Bolstered by a vision of employee ownership, OwnersEdge Inc. is in growth mode. The City of Pewaukee-based holding company is headed by Lisa Reardon, who has expanded the business to include others in the field of niche technological solutions and expertise. All are structured as employee stock ownership plan companies, or ESOP companies.
Reardon worked in sales throughout the Midwest before returning to the Milwaukee area in the early 1990s. She began at Communications, Cabling & Networking Inc., or CC& N, in 2005 as a director, later becoming vice president and then president and embarking on a new path, according to her company biography.
She launched a new wholly owned subsidiary of CC& N and then realigned the two businesses into a holding company, OwnersEdge Inc. “As I became more global in my vision, I saw that I needed to restructure this organization but not take that heartbeat away from CC& N, which continues to be a very successful organization and the foundation of what we’ve built,” said Reardon, who described the company’s culture of high quality service and customer focus. The goal for restructuring, according to Reardon, was to modernize while not disrupting that foundation.
So Reardon began whiteboarding a restructuring plan that would allow the company to bring new businesses into an ESOP holding company. “Once I started to evaluate the potential opportunities to diversify the ESOP and to put the cash to good use in diversifying acquisitions, the model started mapping out really nicely,” she said.
The plan meant the companies would fall under the holding company umbrella, while still retaining individual characteristics. “That has been the key of where we’ve grown to today,” said Reardon, now president and CEO of OwnersEdge.
There are currently five affiliate businesses under the OwnersEdge umbrella, with all employees sharing in ownership through the ESOP structure while still focusing on their individual skills. “There are no have and have-nots here. Everybody is an employee owner,” Reardon said. “It’s a great little organization, having an opportunity to be part of a bigger picture, but yet really knowing what you do well.”
When Reardon joined the company, CC& N was a $27 million company. Today, the entire organization is an $85 million business with over 300 employees.
“The best part, when you start talking about that kind of growth number, is the beneficiaries are the employee owners,” Reardon said. “That’s our entire purpose at the holding company, to provide each employee at the affiliates a pathway to realize their American dream.”