Certified EO is excited to spotlight Jasper Holdings, Inc., a 100% “associate-owned” company that remanufactures engines, transmissions, differentials, and more. JASPER operates seven divisions, including Jasper Engines & Transmissions, which in total employ over 4,000 associate-owners across 105 locations and 35 states. JASPER established its Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 2009 with the aim to continue to grow organically and leverage its associate ownership structure to make strategic acquisitions. At the time of the ESOP transition, the company—then just Jasper Engines & Transmissions and headquartered in Jasper, Indiana—was generating about $275million in revenue each year for its “reman” services. Now after several acquisitions and national expansion, JASPER is one of the country’s largest remanufacturing companies and is approaching $1 billion in annual revenue.
Expanding Employee Ownership through an ESOP Holding Company
A big part of JASPER’s success since becoming associate-owned has been establishing a holding company to facilitate acquisitions. For legacy businesses interested in an ESOP transaction, JASPER’s model means they don’t have to go it alone.
The company’s ownership model helps the team find like-minded founders and second-generation business owners. “Some of them have thought about doing their own ESOP but didn’t want to be a standalone. Now they’re part of a bigger ESOP company,” said Zach Bawel, JASPER’s President. This helps selling owners reap “the best of both” by taking care of their employees and partnering with a competitive buyer.
Once JASPER acquires a new company, it takes a hands-off approach to allow them to continue to be successful. “Operationally, we don’t want to be in the weeds of running the business—we want to provide capital and share best practices with safety, HR, banking, and accounting,” said Bawel. JASPER’s scale can help its divisions reduce expenses on line items like sourcing and insurance rates, cost savings that ultimately benefit its associates.
Leveraging Certified EO’s Wealth Calculator
A key part of JASPER’s approach to communicating the benefits of the company’s ESOP to its associate-owners is getting as many people as possible to view and interact with its WealthCalculator tool. Managers and supervisors walk through the WealthCalculator one-on-one with associates, explaining the current value of theirESOP accounts, how it has grown in the past year, and how it could grow in the next 10 years as the company continues to be successful.
“The Wealth Calculator is highly configurable for us and allows us to have our own brand on it,” said Jason Nord, JASPER’s Vice President of People Services.
The tool is critical for the company to drive home the potential for associates to build long-term wealth. Since establishing the ESOP, the company has allocated $367 million worth of company shares to its associates, 37% of whom have account balances of more than $100,000. For associates at every division of JASPER, this nest egg can be life changing. And since it also maintained its 401(k) match following the transition to a 100% ESOP, the company’s two wealth building opportunities set it apart in the job market.
Making Recruitment a Team Effort
Like many companies with an employee ownership program, JASPER has faced challenges in recruitment and the retention of new hires. A new hire entering a company with an ESOP may hear about the wealth building benefits and effects on company culture that come with being employee-owned, but it can be difficult to drive this point home with individuals who haven’t entered the ESOP or received an account statement yet.
JASPER has tackled its hiring challenge in part through a referral program in which associates are encouraged to connect the company with potential hires. Since there is high turnover for those with less than two years of experience at JASPER, it’s important to drive home the immediate benefits of being part of an associate-owned company, including the aligned incentives of broad-based ownership and the company’s performance.
“The ESOP has given associates the vested interest to act like an owner,” said Nord, including in driving cost savings and participating in programs like the one for referrals. About a third of all new hires are referrals, and those who do come in as referrals have a stronger likelihood of a longer tenure with JASPER.
Health and Wealth
JASPER staffs the “Health and Wealth” committee with internal champions for the company’s wellness initiatives, including communicating the benefits of the ESOP company-wide. During Employee Ownership Month this October, the committee put on a “Know Your Share Price” contest in which associates picked at random are given a cash prize for knowing their ESOP account balance within a $250 error margin.
Communications and wellness committees like JASPER’s help employee-owned companies deepen their culture of ownership. With “We Own It” banners hanging at each of the company’s locations, associate-owners have daily reminders that when the company does well, so do they. And with the team of associates growing with each new acquisition, JASPER continues to play an outsized role in growing the employee ownership movement.
JASPER became a Member of Certified EO in 2017. If you are a CertifiedEO Member and would like to see your company’s story featured in a future spotlight article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.