Vantage LED Founder Pays It Forward by Going ESOP

Chris Ma tells his employees, 'I want to make sure everyone is taken care of.'

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The founder and CEO of Ontario, California-based LED sign manufacturer Vantage LED, Chris Ma, announces that he is converting the company to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP.

The ESOP will be implemented in phases. By the end of this year, every employee will own 5 percent of the company’s stock. By the end of 2017 the employees’ shares of the company will be 30 percent, and within five years 100 percent of the company will be employee-owned. The plan covers every single employee, and employees don’t have to contribute a penny.

As the company says in a press release announcing the move, “All they have to contribute is what they have doing all this time: their passion, their energy, and their commitment to excellence.”

When Ma founded the company in 2003, it had four employees in a 2,920 square foot building. Today, the company owns its own 150,000-square-foot building. Company highlights include, in 2013, introducing an industry first cloud-based software solution that has integrated Amber Alerts through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In 2014, Vantage LED installed five large screens for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

At the all-hands employee meeting, Ma, 37, told his employees, “It’s because of people like you who work hard without asking for anything in return, that we’re able to do this. It’s a team effort, and as such, the team is going to be sharing in this success. I want to make sure that everyone is taken care of financially, physically, and emotionally, because we’re part of a bigger picture here, and I’m going to show you that with this first step.”

During that same meeting, Ma also announced that Ivan Perez, director of resource and development; Josie Salitrero, national sales manager; Jon Park, production manager; and Steven Lopes, software engineer; would all be receiving a brand new car for their years of dedication and contributions. And he’s done that before: In previous years, employees Yuusuke Arimura, George Suzuki, Ricky Chai and Kyle Carnes were all given new cars.

Ma also announced Max Perez, Rosa Lopez, Krystal Becerra, Edwin Rodriguez and Brittney Hanslik as new inductees to what’s called the Vantage Core team. The first project for the team is to implement an onsite day care center for Vantage employees.

According to those in attendance, all Ma asked of his employees is that they “pay it forward.”

“If this is Chris’s first step, I can’t wait to see what he plans for the next step,” says Arimura, chief operations officer.

CBS2-TV in nearby Los Angeles did a report on the ESOP plan, and as the reporter noted, Ma is also helping all his employees pay off their mortgages. So far, he has paid off 10.


Tony Kindelspire

Tony Kindelspire is digital content editor of Sign & Digital Graphics & WRAPS magazines.

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