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Pro Food workers to own company

January 31, 2016 at 4:54 a.m. | Updated January 1, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. - Pro Food Systems will be employee owned within 10 years after the company's sole shareholders decided to sell their shares through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

Shawn and Julie Burcham started Pro Food, which is known for its Champs Chicken and Cooper's Express brands, in 1998 and believed in creating a work environment based on "ownership thinking," that encouraged an expanding company.

Pro Foods recently announced a local expansion project that created six new jobs at the distribution level, with more being added on a regular basis. Shawn Burcham, the company's CEO, decided that with the expansion it was time to start turning the company over to the people who make it successful.

"With the growth of our company, it's important we find people that fit our culture," Burcham said. "This will help keep them here in Callaway and reward everyone that's already been here."

While it was projected to take 10 years for employees to have full ownership of the company, Burcham said the transition should be completed long before then as the company continues to grow and retain its employees.

CFO Trevor Monnig explained that as the company grows, employee stock shares will begin to appreciate and will act as a source of retirement income, which can be used to supplement their Social Security or 401K, according to a news release. And while these benefits are available to Pro Food employees, they are not required to purchase stock in order to receive a share, creating a "no risk" situation for the employees.

Prior to the shareholders deciding to sell their shares of the company, Burcham implemented a full open-book management system in 2011 where every Pro Food's employees had access to review the company's financial statements and procedures.

"The point of open-book management is to educate every individual on how they can personally impact the success of the company. In that way, we are growing a culture of ownership thinking," Burcham said in the release. "Every one of our employees focus on increasing the success of the company and everyone is incentivized accordingly through a profit-sharing plan."

This is not a business plan that would work for any company, Burcham said, adding it took him six years of studying the matter before making a decision. He said developing an employee-owned plan is a complicated process that tends to come with high costs.

"You have to be a certain size to justify the costs while being able to run it," Burcham said.


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