The Optimistic Employee Owner

February 7, 2013
stack of books in front of hands at a laptop keyboard

During a recent “blog-battle” here at SEP, we took on the topic of “The Optimistic [insert role here]“. So I’m going to take a little liberty and talk about why I’m an optimistic employee owner.

For those not aware, SEP is a 100% ESOP (as of spring 2010). This has some nifty benefits such as additional retirement funds, and the knowledge that if anyone tried to buy the company, all employees would have a voice in the decision.

But to me, the most important thing is that it means that the company is what we make of it. And based on what I see, that leaves me very optimistic. Why? Because of the great things I see people suggesting and making happen every day.

Some examples:

  • Book clubs – What’s better than reading a book on your own? Reading it with a group of other people (and having the company buy the book). I ought to get the actual statistics for this, but I believe the current set of groups is reading 6 different books and involving 1/3 of the company. And that is just the current batch. I believe at this time we’ve read over 2 dozen books as an overall group, involving 2/3 of the company.
  • Brown bags – while one or two people brought the idea up, there have been dozens of people that have put on these short lunchtime discussions about topics varying across technical and non-technical topics. And that is just talking about the presenters, even more have decided that their time is worth attending these.
  • Startup weekends – Wow! I think even the people that brought this idea up have been surprised by how well it has taken off. The basic idea is: get people together for a weekend, pitch ideas for products, assemble teams, build, demo. The people that suggested it were expecting “maybe 5″ people would join in… we got 20 the first time, 20 the second time, 20 the third time (and not the same 20 each time due to schedules).
  • Leads meetup – As we’ve grown over the years, some people started to notice that people in project leadership positions often don’t work with other people in the same position, sometimes for years at a time. So we started having a small monthly get-together to share situations we had faced or questions we might have for each other. While the group has struggled at times due to schedules, I’ve been impressed that we’re going on 3 years now and usually get a dozen people to each meetup.

Sure, these are all kind of “big” and not everyday occurances. But I also see examples in the small scale every day as well. And that is what makes me most optimistic. It isn’t just a small handful of people that impact things. It is everyone.

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