35+ Thoughts on What It Means to be an Employee-Owner at SEP

October 30, 2023

In October, we celebrate Employee Ownership Month as an ESOP. In addition, this year we celebrated 35 years of SEP! In a mash-up of both celebrations, we collected 35+ sentiments from across the organization, sharing what it means to “think like an owner.”

We heard recurring themes like:

  • Feeling the Benefits of Job Security and Stability
  • High Personal Investment in Our Shared Success
  • Valuing Our Role in Impacting the Future of SEP
  • Taking Pride in Our Work and Our Space

What Employee Ownership Means to Us, In Our Own Words

We asked our team to shine a light on a very big question—”What does being an employee-owner mean to you, and how has it impacted your time at SEP?” Read on to see how SEPeers responded in their own words…

On Our Culture

“The passion and dedication shared by our fellow employee-owners deliver a dynamic force within our culture and workplace. Their passion inspires me to contribute to a collaborative and optimistic environment where everyone is working hard to contribute their best to a shared goal.”
Kishan Patel, Junior Systems Administrator

SEP Team smiling during presentation
Watching our annual Winter Hackathon Weekend project pitches

“SEP consistently prioritizes doing the right thing for our employees and customers over quick gains, convenient solutions, or just following the crowd. Employee Ownership is simply another expression of this value as well as a commitment that it is taken seriously.”
David Inman, Senior Software Engineer

“In a business like ours, it’s crystal clear that people all over the organization are creating value – not just the people with the fancy titles. I love how the ESOP model makes sure we share in the rewards of building a great company.”
Raman Ohri, President & CEO 

“Being an employee-owner promotes a culture of accountability and autonomy. We have the autonomy to make sure we do the right things for our clients, without having to run everything up a proverbial flagpole to ask for approval. If we think it will help the client or the organization, we bring others along and hold each other accountable that this decision is best for “us” (the client / SEP), and not best for ‘me.'”
Chris Hartley, Senior UX Designer

“Even before we became an ESOP, I always felt like everyone in the company had the ability to have their ideas heard and influence how we do things. Since we have become an ESOP, I see even more people with that mindset, and we have so many individuals influencing the company and our culture in their own unique ways. This always makes me feel like, as a company, we are doing it right.”
Chris Atkinson, Vice President, Engineering

SEP teams cleaning up a walking trail
Doing our part to be good stewards of our space and community as Trail Ambassadors

“I’m blown away by the enthusiasm and support of our SEPeers. Whenever someone gets a promotion, it’s celebrated. When someone figures out a tough software problem, they share their knowledge with others. And when someone needs extra help, we all rally together. It’s this kind of amazing support system that makes our culture stand out from the rest. It’s one of the many reasons why I love being a part of this company!”
Kelly Wilson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations

“I love being part of a highly motivated and high-performing company. I believe that is in part due to the pride we all take in being a part of a company where everyone matters.”
Kelly Pata, Receptionist

On Having Autonomy

“As an employee-owner at SEP, I’m empowered to lead initiatives that sit in the intersection of my strengths, interests, and our strategic goals. In 2020, my pandemic hobby was to start a corporate podcast. As one of the few extroverts in the building, I love to bring people and technology together to tell a great story. This is a great example of how we work to build a place where people can bring their unique skills and interests to try and make SEP a better place.”
–Zac Darnell, Engagement Manager

On Leadership

“I feel confident that our leadership team has a clear vision for our future. Time and time again we’ve been shown competence and clear direction, even through the rough patches like this year. I greatly appreciate how open they are to our state-of-business, ups and downs.”
–Gabriel Wensley, Junior Systems Administrator

“I appreciate that our profit motivations are not driven by shareholders or a handful of owners. Our leadership is incentivized to seek sustainability and long-term growth.”
–Eli Crow, Senior UX Designer

smiling coworking in a crowd
Mingling at our 2022 Holiday Party

On Work-Life Balance

“SEP allows me to provide a good life for my wife and kids, and the flexibility to enjoy time with them.”
–Ryan Clarke, Senior Software Engineer

“Our culture of ownership prioritizes well-being and work-life balance by encouraging time off and everybody truly caring about each other. SEP gives you the ability to prioritize your health and family as needed. Being an employee-owner helps align our personal and professional interests in ways that contribute to a healthier work-life balance.”
–Elizabeth Zentz, Office Administrator

On Shaping the Future of SEP

“Ownership means I have a say in shaping our company’s future. I know that if I see something I think we can be doing better, my concerns will be heard and be taken seriously. Even if a constraint prevents us from fixing everything at once, we can at least move things in the right direction.”
–Kyle Pinches, Director of Talent Acquisition and Onboarding

“Being an employee-owner encourages us to impact the things around you for the better and betters our ability to attract and retain top talent.
–Tait Sweigart, Engagement Manager

On Taking Pride in Our Space

“Being an employee-owner has made me appreciate where we work and strive to keep up the office space. Aside from keeping the office up, it has been extra motivation to keep learning in order to increase the talent and value I provide to our clients.”
–Zachary Kaster, Software Engineer 

“I love how people go out of their way to care for each other, our building, trails, etc. The trail clean-up is a great example, as well as Judah and others removing invasive species.”
–Joe Brown, Software Engineer 

