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A team meeting involves the rough carpentry crew at the Ice Blocks project in Sacramento, California.


TAKING STOCK IN EMPLOYEE-OWNERS


The company built its success on relationships and proved that again, in 2006, when the owners switched to an em- ployee stock ownership plan (ESOP).


“We’d ask an employee ‘What makes you want to contin- ue to work for us?’ and he’d say, ‘I’d like a piece of the pie,’” Burns says.


There are only about 11,500 ESOP companies in the U.S. and only 4,000 of those are 100 percent employee-owned like LB. ESOP companies typically see increased produc- tivity and information sharing, lower turnover and higher growth. Further exploration shows that going down the path of employee ownership not only favors employees, but is also meant to share liability and taxes and additional capital through tax incentives.


“We realized ESOP would be a growth strategy more than an exit strategy,” Burns says of his planning for the future with co-owner Lancaster.


LB strives to be a close-knit family in other ways, too. Besides the usual company outings with families, the company cross-trains its employees by pairing together people who have different trade knowledge.


Another way LB demonstrates care for its employees is through a comprehensive safety program that is guided


by a full-time safety administrator, another rarity for subcontractor companies.


LB promotes a culture of safety so that individuals not only have the ability to come to work the next day, but also because there is a need to minimize accidents since the company is self-insured, Burns says.


Besides frequent safety education presentations and special training for foremen and project managers, LB suc- cessfully introduced an in-house creation—a safety mascot called “Safety Sam.” The cartoon-like crew member wears a work shirt with the familiar “LB” initials and appears in emails. Each week, job foremen open the emails on their cell phones and discuss the safety tips with their crews at what have become “tailgate meetings.”


Burns concludes: “We have stayed in business this long by keeping it simple and doing our best to lead by example. The importance of relationships and accountability are the underlying themes that guide our decisions, and we are doing our best to pass this concept on to the next gener- ation of leaders to ensure the longevity of this company. We continue to learn how to coordinate the management of four trades. The complexities are high, but we learn as we earn.”


Author Bio: Steve Freeman is a contributing writer and com- munications management professional based in Pauls Valley, Okla. He is also Principal of Freeman Communications.


POWERED BY THE BLUE BOOK NETWORK - SACRAMENTO & CENTRAL VALLEY / FALL 2016


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