ESOP Association Blog

Getting to Know Mr. ESOP,  the 2020 Employee Owner of the Year

Todd Bransky, or “Mr. ESOP,” as he is known to his fellow employee owners, is a Systems Integration Specialist for Folience, which is based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is a passionate advocate for employee ownership and an IT expert with more than 22 years of experience.

Todd, however, did not start his career in IT; he started his career teaching band. Music is his passion, and he is currently a member of three different performance groups: The Eastern Iowa Brass Band, a New Orleans Style brass band, and The Cedar Rapids Big Band. He has been playing with the same folks for 32 years!

As Todd’s career progressed, he went back to school, first learning to fix instruments then getting a degree in computer science. He graduated at 32 years old and landed his job in the IT Department at the Gazette.

Todd’s experience with the ESOP at the Gazette, which is one of the companies in the Folience group, can best be described as a crescendo—a gradual increase in the volume of music. When he started, virtually no information about the ESOP was provided to new employees, he says. He would receive a statement and throw it away because he did not know how to read it and, as Todd puts it, “I didn’t care because no one bothered to explain them.”

Fifteen years went by like this. The only time Todd heard anything about the ESOP (outside of the statements that went into the trash) were at Christmas and holiday parties, when he would overhear the longer tenured employees grumbling about how the party was taking “money out of their ESOP.”

Then, in 2012, Folience—the organization that owns the Gazette—became 100% employee owned and the volume was finally turned up on the ESOP dial. An ESOP Communications Committee was formed and, for the very first time, employees were being actively educated about the ESOP.

In 2013 the swelling rise of the crescendo reached its peak when Todd attended an ESOP Committee meeting about vesting. Suddenly, the ESOP started to make sense to him.

The next day, Todd joined the ESOP Communication Team, and he has been part of the group ever since. He has held each role, including president, vice president, and historian. His colleague Sandra says, “He is a forever member because he is passionate about employee ownership.”

Todd’s mission, and his reason for joining the ESOP Committee, is that he “doesn’t want people to waste 15 years not knowing what it means to be part of an ESOP.”

That mission has driven him to attend ESOP Association chapter events, where he says he learned more than 70% of what he was able to enact through the ESOP Committee—including how to promote, teach, and celebrate the ESOP. He has tried for the last seven years to attend at least two conferences each year, and he hopes to become even more involved.

His chapter experiences have led to the formation of ESOP 101 Training classes, which are held each quarter and are attended by new employees. Todd and his fellow committee members are seriously committed to making sure every employee understands the ESOP and joins the corporate culture.

When asked about Todd, Folience President and CEO Daniel Goldstein says, “Todd exudes optimism and ownership in everything he does, whether it is in his everyday work, the work he does as an active volunteer on the Folience ESOP Communication Team, or the work he does as one of the facilitators of the Folience Leadership Development program.”

He adds: “Todd leads by example and keeps us all focused on solutions, the positive, and why we work to protect and grow our employee ownership!”

To understand Todd, says Goldstein, you need only walk by his workspace and see the words he wrote long ago on his white board, and that remain there today: There is nothing more uniquely American than to be an owner in the business you work in. Go ESOP!

These days Todd says the ESOP Committee is working to transition their ESOP 101 training online. The only thing he really misses are his fellow band members and the freedom to travel.

That is something we can all relate to, Mr. ESOP. Congratulations on being a shining example for the ESOP community and winning our 2020 Employee Owner of the Year.