2017 Conference to be Held at the UVM Davis Center on June 2

Date: Friday, June 2nd, 2017

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

The VEOC's 15th (!) Annual Vermont Employee Ownership Conference will be held on Friday, June 2, and, due to excellent attendence last year, we've moved to a larger venue: the UVM Davis Center! Featuring 19 workshops, our annual 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.

Keynote: Marjorie Kelly of the Democracy Collaborative

Marjorie KellyWe're pleased to announce that Marjorie Kelly has agreed to deliver a keynote on the topic of "Who Owns America"! Ms. Kelly is currently Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President at The Democracy Collaborative, and cofounder of the "50 by 50" initiative, which aims to lay the groundwork for there to be 50 million employee owners in the United States by 2050. She is author of two books (The Divine Right of Capital and Owning Our Future), is from a business family (her father started his own business, and her grandfather founded Anderson Tool & Die in Chicago), and founded and was President of Business Ethics Magazine for 20 years. She's been a fan of employee ownership for decades, and is puzzled why everyone else isn’t!

Conference Schedule:

Thursday, 6-9pm: Pre-Conference Dinner @ Switchback Brewing Co.
Seperate Registration Required


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

8:30-9:30a - Welcome and Keynote by Marjorie Kelly

9:45-11:00a - Workshops Session A

NEWCOMERS Anyone new to employee ownership.
CO-OP Members of existing worker co-ops and those interested in creating one.
ESOP L Leaders of ESOP companies.
ESOP EE Employees already working at an ESOP company.

1. Bringing Employee Ownership to Your Company: An Introduction (NEWCOMERS)
Matt Cropp, Vermont Employee Ownership Center; Heather Jean, Heritage Aviation; Camille Kerr, The ICA Group; Pete Land, Tamarack Media 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 how perpetual trusts can be used for employee ownership.  Leaders from ESOP-owned Heritage Aviation and cooperatively-owned Tamarack Media will share their companies’ stories.

2. Hot Topics for Established Worker Co-ops (CO-OP)
Elias Gardner, The New School of Montpelier; Adam Trott, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives, facilitators
In a reprise of the past two years’ highly-rated “hot topics” sessions, 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 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)
Matt Hancock, 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. Starting or Rejuvenating an ESOP Committee (ESOP EE, ESOP L)
Dwayne Harris, John Hirsch and Aaron Larrabee, CAD Cut, Inc., a Web Industries company; Steve Merchant, Gardener’s Supply Company; moderated by Jon Sweigart, Praxis Consulting Group
ESOP committees follow a lifecycle, from start-up through rejuvenation.  Each stage poses different challenges and requires different support.  This moderated, interactive panel discussion brings together representatives from Web Industries and Gardener’s Supply to share examples and insights from their experiences beginning, sustaining and refreshing ESOP committees.

5. Hot Topics for Established ESOP Companies (ESOP L)
Barbara Clough, Newport Group; Andrew O’Neill, Prairie Capital Advisors; Rob Schatz, ESOP Plus®: Schatz Brown Glassman LLP
This panel of seasoned ESOP professionals will discuss current topics that are trending in the ESOP world.  Our panelists will review recent case law, updates to regulatory changes and trending items with respect to transactions, valuation issues and plan administration topics.  Join us to be “in the know” on all of 2017’s hot topics.

11:15a-12:30p - Workshops Session B

6. ESOP Transaction Basics and the Story of Switchback Brewery’s New ESOP (NEWCOMERS)
Bill Cherry, Switchback Brewing Company; Tabitha Croscut, Devine Milliment; Chuck Coyne, Empire Valuation
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 Switchback Brewery, now 100% ESOP-owned, decided on an ESOP and how the transition happened.

7. Co-op Conversion: Emerging Best Practices, Stories from the Field (NEWCOMERS)
Betsy Black, Cooperative Fund of New England; Rob Brown, Cooperative Development Institute; Camille Kerr, The ICA Group; Joe Marrafino, Democracy At Work Institute; moderated by Don Jamison, Vermont Employee Ownership Cente
What does it take to convert an established company into a worker cooperative Our panelists will share some of the results of the Workers to Owners Collaborative, a group of co-op developers from around the country who have been refining the conversion process and learning from each other’s experiences. In addition to discussing the necessary steps, panelists will share stories of conversion efforts (both successes and failures) that have taught them important lessons.

8. Marketing Employee Ownership (ALL)
Chris Bonacci, Harpoon Brewery; Kevin McCollister, Catamount Solar; Mary Steiger, PT360; moderated by Susan Reid, King Arthur Flour Company
Once you’re an employee-owned company, how do you draw on that fact to attract new customers and new employees?  In this session, a panel of experienced employee owners will explore how to use employee ownership as a marketing tool, both internally and externally.  Attendees will leave with an arsenal of ideas that can help them capitalize on employee ownership.

9. Strength in Numbers: The Power of Multiple Committees (ESOP EE, ESOP L)
Matt Hancock, Praxis Consulting Group, moderator; Chris Moran, PC Construction Company; Julia O’Brien, BL Companies, Inc.
In this interactive workshop, we’ll explore ways in which ESOP companies are using multiple committees, beyond their ESOP committee, to increase participation, enhance ownership culture and drive business performance. Participants will learn about different models for developing committees, how leadership can encourage (or discourage) participation, strategies for aligning committee-work with business strategy and tricks of the trade for managing committee-work effectively.

