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Writing about ESOPs with Menke & Associates

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I'm thrilled to announce that my first piece has just gone live for my latest client, Menke & Associates. They are the nation's premier ESOP advisors. If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said that meant they're the best possible people to advise you on... [unintelligible mumbling]. But I've spent the better part of the last two months diving into the work they do, and while, okay, fine, it's probably not going to be the subject of the next big Marvel movie, it's fascinating and important stuff that makes a real difference in the lives of workers all across America.

ESOPs, or Employee Stock Ownership Plans, are a form of retirement benefits that give eligible employees an ownership stake in the company. The company does better, your shares are worth more, so your payday when you retire is that much bigger. Pretty good incentive to work as hard as you can to make your company successful, right? And at a time of massive income inequality and disappearing retirement benefits, the fact that there companies out there that are not only increasing their retirement benefits, but giving their employees a direct stake in their success is something to be celebrated.

Now, this may shock you, but ESOP transactions--which sit right at the intersection of accounting mumbo jumbo, investing mumbo jumbo, and legal mumbo jumbo--are pretty complex. To set up an ESOP properly takes incredible expertise and a strong working knowledge of a whole encyclopedia's worth of state and federal laws, IRS regulations, and finance wizardry. Accordingly, they can be a little tough to talk about in a way that, well, makes sense.

That's where I get to come in, and I'm so glad that I do. Menke & Associates have asked me to help them create a series of pieces that will make the work they do--which, again, is actually pretty dang cool--a bit more accessible to people who don't have two months to devote to parsing the terminology. 

The first of these pieces is a short case study on a transaction they did earlier this year when they helped Ohio-based landscape architecture and planning firm MKSK buck the stodgy, old industry norms by converting to 100% employee ownership. 

I got to talk with some of the folks over at MKSK and learn about the work they do, and they were so excited to have made this massive change, and about what it meant for their future. It was hard not to be excited for them. They're great folks doing some really creative and thoughtful work, and I'm glad to have had the chance to get to know them.

The piece is up on my Articles page, or you can check it out directly over on the Menke website.