Creating a Culture of Ownership

November 7, 2012

Home News Creating a Culture of Ownership

Lifetouch, based in Eden Prairie, Minn., is Photography for a Lifetime. Best known for the tradition of school pictures, Lifetouch also operates retail studios across the country and provides portraiture and directory services for churches and organizations. Lifetouch has been capturing memories for families since 1936.

Following the death of his business partner in 1972, co-founder Bruce Reinecker began exploring options to reward the people who had devoted their lives to working hard for his company. By 1978, he and his management team found the answer within a new framework of employee ownership. It was a structure that made sense for Lifetouch which had always depended on an entrepreneurial spirit and personal touch.


Susan Enlow began representing Lifetouch as outside counsel in 1981, advising on the company’s ESOP and other business matters. She was a long-time ESOP advocate, having represented other ESOP clients. She was intrigued by employee ownership and the unique culture generally found in ESOP companies. Enlow was thrilled to become an employee-owner at Lifetouch when she and her law partner, former general counsel and current ESOP Trustee Richard Hassel, formed the company’s in-house legal department.

The photography business has faced challenges as technology has created competition for photography professionals. Lifetouch has survived and prospered in large part because employee-owners have worked together, innovating and differentiating Lifetouch with high quality professional portraits.

Enlow has found that owners of other photography operations want to sell their business to Lifetouch because they can retain a sense of ownership while participating in a successful retirement plan, something many do not have as an independent company. “I talk about how ownership motivates employees and how they have a real stake in the company’s success. Their efforts can increase the value of their retirement benefit,” says Enlow.

Today, she continues as an ESOP advocate to the 17,000 Lifetouch employee-owners. “Put simply, our ESOP has fostered a culture that encourages our employee-owners to work together for the common good. We know our individual contributions drive results,” shares Enlow.

“Every day I see how our ESOP changes lives, from new employee-owners just starting to save for retirement to our retirees who are able to leave Lifetouch with healthy retirement balances and memories of working somewhere truly special.”

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