The foundation and culture laid out for Palmer Group 21 years ago by our founder, Austin Palmer, has flourished. As an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) company, our staff is now up to 70+ employees, and we are growing in our understanding of being employee-owned.    

We have a passion and love for our company. We see the value of holding ourselves to a higher standard as employee-owners and ensuring our company culture of being an ESOP is never compromised. I’m grateful to be co-owners with these five individuals and to hear their positivity ring through in their answers. 

Mike Bringle: Director of the Accounting and Finance Department, 8 years of service  

Rhonda Baker: Senior Administrative Assistant, 15 years of service   

Jason Hennessy: Account Executive with the Engineering & Manufacturing Department, 5 years of service   

Derek NelsonTerritory Manager of our Cedar Rapids office, 3 years of service  

Kelsey Pritchard: Recruiter for our Information Technology Department, 3 years of service 

I talked to these five employees to get their insight on why being employee-owned makes a difference in our jobs and our company.  

What does it mean to you to be an Employee Owner? 

Bringle: All employees can impact the success of an organization in what they do, regardless of company size. Sometimes it’s visible in the bottom-line of making a sale or providing cost savings. However, sometimes it’s not as visible. Providing excellent customer service, creating a comprehensive marketing campaign to increase company visibility or volunteering in the community are all acts that positively influence the company. Being an employee-owner means two things to me. First, we get to impact the growth of our business. This translates into an increased share price and, as employee-owners, we all receive the benefit of this growth. Second, we get to be part of something bigger. We have an opportunity to leave a fingerprint on something bigger than ourselves. I hope to look back to the beginning of our ESOP journey with pride in being a part of something special. 

HennesseyBeing an employee-owner means I not only help the company’s profitability but my long-term profitability as well. I have friends who have worked for an ESOP company for many years and have heard firsthand of the positive effects on retirement packages, higher emotional investment in the growth of the company, and culture. These individuals typically have a much higher career satisfaction than others, as is the case for me personally. 

How has being an ESOP benefited our culture at Palmer Group? 

Baker: A lot of times people look at how the company can benefit just them, but we are truly looking out for each other and what is best for the company as a whole. We are a team working hard with the same goal in mind, which is to be a successful company by making lives better. We all feel the privilege of being company owners. 

Nelson: This opportunity has given everyone a significant role to play in our business. It creates a team atmosphere and empowers people to make decisions based on the good of the company. If everyone is on the same page of making the company more successful and profitable, it directly impacts our long-term growth and can help us achieve our goals at a faster rate. 

What are key points that you have learned about what it means to be an ESOP company? 

Pritchard: The plan incentivizes employees to stay longterm and benefit from not only their own personal growth and development, but also for the growth of their company as an investment. 

Nelson: Every action you take has a direct impact on the company’s bottom-line. The only way we can grow is together. We work together to build a community with not only your co-workers but with other companies outside of your own. There is a real sense of pride that goes along with being an employee-owner. 

What make you grateful to be part of an ESOP Company? 

Bringle: I continue to be most grateful for Austin and Stacie Palmer’s decision to make Palmer Group an ESOP. They could have easily sold the company to another individual or even a private equity firm. That decision could have completely changed the company culture or the direction of Palmer Group. I’m additionally thankful to be working alongside individuals who recognize the value of an ESOP. They bring energy and enthusiasm to the company which is contagious. 

Baker: I am grateful to work for an ESOP company because we function like a family working towards a common goal. We are going to support each other through difficult and successful times. We don’t just look out for ourselves, but like one big family, we care about everyone involved. 

Pritchard: I am working for a company who values me as an employee and an owner and it’s a good feeling. 

Hennessey: The news of Austin deciding to turn Palmer Group into an ESOP company was amazing and proved how he has always valued his employees. He understood he wouldn’t have experienced the success he has had without the employees, no matter what position they held. I am grateful to be a part of an ESOP company because I feel I will be better prepared for retirement. I also am proud to be a part of the success of the company and the opportunity to work for an employer who has a positive work culture where everyone is working toward a common goal. I have the ability to make my financial future better along with all of my co-workers’ future too. 

Nelson: We have a company that cares about our current and long-term success. As an ESOP, Palmer Group does a fantastic job of listening to and involving every employee, making sure their voice is heard as an employee-owner. Becoming an ESOP has created a culture of teamwork and communication unlike any other I’ve experienced and has everyone on the same page of growing and improving our company every year. 

ESOP culture is truly a one of a kind experience. We are thankful for the opportunity to invest in our business and community in such a unique way. This is a gratefulness we will carry with us throughout the years to come at Palmer Group. 

By Kara Calease  

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