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  • Meet The Leader is a fortnightly podcast from the World Economic Forum that features the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • Pete Stavros, a partner at private equity firm KKR, founded Ownership Works, a non-profit making it easier for companies to share ownership with employees -- and help those employees build real wealth. The non-profit launched yesterday.

Pete Stavros grew up in Chicago as the son of a road grader. His dad worked construction, belonged to a union and saw his share of strikes. While Stavros didn’t know it then, the stories his dad told about clashes between bosses and workers would kick off a lifelong interest in labor relations - and how better-designed incentives can build better companies and improve people's lives.

Those stories drove Stavros to later study Employee Owned Stock Plans at Harvard Business School and later experiment with broad-based ownership approaches at private equity firm KKR.

Stavros has channeled what he's learned throughout his career into a new non-profit Ownership Works. This organization, launched just yesterday, will set best practices and drive research, all with the aim of transforming how ownership is distributed within corporations to help working families build wealth. The non-profit launched with the support of more than 60 partners including top financial institutions, pension funds, labor advocates as well as non-profits.

Shared ownership has the potential to reshape company cultures, boost engagement and drive down absenteeism. Critically, however, shared ownership could help upend a number of systemic societal issues, including the racial wealth gap. By 2030, the nonprofit hopes to help create a "domino effect" for shared ownership that could lead to hundreds of thousands of new employee-owners and create at least $20 billion of wealth for working families who have been excluded from this kind of wealth-building opportunity for generations.

Said Stavros: "The potential for impact is so enormous that it's very motivating."

Stavros talked to Meet The Leader about the changes shared ownership could make possible in people's lives. He also talked about the qualities he uses the most in his work- and the unsung role patience plays in problem solving.

Episode transcript

Meet the Leader/Linda: Welcome to Meet the Leader, a podcast about top leaders taking on the world's toughest challenges. Today, we have Pete Stavros. He's a partner of private equity firm KKR, and he has founded a special organization, Ownership Works, that he's going to tell us about today. How are you, Pete?

Pete Stavros: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Very good. Well, we're excited to have you, Can you start us off by defining shared ownership?

Pete Stavros: The concept is everyone participates in equity ownership in the company – from the CEO to an entry-level colleague – And then on top of that foundation of broad based ownership and shared values, you build a sense of shared mission.

So opening up the business plan, sharing financial information, making people feel genuinely included in the operation and business, sharing key metrics back to the entire workforce on how you're doing, where you're on plan, where you're off plan and how you're going to get back on course. And it's really to get everyone to understand their role in creating value at the company and to get a clear sense of how they're doing – ideally every day, if not every day, every week – against those key objectives.

And from an employee's perspective, we also add, on top of all of this, services like financial coaching to make sure people understand the value of the equity that they're being granted, and that the proceeds of the equity get put to the highest and best use possible.

Meet the Leader/Linda: And why is this so important? Why are these elements so key for people to be taking notice of?

Pete Stavros: There are probably a few reasons why. If you look at federal reserve data on wealth, ownership of corporate equities is one of the big drivers of wealth inequality today. The top 10% of Americans own 25 trillion of corporate equities. The bottom half own about 250 billion and that delta has exploded since the 1980s. Moving from a model where the top half of 1% of an individual company typically has the majority of the upside (which is typical inside of a company), to one where the upside is shared across an organization, that's got potential implications for wealth inequality.

On a related note, there is an opportunity with respect to the racial wealth gap. We need to put ownership on the agenda in terms of Black wealth building, Hispanic wealth building. Colleagues who are Black and Hispanic or underrepresented, sadly, at the tops of organizations, and that is typically where the vast majority of the ownership resides

So we've kind of got the double whammy of a significant over-representation of white males at the top of an organization; that's where all of the wealth building happens. That's another reason why this is important.

And then all the financial resiliency and financial literacy training and coaching work we do as a part of this programme, I think is desperately needed in the country.

