Jeff Mounts, Marketing Manager at ESP International, absolutely loves a certain quote. When you hear it, you understand a lot about Jeff, why he has become an invaluable member of the Communications Committee at ESP International, and why he earned The ESOP Association award for 2019 Employee Owner of the Year.
That quote? It’s from Albert Einstein, who said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
Take a look at what Jeff has helped ESP accomplish in a short time, and you see a living representation of that blend of intelligence and fun Einstein so eloquently described.
In the Beginning
When Jeff joined ESP five years ago, he did so based on the recommendation of his college roommate and with the goal of shortening his commute. The ESOP? He had no idea what that was. But he learned quickly. And as a member of the Marketing Department, he soon joined the Communications Committee and became involved in marketing ESP’s ESOP.
Initially, Jeff wanted simply to educate himself, but the committee soon found he was a natural at educating others too. Leveraging his graphics and video skills, Jeff personally produced a series of short videos that are now some of the company’s best ESOP education content.
Later, as co-chair, he led the creation of the committee’s strategic plan and challenged the team to create innovative ideas to educate and engage employee-owners.
Communicating Internally and Externally
ESP’s Communications Committee exists primarily to educate ESP employees about their ESOP and to increase employee owners’ business literacy. But it also works to share information about ESOPs to external audiences. For example, the company has repeatedly and successfully engaged its elected officials in Congress. In fact, Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA-2), has visited ESP locations multiple times.
The group also works externally to educate the community about employee ownership—or, as Jeff puts it, to “make the ESP story public.” He has found that the website has become an incredibly important vehicle for carrying ESP’s message about its ESOP to a broader audience.
One of the ways the company engages the broader community is through its Charitable Foundation. Each year, ESP employees vote for the charity they would like to see the Foundation sponsor. Throughout the year they host fundraisers and donate a majority of the proceeds to that charity; the remaining funds are used to support other local non-profits.
The 2019 Charity of the Year was The Freedom Foundation.
How Does ESP Celebrate EOM?
Another way that ESP educates employees and the community is through its October Employee Ownership Month (EOM) activities. With a full calendar of events planned down to the day, ESP takes EOM to the next level. Activities include an EOM poster competition, company-wide ESOP Trivia Tuesdays, Business Literacy Thursdays, a can drive for charity, and more!
Clearly Jeff and his fellow committee members have taken his favorite quote to heart, using creativity to make business intelligence and ESOP education fun. (For EOM resources check out The ESOP Association’s EOM web page.)
Sharing: Key to Success
One of Jeff’s suggestions is to tap the existing knowledge of employee owners in other companies.
“Don’t be afraid to lean on other employee owned companies,” he says. “The Association has some pretty amazing members who are open to sharing ideas, who are willing to share what worked, what didn’t work.”
He notes that ESP is fortunate to be located in an area with lots of employee owned companies, and he and his fellow employee owners regularly reach out to the region’s employee ownership brain trust. “We do a lot of networking and information sharing,” Jeff says. “We’ve held round tables and attended networking events in between conferences to discuss challenges, opportunities, new ideas.”
His final bit of advice: “Enjoy the fact that your owner decided to sell the company to you, the employee. It’s such a unique and amazing benefit.”