Companies Have Many Lives

September 3, 2015

All living organisms go through changes. Think tadpole to frog, caterpillar to butterfly, chess team member to leading a specialty chemical distribution company. Ok the last one is a stretch (but hey it is my story). Companies and organizations go through changes too. Recently, Google announced they were splitting into two companies. One of the companies will hold its core search and Web advertising business and the other its newer ventures such as driverless cars and Internet-connected thermostats made by its Nest business. Here at Sea-Land Chemical Co., we have seen such changes as well.

Sea-Land Chemical Co. was a very different company when it was founded at the end of 1964, than it is today. It was started as a two-person organization focused on reselling fatty acids, fats and oils. It had a sales-oriented, entrepreneurial culture, which was entirely relationship driven. And how it all worked! Sea-Land Chemical grew, formed relationships with suppliers, expanded its client base, and incorporated in 1971. Why would we ever want to change? As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So, why did we “fix it?”

So, why did we change and become the 100 percent employee owned firm that we are today? In a word, necessity. In business, nothing is forever. In order to grow over the long-term, we needed to plan for our future. So, in 1981, we added an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to facilitate the retirement of the then-owner and to allow for change in ownership. With 100 percent of company stock held in a trust as part of our retirement plan, it changed our company forever.

The benefits of this structure have been many. Employee ownership provides continuity within the organization. By building in these financial incentives, we are in a better position to attract, develop and retain employees who are committed to the success of the company. It also allows for smooth succession planning and seamless ownership transitions. In essence, we are able to develop our company’s next generation of leaders now, rather than guessing about it in the future.

There are additional benefits as well. By retaining employees, we preserve tribal knowledge within the organization. By leveraging this information, we are better able to serve customers and business partners while keeping on top of industry trends. Thus we have better access to business opportunities that benefit everyone along the chain.

So, you could say that Sea-Land Chemical Co. has had several lives. We are a very different company than we were 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Yet, we retain many of the qualities that made us successful in the beginning: an entrepreneurial nature, a focus on our customers, business partners and committed employees that can look forward, even as they remember the past. Where is your organization going next?

Thank you for continuing on the journey with us!

All the best,

Joe Clayton