Finally I'd say, from a company perspective, this has the potential to really be a source of culture building, to reduce worker turnover and enhance employee engagement.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Tell us a little bit about Ownership Works – what is it and how does it operate?

Pete Stavros: It's a nonprofit and it helps companies implement and execute broad-base ownership programmes. On the implementation side, it helps companies structure broad-based equity grants; size those individual grants; think through vesting retention requirements; legal, tax, accounting questions and concerns; how you administer a very broad plans – when those plans span geographic boundaries, they can get complex, complicated to structure and implement. And then it's also around driving employee engagement, building a more resilient workforce etc. It's that collective suite of services that the nonprofit offers to companies.

It's important to note that the non-profit has been founded by a number of private equity firms and likely some public companies together, who have real interest in this movement. It's not a couple of us, this is a real broad effort that we're trying to launch here, which will be supported by: some blue chip foundations; some major financial institutions; a number of private equity firms; consulting firms; law firms. A bunch of people who are in the deal environment are coming together to help make this happen.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Absolutely. You have a long-held interest in the power of employee ownership. Can you talk a little bit about this?

Pete Stavros: My dad operated a road grader for 45 years at a construction company in Chicago, earning an hourly wage. And what I saw growing up was a lot of conflict between workers and management, in part driven by the hourly wage itself.

If you think about it, it's a really crazy way to incentivize and pay people. The employee wants more hours and the employer wants fewer hours, and there's really no incentive alignment. There's no incentive for the employee to care about productivity, cost, quality, on-time delivery, customer satisfaction.

So my dad went through a number of years where there was that constant tension. He, I remember, used to get paid in the early days to drive to the job site, let's say it was an hour drive to the job site. You’d get paid for that, you’d get paid for the drive home, you’d get paid for your lunch hour and overtime. Those all got whittled away.

I often tell this story: there was one day where my dad and his colleagues, after the paid lunch hour had been taken away, [the company] intentionally had all of the road aggregated materials delivered right at the lunch hour, [so the workers] could intentionally refuse delivery and run the job out of material. And my dad came home and said, ‘Can you believe this is what we're doing? There's no incentive. There's no alignment. It's the opposite, we're trying to sabotage one another.’

So my dad always wanted profit sharing and his union never got it done, but that was, I'd say, where the original kind of inspiration for me came for this, was watching him work for decades with really no alignment.

Meet the Leader/Linda: And you also wrote your thesis at Harvard about Employee Owned Stock Plans (ESOPs).

Pete Stavros: Right before I went to business school, I was at an investment firm. I happened to work on an ESOP, which is an often misused acronym. It is a very technical tax structure from the 1974 ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] that allows companies to not pay federal income taxes if 100% of the common ownership is owned by employees. These are not as common as they once were, certainly in private equity they're not really common at all anymore, and even conversions into ESOPs at big scale don't happen as commonly anymore.

But at the time I was fascinated by ESOPs. I still think they're great; I'm in favour of anything that puts ownership in the hands of a larger number of employees. But what I wanted to study was what was the original idea? How did they get popular? Why has private equity experimented with it and then turned away from it? Could it be relevant once again? Are there other non-ESOP ways of sharing ownership broadly? That was a great opportunity. Business school is a time to think and a time to follow your passions, and so that was what I had the chance to do, particularly in my second year, was to really study that. And that's the paper that I wrote when I was there, that you are referring to.

Meet the Leader/Linda: And what did you take away from that?

Pete Stavros: I'm a proponent of ESOPs, don't get me wrong – but I learned some of the challenges, with respect to private equity and maybe larger scale ESOPS, and why people had not been as focused on converting to an ESOP structure.

So, just as an example, in an ESOP, it's overseen by the Department of Labor and there'd been some conflict between companies who had converted into an ESOP structure and the Department of Labor, I think that had scared some folks off.

There are redemption requirements put upon the company. If you're in an ESOP structure, there's some requirements around how the board is run, with an ESOP trustee. And there were a number of things that I learned about and really steered me down the path of, ‘Hey, these are great. There are some challenges. Are there other ways to also share ownership outside of a formal ESOP structure?’ Which is what we've started doing and what some other private equity firms and public companies are focused on today.

