2016 Vermont Employee Ownership Conference to be held June 2nd at Champlain College

Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2016
 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM (Registration starts at 7:30 AM)
Location: Champlain College, CCM Building, 375 Maple St, Burlington, VT 05401

Register Here!
(NOTE: if you are a sponsor or speaker, do not register here; you will be sent a seperate registration link. Additionally, if you are a student or first time attendee interested in bringing employee ownership to your company, please email [email protected] for possible discount details)

Come learn about the unique benefits and challenges of employee ownership at this full-day event, featuring a keynote by Cindy Turcot, COO of Gardener's Supply Company & Chair of the ESOP Association, and 15 informative and inspiring workshops. If you have any questions, please contact the VEOC for more information: [email protected]

Who should attend:

  • Business owners, managers, and employees of companies interested in learning more about employee ownership;
  • Those who work in established employee-owned companies;
  • Entrepreneurs considering starting up a company with broadly shared ownership;
  • Business advisors, including bankers, accountants, attorneys, and financial planners;
  • Government officials and staff members;
  • Economic development professionals;
  • Anyone interested in employee participation, sustainable business models or business ownership succession.

Schedule of the Day

7:30a-8:30a - Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30a-9:30a - Introduction and Keynote by Cindy Turcot, Chair of the ESOP Association and COO of Gardener's Supply Company, who will give a talk entitled "Employee Ownership: Is it a Movement?", in which she will speak about the acceleration of employee ownership both locally and nationally, why it matters, and what our role is in that change. 

9:45-11:00a - Workshops, Session A

1. Bringing Employee Ownership to Your Company: An Introduction (NEWCOMERS)
Matt Cropp, Vermont Employee Ownership Center; Steve Karcher, Stone Environmental; Ian Stewart, Vermont Computing Cooperative

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 – and discover which structure might work best for your company. This year, we will hear from a leader of Stone Environmental about their new ESOP, and from one of the founding members of the Vermont Computing Cooperative, a new worker cooperative that recently bought out an established business.

2. Hot Topics for Established Worker Co-ops (CO-OP)

Joe Marrafino, Democracy At Work Institute; Adam Trott, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives, facilitators

In a reprise of last year's highly-rated session, the facilitators will poll participants for topics of interest, and then, drawing on a pre-conference survey of Vermont worker co-ops and their own extensive experience, will delve into discussions of some of the most pressing issues facing worker cooperators today.

3. How an ESOP Works: An Introduction for Employee Owners (ESOP EE, ESOP L)

Matt Hancock and Alex Moss, Praxis Consulting Group

This session uses a highly interactive role play format, with cash, stock, and other props, to illustrate how an ESOP works in simple and entertaining terms. In addition to covering the Who What Where When and How of the ESOP, this session will explore the kinds of communications that enable building a strong ownership culture, and allow significant time for attendees’ questions throughout.

4. The Great Game of Business: An Introduction

Ed Dorian, Jr., Dorian Drake; Michael Gurdon, University of Vermont (retired)

The Great Game of Business is a set of engaging open-book management practices outlined in the book of the same name. New York-based Dorian Drake has been playing the Great Game for many years, to great effect. CEO Ed Dorian, Jr. will provide an overview of the Great Game, describe his company’s experience with it, and how it fits with the company’s new ESOP.

5. Hot Topics for Established ESOP Companies (ESOP L)

Barbara Clough, Blue Ridge ESOP Associates; Kjersti Cory, GreatBanc Trust Company; Chuck Coyne, Empire Valuation Consultants

This session will discuss interesting topics in the ESOP community.  Our panelists will discuss changes to the determination letter process and recent ESOP LRM which address plan provisions for use with volume submitter ESOP plan documents.  We will also discuss recent comments about the timing of diversification payments and allocation of S-corporation earnings to plan participants as well as three main themes recently brought up by the Department of Labor relating to valuations: 1) bad valuations they still see; 2) control values being paid when the ESOP really has no control after the transaction; 3) and hiring of an independent trustee to explore the feasibility of a transaction in smaller size deals looking to save fees.

11:15-12:30 - Workshops, Session B

6. Heritage Aviation's Transition to 100% ESOP Ownership (NEWCOMERS, ESOP EE, ESOP L)

Tabitha Croscut, Steiker, Greenapple & Croscut; John Murphy, Atlantic Management Company; Dave Stiller, Heritage Aviation

Want to learn more about the team, the process and the timing involved in an ESOP ownership transition?  Come hear how Heritage Aviation, a Vermont company, successfully navigated their ESOP transition to become 100% ESOP-owned in 2015. The presenters will also share current best practices that are followed in completing an ESOP transaction.

7. How The New School of Montpelier Became a Worker Co-op (NEWCOMERS, CO-OP)

Mary Creeden, Elias Gardner and Susan Kimmerly, The New School of Montpelier; John Davis, Davis & Hodgdon Associates CPAs; Don Jamison, Vermont Employee Ownership Center

Turning an established business into a worker co-op is an increasingly common way to share ownership with employees and, in some cases, for the current owners to exit. We’ll begin with an overview of the process and the key issues, including valuation, then will dive into the story – told from both the sellers’ and employees’ perspectives – of the New School of Montpelier, now Vermont’s largest worker cooperative.

