One of the biggest mistakes that any employer can make is thinking that his/her employees think similarly. “Well, that’s what I would want!” is a terrible criteria by which to decide whether you should give your employees stock. While stock options seem like a reasonable way to boost the desirability of your workplace, you need to consider several factors when making a decision.
Is anyone asking?
This deals with the point made above: don’t assume that your employees think the exact same way as you do. Just because you would be interested in possible ownership doesn’t mean they would be. A fair number of employees are not interested in the ups and downs of owning a business. They are quite happy to have competitive pay and a positive work environment in which they add value to their own lives and to those of your clients.
Find out what benefits your employees are interested in. If “profit sharing/ownership” keeps coming up from various members of the staff, then yes, it might be something to take a hard look at.
Is it viable given your corporate structure and profits?
Remember that there will often be a loss of privacy with the introduction of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). There are often disclosure requirements that require you to disclose more than you currently have to disclose (which is usually nothing) about your books, long term capital spending, debts, and taxes.
Also unknown to most is the cost of creating and maintaining an ESOP, which can easily hit five figures for even the most modest companies. This is apart from the paperwork compliance that is necessary whenever you are talking about securities. On the other side of the argument, there are some ESOP expenses that are tax-deductible, within limits, for the business, and they represent tax-deferred savings for employees.
Is there another way for employees to feel ownership and ties to performance other than equity?
Just as there are many ways to build a business or create a product or service, there are many ways for staff to feel included, rewarded, or valued. You could have an incentive trip for top performers. This is something everyone can look forward to and aspire towards.
You can also give awards at annual meetings which recognize staff for things other than outstanding production. Sometimes people are great arbitrators in the office or bastions of kindness that help grease the wheels of those daily interactions. Recognizing them does a lot of what stock can do: show them you value them.
If you wanted, you could come up with a basic agreement (consult your attorney) that can be revised each year about some kind of profit-sharing. This can be an initial test which bridges what people say (we want an ESOP) and what they do (not actually step up and perform when goals are introduced) and helps you decide whether to introduce stock options.
We have dealt with ESOPs. Give us a call today to learn more.