ESOP: Owning vs. Renting

What does it mean to own a car versus renting a car? For me, there is a huge difference between the two. Admittedly, I am not the type of individual that returns a rental car clean and washed, as I know the rental company (who actually owns the car) will take care of that. However, with the car I own, I make it a priority to wash it at least once a week to keep the paint maintained and the car looking nice. I make sure when I fill up with gas to clean the interior a bit. I do monthly check-ins to make sure everything is operating efficiently. I also check my tires regularly for wear and tear. In other words, I am inclined to take more care of something I own versus something I am renting.

The concept of owning a car is very similar to that of being an employee-owner at an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) company, like DISTek. Recently, four members of our ESOP Ownership Committee ventured to Des Moines, Iowa to The ESOP Association Midwest Chapter Conference. This three-day conference was filled with an abundance of insights, personal stories, and most importantly, inspiration, which left the four of us feeling creative and eager to continue to promote an ownership mentality at DISTek. One member of the committee gained a lot of insight on relationship building and communication strategies to help emulate a conscious culture here at DISTek. While another committee member was struck by the commitment employees put into their ESOP companies, stating, “During the keynote, the speaker spoke of the fact that we want employees that walk through the place to feel like you own it instead of rent it. Also, what owners can do to make the best of their profession every day. Most people typically work 80,000 hours in a lifetime, so we want to make the best of that time!”

It became clear to those of us attending how necessary it is to emphasize a culture where everyone truly knows they are an owner. One of the committee members was so moved by a speaker that they were brought to tears. Why? Because being part of an employee-owned company means so much more than the financial benefits. There are lessons to be learned and stories to be told from employee-owned companies and their cultures that can’t help but move you to action.

Personally, my biggest takeaway from this conference was what I can do from my role within Human Resources. The speakers highlighted different ways of amplifying our ESOP messaging and how to drive an ownership mindset within the company. To my surprise, their recommendations focused heavily on conscious culture and the employees who are staying with DISTek and why. Currently, because I am a part-time intern, I am not a participant in the DISTek ESOP. One may wonder why a company would take the time and supply the resources to educate their internship positions on employee ownership. It’s because DISTek is invested and committed in me. This type of employee-owner mindset is instilled in our culture to even empower part-time employees with what it means to be an owner.

Being part of a company that is committed and invested in educating its current and future employee-owners is empowering. Owning a car is great, but owning a company? I’ll take it! Is there trash in the parking lot? I will pick it up. Is there a task that is way out of my comfort zone that I can assist with to help grow the project? I will take it on. Are there individuals in other departments that I don’t know? I will go meet them. I’ll do this. Why? Because with a company that is invested in you alongside an ownership mindset, I can’t help but be willing to treat this company as something I own and I am very proud of.