TimberHomes: The Transition to Employee Ownership

February 1, 2016

TimberHomes has been pondering business structure for a long time. Like many awesome construction companies, the business was not founded ‘to make money’, per se, but because the founders wanted to build sweet buildings. The original manifestation of TimberHomes was as a limited liability corporation, which allowed the partners to call themselves a business, and work in a legal manner. As time went on, a desire grew to have a business structure that reflected what the company had become, better managed some of the unique financial conditions at TimberHomes, and allowed new partners to join, and original partners to leave, in an elegant way.

On January first of this year we switched business models (woohoo!) and at the end of January, our first new owner (this author!) joined three founding partners in a member-owned LLC. Similar to a worker-owned cooperative, in our new business model, new members can join into ownership of the company after a trial period (in our case, three years) which allows for vetting and proper indoctrination of TH dogma.

We had a great deal of help in this process. Figuring out the legal mumbo jumbo that goes along with creating new bylaws and transitioning ownership is certainly a challenge. Support from the get-go came from the Vermont Employee Ownership Center, a non-profit that helps companies make this transition for the purpose of raising living standards for working families and communities, and keepings jobs in Vermont. Clarity on the legal front came from Don Kreis, who helped us write bylaws for our new LLC and answer philosophical and legal questions about our transition.

As the first person to make this transition, I’m excited to be a larger part of the company, and be present at partner meetings henceforth. In many ways, I think this ownership model better reflects the nature of the character of the company (which at our size, is really the character of the people in the company). (Maybe corporations really are people after all).