Employee stock-ownership plans can be complex to set up. But at local companies ranging from Charter Construction to pet-supply retailer Mud Bay, an ESOP gives workers a financial and psychological stake in the enterprise’s success.
A chance conversation on a ski hill led to a dramatic turn of events for Peter Saladino, the president and then-majority owner of a Seattle construction company. Saladino was vacationing in Montana when a ski partner talked about an employee stock-ownership plan, or ESOP, that turned workers into owners.Intrigued, Saladino looked into an ESOP for his company, Charter Construction, which has about 220 employees. Saladino, 47, wasn’t thinking about selling or his own retirement. Instead, he was looking for an ownership structure involving his colleagues that would carry the company well into the future. His leadership team agreed an ESOP was a good idea.
After months of preparation, Charter Construction launched its own ESOP plan on Sept. 30. Employees who work more than 1,000 hours a year are eligible. Eventually, the company will be 100 percent owned by its workers. They’re all owners now,” Saladino said. “And I think that they all think that way.