January 17, 2017 3 min read

Fast-growing foodservice company in central Missouri sells 100% of business to its employees via an ESOP

HOLTS SUMMIT, MO.     The sole shareholders of PFSbrands — Shawn and Julie Burcham — have concluded the sale of their company to its employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).  CEO Shawn Burcham and PFSbrands senior leadership team will remain in place to continue driving the explosive growth the company has experienced over its 18-year history. “I’m really excited,” Burcham said, “to provide every one of our employees with the unique opportunity to earn stock in the company where they work. We believe the ESOP is the ultimate business structure because it turns employees into employee owners who have a real stake in the outcome of their company’s business.  The shares we allocate to our employee owners through the ESOP do not require a monetary investment on their part… but of course, the hard work these employees contribute and the results they achieve most certainly influences the value of their shares.”

PFSbrands supplies turn-key Prepared Food Programs to grocery and convenience stores around the nation. Under the brand names Champs Chicken® and Cooper’s Express®, the company distributes over 30 million pounds each year of chicken, seafood, breadings, sauces and a wide variety of side dishes to its retail partners. In 2016, INC Magazine named PFSbrands as one of the ‘fastest growing companies in America’ for the 8th consecutive year.  In recognition of PFSbrands outstanding workplace and culture, the company was awarded a national certification in 2015 and 2016 as A Great Place To Work.  Most recently, the statewide Chamber of Commerce for Missouri honored the company as a recipient of its annual ‘Fast Track Award’ for 2016.

PFSbrands rapid growth translates into more good jobs for Central Missouri. VP of Human Resources Carla Dowden reports, “We are now at 120 employees, which nearly doubles the number of people on staff here from just 4 years ago. In the process for our Great Place to Work certification, 92% of employees identified the company as a great place to work.” This is not a stodgy, stuffy corporate environment.  Team members are engaged and extremely productive, but having fun all at the same time. While the culture is family-like, everyone is very tuned into supporting the company’s retail partners and each other.   During lunch and after work, the corporate fitness center is alive with weight training, HITT classes, Zumba and individual workouts with the company’s fitness coach. Not surprisingly, morale is high here.

After reading THE GREAT GAME OF BUSINESS by celebrated author Jack Stack 5 years ago, Burcham not only became intrigued with the concept of selling the business to his employees via an ESOP, but also in implementing an Open Book Management system.  Burcham said, “In 2011, we began openly sharing our financial results and business strategies with employees at regular weekly huddles.  The purpose of the huddles is to educate every individual on how they can personally impact the success of the company.  In that way, we began to grow a culture of ownership thinking here.”

Today, Burcham directly credits his employees for the company’s explosive growth, which has almost doubled in revenues over the last three years.  Now, this CEO and principle owner has gone far beyond taking pride in his team. By selling the business to them, the employees will no longer just think like owners… they become the ACTUAL owners. While ESOPs are expensive to set up and maintain, they clearly encourage and reward increased productivity and efficiencies.   As owners, employees become more accountable to each other and for the achievement of company goals.

CFO Trevor Monnig added, “Under an ESOP structure, shares of company stock are allocated to employee owners each year.  As the company continues to grow and perform well financially, the enterprise value of the company increases and each employee owner benefits from the higher price of their shares.” New employees are not left out. They will enjoy the same opportunities to earn stock in PFSbrands.  Here is a company that asks its employees to truly think and act like owners. What could be a better way to accomplish that than by actually allowing them the opportunity to be stockholders?



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