Editor’s Note: As part of this year’s Employee Ownership Month celebration, we asked our members to share, in their own words, what being an employer means to them.
By Leila Castañeda, Strategic Initiatives Manager, Rincon Technology, Inc.
When I first interviewed for the position at Rincon Technology, I was asked to describe the life I always wanted to live; it was a question I had never been asked before by a potential employer. My shoulders and expression relaxed. Lost in thought, contemplating the request, I responded: “freedom.”
I had worked for a large corporation in a highly regulated industry for the better part of my professional career, operating like a cog in a machine with little time to focus on my happiness. My future boss explained that Rincon’s original vision was to enable its employees to live out their dreams of a life imagined, to be successful, to be bold—and this vision has made all the difference to me. A year and a half later, I work remotely from home, six months shy of being vested in Rincon’s ESOP and becoming a tenured employee owner.
Monday’s have never been the same.
Working from home is a unique and privileged experience, and it benefits the bottom line in the efficiency and culture of our company. The time it used to take me to commute is now invested back into myself and Rincon. The thing I hated the most about a “9 to 5” experience was the mornings— snoozing the alarm only to wake up and run right out the door.
Sipping my coffee, watching the sun rise has replaced rushing to the office. Journaling and savoring a few mindful minutes have become a part of my morning routine. The fact is, I have been provided the luxury of creating my own schedule—something usually reserved only for a small percentage of the workforce, for the capital intensive, blood, sweat, and grit of the entrepreneurial suite. I have been gifted the life of a business owner, without the arduous exertion, like being tapped on the forehead by a fairy godmother and sprinkled with pixie dust.
I’ve accumulated such an appreciation for being an employee owner that it has influenced the way that I approach work. I notice myself putting in longer hours, creating without limitations, and asking what more I could to do to contribute to the success of the company. I apply financially sound strategies. I sit at the table without hesitation. I have a long-term vision for my future at Rincon as a direct result of our company’s value in employee ownership and freedom.
Rincon empowers individuals to live the employee ownership mentality and to connect to the business and to fellow employees as one team. In my role I wear many hats, and on any given day I own developing different aspects of the business. From evolving our sustainability objectives to championing our diversity designation to supporting our sales endeavors, I emphatically collaborate across all departments.
Designed this way, every member of our organization is accessible, from the top down. I have the pleasure of working with each of our organization’s sales representatives as easily as the CEO; it is one of the most rewarding experiences Rincon offers. Collaboration, a buzzword in today’s professional institutions, is the heartbeat to our achievements. Every day we are charged to think like business owners. We are encouraged to be bold, bring meaningful and innovative ideas to align better with our company’s mission and values. Together, we are the genetic makeup of this company, a quality that is recognized by our customers and partners.
The financial aspect of being an employee owner at Rincon is just a fringe benefit; the real reward is the enriched business model. I know far too many people who live to work instead of work to live. Rincon’s original dream was to propel us to live ours, now it’s our turn to return the favor. Only time will tell how this company mentality will shape the next generation of Rincon leaders and employee owners and, as if by example, may even encourage other companies to follow the same blueprint towards business success and autonomy.
Being a part of such a unique business model coupled with the ownership mindset has transformed the way I view working. I feel a part of something larger than myself and that my contributions matter. Being valued is more than just a feeling—it’s a sense of purpose. If my essay is anything, I hope it serves as an example of what companies can achieve when they move away from focusing on just dollars and cents and, instead, move towards showing true appreciation for the people who work to help achieve those goals.
Employee ownership means valuing people, putting them first, and creating an environment where they are free to live the life they’ve always dreamed of living.