Workers no longer need to feign ownership at i9 Sports Corp. — and the boss couldn’t be happier, as founder Frank Fiume recently announced that his Tampa, Florida-based company is now an employee-owned enterprise.
"Our employees have acted like owners for a long time," Fiume said. "Now, they no longer need to act — all eligible i9 Sports Corporation employees will have a literal ownership stake in the company they are helping to build. This is about more than just compensation. It's about rewarding the contagious sense of pride and personal ownership our employees have in the company's success."
As the nation's first and largest youth sports league franchise, i9 is now structured as an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), joining approximately 7,000 similar U.S. businesses. Staffers enjoy the security of knowing they are invested in the firm’s long-term success — considered a retirement benefit in itself, in addition to the usual structured benefits of employment.
All team members who work at least 1,000 hours annually are eligible to participate. The corporate structure and day-to-day operations will remain and all executives will continue in their current capacities. Many well-known companies, including Publix Supermarkets, Southwest Airlines, Gore-Tex, and Lifetouch, have adopted the ESOP model, and Fiume calls it “a game changer” following a hugely successful year in 2015.
"I see the ESOP as an incredible competitive advantage for us," Brian Sanders, i9 Sports president and CEO, said. "One of our company's five key success behaviors is 'unflinching ownership.' With the ESOP, we have the ability to incent that personal sense of accountability for decision-making, innovation and continuous improvement. ESOP gives us an edge in attracting and retaining dedicated employees over time."
i9 Sports provides leagues, camps, and clinics for children ages 3-14 in team sports such as flag football, soccer, basketball and baseball.