“In some organizations, broken windows exist and are left alone. As an employee-owner, it’s expected that I fix the broken windows around me or call it out to people who can. Employee owners have a stake in their fellow employees’ growth and success and can invest in them as it makes our company stronger.”
–Charles Tippett, Engagement Manager

On Doing Our Best Work

“Being an employee-owner brings a new meaning to “doing your best work”. With everyone striving to do their best and chase excellence as an owner, its no wonder why our customers love our work and SEP continues to grow and do well. For me personally, it has helped me to feel connected to SEP’s mission and enabled to do my best work.”
Ryan Hermann, Director of IT

“As owners of SEP, I think we’re all invested in our collective success. I trust this team to deliver high-quality software because we are all passionate about doing our best together, both for our company and for our clients.”
Laura Buckles, UX Designer

“To me, being an employee-owner is the secret sauce to feeling ‘what I do matters.’ My contributions matter not just to the company, but to me personally since I am an owner in the company.”
Adam Sturm, Marketing Graphic Designer

developers working in conference room
Collaborating in a conference room in our Forever Home

“Being an owner is not something I think about everyday. Ownership represents a long-term commitment and view of my relationship with SEP. It means I’m in it for the long haul. It creates a deeper sense of accountability to my fellow owners. It means I have a responsibility to help make this place the best it can be and I don’t get to write something off as ‘not part of my job.'”
Chris Shinkle, Director of Innovation

“I value knowing that the work we do benefits all my fellow coworkers. That changes the motivations for how we make decisions and grow.”
Andy Chen, Senior Product Strategist

“It’s encouraging to see how my efforts directly affect the success of SEP, as well as the success of its clients.”
Ian Haggerty, Software Engineer 

On Job Stability

“Employee ownership means we are always looking to build one another up. Many of the projects we work on have complex challenges that need solving. The moments where I’ve been able to help an engineer on an odd bug or they help me polish a design are immeasurable. As an individual contributor, I strive to put my best foot forward, but sometimes I get tripped up. Luckily, there is always a teammate there looking out me. There is a security provided by employee ownership that I have not experienced before.”
Jake Greene, UX Designer

“In 2009, one of SEP’s founders (and an owner) suddenly passed away. On that day I realized that the company where I very much enjoyed working was one key retirement away from potentially no longer existing. By becoming an ESOP, we’ve ensured that this thing of ours will be an enduring institution where great people do great work.”
Jason Hyden, Delivery Lead

“Being an employee-owner positively impacts my experience at SEP in multiple ways. First, our ESOP helps supplement an already-competitive retirement program. And, I take pride in knowing my day-to-day efforts can have a direct effect on everyone at the company, not just the executive team/shareholders (compared to a typical large corporation).”
Steven Mills, Software Engineer 

“As an employee-owner…
I love NOT wondering if my efforts are more about lining the pockets of the founders than building a company that will last.
I love NOT trying to predict how long before we sell to a PE firm leading to our jobs changing (or disappearing) overnight.
I love NOT guessing which family heir will get the CEO spot, and if they have the desire (and competence!) to do the job.”
Mike Mumau, Vice President, Customer Experience

“Being an employee-owner gives me a sense of security that the chances of being acquired by another company are low. The direct consequence of that is the preservation of our people-first culture, the secret sauce to our success!”
Jyotsna Raghuraman, Lead Software Engineer

developers collaborating at a monitor
More Hackathon fun, co-making in the Studio at SEP

On Team Work

“I appreciate the focus on cross-functional collaboration. Thinking like an owner, the benefits of this approach include empathy for all roles on a team, a focus on partnership, and shared accountability for product outcomes. When we work, learn, and grow together in this way, we see success at every level—for our clients, for our company, and for our peers.”
Noelle Webster-Milam, Director of UX

“Being part of a company full of employee-owners has a lot of benefits, but on top of everything else, it makes me feel like everyone here has our best interests in mind—always.”
Griffin Annis, Software Engineer 

“As an owner, I’m not just invested in the success of the project I’m on; I’m invested in every team. When a client hires SEP, they hire all of us, in a sense. As employee-owners, everyone here is invested in client and project success in very real ways.”
Bennie Waters, Lead Software Engineer 

“I love working at a place where doing good work means more than just the basics – taking care of customers, solving problems, making money, etc. Here, it also means making my company a better place to work for me and for everyone around me, too.”
Kal Cantrell, Software Engineer 

SEP team members watching presentation
Celebrating our 35th anniversary of being in business

On Tangible Benefits

“Working for a company full of employee-owners like SEP is so different from my previous work experience, particularly related to our transparency about the business. It definitely took me by surprise when I started here. How transparent we are on everything from financial matters to staff changes is a huge difference compared to anywhere else I’ve worked. I find it very valuable.”
Nicole Lian, Software Engineer 

“The ESOP is important to me because it aligns the incentives of all employees. SEP becoming an ESOP was the realization of the cultural value of teamwork.”
Leif Danielson, Lead Software Engineer 

“Being an employee-owner means that when I help my client succeed, that helps SEP succeed, which benefits SEP and me in the long term.”
Jeremy Jarvis, Senior Software Engineer

“As an ESOP employee, I am financially responsible for the effect of my work. That’s neat.”
Lee Harrold, Software Engineer 

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