Graphic illustrating how Shepard's ESOP Structure works

How Shepard’s ESOP Structure Benefits Our Associates and Our Customers 

Here at Shepard, we say over and over that we take a people-centric approach. But it’s not just talk: We strive to truly invest in our associates through our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

What’s an ESOP?

In short: Everyone who works at Shepard is not just an employee but an owner, too—and a crucial partner on our journey. This unique employee benefit plan gives our associates ownership interest in the company in the form of shares of stock. They get this benefit at no cost to themselves—and the advantages for Shepard and its customers are massive.

“Our team is passionate about this structure because it’s a real differentiator for us,” says Shepard CEO Kevin Bird, who notes that while an estimated 6,500 U.S. companies have an ESOP structure, we stand apart as the only general service contactor using a model like this in the events and exhibitions industry.

“It lays the groundwork for our culture and shows each and every associate that they’re not just a number here,” Kevin adds. “Our employees are direct beneficiaries of our growth and achievements—which, in turn, leads to a higher level of service for our customers.”

What does this mean for Shepard employees?

The ESOP model fosters a culture of teamwork, commitment, and motivation. “Knowing that their efforts contribute directly to their own financial well-being and the company’s success, our employees are more motivated, engaged, and invested in the work they do,” says Shepard CFO Ty Meeks, adding that the business structure’s tax-deductible contributions and other tax advantages can financially benefit employees and leadership alike.

“It’s a win-win solution that’s ultimately helping foster Shepard’s long-term growth and financial success,” Ty explains.

In fact, studies show that ESOP business structures actually lead to lower employee turnover: ESOPs report voluntary quit rates of their employees at roughly one-third of the national averages.

“As someone who works for an ESOP company, I find immense joy in being part of a team where every member’s dedication directly influences our shared success,” says Rachel Settlemyer, Shepard’s Marketing Communications Coordinator. “It’s not just a job; it’s a sense of ownership and community that fuels my passion every day. Knowing that my hard work contributes to our collective prosperity makes each accomplishment that much more meaningful.”

What does this mean for Shepard customers?

Simply put, when employees are owners, the quality of service is elevated. “Our team’s personal investment in the company translates to a commitment to excellence and a deeper understanding of our clients’ needs,” explains Kevin. “Every interaction and project reflects our collective ownership—which leads to a customer experience that’s second to none.”

Lower employee turnover rates also mean more consistency with who customers work with, along with passionate, motivated teams who are interested in working together to find innovative solutions to tough problems. The ESOP structure also encourages long-term thinking among team members, which aligns perfectly with Shepard’s goal of building enduring relationships with our clients.

“ESOP represents more than just shares; it embodies a shared vision where every employee has a stake in the company’s success,” explains Claudia Guevara, Shepard’s In-House Operations Administrator at the Las Vegas branch. “This creates a culture of ownership, collaboration, and prosperity. It helps us work as a team, knowing our efforts contribute to the company’s success and our own.”

She adds, “Working for an ESOP gives me a sense of ownership and pride in my work, knowing that my efforts contribute to the growth of the company and my own financial well-being.”

What’s next for Shepard’s ESOP?

As Shepard continues its growth trajectory, Kevin wants to make sure our associates and customers fully comprehend how the ESOP model sets us apart. To achieve this, he recently reinstated the internal ESOP Advisory Committee. This employee-led committee focuses on communication and advocacy, ensuring that ownership within the company is meaningful and comprehensible to all associates, regardless of their career stage.

“The committee is dedicated to fostering communication and helping associates understand their impact,” says Kevin, who serves as executive sponsor for the committee. Currently, the group is gearing up to host special training to provide education on the ESOP model, and is preparing for Employee Ownership Day on April 19, which will feature engaging content to invigorate and excite associates.

Shepard has also recently introduced its new Board of Directors, which comprises industry experts with diverse backgrounds to help guide Shepard’s senior executive team on the ESOP and other aspects of organizational governance.

“As we continue to grow, ESOP is of utmost importance to me and our Executive Chair, Carl Mitchell,” says Bird. “This board is crucial to maintaining integrity as we grow, particularly when it comes to ESOP. All the members have various expertise to ensure we continue moving in the right direction and supporting our associates and our customers as best we can.”

Shepard is a full-service event production company. We design, develop and manage trade shows, corporate and other events throughout the U.S.