“CEO Corner” is a new blog series, intended to provide more insight into who we are and why. We want to recruit and partner with like-minded people who are trying new things for the purpose of discovering something better, and ultimately, making the world a better place.
When people ask me to describe Mazzetti, I never start by telling them we are an engineering company (in fact, and more on this another time, I NEVER tell them we are an engineering company). I always start by saying that we are an employee-owned benefit corporation.
I do this because these two aspects of who we are, I think, are the most important aspects of this company, and what will, increasingly, make us great. For this post, I want to focus on the idea of employee ownership.
When I was a young engineer, I was zealous in my determination to take care of my clients. I would have sacrificed anything to take care of my clients. Anticipating their every need was my overriding ethic. And, I was richly rewarded for this approach. But, I was kind of heedless of the impact that this approach had on the people around me. I did not really care about whether they had other plans for the weekend–if the client needed something, we would deliver.
Early in my time at Mazzetti, we had an associate quit and go to another company. This particular person was pretty important to the organization, and we had given him a lot of opportunity. We were all kind of surprised when he left. On his last day, he told me that I needed to focus on our people, or we would similarly lose them.
Indeed, this thinking merged with two other threads of thought I believed in strongly. Several years ago during a Mazzetti management retreat, we came to the conclusion that, from a strategic point of view, we were competing against lots of companies that were bigger than us and had lots more marketing dollars available than we had. We concluded that the only way we could ever win in this marketplace was to have better people. If we have the best people, we thought, they would serve our clients, and our clients would reward us with more business. And so, we concluded, we needed to develop programs to attract, develop, and retain the best possible people at Mazzetti.
At the same time, I may be something of a socialist (in a good way, I hope). I believe pretty strongly in allowing everyone on my team to share in the success of our team. Many years ago, I read, too, about the power of employee ownership of a company and the way that it helped make a company stronger when you bring everyone into the ownership, and to not just limit it to a privileged few. And so, we started slowly widening the opportunities for ownership to more and more people.
And so today, we want the best people here. We want to take care of them. We want them to be part of owning and directing this company, because together we are much better than we are with just a few people trying to do everything.
Lots of companies say they are employee owned, but few mean it in the way we do. When most companies talk about it, they mean that a few employees at the top own the company. Or, they mean that they have an ESOP that owns some part of the company. For us, it is much more radical. Here, no one person owns more than about 15% of the company. Here, the largest shareholder in the company is the ESOP–16.53% of the total company stock–which benefits all the people who work here.
All employees are working toward participation from the day they begin working at Mazzetti. Once an employee completes 1000 hours of service, he or she becomes eligible to participate in a year’s stock distribution. We currently have 144 active participants (out of 171). Employees can purchase additional stock once they’ve met the 1,000-hour requirement. We currently have 67 employees who have bought Mazzetti stock, which has increased in value every year for the last five years!
I think it really changes how people feel about the organization because they aren’t just employees anymore. All of a sudden, they are owners–they do have a piece of the pie. And I think that creates a sense of ownership and a sense of pride and a sense of caring that’s very different.
Hear more about our culture, directly from our employees…