A forward-thinking business model

by | Apr 9, 2020 | Skill Set, Spring 2020 | 0 comments

Business models are ever evolving to provide better opportunities for employees and the industries in which they work. In recent years, there has been a shift to more employee-owned models, ushering in a new wave of business practices and changing company culture.

StoneAge Inc., which manufactures high-pressure waterblast tools and automated equipment for the industrial cleaning industry, has been an employee-owned company for many years and transitioned to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in 2015. We sat down with StoneAge CEO Kerry Siggins ’01 to talk about supporting a culture of ownership in the workplace and what it takes to be a leader.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis appointed you late last year to the Colorado Employee Ownership Commission. Why was this appointment important to you, and what do you hope to accomplish?

Kerry Siggins: I’m a big believer in employee ownership. Being employee-owned has created a whole new level of opportunity for our employees and fueled our growth.

When I heard about the employee ownership commission, I was excited to throw my name into the hat. Because we’ve been employee-owned since the 1990s and recently completed the ESOP transition, I felt like I had a lot to contribute. I believed I could help the commission understand the benefits of being employee-owned by sharing what we’ve gained from it as a company. I hope to help Gov. Polis achieve his goal of converting thousands of companies to some sort of employee-ownership model and help Colorado be known as innovative, pro-business and supportive of employee-owned companies.

How do you promote a culture of ownership in your business?

Siggins: We’ve been an employee-owned company for so long, it’s largely ingrained in our company. But when we transitioned to the ESOP, we had many conversations about how to make sure our employees continue to feel a deep sense of ownership. We developed the “Own It Mindset” to inspire and guide the way we show up each day, how we treat each other, how we serve our customers and how we value our suppliers and business partners.

What does a company or individual need to be successful in your industry today?

Siggins: A company must be forward-thinking. The internet of things and industrial automation is going to dramatically change how we do business, and many companies in our industry aren’t doing enough to prepare for it, much less lead the way. Good leaders need to peer around the corner, trying to make educated guesses on what they think the future will look like and then align their strategy and organization to create that future.