Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX) – Arlington, Virginia

May 30, 2024

Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX)

Employee Ownership Expansion Network: The Blueprint for Grass Roots Advocacy Success

 

Explore the empowering ownership and resources supporting employee equity

Employee ownership, despite its rapid rise in recent years, is still in the emerging stages of its visibility as a business model.

As such, a proper grass roots advocacy network must not only educate the public about employee ownership but must also stand as a consistent line of support for existing employee-owned companies.

If you’re looking for an example of what such a network would look like, then look no further than the Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX).

The organization initially began as a collaborative idea within the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) back in 2016. Since then, it has burgeoned into an expansive landscape of state advocacy centers supporting employee ownership across the nation.

At the state level, it has established a clear strategy of fostering partnerships and alliances with like-minded organizations that share its vision for employee ownership to amplify the impact of its network and open new centers.

In addition to collaboration and expansion, proper advocacy of employee ownership models such as ESOPs, worker cooperatives, and employee ownership trusts, also requires a component of support.

As such, EOX maintains a strong foundation of grassroots engagement and community empowerment. From attending annual conferences to hosting quarterly workshops to personally nurturing relationships between businesses, EOX has made it its mission to have every interaction shape the narrative of employee ownership.

By providing accessible resources, educational materials, and business owner to business owner mentorship opportunities, the network cultivates a supportive ecosystem where individuals and enterprises thrive.

Executive Director Steve Storkan expresses the sentiment quite naturally, saying, “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is to create wealth for employees and create a voice for them at work.”

This is something that has already been well executed, as success for this organization has already manifested as employee ownership existing as not just a concept but a reality ingrained in the fabric of the communities it supports.

From a Founding Vision to a Nationwide Network

Back in 2016, the founder and several executive members of the NCEO realized that ESOP companies were most prevalent in the states that had advocacy centers within them.

This resulted in the formation of a task force to figure out how to best support them, which eventually led to the establishment of the Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership

“It ran for a couple of years… and due to its early success, they decided they should take the model on the road and see how they could open more state centers,” Storkan explains.

So, on July 4th, 2018, EOX was officially incorporated in Philadelphia, and on January 1st, 2019, the company began operating officially with its first staff member, which turned out to be Storkan himself.

From that point on, it has operated on a larger guiding mission, which, according to Storkan is “to create and support a network of independent nonprofit centers for employee ownership.”

The results have led to incredible growth: a blooming network of 23 state centers and counting! These centers serve as hubs for education, outreach, and support, ensuring a cohesive and informed community of employee-owned enterprises.

Underneath its main mission to expand and promote employee ownership is a secondary mission to ensure its current network is as cohesive and refined as possible.

Through annual symposiums, quarterly calls, and collaborative endeavors, EOX fosters knowledge exchange and best practices dissemination among these centers, a crucial part of its strategy.

“They’re the ones with boots on the ground providing free, unbiased resources to business owners, community leaders, advisors… anyone that’s involved with or is a business owner,” Storkan explains, referencing the vital role these state centers play.

This dual-pronged approach of state-level expansion and community-level support has generated fantastic results so far and is the current basis of the EOX growth game plan.

 

A Technologically Savvy Social Strategy

While grassroots outreach remains pivotal, EOX also acknowledges the power of technology in amplifying its message.

According to Storkan the question to be answered is how to best connect with business owners from a storytelling perspective.

So, by leveraging social media and targeted marketing, they aim to not only reach business owners directly but do so in a way that isn’t too technical and more easily understood.

To better accomplish this, EOX is currently looking into AI-driven solutions to help them accurately pinpoint the marketing areas in which they can most effectively promote the benefits of employee ownership.

While these efforts are just in their beginning stages, this innovative approach perfectly encapsulates the extent of this organization’s passion, in that all strategies–both old and new–are viable if they can help further the cause.

Another example of this can be found in EOX’s preference and method of storytelling. “We deliver our storytelling through partner organizations… we go to places that have built in audiences like trade associations, chambers, economic developers, and community groups,” Storkan says.

As he explains, these types of operations naturally address the skepticism of those who know nothing about employee ownership while giving the organization much more authority and legitimacy as advocates.

By advocating as a party that has no vested interest in whether or not a company becomes employee owned, business owners are much more likely to want to hear about the model’s value, and so far, this angle has made a world of difference in how it is received by business owners.

This has allowed the emergence of partnerships between EOX and various small business development centers across the country, as well as smaller government entities like local Chambers of Commerce.

In fact, the model’s surging popularity has now become the basis for a joint initiative between EOX and the NCEO called the NCEOX Initiative, which aims at further compounding the results of its already effective strategy.

 

A Fulfilling Company Culture on the Horizon

You can’t acknowledge EOX’s stellar performance without first acknowledging the company culture lying at the heart of it all.

The spirit of the organization is closely tied to its mission of closing the wealth gap and giving employees a voice in the workplace and an equitable opportunity to build wealth.

That spirit manifests itself strongly within EOX’s internal culture and borrows strongly from the values that can be found within employee-owned companies.

Storkan confirms this, saying, “We try to be an employee-owned company without being an employee-owned company. Everybody in our organization has a voice at work, everybody can give ideas.”

By fostering a company culture that values the perspectives of every one of its employees, EOX has managed to masterfully replicate the natural passion and enthusiasm observed in employees who work under an employee ownership model.

Every one of its employees can get up with a smile on their faces, knowing that they are making an impact that will extend further than the conversations and conferences. In fact, a conversation with a business owner today could drastically alter the lives of 75 – 100 employees, and their families, several years from now.

The impact EOX stands to make by educating business owners about the benefits of employee ownership truly is that far-reaching, and EOX honors that.

Every interaction sets forth a ripple effect that could potentially improve the lives of families that have yet to even be formed!

To the wonderful folks at EOX, this is what it’s all about, ensuring that others can create a better future for themselves and their families, and the primary medium through which that has been accomplished has been through its growing number of state centers.

It has already surpassed one of its two founding goals, which was to have 70% of the U.S. be covered by or live in a state with an advocacy center. With the establishment of its most recent centers, that figure is looking more like 76% these days.

Even with one of two goals out of the way, the organization is still making strides to achieve its second goal of helping to create 1 million new employee-owners by 2025.

So, EOX’s journey is far from over, despite having already made very significant strides. Looking ahead, its focus will extend beyond expansion to the consolidation and sustainability of its operations.

By strengthening existing networks, supporting shared services, and nurturing a culture of empowerment, EOX aims to usher in a future where employee ownership is not just a concept but a cornerstone of economic equity.

In EOX’s narrative, every milestone is a testament to the power of collective action and unwavering dedication.

As the organization continues to champion the cause of employee ownership, its journey serves as an inspiration—a reminder that from humble beginnings, monumental change can emerge.

When telling the story of progress, EOX’s narrative is one of empowerment, education, collaboration, and deep commitment.

With leaders like Steve Storkan and other executives leading the charge, there is no doubt that the Employee Ownership Expansion Network will continue to weave a brighter future for generations to come.

AT A GLANCE

Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX)

What: A pioneering advocate for employee ownership across the United States.

Where: Arlington, VA

Website: www.eoxnetwork.org/

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