Sharing ownership at Bliffert

Bliffert Lumber & Hardware brings employees – its family – into partial ownership role.
Bliffert team ESOP 8/2022
Bliffert Hardware & Lumber group photo to celebrate its Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

A place where everyone gets a share.

That now describes working at one upper Midwest hardware and lumber company.

Eli Bliffert, owner of Bliffert Lumber & Hardware in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said, “it was getting too big for me. And I’d never sell. So, I thought, I’ll share with my staff. We’re family oriented. Each yard is its own family.”

After over 115 years in business, Bliffert announced the partial sale of the company to its employees via an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) representing the Bliffert employees.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) are qualified retirement plans that buy, hold, and sell company stock for the benefit of the employees, providing an ownership stake in the company.

“We back-dated to January 1, 2021,” said Bliffert by phone to this editor recently. “Six years is considered vested for employees.”

The company uses ESOP Partners, described as an ESOP service provider that changes lives by creating wealth and sustainable employment through employee ownership, said the hardware and lumber company.

“Our team members each gets appraised, and we decide on how much percent of share each gets, based on how long they’ve worked,” said Bliffert explaining how ESOP works for his firm.

The sale is a way to reward employees for their contributions to Bliffert Lumber and Hardware’s success and to ensure its long-term vitality, Bliffert said. “I am a firm believer that we are all in it together. The ESOP is the best way to ensure this.”

He explained how much ownership his employees have, “let’s say we have a million shares in the company total, 300,000 shares are now owned by the employees. And they can accumulate shares every year. It gives employees some skin in the game.”

Going forward, Bliffert said “we’ll run like we’ve always run. Managers are always part of decision-making, and we are always trying to get better. Everyone will share an adjustment at mid-year and can get shares.”

Bliffert said the employees didn’t think he would sell. “We’re a multi-generational family here,” noting employee’s parents have worked for the company.

The employee average time working at Bliffert is around 12 years, he said.

About the popularity of offering his employees ESOP, he said, “they like it – it’s been very well received. Our ESOP Partners did a great job explaining how it will work.”

Bliffert Lumber and Hardware, in its fifth and sixth generations of family ownership, has served contractors and homeowners in southeastern Wisconsin for over 115 years.

Since its incorporation in 1904, the firm said, “we have helped the community grow by supplying building materials to hospitals, stadiums, new homes, and a variety of other projects.”