Paul Mark, member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
Paul Mark is a Democrat member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, elected in 2010 and representing the second Berkshire District.
As the active Democrat in the state House of Representatives Paul has successfully reinstated state support for Esop. His constituency has a particularly high percentage of workers in Esop owned companies.
Representative Mark’s support of and contribution to employee share ownership plans is seen in his proposed bills, including Bill H.1661 ‘An act relative to job creation through employee ownership’, put forward earlier this year. The bill proposes requiring companies to notify employees of plans to sell and to give them first refusal.
Esop matters, at both federal and state level in the US, are bipartisan. The two parties and the two houses get together and agree something, which the governor or the president then enacts. In the United States, with its long history of devolved administration, many states add their own incentives to federal measures. Now the devolved administrations in the UK have more power and therefore more opportunity.
In what ways does employee share ownership serve a useful purpose?
Employee ownership is useful in so many ways from a public policy perspective. Employee ownership helps to keep profits local by encouraging local ownership which fuels local secondary economic growth, it promotes steady and stable employment opportunities by changing the perspective and goals of the business itself and ideally taking a longer term view of the business strategy, and it provides employees with a greater opportunity for involvement in their workplace which in turn provides the business with a better workforce. Keeping businesses, employees, and investments local in turn fuels economic growth, improves government revenue streams, and keeps communities vibrant. That is ultimately the goal of economic activity, a better future for all.
How can we widen and deepen the adoption and use of employee share ownership?
At the government level it is important to provide incentives as well as knowledge and educational opportunities. Incentives can come about in the form of laws and regulations that help employee owned businesses thrive. Educational opportunities that include training and planning to get employee owned businesses the financial and management skills they need to thrive are also something that government bodies should look at. In Massachusetts we revived an office of Employee Involvement and Ownership so that businesses interested in converting could get reliable information and help from a trusted source at reasonable costs.
What would you tell someone on the fence about introducing employee share ownership to their company?
Take the time to explore the options, think about what you want your legacy to be and where you want the business you have grown to be 20 years in the future, and gauge the interest of the employees for sure. If employee ownership ends up being the right thing to do, get the assistance you need to make sure it is a successful transition.
What do you think will change about employee share ownership over the next five years?
I think employee ownership will become more common and more attractive, to both owners, employees, and consumers. As more and more people care about sustainable, positive, and fair outcomes in all facets of life they are going to take an interest in who they do business with as well. I think government support will increase and traditional financial institutions will expand their participation into these type of businesses.
What has been the most important development in employee share ownership during your career?
For me personally it has been the revival of the Massachusetts Office of Employee Involvement and Ownership. This office was zero funded in our state budget during the great recession, beginning in 2008, ending a twenty year successful programme. It took me filing a budget line item for seven years before we were able to successfully get the needed funding restored. This revived office has a great opportunity now to prove itself and help a number of businesses successfully convert to an employee owned model.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
There is no such thing.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
It has been an amazing experience serving the people of the 2nd Berkshire District in the House of Representatives. My favorite part of that is the different projects I am able to help steer to completion that make a positive difference in the lives of the people I serve.
What historical figure do you most identify with?
I relate to President Abraham Lincoln because we both built our way up to practicing the law and serving the public from very modest means. There’s a commemorative United States Penny to celebrate the 200th birthday of Lincoln that features a picture of him sitting on a log reading his law books during a break from work. That image meant a lot to me because I had to do the same thing, take a break from my blue collar labour intensive job to read my law books and finish my schooling anytime I could find around my work schedule. I think a humble beginning and difficult path to earn success makes a person really appreciate when they end up in a position to make a difference and follow their goals.
Which living person do you most admire?
Bill Russell, he is the greatest professional basketball player of all time and probably one of the most overlooked champions at the same time. Bill Russell played for the Boston Celtics and led his team to the NBA championship 11 times in the 13 years he played. He also led his college team to two NCAA basketball championships and won a gold medal for the US Olympic basketball team. Now basketball is not particularly important to me at all, but what does matter is that he looked past personal achievement and personal statistics to focus on what made the team win. He was their team leader and even served as a coach while he was a player. What clinches it for me is I had the opportunity to meet him once and he made a speech and said something along the lines of the reason you should be alright paying taxes is that when you showed up at school the first day, your parents didn’t own the building and they didn’t send you with a cheque, but the school let you in and taught you for twelve years anyway. Even in public comments in his 70s he remained a champion of the same principle, that the good of all must outweigh selfishness.
Which word or phrases do you most overuse?
I tend to laugh a lot, usually really loudly.
What is your most treasured possession?
My time, because you can’t get more of it once you use it and you don’t know how much more you have.