Monday, January 14, 2013

Employee Ownership: "Emerging from the Shadow Margins"

A growing number of builders and remodelers practice open-book management, and more and more of those that actually have profits to share are indeed sharing them with staff. But I know of only a handful that are truly employee-owned: that is, where every employee-owner (not to be confused with every employee) has an equal say in the company's decisions and an equal stake in its success.

The best example that I know of is a design/build firm on Martha's Vineyard, South Mountain Company. Here's a recent photo of all 30 full-time employees, of whom 21 are full owners.

In his latest blog post, published yesterday, SoMoCo founder John Abrams wrote this:
"On the last day of 2012 our 25th year as a worker cooperative (and 37th in business) ended. It was an extraordinary year -- rich, full, profitable, demanding, restorative, and uplifting....
"December 31st also marked the end of the United National International Year of the Cooperative. Worker cooperatives (and employee ownership in general) are emerging from the shadow margins of our economy. For the last decade or two I have noticed that the socially responsible business movement in the U.S. has been essentially deaf when it comes to issues of widespread ownership. That is changing, and that's important because, as Marjorie Kelly says in her seminal book Owning Our Future, published this year, 'Ownership is the gravitational field that holds our economy in its orbit.'"
Read the rest of the post for more on the benefits of employee ownership. Here's a previous d5R story on a net-zero housing project by South Mountain Company. And here's my 2007 profile of John Abrams, winner of the first Fred Case Remodeling Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 

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