"Equity is really a path to building wealth and it's difficult for employees to really get ahead just on their labour alone."

—Pete Stavros, partner at private equity firm KKR, founder Ownership Works

Meet the Leader/Linda: Why is sharing ownership not more common? What are the objections you hear?

Pete Stavros: Some of the common objections would be… Number one, more junior colleagues in a company won't understand and value the ownership. And I would say there, it really comes down to leadership. If you've got a leadership team that really wants to operate this way, is willing to put the extra time and effort to communicate the business plan, is willing to operate in a transparent way – really get folks engaged in the business and make sure people really do understand the value of the equity that's been putting in their hands and what it could be worth and how they can themselves impact the outcome. Then I think it does end up being very well understood and appreciated, and it's well worth doing, but I do think it all comes down to leadership.

Another common objection I hear is, well, people would just prefer cash. If you're going to provide extra compensation, just give cash to employees. And there, I would say from the employee's perspective, it's hard to build wealth just on a little bit of incremental wage. Equity is really a path to building wealth and it's difficult for employees to really get ahead just on their labour alone. That's not great.

Also, on that same line of thinking, when people say, ‘well, just let's do gain sharing or some cash bonus,’ then employees aren't participating in the multiplier effect of equity, value, growth, of earnings growth. That's also not great from the employee perspective.

And from the company perspective, cash doesn't really align incentives, particularly it's just a wage increase – it doesn't align incentives as much, it increases their fixed costs, it's not a variable expense like equity is.

So I think there's some good reasons why equity should be a part of the programme. It should not be at the expense of cash compensation. At lower levels of an organization, we never have employees invest out of pocket and risk capital, so it's a free benefit. But I think it should be a part of the overall compensation programme at all levels of an organization, not just the top.

"A company should feel an obligation to offer wealth creation opportunity for all colleagues."

—Pete Stavros, partner at private equity firm KKR, founder Ownership Works

Meet the Leader/Linda: People who are on the fence - what pushes them over the edge?

Pete Stavros: I don't think I mentioned back to the stories of my dad, the potential for stronger cultures, more aligned workforce. We have seen a lower propensity for people to leave an organization if they have ownership at all levels.

So lower ranking colleagues who are given equity are less likely to quit. On a measured basis, their employee engagement scores tend to be higher. I think we start from a place of this is the right thing to do. A company should feel an obligation to offer wealth creation opportunity for all colleagues.

We think almost from a moral and ethical perspective, it's just not right for a leadership team to drive a company super hard for five years, really push for performance. And at the end of it, out of thousands of people, a handful of people generate real wealth. We think that's just not right.

So we start from a place of, this is the right thing to do. And by the way, it also happens to be smart business.

"It's just not right for a leadership team to drive a company super hard for five years and at the end of it, out of thousands of people, a handful of people generate real wealth.

—Pete Stavros, partner at private equity firm KKR, founder Ownership Works

Meet the Leader/Linda: Which is what we like to hear about. The triple bottom line, really. Let's talk about that engagement piece a little bit, because there's some really interesting pieces from your research about how the shared ownership can really sort of drive and foster, and strengthen engagement. So Ingersoll Rand, they moved from 17% engagement to 77% engagement over six years. That's sort of one example. Can you talk a little bit about that connection? Why is that so dramatic? What is driving that massive sort of jump into multiples there?

Pete Stavros: Well, I would go back to leadership again. We've just got a great leadership team at Ingersoll Rand. The CEO, Vicente Reynal, is super passionate about employee ownership. It has become, over the years, a core part of the company's strategy to drive engagement and to share ownership and do all of the things that I briefly referenced earlier on.

But it's the whole suite of efforts. He's driven, and his team have driven improvements in safety, the way they've communicated the business plan, the transparency with which they communicate to people – bringing everyone along on the mission so that everyone knows what their role is, how they can contribute.

