New Belgium Brewery’s Continued Success Stems From the Employee-Ownership Model

February 21, 2013

Home News New Belgium Brewery’s Continued Success Stems From the Employee-Ownership Model

100% employee-owned New Belgium Brewery of Fort Collins, CO is an incredible success story and an even better illustration of the benefits of employee ownership. These successes were highlighted in the recently released documentary We the Owners directed by David Romero. A portion of the film examines the strength and core of the brewery, its employee-owners.

As the film reflects, the transfer to employee-ownership has been a resounding success at New Belgium. A recurring theme throughout the film is the personal experiences and feelings of employee-owners. These workers consistently discuss feeling respected and a vital part of the company, compared to experiences in the general private sector.

The culture of ownership that the employee-owners of New Belgium describe is one of the reasons the company has grown and prospered since they started in 1989. Consistently, companies structured as S ESOPs perform better, hiring more with fewer layoffs, then their private sector counterparts. S corporation ESOPs also provide substantial retirement savings, at no cost to the employee. As the company profits, funds are placed in an ESOP trust and are eventually withdrawn when the employee retires. Notably, in the survey by the National Center for Employee Ownership, S corporation employee-owners reported that their ESOP account balances are three to five times higher than the U.S. average for 401(k) plan participants. Throughout the documentary, employee-owners cite the meaningful savings they accrue as a driving force in their work ethic, pushing them to perform at a higher level, ultimately benefiting New Belgium as a whole.

The employee owners at New Belgium are not the only ones excited about the company’s current path. Co-founder Kim Jordan has never been more excited about the future of New Belgium Brewery, especially after moving from 41% employee-owned to 100% employee-owned. From a leadership perspective, she sees a workforce that is committed and proud of their work, a workforce that looks much more like a family than company. This combines to be an incredibly productive work environment.

New Belgium Brewery was founded in 1989 by husband and wife, Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan. The company started down the employee-ownership track in 2000 and completed the process last month by selling the final 59% of the company back to its employees.

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