CHI Overhead Doors workers get surprise first dividend

CHI Overhead Doors workers get surprise first dividend

ARTHUR — About 700 employees at CHI Overhead Doors were surprised Thursday with dividends from stock in their own company.

After private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co bought CHI in 2015, employees were granted stock options, and two years later, KKR is issuing its first dividends.

"It made me feel really good to get it," said Larry Beals, who delivers doors for CHI. "It gives me more pride in what I'm doing."

CHI Overhead Doors, which makes garage doors, has been owned by four different private equity firms, and KKR is the first with an employee ownership model, said Pete Stavros, its head of industrial.

"It was owned by private equity firm after private equity firm, where typically there were five to 10 people who owned (company stock)," Stavros said. "Now, it's 1,000 or so, so it's a big departure."

With employee ownership programs, "the goal is to get people more bought into the mission of the company," Stavros said.

This is supposed to help employees feel more invested in the company, helping it improve.

It has helped CHI improve the efficiency of the routes its truck drivers take, Stavros said.

"We have truck drivers who are paid by the mile, so they don't really care about efficiency of routes until you make them owners and talk to them about what their stake in the outcome could be worth," he said.

It also improved how it sources steel for its doors. Because its steel providers are paid by the pound, they were producing steel at the high end of CHI's acceptable thickness range. After catching this, they tightened the range, and along with other changes, saved $3 million a year.

"People started asking a lot more questions," Stavros said.

He said employee ownership works, but more importantly, it's a core value for KKR.

"It's anecdotal. There's academic studies that have shown different levels of performance and engagement," he said. "We don't spend time trying to collect data on that. We believe it at a gut level."

CHI Overhead Doors CEO Dave Bangert said the program helps align employees with the company's goals.

"It helps us invest in our people, and it helps us create alignments throughout the organization in terms of the goals we have," he said. "There's an awareness of the program and the alignment it brings, and there's an interest in how we can continue to take better care of and better serve our customers and help the business."

Bangert didn't say how much employees received in dividends Thursday, as it varied.

"I don't think it's about the amount," he said. "I think it's about the fact that we're able to share in terms of alignment, that we're able to share and reinvest in the people."

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