I'll give you one example of something that we did at Ingersoll Rand. After we had made everyone an owner, we decided we were going to really focus on networking capital. So - reducing inventories, accelerating the collection of accounts receivable, etc.

And we were going to do this with the whole organization, not just the leadership team. We were going to train thousands and thousands of people on what working capital is, how you can improve it, and what the impact could be if we improve it. We set up the trainer approach – we've had some master trainers, they trained some trainers beneath them, who trained trainers beneath them.

And the way the maths works, pretty quickly you can target thousands and thousands of people without that many layers. And everyone was trained on these concepts. They were analogized to things in their personal life.

Inventory being like food in your refrigerator, you don't want to over purchase food. You're gonna have food waste. You're gonna have scrap. Your paycheck is like an accounts receivable. You want to get it in the bank as soon as you can and start earning interest. It was more complicated than I'm making it, but the team did a great job and they did things like celebrating wins. If someone went out and collected accounts, old accounts receivable that we had written off, that was celebrated.

There was a gift for the employee that led it. There was a ceremony around it, and those were videotaped and translated into multiple languages and zapped around the world. All the colleagues could see it with a message of, ‘What if we all did this, what could we really accomplish together?’

So that type of behaviour, where you're truly engaging colleagues in the business and engaging their brains and their creativity and giving them chances to go make a difference – that's the kind of stuff that moves the needle. So, as you say, taking the engagement scores from whatever was the 17th percentile to 77th, I mean, that's transformational.

I think, just intuitively, if you've got employees like that who are less likely to leave their jobs, more engaged on the job, more financially secure because they're owners and there's been payments on the equity over time, all that can really dramatically move the needle.

"If you've got employees who are less likely to leave their jobs, more engaged on the job, more financially secure because they're owners, all that can really dramatically move the needle."

—Pete Stavros, partner at private equity firm KKR, founder Ownership Works

Meet the Leader/Linda: When we talk about this engagement piece, of course, it doesn't happen overnight. You talk about the training and what needs to happen on the leadership side. What else needs to happen to get people aligned?

Pete Stavros: The leadership team need to really believe in this and want to do it because it is extra work. They need to see the value in it, they need to see the potential for what could happen in the organization.

If they have a more stable base of employees who are more engaged on the job, but once you've got that buy-in and that commitment and that belief, these programmes can really take off. And Vicente is not the only CEO that we've had, although he's exceptional. We've had others who have really grabbed the ball and run with it on this whole programme.

So we've got companies who have really, I think, cleverly experimented with ways of bringing an enhanced form of the worker's voice into the operation of the business. Take a manufacturing plant delegating capital investment decision-making rights. Setting aside, as an example, a million dollars a year in the plant and saying to the colleagues in the plant, ‘We want you to decide how this gets invested. And, by the way, we’re not looking for faster machinery. We're looking for, how can we make this a better work environment? What are your ideas? Let's get them on the table, let's study them and then vote on them and whatever you vote on, we will do so in that one facility.’

I'm thinking about the leadership team that has put in a cafeteria with healthy food options. They built an onsite health clinic. They built new break rooms. They air conditioned the facility, which is one of the first things that employees wanted.

That kind of a thing really gets people to say, ‘Wow, I've got a voice in this.’ I just think from a leadership perspective, it's that way of thinking that colleagues are whole beings who can be engaged on the job, who we need to take care of, and who have a critical role in taking care of the company and of our customers.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Then there's also this trust element that needs to be built with the employees, this element of trust. How can that be built?

Pete Stavros: That's a great question. There's a lot of water under the bridge, like stories like the one I shared with my father, a lot of water under the bridge between hourly employees or more junior colleagues, and the leadership of a company – like generations of water under the bridge.

So oftentimes people come to this without a lot of trust. And one of the questions we will get is how do I get employees to trust that this ownership programme’s real, they're going to value it? The challenge is the ownership programme, it's going to take years for it to pay off.