8. Practical Tools and Approaches to Creating a Participatory Work Culture (ALL)

Julia Curry, Champlain Housing Trust; Cecile Green, Round Sky Solutions; Heather Wright, WrightJones

Participatory cultures are more fun and engaging; they can improve retention and help you navigate complex change. But how do you shift from a top-down culture to a democratic one? Join three local cooperative experts as they outline key strategies for making that change, including identifying and overcoming “founder’s syndrome.”

9. How We Share the Numbers: Open-Book Practices (ESOP EE, ESOP L, CO-OP)

Mina Almengor and Wayne Violette, BL Companies; Suzanne McDowell, King Arthur Flour; Adam Trott, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives; moderated by Matt Hancock, Praxis Consulting Group

A key to building a culture of ownership and engagement is sharing with employees both financial information and the basic business concepts that allow “the numbers” to be meaningful. A panel of leaders of companies known for their open-book practices will share their techniques, and give examples of formats and materials they use.

10. Leadership Development in an Ownership Culture (ESOP L)

Kathy Brytowski, Carris Reels; Alex Moss, Praxis Consulting Group

This session will focus on sustaining leadership development at all levels as part of building ownership culture. Particular attention will be given to leadership development as both an ownership right and responsibility, and how to sustain development as an ongoing learning process well beyond formal training events. Challenges, learnings, and strategies will be drawn from an employee-owned company's experience with strategic leadership development.

12:30-1:30p - Lunch

1:30p-2:45p - Workshops, Session C

11. Co-op Capital "Speed Dating" (CO-OP, NEWCOMERS)

Don Baker and Mat Robitaille, KeyBank; Sarah Bauer, Merchants Bank; Betsy Black, Cooperative Fund of New England; Simeon Chapin and Rob Miller, VSECU; Janice Shade, Milk Money

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet in small groups with institutions interested in capitalizing worker cooperatives. Capital providers will each sit at their own table and attendees will move around the room – like speed dating. This will provide those from both start-up and established worker cooperatives the opportunity to learn about different options for financing and to share their pitch, providing an opportunity to see what questions lenders may have.

12. Best HR Practices for Worker Co-ops (CO-OP)

Marcel Gagne, Cooperative Development Institute; Joe Marrafino, Democracy At Work Institute; Heather Wright, WrightJones

When your workers are your owners, H.R. practices can be quite different from those common in the for-profit business world, so this session will delve into the realities and challenges of worker co-op H.R. Topics covered include the results of a study of common worker co-op H.R. practices, a discussion of the place of worker co-ops in employment law, and a discussion of the workforce development challenges faced by co-ops with low-income and -skill workforces.

13. Engaging Owners on the Frontlines: Using Continuous Improvement to Strengthen Your Ownership Culture (ALL)

Matt Hancock, Praxis Consulting Group; Alex Jaccaci, Hypertherm

Companies where employees think, act and feel like owners are better places to work, and they out-perform the competition. This workshop will explore how employee-owned firms can use continuous improvement tools and strategies to build or enhance their ownership culture by engaging and empowering employees where work is done, and value is created, every day. 

14. ESOP Communications Practices in an Award-Winning Company (ESOP EE, ESOP L)

Mina Almengor and Wayne Violette, BL Companies; hosted by John Durgin, King Arthur Flour

BL Companies recently won a prestigious national award from The ESOP Association in recognition of the excellence of their overall ESOP communications. Two representatives from the company will share a number of practices that have contributed to furthering their ownership culture and long-term value. They promise that you will see some of the details behind the “best practices” that BL Companies has used to communicate with and engage their employee owners.

15. ESOP Governance: The Basics and Beyond (ESOP EE, ESOP L)

Merri Ash, First Bankers Trust Services; Brandon Bohr, Resource Systems Group; Dave Fitz-Gerald, Carris Reels; Alex Moss, Praxis Consulting Group; Cindy Turcot, Gardener’s Supply Company; moderated by Joe Marx, Principal Financial Group

“Employee ownership” through an ESOP usually does not entail control by employees. In fact, employee owners often don’t know much about their company’s governance. After a description of the governance roles and responsibilities of ESOP trustees and the board of directors, panelists will discuss how they deal with those basic requirements, and how they go further (if they do) to engage employees in governance-level conversations. 

3:00p-4:15p - Afternoon Plenary: "Innovation and Intrapreneurship in Employee Owned Companies"

Ed Dorian, Jr., Dorian Drake; Mina Almengor and Wayne Violette, BL Companies; Chris Moran, PC Construction; Alex Moss, Praxis Consulting Group; Adam Trott, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives; moderated by Matt Cropp, Vermont Employee Ownership Center

The aim of our closing session this year is to spark thinking and conversation about how a strong ownership culture can encourage employee-owners to share ideas that might lead to cost reductions, improved processes, and even new products and lines of business. After some opening thoughts from consultant Alex Moss, panelists will describe how their companies encourage innovation, and tell some stories to illustrate their points. And then we’ll bring it to the audience!

4:15p-5:00p - Closing Reception