When a business is employee-owned, there might not be a higher compliment than to be recognized as the top employee-owned company in the region.

This year, Emery Sapp & Sons Inc. received the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) Heart of America Chapter Company of the Year award, a testament to their success as an employee-owned company. The Heart of America chapter encompasses Missouri and Kansas.

Constructing a Culture

When Billy Sapp began this company in 1972, he started with one employee and one piece of equipment, working in one town. His main focus was residential, with some underground utility work, according to Dan Hoover, CPA and Controller, but Sapp began to expand into concrete paving in 1973.

Today, ESS is a heavy highway civil contractor that does bridge construction, concrete paving, excavation and underground utilities for residential and commercial developers, general contractors and local and state governments. The company, headquartered in Columbia, now also works out of state in Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The company has grown to nearly 600 employees, with three locations in Springfield, Kansas City and Joplin.

More company expansion isn’t out of the question. “We will go where the work is,” says Hoover. “If there’s a job somewhere that fits us and we can get there and be competitive, we will do it.”

The company has been employee-owned since 1999. “It was an opportunity to really give the company back to the people who helped [Sapp] build it, being the employees,” Hoover says.

ESS employees gain value in the company through a qualified retirement plan, and the company fosters a culture of employee ownership.

“Me being an employee owner, I value what the company does,” says Sara Snodderley, marketing and communications manager. “That drives our profitability as a company. Me being invested in Emery Sapp as an employee–owner helps make us profitable as a company.”

To ESS, being an ESOP company is about a team effort; it is about all the employees driving the success as an ESOP.

“Our guys know that, ‘Hey, if I put in the extra effort and this job does extra well, the company does better, I do better in my ESOP account,” Hoover says.

Everyone, from top to bottom, gets to participate in the ESOP, which aids in the success of the company. Snodderley says that success happens because employees are owners.

“This happens because of the guy out there who is putting pipe in,” Snodderley says.

Hoover says that ownership gives employees a financial drive as well. “Everybody has a qualified retirement account within the plan that they financially benefit from as the company does well.”

Company of the Year

After winning the regional ESOP Company of the Year, ESS will now be considered for the national award, presented at the National Association ESOP conference, in Washington in May 2016.

“We were up against some great competition in our chapter, so we were very thankful, very surprised that we were [the] successful winner this year,” Hoover says. “It meant a lot to us.”

Current projects include their first design-build job with MoDOT, working on the bridges along I-70 in Columbia. They are also working on Scott Boulevard, along with many other projects across the city.

“Beyond that, we will still do what we are doing,” Hoover says. “Always look for what we can do better as a company, and more particularly, as an ESOP company.”



1972   Emery Sapp & Sons is founded with the philosophy of “being in business tomorrow means satisfying our customer today.”

1990s ESS begins to see new opportunities for work; the company takes on new projects and begins to grow. ESS takes on MODOT projects.

1999   ESS becomes an ESOP company in the Heart of America chapter. At this time, the company has about 200 employees committed to ensuring quality work for their customers.

2000s ESS expands to statewide work in Kansas City, Springfield and eventually most of southwest Missouri.

2015   As a competitive, successful ESOP construction company, ESS decides to apply for ESOP Company of the Year and receives the regional award.

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