Since then, though, the firm has seen big changes. When Hogan started as a land surveyor 21 years ago, there were 30 employees. Now, he says, there are more than 230. There are also 10 more offices, not only in Springfield and Joplin but also in Carthage, Columbia, Kansas City and Monett. Offices outside Missouri include Overland Park, Kansas; Rogers, Arkansas; and three in Florida: Destin, Pensacola and Milton. With those acquisitions, services have expanded to include public infrastructure and structural engineering as well as surveying and civil engineering for both public and private clients.
Both the ESOP and expansion have paid off, Hogan says. From 1 to 2 percent growth each year in its first 50 years to 5 percent a year since 1998, the firm has grown by 25 percent a year since 2018, he says.
The past five years have been exciting, Hogan says, yet when OWN leaders enlisted the help of St. Louis marketing strategy company Vario, they knew they needed a way to rally employees around a shared purpose. As Vario’s marketing strategists interviewed employees and clients—even former clients—they discovered that each site has a different vibe.
“Some (offices) were really great at service and responsiveness,” Hogan says. “Some were great at the technical; they weren’t as responsive. Some offices were a lot of fun to work at; others maybe weren’t as much fun to work at.” He adds, “That’s when it hit us: We’re going to have to change the name.” Employee ownership was something everyone had in common—and the name change spotlights that.
ESOPs themselves aren’t uncommon. However, at some companies, Hogan says, an ESOP plan means a small percentage who qualify by rank or years of service own 100 percent of a company. By contrast, OWN earnings are distributed evenly among all who have worked there at least a year, no matter their title. One field inspector of 25 years has more money in his ESOP than Hogan does, “and I think that’s a beautiful thing,” says the CEO.
Response to the name change has been mainly positive, he and Davis agree. “Instead of being named after one of our prior owners, we’re all owners now, so our new name is a nod to our current ownership group, which is each of us—we own the business,” Hogan says.
A new strategic plan and a new company purpose with a focus on employees—“OWN builds futures for our team, our partners, and our communities”—also guide new principles. With 60 job openings a week after the firm’s name change, leaders hope all three will help them recruit employees in a competitive market. Diversity in hiring is part of that plan, Hogan says, as well as one new principle. “Fun matters,” he says.
“The work-life balance is important to us,” says Davis. “We want to be a fun company to work for.”