What we recommend is that people make commitments upfront, unrelated to the equity. So you announce the ownership programme, everyone's an owner. ‘Here's what it can mean for you. We're going to bring you along as a part of this journey. We are also going to, as an example, delegate some decision-making rights on what we're doing in our factories.

‘We're going to do some financial coaching and financial literacy training. We're going to give people access – and there's some technology out there that can help you do this – access to your wages every day, not every other week, so not such a long pay cycle. We're going to set up an employee emergency assistance fund.’

So you list out, ‘these are things we're going to do’, Then, as you do what you say you're going to do, that trust gets built. And as you're building – brick by brick – that trust back with the workforce, they are naturally going to value the equity more because they're going to believe you.

I think getting trust in the equity programme – which is not specifically what you asked about, but is what we often get asked about – I think can only be built in the context of a broader trust-building exercise, if that makes sense.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Could this have been built maybe 10 years ago? ESG [environment, social and governance] now is talked about more, there is a mindset shift that has happened. But do you think that this nonprofit could have been founded even 10 years ago?

Pete Stavros: Well, I don't know, but I do think this is a unique moment in time. It feels like people have really had it with wealth, inequality. And, relatedly with this large racial wealth gap, I do think COVID – which is a new phenomenon, obviously – has shined a bright light on the unfairness of the economy.

So if you were a more junior colleague, you were more likely to lose your job. Many times, if you didn't lose your job, you had to show up in person in close quarters and risk your health to keep your job. I think we've got that, which we didn't have 10 years ago.

We've got, whatever your political leanings, we've got a unified government that wants to do something about these issues. You've got the tragedy and murder of George Floyd… There's definitely been a lot of things that have happened that, I think, make this easier today to make progress on. I do think it's easier today than 10 years ago.

Meet the Leader/Linda: You are a partner, you're co-head of private equity, for the Americas at KKR. But then you're also founding this brand new organization from scratch and doing multiple roles. What is that like?

Pete Stavros: Well, it's a lot of fun and I would say, most importantly, it's a team effort. As an example, my co-head of private equity, Nate Taylor, is very involved in this; my partner, Josh Weisenbeck, who worked with me in industrials for many years; all of our partners at the firm; a number of other private equity firms, are working on this with us; I mentioned all the banks.

There's just a lot of support around this which, by the way, is what makes me optimistic that we're going to get real traction, because there's just so many smart people around the table. Smart and influential people around the table who want to see this happen. I'd say it's been fun. It's been a collaboration. It's been a lot of people working on this and a real team effort.

But from the balanced perspective of… one of the fun things about this is it's related to our day jobs, obviously for all of us. We're always deploying management equity plans, and we are obviously working with all of these same stakeholders in our day jobs. It's very synergistic.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Is there a habit that has helped you juggle these roles?

Pete Stavros: Well, I think I have become more efficient and probably work a little bit longer hours and more nights and weekends. But, aside from that, I don't have any great tricks from the juggling perspective.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Is there a particular trait that you have depended on as you have built this? Something that you're like, ‘Gosh, if I didn't have this quality, this wouldn't be going in the direction it's going’?

Pete Stavros: Well, I think I'm very naturally interested in the topic. This isn’t a trait but if I didn't have the upbringing that I had, I'm not sure I'd still be at this all these years later. That consistent interest, it is just a nature of how I was raised and how I grew up.

And then I would say… Nate keeps telling me I'm patient – which in terms of working through this, talking to people about it, talking to people through it, who want to try it – I've never heard that in my life that I'm patient before, but I'll take it. And then, lastly, just maybe being flexible. We're constantly learning and experimenting with the model, made a lot of mistakes, so we keep changing it. That flexibility has probably also helped.

Meet the Leader/Linda: I always think that patience is a really interesting problem-solving tool because no two problems, even if they seem like they're alike, they aren't. Do you think that patience is an unsung problem-solving tool?

Pete Stavros: Probably, particularly for something like this, which is a change of the system. I mean, my goodness, there's no way that's going to happen quickly. Yeah. The executive director who runs the Ownership Works, Anna-Lisa Miller, she talks about in the nonprofit world, there can be unrealistic expectations of change. And so I think, we've been at this for 11 years, I think we've got some good momentum, but a long way to go.

