2018 Annual Conference to be held June 8th at the UVM Davis Center

Date: Friday, June 8th, 2018
Location: UVM Davis Center, 590 Main Street, Burlington, VT

Register via This Link

The VEOC's 16th annual Vermont Employee Ownership Conference will be held on Friday, June 8th 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.

For those arriving the night before, or who are in town and would like to connect with speakers informally, there will be a pre-conference dinner at August First Bakery on Thursday night from 5:30-8:30pm. Space is limited to 50 attendees, so, if you are interested in attending, purchase your ticket ASAP here.

Agenda for the Day:

7:30-8:30: Registration & Continental Breakfast

8:30-9:30: Morning Plenary - Dave Fitz-Gerald, Chair of The ESOP Association and CFO of Carris Reels.

"Owning something together is a lot different than owning something by yourself. Dave will talk about sharing ownership, at one company, between companies, and across North America."

9:45-11:00: Workshops, Session A
1. Bringing Employee Ownership to Your Company: An Introduction
Matt Cropp, Vermont Employee Ownership Center; Kevin McCollister, Catamount Solar; 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 Catamount Solar will share their companies’ stories.

2. Hot Topics for Established Worker Co-ops
Adam Trott, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives, and Heather Wright, WrightJones, facilitators
In a reprise of past highly-rated “hot topics” sessions, the facilitators will begin by polling participants for topics of interest, and then, drawing on a pre-conference survey of Vermont worker co-ops and their own experience, will delve into discussions of some of the most pressing issues facing worker cooperators today.

3. Your ESOP: Who Does What?
Kathy Brytowski, Carris Reels; Dan Cooper, Empire Valuation Consultants; Kjersti Cory, GreatBanc Trust Company; Dolores Lawrence, Blue Ridge ESOP Associates; moderated by Martin Staubus, Beyster Institute, University of California, San Diego
This introductory session will provide a basic explanation of ESOPs and how they work.  Intended mostly for employee owners in established ESOP companies – but also potentially of interest to those considering an ESOP for their company – this session will describe how ESOPs are structured, how they operate, who runs the company, the roles and responsibilities of all the parties involved (trustees, valuators, administrators, board members, managers), and how to create the “ownership culture” that is so essential in tapping the great motivational potential of employee ownership.

4. Effective ESOP Committees
Laurie Calvert, Meridian Associates; Ben Myer and Tim Shea, Heritage Aviation; Colin Wilcox, Once Again Nut Butter; moderated by Jon Sweigart, Praxis Consulting Group
ESOP committees are a vital tool for engaging a broad range of staff while building a culture of ownership. This panel discussion moderated by Jon Sweigart of Praxis Consulting Group brings together representatives from Heritage Aviation, Meridian Associates, and Once Again Nut Butter to share examples and insights from their experiences in beginning, sustaining and refreshing ESOP committees.

5. Hot Topics for Established ESOP Companies
Merri Ash, First Bankers Trust Services; Andrew O’Neill, Prairie Capital Advisors; Rob Schatz, ESOP Plus: Schatz Brown Glassman LLP
Join our panel of experts who will discuss hot and trending topics, including legal developments, valuation issues and trustee matters. We will include a summary of the latest DOL cases and settlements. Our presenters will highlight the valuation impact of the new tax act, legal developments on both transactions and ERISA compliance, and important trustee considerations for keeping your ESOP sustainable. Come to this session to learn more about these topics and other new developments.

11:15-12:30: Workshops, Session B
6. ESOP Transaction Basics and the Story of VHV Company's New ESOP

David Brown, VHV Company; Tabitha Croscut, Devine Millimet; John Murphy, Atlantic Management
If you want to learn more about ESOPs as an ownership transition strategy, come to this session! We will cover the details involved in using an ESOP as an ownership transition strategy, including the tax benefits, the process, the team and the timeline. Then once you understand the basics, you’ll learn how VHV Company, now 100% ESOP-owned, decided on an ESOP and how the transition happened.

7. Becoming a Worker Cooperative
Rob Brown, Cooperative Development Institute; Joe Marraffino, Democracy at Work Institute
This workshop will help business owners and employees understand the benefits of a sale to employees though a worker cooperative. Attendees will hear the business case for a transition to employee ownership, a general framework of how a transition happens, and case studies of businesses that became worker cooperatives. An interactive self-assessment exercise will help attendees rate their company's readiness, and discuss how to identify and address gaps.

8. On-boarding: From Employees to Owners
Bob Gelser from Once Again Nut Butter; Sara Illsley and Melanie Matulonis, Hypertherm; Mary Steiger, PT360; moderated by Jason Lorber, Aplomb Consulting
What it means to be an “employee” is common knowledge. Knowing what it means to be an “employee owner” before working for an employee-owned company is a rarity. As a result, effectively communicating the difference to new hires is vital for building and maintaining a strong ownership culture. In this session, representatives of three employee-owned companies will discuss challenges and share their approaches to bringing new owners on board effectively.

9. Working Together From Apart: Building a Strong Culture with a Dispersed Workforce
Stacey Falzarano, Resource Systems Group; MJ Kaplan, The Ready; Chris Moran, PC Construction
As companies grow to include multiple sites, and remote working becomes increasingly common, companies face unique challenges around building and maintaining strong and cohesive ownership cultures among geographically dispersed employee-owners. In this session, panelists will describe their companies' experiences with these issues, and discuss effective strategies for addressing them.