10. What's Taking So Long? Annual ESOP Responsibilities and Timelines (ESOP L)
Kjersti Cory, GreatBanc Trust Company; Dolores Lawrence, Blue Ridge ESOP Associates; John Murphy, Atlantic Management Company; John Simard, Vermont Information Processing
In this session, we will discuss the general timeline for annual ESOP services and what creates delays. Come find out why some calendar year plans hand out participant statements in April, while others aren't ready until October! Hear an experienced administrator explain how he effectively manages the process for his employee-owned company.

12:30-1:30p - Networking Lunch

1:30-2:45p - Workshops Session C

11. Getting an ESOP off to a Good Start: Advice from the Experienced (NEWCOMERS)
Keith Flaherty, Hallam-ICS; Paul Fusco, Steiker, Greenapple & Fusco; Joe Marx, Principal Financial Group; Cindy Turcot, Gardener’s Supply Company
There’s a lot going on when an ESOP is established, and it’s easy to overlook important details and opportunities as you create the plan document, and figure out the financing and administration.  And don’t forget the culture!  Two professionals who help create ESOPs and two representatives of companies with well-established ESOPs will give their advice on how to keep your eyes on the prize in the early stages of life with an ESOP.

12. Show Me the Money: Compensation and Benefits in Worker Co-ops (CO-OP)
Adam Trott, Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives; Heather Wright, WrightJones, PLC
The usual way of building compensation and benefits structures for employees is turned on its head in worker co-operatives.  In this session, we will discuss the impact of current and pending wage and benefit changes in Vermont (such as minimum wage increases, earned sick leave, paid family leave, benefit taxation, and incorporation) on workplaces where the employees have a stake in the financial outcome of the business.  We’ll present some models and tools for understanding how to construct compensation and benefits packages, and we will discuss what secondary co-ops like VAWC and other organizations are doing to support benefits and provide resources to worker co-operatives.

13. The "ESOPerative": How Cooperative Governance Can Make ESOPs Stronger (ALL)
Camille Kerr, The ICA Group; Martin Staubus, Beyster Institute at the Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego
People who want to create an employee-owned company are sometimes torn between the financial advantages of ESOP ownership, and the more democratic governance features of a cooperative. Is there a way to have both? Yes! This session will describe the "ESOP-erative" arrangement that was implemented at a solar power company in Berkeley, CA, which assures that the board will be accountable to the employee owners, who are directly involved in the governance of their company.

14. Nifty Fifty: Best Ideas for Communications in ESOP-Owned Companies (ESOP L, ESOP EE)
Chris Bonacci, Harpoon Brewing; Heather Jean, Heritage Aviation; Melanie Matulonis, Hypertherm; Chris Moran, PC Construction; Julia O'Brien, BL Companies
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 great ways they educate and engage their employees. The panel will offer 50+ ideas you can use in your workplace.

15. Lean-in: Advanced Methods in Continuous Improvement (ESOP L, ESOP EE)
Moderators: Matt Hancock, Praxis Consulting Group; Lisa Henderson, Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC), Rick Holloway, Chroma Technology; Ben Wallace, Sonnax Industries; Alex Jaccaci, Hypertherm
As employee-owners we care about creating great workplaces, fully engaging the talents of our people and achieving high performance. Whether you’re in the business of producing products or services, whether you work on the front-line or in the back-office, lean principles can help your organization tap the full potential of shared ownership.  In this hands-on workshop, you’ll learn how to implement workload balancing, teamwork, batch reduction, pull, single piece flow and quality-at-the-source. You’ll learn about these concepts through a hands-on simulation followed by a Q&A with a panel of ESOP leaders applying these concepts in their firms.

3:00-4:15p - Workshops Session D

16. Transitioning to Employee Ownership: Leadership and Governance (NEWCOMERS, ESOP L)
Martin Staubus, Beyster Institute at the Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego; Jon Sweigart, Praxis Consulting Group
At most privately held companies, governance and leadership is simple: all final authority rests with the founder/CEO.  So what happens when the founder sells to an ESOP?  Who's going to be in charge? 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.

17. Tools for Democratic Participation in Worker Co-ops (CO-OP)
Marcel Gagne, Cooperative Development Institute; Joe Marrafino, Democracy At Work Institute
This session will offer concepts and tools for participatory management that develop leadership, transparency, ownership culture and productivity.  A framework for self-driven job ownership and accountability will be offered, and techniques will be shared to support participatory financial, personnel, and communications systems.

18. Introduction to Business Literacy and Open-Book Management (ALL)
Vaughn Henson, SRC Logistics Inc.
If the ideal employee-owned company is “a business of business people,” employees must learn the language of business – the financials. Nothing can duplicate the informal, practical learning that comes with keeping score and following the real numbers day in and day out. This interactive and in-depth session will provide an introduction to The Great Game of Business and give you specific take-home tools to help employees better understand and become more engaged in their business.

19. Spreading Employee Ownership: A Strategic Conversation (ALL)
Marjorie Kelly, The Democracy Collaborative; Camille Kerr, The ICA Group; Cindy Turcot, Gardener’s Supply Company
The 2016 VEOC survey of employee ownership identified 2,675 employee-owned jobs in Vermont, making up less than 1% of Vermont's total workforce. In this panel, conference keynote speaker Marjorie Kelly, previous ESOP Association Chair Cindy Turcot, and Camille Kerr of The ICA Group will discuss strategic approaches to scaling the share and impact of employee ownership in Vermont and nationwide. Ideas developed in this session will be reviewed and discussed at the VEOC's annual strategic planning retreat in late June, so bring your thoughts on how to build a more employee-owned Vermont!

4:15-5:00p - Closing Reception with Hors D'Ouvres and King Arthur Flour Cupcakes