And I don't think we're sitting here being like, ‘in two years, this is going to be fixed’. Where this is, the goal is to try and make it more common, more natural to share ownership throughout an organization. As one of our peer organizations said at one point, normalizing ownership, that that's going to take time. So yeah, I think particularly with system change like this, patience is going to be important.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Do you feel like there's also a connection between flexibility and patience?

Pete Stavros: Yeah, I think so. On the flexibility side, related to this work specifically, not every company is going to be set up the same. The exact model probably is not going to be the same in terms of how you structure the equity, how much equity, how much at which levels, how do you think about vesting and retention requirements and the form of equity and when restricted stock versus options versus, whatever.

We're not going to be too prescriptive, too cookie cutter, too inflexible, and we just want to make forward progress each time we do it. I think that that probably is slightly tied into patience. Eventually we'll probably get to a more crystallized view of exactly ‘this is the way to do it’, within some broad contours, but we're not there yet.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Ownership Works is helping companies deploy this broad-based model ownership model. Can you talk a little bit about what we might see maybe in a few years? What will be sort of the before and the after that might be coming down the pike?

Pete Stavros: How it works is… usually the first conversation with a CEO or a private equity firm is, ‘How would I even start?’ How would I go from… we've got a company here where there's a handful of owners. How do you go from that to thousands of owners, maybe in multiple jurisdictions around the world?

It starts with literally, we usually ask for just census data, like just send us by location, by salary band, number of employees, average income, and if you have any data on turnover and we'll start to play with numbers with you, to play with structures, and we can figure out what could work in terms of giving enough of an incentive to colleagues without taking up an undue portion of the equity.

There's that upfront structuring, then there's the communication. How do you communicate this to employees? Both upfront and then over time. How do you keep them engaged and involved? There's the employee engagement and worker voice piece, I mentioned. We've got a big partnership with Gallup, who invented employee engagement and they've donated their survey tools, their research, their consulting to help companies baseline employee engagement, and then measure progress over time and react to the feedback. It's like any good manager gets feedback, tries to react to it, tries to be a better manager – same for a company.

That's the employee engagement part and then the financial inclusion and resiliency. It's all of those things I mentioned earlier around providing some financial coaching. How people can save, plan, budget, the importance of getting out of credit card debt, how to apply for the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, etc.

There's the financial education part of it. Some very basics on how equity value is created. The folks who maybe don't have much of an interest in finance, or much background, can absorb and internalize the information that's shared, And then you, some of the other things I mentioned around accessing pay on a more frequent basis, etc

So it's really, it is kind of a soup to nuts, help them implement it, communicate it, drive engagement, and measure all of these things all along the way.

"Everyone who's found success has an obligation to share and give back."

—Pete Stavros, partner at private equity firm KKR, founder Ownership Works

Meet the Leader/Linda: Is there a book that you recommend? Something you think, ‘gosh, everybody should be reading this, should be taking this to heart’?

Pete Stavros: I got a couple of ideas. None of these directly relate to employee ownership, but books that we've read at this non-profit, Ownership Works, over the summer that I think are interesting. And we do find ways to tie them back to employee ownership. But one book is called The Great Risk Shift and it really chronicles what happened to more junior colleagues in an organization over the past 50 years. You went from a situation where companies really took care of you, cradle to grave. It was like practically lifetime employment, gold-plated healthcare, defined benefits-style pension plans.

We went from that, over the course of the last 50 years, to the far other extreme. At-will employment, no worker protections, lots of temp labor, bare bones healthcare plans with very high deductibles, a 401(k) programme – a system where it's really all on you to plan for your retirement. That's the concept of ‘the great risk shift’, it's kind of ‘put the risk on the employee’.

And I think our feeling is somewhere back towards the middle, in between the two extremes. You know, it could be good for the country and I think ownership could be a part of that.

