Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Good News Shouldn't Be So Rare, But Let's Celebrate Anyway

It's been a while since I've posted anything, for a variety of reasons. Among them -- the business news has been depressing: how many times can I write, Trust and Transparency?!?

So I'm happy to pass on a little bit of good news, the story of an entrepreneur who realizes that it's not all about me, Me, ME.

A little more than ten years ago, Hamdi Ulukaya, founded Chobani Greek yogurt, buying a shuttered factory in upstate New York and turning an $800,000 Small Business Administration loan into a wild success. The company, still privately held, is currently valued at several billion dollars.

What has Mr. Ulukaya done? He's turned around and given a 10 percent stake in the company to his 2,000 full-time employees (the longer you've been with Chobani, the larger the number of shares you've received).

New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom, in an article in today's paper, quoted one long-time employee: "It's better than a bonus or a raise. It's the best thing because you're getting a piece of this thing you helped build."


Ulukaya said the same thing: "I've built something that I never thought would be such a success, but I cannot think of Chobani being built without all these people."

The only depressing thing about this news is how rarely it occurs. I wrote a piece six years ago about Bob Moore's gift of his company, Bob's Red Mill, to his employees (full post, here), but I can't think of another recent example.

Strom notes that the Chobani employees will be able to sell their shares "if the company goes public or is bought by another business, neither of which seems imminent. Employees can hang onto the shares if they leave or retire, or the company will buy them back."

Given the current hot-button political issue of income inequality, this is particularly good news. And especially for upstate New York which has struggled for many years.

Not to mention -- given another hot-button political issue -- that Ulukaya is a Turkish immigrant to the United States.

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