Bob Seger, one of our more famous Rock stars, had a song called Like a Rock. One of the verse’s had this to say: “Twenty years now, where’d they go…Twenty years, I don’t know…I sit and I wonder sometimes where they’ve gone….”
The above refrain would aptly describe how I feel about Cornerstone’s 20th year anniversary. Sometimes, I do wonder where the 20 years have gone. Starting a new company at age 52 was not something I had planned. I knew the type of company I wanted to create and our purpose statement does say what that was. “To create a better place for people to work.” Boy, that led to some interesting conversations with both employees and customers, but as I have said to our sales force; you can’t make a sale if the customer isn’t talking or asking questions, and that holds true for every employee that has contact with our clients.
I’m not going to review our history that can be found through several places on our website. I will tell you the fact that our top customers have stayed with Cornerstone 13 years, with some being with us from the start of Cornerstone.
I won’t go into all of the details, but I was quite sick a few years back and was in hospitals, and rehab clinics. It took over a year to get back to almost normal, and the mantle of authority fell completely on the shoulders of Tim Clay, President, and Pat Nieman, CFO. That may have been the best absence from work I have had. The company ran smoothly, grew, and increased in profitability. I returned to work, but because of what I had been through my doctors did not want me flying commercial. Well, that certainly is not in the job description of a CEO. Tim had been with me for almost a quarter century and was as knowledgeable about this business as anyone. So I anointed Tim with the CEO title and started taking it a little easier. A couple of years ago, I thought about selling, looked at the P+E guys, one strategic player that we all liked, but then thought about the employees, my staff including Ron MacDonald Senior VP-Marketing, Karen Cacaro our Communications Director and my “office wife”, Sheryl Barton Executive Assistant. There were plenty of others, too many to list. Tim and Pat had gotten together with some excellent consultants and came to me with the idea of an ESOP or employee stock ownership plan. It is a very complicated way of selling my shares to the employees so that they would also benefit for a job well done. To make this shorter, I sold my first 49% of stock to an ESOP trust in late December of 2012.
Our employees feel more a part of Cornerstone and now know that what they do has a direct impact on our bottom line. The more profitable we become, the more money each employee’s shares will be worth when he or she retires.
As for me, I’m trying to learn to be relaxed. My wife Karen says that I am doing more things now than I did running the company, but I would dispute that. I am involved in a lot of charitable work including mentoring new directors of smaller charities. I enjoy sharing what I have learned over the years, whether it be relationships, balance sheets, or any of those things that charities have to do just like businesses. New Directors don’t always know what all that entails.
Let me finish by thanking all of you who have made Cornerstone Systems a successful company, one that our customers continue to use, and one in which our employees show what a bit of ownership can do. I want to thank our customers for using us and trusting us to do what we say we will do. I have no time for anyone making excuses why a load did not get where it was supposed to go on time. The load was given to Cornerstone and it is our responsibility to see that that happens.
To our employees, thanks. Thanks for doing your jobs and for taking the extra time to do it right. Thanks for being Cornerstone and the company that Cornerstone has become.