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Your company is in the San Francisco Bay area? It’s outfitting a high-end office? One of your first calls, most likely, will be to Commercial Casework Inc., an employee-owned company that creates finely crafted, high-design interior furnishings for a long list of blue-chip clients, including Google and Apple.

Like a lot of construction-related companies, Commercial Casework went through hard times during the Great Recession. Since that time it has grown steadily, from about $7 million in annual revenue in 2009 to $26 million today. Its share value has appreciated from $25.77 in 2001, when the ESOP was launched, to $107.62 at its most recent valuation.

But Commercial Casework isn’t a standard-issue employee-ownership company. It’s unionized, and employees’ status relevant to the ESOP depends on where they work

The 50 employees who work in production and installation, including a few of the company’s engineering staff, are members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Most are highly skilled veterans, and even the newcomers have typically been trained by union professionals. All of these workers receive union-scale wages and benefits, and they can look forward to a generous union-sponsored pension when they retire.

Nearly all the rest of the company’s 85 employees are participants in the company’s ESOP. They include project managers, assistant project managers, most of the engineers, office personnel, and executives. As of last year, the ESOP owns 100% of the stock.

You’d think this split might be a recipe for divisiveness. But it doesn’t seem to be at Commercial Casework, which has developed a rollicking, all-in-this-together culture based on complete open-book management and an innovative recipe for sharing the wealth. Silicon Valley Business Journal named the company one of the region’s best places to work for 2017.

The open-book approach goes back to cofounder Bill Palmer, who served many years as the company’s chief executive. Workers see the status of every job, including budget, cost by labor code, and progress to completion. Managers do weekly projections of revenue and profit, shared and discussed with every employee. Customers can see the philosophy right on the Commercial Casework website: “A business should be run like an aquarium, where everybody can see what’s going on – what’s going in, what’s moving around, what’s coming out. That’s the only way to make sure people understand what you are doing, and why, and have some input into deciding where you are going.”

The company offers a generous bonus plan, paid quarterly to all employees. The bonus pool depends on profits,

CEO Nick Palmer

and each person has so many shares in the pool, depending on position and seniority. So when the company projects its profits for the quarter, everyone can calculate exactly what he or she is likely to make in bonus.

In good times, the bonus adds a significant amount to everyone’s paycheck. “If we make our numbers, production employees will get upwards of $6,000 this year,” says current CEO Nick Palmer, Bill’s son. The numbers are higher for nonunion people—because, Palmer explains, they don’t get overtime pay even though most average about 50 hours a week. “The bonus bridges the gap.”

Like most companies in Silicon Valley—indeed, like most across America—Commercial Casework’s main challenge right now is finding talented people.  “In 2011 I’d post an ad and get 50 to 100 resumes for a project manager or assistant project manager position,” says Nick Palmer, somewhat wistfully. “I’d make phone calls to ten, call in five for interviews. Now I’m lucky if I get one or two resumes.” The union helps the company find production employees, but finding engineers and other skilled people remains difficult.

Still, Commercial Casework has an advantage that many companies don’t. “We’re letting them know, we’re hiring you with the intention of you making this a career,” Palmer says. “By being an employee-owner, you have a stake. We want you to think and act like an owner—because that’s what you’ll be.”