It’s no secret that wealth in the United States is concentrated in a small percentage of the population. So is business ownership. According to the Harvard Business Review, the richest 10% of Americans own 90% of business wealth, while the bottom half own only 0.25%. That means 50% or more Americans have little or no say in how businesses run and do not benefit from the success of the companies they work for.
Compelled to create more equitable communities, the Kendeda Fund partnered with Hattaway Communications to understand the environment and spread the word about a little-known solution to this problem: employee ownership.
Employee ownership is a business model in which employees have an equity stake in the business, making them full or partial owners. It’s traditionally been thought of as a great retirement strategy, but employee ownership offers many more benefits to business owners, employees, and their communities. It can increase profit margins for the business and help employees build wealth. Both of those outcomes contribute to greater spending and investing in the local economy.
Employee ownership is growing: There are nearly 7,000 employee-owned businesses in the United States today. With over 6 million small businesses with employees in the United States, however, there’s room for even more growth.
Research uncovered two important opportunities:
- Employee ownership was primarily positioned as a retirement strategy and messaging was from the worker-equity perspective.
- Many resources exist on employee ownership, but most information is aimed at owners who already know about it or have decided to transition to an employee ownership model. There is far less practical guidance for people who don’t know about the benefits of employee ownership or how it could help their businesses, employees, and retirement plans.
The Employee Ownership Equals, or EO Equals, campaign is designed to fill these gaps by targeting business owners who have never considered employee ownership.
The campaign is framed by a unique value proposition based on aspirations that owners have for their businesses, employees, and communities. This messaging helps owners understand why they should consider this option, whether they intend to exit the business or not.
Employee ownership unlocks countless opportunities that can take your business to the next level—encouraging your team to work harder and think like owners, ensuring a fair reward for your life’s work when you retire, and setting your business up to thrive for generations to come.
The rest of the campaign’s messaging follows a Narrative Framework that helps business owners easily understand employee ownership, the problems it addresses, and the specific ways it can meet owners’ needs and improve their businesses.
With straightforward messaging and an inviting visual brand, the EO Equals campaign launched in October 2021. Business owners immediately identified with the problems presented in the campaign narrative and began to see employee ownership as the solution.
By leveraging the networks of small business experts, the campaign has spread awareness of this solution and compelled business owners to seek more information. Social media and paid ads spread awareness, and events like webinars offer opportunities for business owners to engage further and ask questions about employee ownership.
In the first eight months of the campaign, more than 300 business owners have sought more information on what employee ownership can do for their businesses, shattering our campaign goal to attract 100 new leads for our founding partners. EO Equals continues to expand the employee ownership movement, helping create more equitable businesses and communities.