How employee ownership transformed our company

As the founder of VistaVu Solutions, I feel a lot of pride in our people, the quality of our work and how we help our customers in the U.S. and Canada succeed.

I am also proud of the fact that we are 100% employee owned and have been for over six years.

A number of business owners have contacted me in recent months, asking for information on why we did this, how we structured the program and what the impact has been.

In this blog post, I’ll focus on why we did it and how it has changed our business for the better. A follow-up blog will dig into the set-up and management of our Employee Share Ownership Program.

At VistaVu, gratitude is one of our six core values and one of my favorites. The Employee Share Ownership Program was established to simply say thank you: to those people who have been here through the highs and lows, who have pioneered new products and services that moved us to another level of maturity, who continuously go above and beyond for our customers and our teammates.

I saw employee ownership as a way to show appreciation to employees who have put their trust in me and the rest of the VistaVu team. Together, as owners, we would embark on this new journey to reach our company’s potential.

I was familiar with a Harvard Business Review paper from some years previous that described how employee ownership can create significant benefits for a business – if done correctly. The benefits relate to engagement, productivity, employee/owner retention and overall profitability. That was the motivation and hope back in 2016.

Thinking and working like an owner

Some people want to come to work every day, put in a solid eight hours, earn a salary and leave it at that. Other people want to be an owner. With an ownership mentality, people feel they have more freedom to make decisions that impact the organization.

We have an open book policy as far as finance, so these owners know if we’re making money or losing money. They know what the company’s strategy is: today, tomorrow and five years from now.

When new staff members become owners, we encourage them to engage as owners.

Not long ago, some newly minted managers provided a great example of thinking and working like an owner. This group thought there was a better way to service our mid-market clients using teams for account management instead of individuals, and they decided to pilot it. Instead of asking permission, they just went ahead and did it. It’s early days so we still need to measure the effectiveness of this program.  To me, their action epitomizes engaging as an owner. I love the fact that they felt empowered to take a risk but also felt accountable for the results.

Those who want more for themselves can develop an owner mindset and dig in like an owner. They see not just what we are but what we could be, and they do whatever is needed. They look ahead for hazards that could hurt the company.

When COVID struck in 2020, we didn’t know what would happen and our aim was to try to keep the team together. We appreciated the people engaging as owners offering to take a temporary salary rollback to secure our team. (The amount we saved was paid back within months and we avoided mass layoffs).  Because of our team’s engagement and actions as owners, our eNPS score during Covid was the highest ever.

Impact and long-term vision

Has employee ownership delivered the expected results and impact for VistaVu? Yes.

Today, our company has four times the annual revenue and is five times as profitable as we were when we started on this journey in 2016. Our customer satisfaction and employee engagement have never been higher. Was all this due to employee ownership? No. Was employee ownership a big part of it? Absolutely.

Employees currently own 100% of VistaVu shares. As the company has grown in terms of revenue and staff, we’ve been able to create new owners at a pace that would have been hard to foresee back in 2016. In 2022, already more than 40 new VistaVu owners have been added.

As the founder of VistaVu, I feel pride and satisfaction with each new addition to our ownership group.  I hope everyone reading this article can become an owner in the businesses they are helping to build.

In fact, I’d like to do even more in the coming years.  Starting with VistaVu’s positive experience with employee ownership, I’d like to share this idea with other businesses and help many more staff members become owners.

I’ve tried here to highlight the why of VistaVu’s move to employee ownership. The next blog will discuss the how – how we structured the program in 2016, how it’s different than other ownership programs such as stock options and how the program has evolved over the years.

Thanks for reading this post. I welcome your comments and thoughts.