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2017 Winners and Runners Up in the Annual Awards for Communications Excellence (AACE) Competition


 Listed below are the winners and runners up in this year's competition.

Also listed are Bright Ideas—good communication practices that the judges' identified among the entries and that any ESOP company might want to consider implementing. 

     To see winners and runners up from past AACE competitions, click the year below:

     2016     2015      2014     2013     2012     2011     2010     2009     2008     2007     2006     


Companies with 250 or Fewer Employees

VIDEO

Winner: Mid South Building Supply Inc.
Judges’ Comments: An effective video that proves
the axiom less is more. In fewer than two minutes,
this video provides a clear and concise overview of
Mid South, its values, and the pride of ownership
felt by the many employees who are featured.

Runner Up: Bowers + Kubota Consulting Inc.
Judges’ Comments: The video provides a good
explanation of the Bowers Kubota’s ESOP and
involves many employee owners, all while engagingly
demonstrating the company’s culture and sense of
humor.

 

PRINTED MATERIALS

Winner: TVSDesign
Judges’ Comments: Overall, these materials are well
designed and invite employees to read them. Exceptional
use of graphics makes the section on reading an ESOP
statement easy to understand. The Summary Plan
Description includes a definitions page. The company
intentionally focuses on print materials, instead of digital,
and clearly explained this strategy in its entry.

Runner Up: Cisco Eagle Inc.
Judges’ Comments: These company newsletters
are consistently good and offer employee owners a
wide variety of useful information, including quizzes,
regular updates on the company share value, and
excerpts of relevant stories from The ESOP 
Association’s newsletter, the ESOP Report.

Bright Ideas
Butler Till—An Owners’ Manual is distributed to all
employee owners, who are quizzed about the contents
of the document at employee meetings.



INTRANET

Winner: Geographic Information Services
Judges’ Comments: This easy-to-navigate site features
a page that introduces the ESOP, well done FAQs, links
to ESOP accounts, a calendar of events, and a 2016
Employee Ownership Month page.

Runner Up: TVSDesign
Judges’ Comments: This intranet can be accessed via
a mobile app and does a nice job of communicating
employee information. Examples include listing those
vested in the ESOP, and including posts from employee
ownership meetings. One post shared the idea for a
Pocket Change piggybank, which encourages saving for
retirement using pocket change.


EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP MARKETING

Winner: Mountain Hardware and Sports
Judges’ Comments: The fact this is an employee
owned company is touted everywhere: in the
company logo; television advertisements; employee
owners’ name tags; and the firm’s social media
accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The
recently redesigned website consistently uses employee
ownership language and proudly proclaims the
businesses as 100 percent employee owned.

Runner Up: Mid South Building Supply Inc.
Judges’ Comments: The company announces to
the world that it is employee owned in a variety
of ways, including its logo (which states it is 100
percent employee owned), website, return address
envelops, invoices, trucks, and brochures for customers.

 

ONE SPECIAL EVENT

Winner: Geographic Information Services
Judges’ Comments: The company celebrated its
25th Anniversary with a multiday event that included
time for the ESOP Committee. Employee owners
had access to multi-track sessions offering career
development and content on topics such as innovation
and the future of the company. An app was developed
to help employees from three locations across the
state get to the event on time.

Runner Up: Wiley Wilson
Judges’ Comments: The fifth annual ownership
retreat was a two-day event at which all employees
received training on employee engagement and how
the company was progressing. Morning sessions
concentrated on individual accountability and
engagement, and afternoon sessions focused on
why these are especially important in employee
owned companies.

Bright Ideas
DHC—The company asked vendors to contribute
prizes for its 25th ESOP Anniversary, and found this
provided a good opportunity to educate those who
did not realize the company was employee owned.

BL—The company asked all employee owners to
send Thank You notes to commend one another
on their good work. For every note, the company
donated $1 to the Wounded Warriors Project.


SERIES OF SPECIAL EVENTS

Winner: Butler Till
Judges’ Comments: For Employee Ownership Month
the company offered 31 Days of Honoring Ownership,
which featured a visit from the founder, who discussed
how the ESOP was started, and conversations with
executives. Fun events included: Strike it Rich (bowling),
Wrap Up in Benefits (a Mexican take out lunch), and
ESOP Is Sweet (a cupcake cart).

Runner Up: Mid South Building Supply Inc.
Judges’ Comments: The company offered 38 special
events designed to maintain awareness of the
ESOP throughout the year. At one event, employees
guessed the share value and discussed why it
declined. Other events benefited charity, offered
employee appreciation, focused on wellness, and
provided a trip to the ballpark.

 

TOTAL COMMUNICATIONS

Winner: Mid South Building Supply Inc.
Judges’ Comments: The company won first place
in the Video category this year, and was runner up
in the Employee Ownership Marketing and Series
of Special Events categories. Overall, the company
excelled at promoting employee ownership and executing
an ambitious array of employee ownership events.

Runner Up: Thomson-Shore Inc.
Judges’ Comments: The company offers a number of
excellent initiatives for communicating with employees,
such as a wall where those on each shift can post photos
and information to share. An Employee Owner board
offers trivia, wellness, safety, continuing education,
and core financial information. A series of events to
benefit the community included a food drive, adopting
a family for Christmas, and mentoring young children
in writing. 


