Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) are employee benefit plans that buy a portion of a company’s shares for employees that become vested over time. These plans have many advantages for businesses, business owners, and employees. Following are three steps that companies should take if they are considering an ESOP implementation.
Seek Knowledgeable Advice
Companies should seek advice from knowledgeable consultants experienced with ESOPs, considering the various related legal and tax complexities. Establishing a team of legal and financial professionals who are well-versed in ESOPs will be the foundation of success for the plan.
Evaluate ESOP Candidacy
Most of our ESOP clients are in industries that recognize strong employee loyalty but low 401(k) participation — attributes that contribute to ESOP candidacy. Financially, only businesses with strong, stable cash flows make for strong ESOP candidates. Without the assurance of increasing profits in the future, employee ownership will not work as ESOPs will not directly provide growth opportunities for the business.
Companies should conduct a feasibility study in the initial phases of the process to ensure the cash flow and capital requirements are strong enough to sustain an ESOP.
Consider Owner Ideology
The success of an ESOP is heavily reliant on the business owner’s ideology. ESOPs work best when the owner wishes to leave a legacy with their life’s work and have a sense of paternalism for their company and employees. Owners with strong, long-lasting, and trusting relationships with their employees may feel a sense of pride in setting their employees up for future success, instead of passing their business to a third party. Because the ownership will remain with the employees, the owner can slowly ease out of ownership at a pace that works for them and the business. The company culture may also have a higher likelihood of remaining intact.
Though ESOPs have many benefits, they are not ideal for every business or every industry depending upon the owners’ succession timeframe and financial goals, and the employees’ interest in ownership. If you have questions or would like more information on ESOPs, contact your DHG advisor or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP: DHG is a leading professional services firm offering assurance, tax and advisory services to clients nationwide and internationally. Our strength lies in our technical knowledge, industry intelligence and future focused approach combined with our drive to help our clients achieve their goals, both today and tomorrow. DHG’s professionals are passionate about providing an unparalleled client experience as we listen, innovate and act to help our clients. DHG ranks among the top 20 professional services firms in the nation, providing assurance, tax, and advisory services. With more than 2,000 professionals across the United States, the DHG team serves clients in 50 states and internationally.
DHG is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP.