enters new era
Express Staff Writer
years, Doug Webb transformed his Ketchum-based landscaping business from a
one-man, one-pickup truck and one-lawnmower operation to the largest
landscaping company in the Northwest.
Webb founded Webb Landscape, Inc., the largest landcaping company in
the Northwest, 30 years ago. Now he’s prepared to give up ownership of
the company he built to sell it to his employees. Express photo by
culminating his years as owner, he sold the business last month to his
employees and assumed a new role as the company’s chief executive
feel so good about it, it’s ridiculous," he said.
a memo Dec. 18 to Webb Landscape employees regarding the sale.
was a momentous day in the 30-year history of Webb Landscape, Inc. A group
of senior officers from the company…met with our attorney, accountant
and financial advisor to sign papers that transfer the ownership of the
company from Juli (Webb) and myself to an employee stock ownership plan
and trust (ESOP) for the benefit of Webb’s eligible employees," he
ESOPs can be constructed in various ways, they are one form of retirement
plan, as made possible by Congress under retirement law," said
Management Consultant Jima Rice, who worked with Webb on the ESOP
In an ESOP,
a company sets up a trust, and the trust holds all the shares of the
business. The business buys the shares from the trust over time and
allocates the shares to employees’ accounts.
employee retires, or resigns when fully vested in the company, the
employee sells the shares back to the trust.
companies, including Webb Landscape, have the desire to set up an employee
benefit or incentive as one reason for starting the plan.
companies hope that by making employees owners they will increase their
dedication to the firm, improve work effort, reduce turnover and generally
bring a more harmonious atmosphere to the company.
has shown, according to an ESOP information Website, that giving workers a
significant stake in their companies can improve their attitudes towards
their companies, and that these improved attitudes can translate into
bottom line improvements.
A 1993 ESOP
Association study found that 54 percent of member companies cite an
overall productivity increase due to their ESOP. Webb believes that will
be the case with his company.
"the neat thing," Webb said, "is that Webb Landscape is no
longer (federally) taxable" under the ESOP.
savings, theoretically, supply the money that gives the trust—and
employee ownership—added value.
will see a return on their own work investments in the company," Rice
summarized: "You’re taking money that would normally go to the IRS,
and in essence, you’re giving it to the employees (through
the trust are allocated to employee accounts, and all employees over 18,
who work more than 1,000 hours in a year, participate in the plan.
Allocations, in Webb’s case, are made on a formula of relative pay.
unknown until 1974, about 11,000 companies nationwide use ESOP plans,
covering more than 8.5 million employees. The one at Webb Landscape,
however, is the first and only ESOP in the Wood River Valley.
have sold the business to my employees, all employees who have worked more
than 1,000 hours," Webb said.
the thing: Doug Webb’s not going to live for ever, and his wife’s not
going to live for ever. This puts it in the hands of people who work here
and care about it."
started mowing lawns in 1972, Webb Landscape has grown to more than 170
employees at peak season, comprising more than 30 work crews.
business was significantly expanded in 1980 with the addition of the
Bellevue Nursery, located on Glendale Road, two miles south of Bellevue. A
mere 8 acres in the beginning, the nursery now encompasses more than 30
acres of trees, shrubs and perennials, as well as three greenhouses and an
extensive stock of stone and pavers.
of aspen trees began in 1981 with approximately 500 trees grown the first
year. Presently, aspen production averages more than 200,000 seedlings
annually, grown from locally harvested seed.
Webb Landscape introduced concrete pavers and hydrapressed slabs to the
area, setting a new trend in driveway, walkway and patio surfaces.
building to accommodate offices, a shop and garden center was built in
1990 in downtown Ketchum. This continues to be Webb Landscape’s central
location, though expansion was required in 1998 to meet demands for
of a new 10,000 square foot building at the Bellevue location was
completed in the spring of 1998, providing much needed space for offices,
storage, conference room and a greatly enlarged garden center.
commitment, attention to detail and foremost, service, are the
characteristics that have made Webb Landscape what it is today,"
states a company description. "And Webb continues to grow,
introducing innovative equipment, machinery, products and techniques with
the goal of providing the best products and services available
no longer is the company’s owner, Webb is still very involved in the
company’s decision making hierarchy.
president of a board of directors for Webb Landscape, Webb maintains his
involvement. In addition to the board of directors, however, is a board of
trustees, who make decisions about the trust and the company’s fiduciary
are comprised of long-term Webb employees.
to give up control to make it work," Webb said. "Still, I am
CEO, but I am elected to that position, and I can be fired."
the move to employee ownership—even contemplation of it—appears to be
affecting Webb’s business positively, he said. September, October,
November and December were all record months for the company.
doing better because we are one. It’s showing already," Webb said.
sale is tremendously exciting for me, for my family and for Webb. The
business has grown over the years through the inspired work and dedication
of all Webb employees," Webb continued in the employee memo. "It
has a bright, long-term future ahead of it. I can think of nothing more
satisfying than passing ownership to those who have made the business a