10. Defining What Leaders Need to Know in Employee Owned Companies
Jon Sweigart and Ginny Vanderslice, Praxis Consulting Group
In this session, we will look at the research identifying factors that link employee ownership and performance, and then work together to identify what this means about the competencies and character that leaders of employee-owned companies should have if they want employee ownership to result in improved company performance.

12:30-1:30: Lunch

1:30-2:45: Workshops, Session C
11. Is an ESOP Feasible for My Company?
Chuck Coyne, Empire Valuation Consultants; Joe Marx, Principal Financial Group; Jim Steiker, Steiker, Greenapple and Fusco
What should you be thinking about when considering an ESOP for your company?  What is the process for determining: 1) if an ESOP is the right fit, 2) if it meets your objectives and 3) what the appropriate structure and plan design are?

12. Governance and Management in Worker Co-ops
Elias Gardner, The New School of Montpelier; Neily Jennings, AORTA Co-op; Joe Marraffino, Democracy at Work Institute; Adam Trott, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives
While the core characteristics of the worker co-op model are well defined, it nonetheless allows for a great deal of diversity in approaches to governance and management. In this session, panelists will outline their experiences with hierarchical and collective approaches, and discuss the values and goals that call for different ways of running co-ops.

13. Addressing Class Dynamics in Participatory Workplaces
Kendra Colburn and Shela Linton, Equity Solutions; Molly Mead, Praxis Consulting Group
In this workshop we will provide contextual information about the causes of economic inequality and its impact on participatory workplaces. We will then share our own class experiences in workplaces and hear from participants about their experiences. Based on the issues that participants want to work on, we will form small groups and use creative problem solving to address class bias where it is showing up. Our goal is to practice shifting our unexamined, socio-economic class-based assumptions into more accurate and strengths-based stories. We will do this on four levels: personal, interpersonal, company practices & policies, and larger economic system. We will provide tools and resources for increasing knowledge, effective cross-class communication, and collaboration.

14. The Case for Employee Ownership: A Conversation on the Latest Research
Doug Kruse, Rutgers University, with Michael Gurdon, University of Vermont
Beyond the feel-good anecdotes, what's the hard evidence for the benefits of employee ownership for workers, companies, and communities? In this session, Professor Doug Kruse of the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing will summarize the results and implications of the latest academic research on the topic. This will be followed by a discussion, moderated by UVM Professor Emeritus and VEOC board member Michael Gurdon.

15. ESOP Corporate Governance: Who's Gonna Be in Charge?
Martin Staubus, Beyster Institute, University of California, San Diego; Ginny Vanderslice, Praxis Consulting Group
At most privately-held companies, governance and leadership is simple: all final authority rests with the founder/CEO who may or may not have invested in developing either his or her successor or members of the leadership team.  So what happens when the founder sells to an ESOP?  Who's going to be in charge?  How and why does the need for developing internal leaders change? This session will offer guidance and insight on how to create a successful new structure for governance and leadership, based on the experience of hundreds of employee-owned companies.

3:00-4:15: Workshops, Session D
16. If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Transitioning to and Embracing an ESOP

Laurie Calvert, Meridian Associates; Kjersti Cory, GreatBanc Trust Company; Martin Staubus, Beyster Institute, University of California, San Diego
Imagine that you’ve just established an ESOP: the transaction has closed and your people are now employee-owners.  What do you need to do to make sure your new ESOP is truly successful? Get advice and guidance from a panel featuring both professional experts and company veterans who have been through it all.  We’ll review what you need to do to assure that your ESOP operates successfully.  We will also offer guidance on the development of an effective “ownership culture,” which is so critical to fostering employee engagement and business success. This session will explore approaches to educating your employees on what the transition means, how to prepare for the employee concerns resulting from the change, and the opportunities for your company given the new ESOP status. 

17. Transitioning to Participatory Employee Ownership: Navigating Founder's Syndrome, Management Succession, and Other Ownership Transition Challenges
Cecile Green, Round Sky Solutions
Participatory leadership and management can seem like a pipe dream amidst the real-life issues that face businesses in ownership transition. From founders who want or need to maintain control, to questions of how sweat equity is fairly accounted for, to what kinds of changes we make in how we lead and manage, navigating the change is rife with seemingly intractable challenges. During this session, we’ll explore some of the key challenges and discuss potential solutions that can be adapted to your situation to realize the transition to participatory ways of working together.

18. Creating Engaging Financial Reports
Alex Fischer, Open Bookkeeping
This session will dive into questions of what information should be included in financial reports and how that information should be communicated. Often our financial reports focus on the nitty-gritty details of the past, without discussing implications for the future or how non-financial goals are being met. This session will provide concrete tools and strategies for better sharing the numbers that matter – by playing games, doing puzzles and other innovative and engaging methods.

19. Community Service in EO Companies: Engaging Owners While Strengthening Communities
Keith Flaherty, Hallam-ICS; Deb Harris, PT-360; Marly Thompson, Harpoon Brewery; John Durgin, King Arthur Flour
Many employee-owned companies have found that structured community service programs improve employee engagement and morale, build strong community relationships and strengthen the public perception of their organization. In this session, panelists will outline the design and impact of their community service programs, alignment with their companies' social missions, and we will hear about a new initiative facilitating cross-company collaboration.

4:15-5:00: Closing Reception