Another book that I thought was really interesting is The Tyranny of Merit, written by a Harvard ethics professor [Michael Sandel]. The basic idea is that we've all convinced ourselves that whatever success we've found in life is because of our own hard work. It's all merit. His argument is that that's kind of bad all around, because the winners feel like it's all of them and there's no room for grace or gratitude.

For the less fortunate, bad for them, because they feel like it's all their fault and they just aren't deserving of financial or other awards. And the reality – and he makes this point, I think, really well in the book – is that no success is just one person. There's so many factors that play – not the least of which is luck, by the way – but it's who your parents are, where you grew up, what your schooling was like, what teachers you had.

The way we tie that back to ownership is, it's not all the CEO. It's not all any one person. It's not even all just the leadership team. Everyone who's found success has an obligation to share and give back, because it's not all them.

Meet the Leader/Linda: Regarding ‘The Great Risk Shift’: if somebody reads that book, what do you think is the thing that they'll come away with it? How will they be changed?

Pete Stavros: I mean, the way I was impacted was just the extent to which things have changed. It's just such a dramatic pendulum swing from… they used to call it the corporate welfare state or the nanny state, all driven by the corporation, and it's just gone so far. And that's what struck me is just like, holy cow, what a dramatic shift, we've gone too far to the other extreme.

Meet the Leader/Linda: What drives you? Why is this important to you personally, that's going to sort of help you sort of push forth over the long term?

Pete Stavros: Well, it's something I've been interested in my whole life, starting as a little kid, as I mentioned, and having my dad explain to me the kind of the plight of a lower income colleague and that lack of alignment. That's honestly a big part of it.

And then, I would say, the potential for impact is so enormous that it's very motivating. If you just… here's a bull case on private equity as a model of governance, which is to say if there's a change like this that would be good for corporate America, private equity offers some consolidated decision-making in an efficient and effective way of driving change, in the sense that it doesn't take convincing many people to drive a big sweeping change.

So there's a potential domino effect. When you look at the number of employees that are related to the big private equity firms, or private equity in general, it's so significant. And the decision-making is so consolidated that you could have, as I say, the domino's fall on millions of people impacted. I think I find really exciting.

"The potential for impact is so enormous."

—Pete Stavros, partner at private equity firm KKR, founder Ownership Works

Meet the Leader/Linda: What kind of change would you see in maybe the next 10 years?

Pete Stavros: Well, the way we've talked about it is, qualitatively the goal is to just make this more common, more normal, more accepted. The quantitative goal we've set up is – and I think we can do much better than this – but $10 billion of wealth creation for lower income colleagues at companies who roll this model out, I think it could be many multiples of that if we really get the domino effect going.

And then over the next 10 years, we want to make this easier to do. There are some things we're going to work on in that respect, to make this just easier to implement, easier to manage, easier to administer.

And then I think there are some disclosures that would in 10 years – this part is going to happen sooner, but from a human capital management perspective, there's probably more that should be in the public domain about what's happening in the lower half of an organization.

Right now, the disclosure is really around the named executive officers and the CEO and his, or her direct reports, and I think some more disclosures, not just financial, but health and safety, wellness, worker training, worker turnover. There's a whole bunch of stuff that could be pretty easily disclosed that would give people a good sense for what's going on, deeper into an organization. And I think we'll, knock on wood, have a lot of that over the next 10 years.

Meet the Leader/Linda: If you could leave the people who are listening to this podcast and this conversation with maybe one idea or one thought, what is that?

Pete Stavros: I think we all are tired of the win-win concept cause there's always trade-offs, but I think this has the potential to be really good for workers and also, if it's well-executed, has the potential to be really good for companies as well. I guess that's the big takeaway for me.

And then the request would be whether your listeners are, are corporates who might consider this. We'd love to hear from them, whether they're investors, pension plans or public investors, or public fund managers, who think this could have merit. We'd love to hear from them. We're continuing to build this coalition of folks who think this has real merit and needs a serious, serious look. That would be the request as we'd love to hear from those folks.

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