Certified EO is excited to spotlight Acadian Companies, a majority employee-owned company with several healthcare divisions, including medical transportation, healthcare, residential and commercial security equipment and monitoring, emergency medicine education, and aircraft charter services. Headquartered in Lafayette, Louisiana, Acadian Companies operates across 130 locations with over 5,200 employees.
Acadian’s ambulance services, its first line of business when it opened in 1971, provides medical care to more than 21 million residents across 63,000 square miles in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Covering a vast rural population, Acadian launched an air ambulance division in the 1980s to respond more quickly to emergency situations offshore and in swamps, bayous, and marsh lands. In 2005, Acadian played a crucial role in the disaster response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana.
Acadian Companies created its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 1993, and today its employee-owners hold 80% ownership in the company. Throughout the years, Acadian has become a premier medical services company with a national footprint, reflected in the company's share price growth from less than a dollar to nearly fifty dollars today.
Since the inception of Acadian’s ESOP, a number of employee-owners have had the opportunity to retire comfortably, in large part due to the growth of their ESOP accounts over their career. While receiving an allocation of company shares each year can accumulate into tens of thousands of dollars, consistent annual growth in a company’s share price is what can push an ESOP account into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or even over $1 million in value. Acadian has recorded only one year in which the share price declined. Over the past decade, employee-owners have benefitted from the compound annual growth in the share price hovering around 15%.
Cody White, a paramedic field supervisor and member of Acadian’s ESOP Committee, spoke to the shift in mindset he experienced himself, and sees in others, when he started to grasp how an ESOP account can grow over the decades. “If I’m here 25 or 30 years, I’m going to have a big return. ESOP is a fantastic way to plan for your future,” Cody said. He recalled meeting with a financial advisor who told him he could retire as a millionaire, which really got his attention.
Once an employee-owner connects the dots between the company’s profitability and the year-to-year growth of their account balance, they begin to understand how their work can contribute both positively and negatively to the company's success. “If somebody breaks a stretcher, it could cost $20,000. We have to take care of our stuff,” Cody said. “When we all do our part, we can benefit down the road.” Building this understanding among younger generations of employees can be a significant challenge. After joining the company at 18 years old, it wasn’t until a supervisor spelled out the numbers to Cody that he really started to see the potential.
Employee ownership has also helped Acadian create a competitive advantage through retention. Companies providing EMS services often struggle to hold on to staff. Many people approach the role as a stepping stone and will move on to a degree program or another role within healthcare. Caitlin Russo, Acadian’s PR and marketing manager, spoke to the company’s efforts to invest in its employee-owners in a line of work often experiencing costly turnover. “Being employee-owned shows people this can be a long-term career. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth and promotion within the company,” she said. As employee-owners gain experience, they often progress into management or grow into roles in support departments that lengthen their tenure at Acadian.
Acadian’s ESOP Committee shares information company-wide about how their ESOP functions, what employee-owners should understand about it, and how it can benefit them. Beyond educating employee-owners, the committee also organizes an annual ESOP Week, often in the spring or during Employee Ownership Month in October. Part of ESOP Week is the company’s annual cook-off competition, with prizes given out and committee members presiding as judges.
ESOP Week is also an important time to continue the committee’s education efforts. Keeping the ESOP top of mind for employee-owners prevents it from slipping into a once-a-year discussion when employees receive their annual statements. Investing in a culture of ownership, including creative programming with activities and prizes, can provide an informal opportunity to drive the message home.
In 2021, Acadian celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the company is also approaching the 30th anniversary of its ESOP. To learn more about the company’s employee ownership program, visit Acadian’s website.