Humble roots: A co-ownership story

Collage of images of Odell Brewing.

By Kellee Kroll

When Odell Brewing Company decided to implement an ESOP, it was all about making a co-ownership culture–reality.

Since the ESOP was so new, Odell’s leadership team contacted Principal to discuss how other companies communicate the ESOP message. They decided to work with Principal in developing a strategy to make their ESOP message understandable and meaningful to their co-workers.

Owned mainly by the Odells for the past 25 years, the company’s strong culture was tied to an extended work family and their shared love of craft brewing. Given the highly engaged workforce, the Odell’s wanted an ideal opportunity to get everyone together and share their plans for the company.

Odell Brewing logo

That opportunity was the annual meeting, where all co-workers gather each year to celebrate the company’s accomplishments. In order to make this year’s celebration as robust as possible, their ESOP communication strategy included plans for:

  • Messaging and delivery by the owners and senior management team, to support the company’s values and mission
  • A sneak preview for the management team and an opportunity to ask questions
  • An ice-breaker game to open the meeting, encourage participation, and begin building the anticipation
  • An ESOP-specific brand to set the stage for communication and give meaning to participants—that they are part of creating this vision—emphasizing their role in “crafting their future” and becoming a “co-owned” company
  • Key information to the employees in the room who were considered active participants that day
  • Specific plan details in a supporting takeaway piece
  • Engraved commemorative items for all co-owners
  • A new craft beer in honor of becoming co-owned

Not only did the new ESOP-specific brand tie to their industry, the presentation also incorporated terminology that would be relatable to their company, align with their business, and resonate with employees. Phrases like planting roots, stockpiling your time, and letting it age were used to describe how the plan works. Employees were asked to hop to it in making an impact to the company’s growth and value.

The ice-breaker game–Name the Year, Name the Beer–tied to the prior year’s 25th anniversary celebration. Employees were asked to guess what year a playing song topped the charts, and then name the Odell beer that was released that same year. The songs and beers followed their 25-year timeline. At the end of the meeting, a commemorative craft beer for 2015 was presented, and employees were asked to name it in honor of their co-ownership.

Because they traditionally spend as much time together outside of work–whitewater rafting, hiking, drinking beer–as they do at work, the camaraderie and celebration with the newly crafted beer strongly resonated with employees. In fact, many employees continued the celebration after the meeting.

Odell is a perfect example of how emotions can tie to an ESOP transaction. It’s more than a benefit plan; it’s a milestone in the company’s history and a transition for owners.

Culture Maven & HR Director, Corkie Odell, shared that the meeting was full of tears, cheers, and laughter. “It was amazing! People were so excited–crying, clapping, yelling! It was so cool. People seemed to just enjoy drinking some beer together and celebrating.”

Chief Financial Officer, Chris Banks, added, “It was very touching. So many happy, excited co-workers.”

And the winning name for their commemorative craft beer as new co-owners? Humble Roots.

Tying the ESOP messaging to the emotional side of the ESOP and the craft brewing legacy the co-owners helped build is what made this announcement such a success. We look forward to seeing their humble roots and legacy continue to grow.

Congratulations to the ESOP co-owners at Odell Brewing Company!

If this story expresses something you’ve been hoping to achieve with your organization’s ESOP, the ESOP Communication Team at Principal can help! Contact us today at 800-224-0144.

Celebrating employee owners

Jerry Ripperger, VP of Consulting, shares his unique perspective on ESOPs several times a month.  

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