co-ops and their supporters can best engage with the work of building an equitable economy.


18. Telling the World You're EO! Marketing Your Employee Ownership for Recruitment and Revenue

Room TBD

Sarah Diaz, Switchback Brewing; Deb Harris, PT-360; Melissa Jacobson, Chelsea Green Publishing; Jason Lorber, Aplomb Consulting

Once you’re an employee-owned company, how do you draw on that fact to attract new customers and excellent employees? In this session, panelists will describe how they use employee ownership as a marketing tool, both internally and externally. Attendees will leave with a multitude of ideas that can help them realize the market advantage that can come with employee ownership.


19. The Best Way to Engage Employee-Owners: Tell a Story

Room TBD

Dave Fitz-Gerald, Carris Reels; Molly Mead, Praxis Consulting Group

Employee-owned companies are full of stories: your founding story, stories about why you are a great place to work, why your customers choose you over the competition, maybe a story about a newly-acquired company. In this session, we will share ideas about how to tell those stories well, for maximum engagement and impact. The most effective way to communicate is through story-telling. We will talk about why and how.


4:30-5:00: Closing Networking Reception