Companies with More Than 250 Employees

VIDEO

Winner: Wright Service Corp.
Judges’ Comments: This is an engaging video that
uses good story telling techniques to explain the
company’s ESOP and history. The clever use of
graphics emphasizes key points, provides effective
transitions, and concisely shows the company timeline.
Lots of employee owners appear in this video, and
their genuine enthusiasm for the company culture
is readily apparent.

Runner Up: Air Tractor Inc.
Judges’ Comments: This is an upbeat, engaging
video. A nice variety of employee owners explain in
everyday language how the ESOP benefits them and
the company, offering a clear and credible message.
Showing employee owners in their work environments
offers a glimpse inside the company and makes the
employees easy to relate to. Good use of music and
great group shot at the end.

 

PRINTED MATERIALS

Winner: Eagle Communications Inc.
Judges’ Comments: This is a comprehensive and
well executed suite of printed materials. The quarterly
newsletter and recruitment pamphlet offer a great deal
of ESOP-specific information. Materials on an ESOP
Ambassador program for new hires are well done.
All employee owners receive a lanyard with the share
price and the phrase: “100% responsibility, 0 excuses.”
Colors are used effectively and consistently.

Runner Up: Travel and Transport Inc.
Judges’ Comments: A concise monthly newsletter
shows an inclusive spirit by featuring lots of submitted
content. Other materials include a good ESOP
101 PowerPoint, desktop calendars featuring photos
of employee owners, slides from the ESOP 2016
roadshow (which were printed and distributed to
employee owners), and a clear performance review
form that focuses on employee ownership skills.

Bright Ideas
Thomson Shore Inc.—The company places Employee
ESOP boards where employee owners can post
and share information.

Burns & McDonnell—Following a communications
strategy that shows print materials are vital for this
firm’s audience, the company distributes newsletters
digitally but also prints and posts them where
employee owners can see them.


INTRANET

Winner: Entertainment Partners
Judges’ Comments: This intranet is a great example
of using technology to spur interaction. The CEO
posts each week—and employee owners can offer
unfiltered responses visible to everyone. Up to 900
2017 AACE Judges’ Comments users access the
intranet every day. Other features include links to
national and chapter ESOP Association information,
including chapter newsletters.

Runner Up: Eagle Communications Inc.
Judges’ Comments: A clean layout and multiple
tabs make it easy to find the comprehensive, easily
digestible information. Content includes access to
ESOP documents, company newsletters going back
several years, ESOP education videos, links to ESOP
Association info, and information on awards the
company has won (including a past AACE award).

Bright Ideas
Butler Till—The company intranet includes selfie
videos in which employee owners talk about what
the ESOP means to them, which is a great technique
for engaging a widespread workforce.

Folience—This intranet features ESOP memes that
employee owners create and submit.

Emery, Sapp and Sons—Information is organized by
life cycle (tabs range from info for those first joining
the ESOP, to those preparing to retire), making it
easy for employee owners to find what they need.

 

EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP MONTH

Winner: Van Meter Inc.
Judges’ Comments: Photos of employee owners
line the Meet the Owners wall, which greets visitors
when they arrive. Employee ownership is prominently
featured on the company website and careers page,
and appears consistently on a variety of marketing
materials, including fliers and brochures. The company
uses social media to draw attention to articles and
education about employee ownership.

Runner Up: Entertainment Partners
Judges’ Comments: Handouts for potential clients
tout the fact the company is employee owned, as
does the home page of the website. Other pages
give a history of the ESOP, explain what an ESOP is,
and include links to education and articles.

 

ONE SPECIAL EVENT

Winner: Glatfelter Insurance Group
Judges’ Comments: At a special fundraising event,
employee owners were encouraged to donate .007
percent of their annual salary to the United Way.
The CEO and VP of HR sang songs in a karaoke show
as an incentive. The event raised $224,000—more
than any other United Way drive in the county.

Runner Up: Van Meter Inc.
Judges’ Comments: The company revealed its share
price at an “Academy Awards” like event that included
videos. Well thought-out and executed, the event
ensured that employee owners at multiple locations
could participate at the same time.

 

SERIES OF SPECIAL EVENTS

Winner: Recology
Judges’ Comments: To celebrate its 30th ESOP
Anniversary, the company created fairs customized
for each of its 27 sites. The fairs offered a combination
of fun and educational activities, arranged by booths.
Employees received passports that were stamped at
every booth they visited. The series of events were
designed to reach 3,000 employees.

Runner Up: Telligen
Judges’ Comments: The company offered a variety
of activities for Employee Ownership Month, including:
a day for fun ESOP facts, employee owner appreciation
day, spouse day, a United Way fundraiser, a benefits fair,
and the Share Price Awakens event.

Bright Ideas
Plastic Products Co. Inc.—The company hosted five
different members of Congress over the year.


TOTAL COMMUNICATIONS

Winner: Burns & McDonnell
Judges’ Comments: A strong overall communications
package was highlighted by an excellent total
benefits compensation document and company
newsletter. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the
ESOP, the company spent two years planning an
all-day gala for 3,000 employees and their guests.
The event featured live music, dancing, casino and
arcade games, and taxis to take people home.

Runner Up: Entertainment Partners
Judges’ Comments: The company intranet, which
won the AACE this year, provides unfiltered interaction
between the CEO and employee owners. The company
displays employee ownership materials prominently
and publicly, through a variety of channels. At a special
event, Kevin Brady, Chair of the important House  Ways
and Means Committee, visited the company
headquarters in California, even though none of the
company offices are in Rep. Brady’s home state of
Texas.