I’m an Employee Owner – What Does That Mean?


From left to right: Ed Cooper, Jodi Rusinovich, Lynette Lattin, Rosanna Conforti, Drenna Hannon and Jody Sayre
Pittsburgh, PA – National Convention of Employee Owners (NCEO) 2019

When Acuity Healthcare hired me, the company explained that I was an employee owner.  At that time, I did not fully understand the magnitude of this benefit.  I do not think many of us really understand employee ownership when we are first introduced to it.  There are only 6,500 Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) companies in the United States and that number is growing.  I volunteered and had the honor of being selected as an Ambassador.  So what does all this mean?

Employee owners at Acuity Healthcare are part of a very special organization.  It is one in which my voice, along with my fellow employee owners, is welcomed and my ideas matter.  If I can change something that I see as inefficient or that saves money, it is part of my commitment to say it and/or change it.  It sounds simple but being an owner of a business is a bit scary because my team has to have as much invested as I do.  I do not want to be “rowing the boat” while my fellow employee owners are “feeling the breeze.”  We’re all in it together so there has to be trust, honesty, commitment, caring, respect, engagement and responsibility, to name a few.  This is an enormous culture change that has to be nurtured so it will grow.  Each of us does not perceive this when we are told we are employee owners, I can assure you.

How did I find out about ownership, what changed my mind, and you may ask?  As an Ambassador, I gained insight into the communications aspect of ownership.  We have to talk about it and learn more about it. Every.Single.Day.  It is our J-O-B.  The decisions we make today will impact our tomorrow.  I want to pass on a legacy (to my only child), but I also want to live out my post-employment days, enjoying what I like to do such as quilting, reading, exercising, traveling and enjoying time with family and friends.  To have these benefits, I have to work hard now.  It matters now!

But that’s not all. I have to understand the financial aspect of what I do and trust that my fellow owners will feel the same way.  Employee owners do not have to put their money into the ESOP, it comes from an outside valuation by a company that specializes in determining the ESOP stock value.  It is a very complicated and regulated process.  This is done one time per year, after the plan year-end (December 31).  Employee owners are then sent a statement with their portion of stock value.  It means I’ve made money towards my retirement and its money I’ve earned.  This is truly a gift and one not to be taken lightly.

The story goes that once upon a time, Mr. Ed Cooper decided he did not want anyone in his organization to feel the way he felt when he was laid off from a company where he had poured his heart and soul into.  He wanted to give employees the opportunity to OWN it, and thereafter, converted Acuity Healthcare to an ESOP organization.  He had passion then that I now share.

I’m so happy I OWN IT!

Submitted by: Drenna Hannon, Executive Support and Employee Owner Ambassador (Charlotte, NC)