employee-driven with a focus on excellence
Adopting an ESOP business model, Giroux Glass values its employees while completing top-tier glazing installations on major construction projects
After starting in Los Angeles as a small, speciality glass and repair shop, Giroux Glass has experienced exponential growth in the seventy-six years since. Founded by Louis Giroux in 1946, Giroux Glass has since grown to become a leader among glazing companies in the US. Recognized for its integrity and high-quality performance, the company exceeds client expectations and defies engineering challenges to complete the industry’s most demanding glazing projects.
After forty-five years in the business, Louis Giroux was ready to retire. In the early 1990s, he began negotiating the sale of several buildings- including the building from which the glass repair shop operated- with local real estate investor, Anne Merelie Murrell. She bought the buildings with the promise to hang onto the business and to keep the ten loyal staff members employed for at least one year.
She Kept her word. Murrell held onto the company longer, and led the company during those early years while demand increased, through Los Angeles major events that included civil unrest in 1992 and the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Murrell oversaw the company’s expansion into Las Vegas, then Fresno and San Bernardino.
Starting in 2006, when Murrell considered planning her own retirement, she contemplated the idea of handing back the company to its employees. The many benefits of this business status become clear to her. The way to accomplish that was to transition Giroux Glass from its status as a privately held company, to that of an ESOP ( employee stock ownership plan), and she began the process.
By October 2017, and with a new CEO and president, Natline Lomedico at the helm, the transition was complete. Giroux Glass became a 100 percent employee-owned company that continues to provide glass, glazing, and architectural metals to mainly commercial clients in the Southwest.
Giroux Glass now operates branches in three states, with offices in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Fresno, Orange County and Phoenix. It hires union-certified glaziers to cater to the needs of the commercial, retail, and luxury residential sectors.
Most people have seen Giroux’s work on major landmarks in the regions surrounding and throughout their many locations. Their projects have included entertainment, sports, municipal, healthcare, education and transportation facilities throughout Southern California, as well as literally every hotel, casino along the Las Vegas “Strip”.
The company’s work is featured at the Pacific Life Insurance headquarters in Newport Beach, a recent project that includes renovations on the building that is featured in many movies and television shows for its iconic visuals. The glass Skywalk over the Grand Canyon is another well-recognized landmark project.
Sports fans have experienced games at the stunning new SoFi Stadium and the Allegiant Stadium, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, T-Mobile Arena, or Staples Center ( since renamed “Crypto.com arena”) which is home to so many professional sports teams.
“The company is extremely proud of the variety of our project types,” says Giroux Glass Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Barbara Kotsos. The collective knowledge, experience, and talent of its employer owners are a big reason behind its strong brand recognition and impressive list of projects.
Giroux Glass’ dedication to exceptional service and accountability is also integral to its brand. This dedication has fueled the growth from its humble beginnings as a small, family-owned operation, to the highly respected and nationally recognized industry leader it is today.
Giroux Glass has repeatedly earned highly coveted spots on multiple “best places to work” lists and had been cited as a lead in workplace culture, and its benefits for employees, things that are critically important to CEO and President, Nataline Lomedico.
Many business leaders may not be familiar with the benefits of an ESOP but the advantages are clear to Lomedico, who has been pivotal in overseeing the ESOP transition since she took on her leadership role in 2015.
Lomedico says, “One benefit is that an ESOP motivates employees and provides a financially-rewarding incentive to support company growth. In some ways, the fact that the ESOP model promotes growth makes it almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
She continues, ‘Another is that an ESOP helps to reinforce the positive culture inside a company, especially when transparent communication and an environment of openness exists. Employees at Giroux are encouraged to ask questions about operations and strategies,” Lomedico says.
“We are transparent with our financial reports, and hold regular meetings to ensure all employee-owners are on the same page. “There’s a power our employees gain from knowing what is happening with their company,” Lomedico says. “Giroux Glass management shares all financial data with employees except individual salaries.”
“A third benefit is that an ESOP helps to support a company’s positive reputation — since all employees have a literal vested interest in the financial success of our company.”
Lomedico believes, however,that employees have a responsibility to learn more about an ESOP on their own. “That’s where joining the ESOP Association, the national trade association representing companies with Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and ESOP professionals can really help,” Lomedico says.
“There are so many resources available through these organizations. We encourage everyone to get involved with training courses- it really helps employee-owned companies to come together when employees support each other,” Lomedico says. “Becoming familiar with the ESOP model can take a lot of work, and the job is a lot easier and takes less time when employees are eager to educate themselves.”
Giroux reimburses employees who complete ESOP training and who take advantage of the many educational opportunities available. They feel it is critical to identify ESOP advocates among their employees and to provide all tools possible to help them grow into their role – and to help spread the word.
Training employees remains an important function at the company.By investing in all types of training, Giroux Glass is able to maximize its existing talent while supporting a more educated workforce with cross-training skills and roles.
Those investments in training can also support recruiting efforts for new talent as well, which is particularly important in today’s challenging labor market. That includes both in-person and remote training courses. Giroux Glass has largely been able to keep its staff filled with necessary positions, but it will continue to hire more positions in the coming years.
“Our employee retention has remained high, which is another outcome of a well-run ESOP,” Lomedico says. “We assign new employees an internal “buddy” to familiarize them with the company’s culture, procedures, and policies.’Tea and coffee’ meetings are held to allow employees to get together, and to ask anything that is on their minds, with answers shared for all.
As a tenet of Giroux Glass’ ESOP culture, Kotos says, “ Our core values are dedicated by our employees owning a stake in the company. There is an implicit understanding that Giroux Glass is setting the stage for the success of the next generation of owner-employees, including our future leaders. “Employee access to current leaders is extremely important in this type of work environment.”
Another major benefit of an ESOP is that it supports employees long-term retirement plans, a topc that is very important to the management at Giroux Glass. Industry statistics indicate that ESOP owners have significantly higher retirement accounts than the average American worker.
“In addition to ESOP shares, we also offer a generous 25 percent 401(K) match. Remarkably, even after many years of employment, that 401(K) account balance often pales in comparison to the performance of their ESOP account,” Lomedico says.
These are among the many reasons that Giroux Glass is recognized as a leader in the ESOP industry, with management often contacted by other companies interested in understanding the opportunities.
Lomedico adds, “We’re rolling out (new) peer groups where project managers from all of our locations share best practices – and can put them to good use on their own projects.” Those internal peer groups are another example of continuous education and the sharing among different locations.
“Succession planning for the next generation of employee owners is another important goal for us,” Lomedico says. “While several members of the current executive team will continue in their roles over the next decade-plus, training and preparing new leaders is a multi-year process.”
The executives at Giroux Glass believe strongly in the value of transparency of information. This is especially true given the company’s ESOP status. Lomedico thinks this transparency should extend from corporate strategy, to financials, to corporate culture. “The more information is shared, the fewer internal rumors will abound; so further improving and increasing that open communication is a continual best practice for us.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: Leading glass product manufacturing firm based on the ESOP business model
Where: Los Angeles, (HQ), also Fresno, San Bernardino, Orange County (California) as well as Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona,
Ventura Trust – www.venturaesop.com
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