ATLANTA — Packard Inc. told its employees on Aug. 25 that it had become the first master distributor in the HVACR industry to adopt an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). The purpose of an ESOP is to enable eligible employees to share in the growth and prosperity of the company, accumulate capital for their future economic security, and acquire beneficial stock ownership interests in the company.
Packard’s CEO and chairman of the board, Tom Campbell, will remain at the helm and will continue to provide his insights in areas of purchasing and product development. The new customer-focused, employee-owned mentality is expected to preserve the corporate culture and family atmosphere with the added benefit of increased employee accountability and buy-in.
“I have always worked hard to cement Packard’s legacy in this industry and to help secure a future for every family at Packard,” Campbell said. “An ESOP allows me to transition that legacy to the people who helped me build this company. Over the years, we have built a team that mirrors my commitment to serving the HVACR community, and I am proud that we can take this next step together.”
Campbell and Susan Kirkland, president, Packard, tried to quiet down the 77 employees and 125 family members and guests at the Hank Aaron Terrace during the Atlanta Braves vs. Colorado Rockies baseball game at the recently opened SunTrust Park.
Most had already started on the hot dogs, cracker jacks, and assorted beverages, so it was hard to get their attention when the time came for the big announcement.
“I have a big surprise,” said Campbell. “Really, you’re going to want to hear this; it’s important.”
Once the crowed settled down, Kirkland set the stage as she referred to the many times that Packard had been presented with acquisition offers. The crowd quieted as they prepared to hear what appeared to be an ominous ownership announcement.
Campbell further teased the employees, “I cannot express in words how proud I am of you and the legacy we have created. Because of this, I get offers to buy Packard almost weekly, and as you know, over the years, while I have entertained a few of these offers, I have always turned them down because it just didn’t feel right for the company or our employees. At the beginning of 2017, I received one offer that was very different from the ones in the past. I simply could not pass this offer up. You see, on Aug. 11, I sold Packard.”
As the silence lingered, Kirkland unveiled a sign that revealed the plan for the new ESOP. A few people cheered immediately, a few looked around most assuredly wondering what in the world an ESOP was, and a few had tears in their eyes. Then, an ovation quickly moved across the room as the announcement sunk in to the employees and their families. As the joy and pats on the back subsided, one employee, who was overheard talking to a young boy, said, “Do you know what this means? This means that someday when you come here to work with your dad, you are going to own part of this company too.”
Packard has been a family-oriented company for more than 50 years, serving wholesalers as a master distributor. Representatives from Regal Beloit, Packard’s oldest partner, and Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) were present for the announcement. Jon Melchi, vice president, government affairs and business development, HARDI, said he had some inclination of the plan as Packard has been a long-time HARDI associate member and had recently been discussing ESOP structure.
But for a few hunches, the secret was very well kept.
Monique McCauley has been in customer service for most of her working career. For the last four years, she’s worked in Packard’s Kennesaw, Georgia, location, home to both the company’s corporate office and main distribution center.
Prior to the announcement, a smiling and engaging McCauley discussed what it’s like to work for Packard.
“We process orders for up to 16,000 items per day,” she said, adding an average day brings her calls that vary from orders to technical questions about products. “This has been a very good place to work, and it feels like home for me.”
McCauley had no clue what the announcement was going to be about.
“I came here tonight to join my coworkers in celebration,” she said. “I am truly honored to be celebrating such a major accomplishment. Hard work and ethics pay off. I am so ecstatic for our future at Packard.”
Kirkland said her hope for this new employee-owned path is two-fold: to continue the legacy of service, selection, and satisfaction that Campbell has nurtured these past 45 years and to provide a concrete future for the comany’s hard-working employees and valued customers.
“This long, prayer-filled journey was not forged into lightly,” McCauley said. “If I could personally thank every industry professional who has travelled this path before me, I would. Their guidance has been priceless. And, so, with abundant research, counsel, and advocacy, we have bravely chosen to pave a way in our industry that can only strengthen our pride, dedication, and commitment to our Packard family, patrons, and community.”
Campbell looked around the room and commented, obviously pleased with the outcome.
“We are committed to securing a future for our employees,” he said. “Look at these people; look at their faces. They are so happy.”
Publication date: 9/25/2017