A Culture of Ownership

Sharing a Culture of Ownership: What It Means To Be 100% Employee-Owned.


So what exactly does it mean to be a “100% Employee-Owned Company?”

There are a few different ways this can be true, but for The Douglas Company, it means 100% of our company shares are part of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Our ESOP is a long-term, wealth-building plan. It holds the company’s stock and provides employees with benefits when they retire or leave the company.

Breaking that down, here’s how that works. The ESOP is a separate program (a trust) that holds all our stock certificates. Those stock certificates are granted to employees at no cost, and as the shares grow in value, each associate benefits from the value growth in their account. Think of it as owning a certificate of stock for a publicly-traded company, except you don’t pay anything for it, and you can help increase its value. Your ESOP account grows as you stay with the company and can grow to be quite sizable if you’re willing to put in the tenure and commit your career to The Douglas Company. The plan pays out when you leave because only active employees can participate.

What it boils down to is this – Whatever the company makes goes back to the associates. At The Douglas Company, our net income doesn’t go to a small group of owners; it comes back and is shared amongst the associates that made it happen.

There are a lot of financial advantages to an Employee Stock Ownership Program (“ESOP”), and they get plenty of attention when you research ESOPs. But what about the other elements of being an employee-owned company? What does it really mean for the company’s culture when there isn’t one individual who “Signs the paychecks?”

For The Douglas Company, we refer to our associates as “Employee Owners.” It’s an uncommon term, so we took the time to have focus groups and define what that means. We settled on the following 6 points. We now can say, as Employee Owners at The Douglas Company, we will:

  1. Make all decisions for the betterment of the company
  2. Ensure our own continuous learning and team development for the growth of the company
  3. Take care of our clients and hit our goals
  4. Create an environment of teamwork and support for our fellow owners
  5. Hold ourselves and each other accountable
  6. Give input on company matters and stay informed on company performance

Each one of these points could have its own blog post, but there’s an underlying theme to them all together: Act like you own the company because you do! Our Employee Owners do what’s best for the company and excel at their jobs every day, just like you would expect an owner of any company to do. They function with autonomy and handle themselves without minimal direction because, as an employee-owned company, they don’t expect someone to tell them what to do. They also speak up when they think there’s a better way to do something than what the process might say.

This type of culture isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t cater to people who want to show up, make their boss happy, and punch the clock. An ESOP company is a place for go-getters who are entrepreneurial in their mindset and who care more about what they accomplish for their clients than the hours they work. They consistently look for a better way and are motivated to improve their workplace. The benefits are there for these individuals because the profits don’t go to a few shareholders or Wall Street; they come back to the people doing the work. Does this sound like you? If so, join us, and start learning what working at an employee-owned company really means!


ESOPs (employee stock ownership plans) have been gaining popularity over the years due to the growing recognition of the various benefits to all parties involved. The Douglas Company is now an ESOP company, which is great because all of us are now partners with a vested interest in our company’s success as it directly impacts our personal success. But what else makes an ESOP so great?

The easiest selling point internally is that it’s an excellent way for a company owner to exit the company while at the same time the remaining employees get to bask in the rewards of having a financial stake in the company.   

More specifically, ESOPs:

  • Show a commitment to keep a successful company open after the selling owner’s departure
  • Empower employees to shape or maintain the company’s identity
  • Energize employees to drive results and share the benefit
  • Allow for a controlled, gradual leadership transition to take place over a period of years
  • Account balances are generally higher than 401k account balances

Technical jargon and buzzwords aside, what’s important to understand is that the better the company does, the better we all do (and vice versa)!

“You are bigger than your defined role, and you are much more than your job title. Play your part, transcend your job title, be a Hero.” – Luke Bucklin, Sierra Bravo Corporation.

Our core purpose is to contribute to the success of our Clients and Associates, but it is equally important to have fun along the way. We work hard, and we play hard. We have a culture that supports and celebrates each other, and we recognize the impact of combining personal and company successes.

We work hard but know how to have a good time. We are a team committed to one another and enjoy experiencing shared success.