Berrett-Koehler Publishers: an innovative approach to stakeholder accountability and ownership

What are some of your favorite books?  Confessions of an Economic Hit ManWhen Corporations Rule the WorldThe Divine Right of CapitalThe Small-Mart Revolution?

Have you ever wondered what kind of company would consistently publish so many great books?

Berrett-Koehler Publishers (BK) publishes books that create new paradigms and challenge long-held beliefs.  No wonder, since their mission is to Create a World That Works For All.

Something that is less well known about BK is how the business is structured to reflect its values.  BK has worked hard to make it possible for ALL of its stakeholders – authors, employees, customers, and other community members – to actively participate in, benefit from, and own a piece of the business.

In 2005, BK conducted a direct public offering of stock using the SCOR form.  The minimum investment was $800, which made it possible for even non-wealthy customers and other stakeholders to invest.  Today, BK has almost 250 shareholders.

To ensure that BK’s authors have an active role in the business, BK supported the creation of BK Authors Cooperative, Inc., an independent cooperative of BK authors.  The coop holds annual events and provides organized feedback to BK on operations.

Several BK employees have purchased BK stock.  But all long-term employees have a stake in the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan that the company contributes stock to each year.

BK has implemented another innovation: a trading platform for its stock to create the possibility of liquidity for its investors.  This is very important for a company that has no intention of ever selling out to a larger, less mission-driven publisher.  The platform is private to ensure compliance with securities law.

BK’s long-term vision is that the company will be owned one-third by employees; one-third by authors; and one-third by customers, service providers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

BK is truly creating a company that works for all!