Employee ownership strengthens Fort Collins flower business through pandemic

Palmer Flowers, a business staple in Fort Collins and beyond, was founded in 1976 by Spiro Palmer. In its more than four decade history, the company has grown to be a leader in the state not only in floral design and decor, but also in employee ownership. 

At the heart of the business were the employees and Palmer believed in taking care of these good people. He had the idea, when it came time to consider succession planning, to bring those same loyal employees into the ownership of the company. 

After a large consolidation in 2008-2009 and difficult economic times, Palmer Flowers turned to employee ownership as a way to reinvigorate the company employees. Palmer Flowers’ conversion started with five employee owners in 2014, who helped build the model. Soon after, founder Spiro Palmer met Tim Jordan, an owner of two other flower shops. The two hit it off over a mutual excitement for this employee ownership concept and merged their companies. 

Palmer Flowers has since grown to eleven employee owners. For the conversion, leadership knew they had to keep it simple. Not many flower shops were trying employee ownership, so there was no roadmap. With the help of an accountant and an attorney, the leadership chose a simple stock option plan as an initial step in furthering their employee ownership model down the road. 

Company president Tim Jordan says there are many benefits to employee ownership, but a few stand out for him. Among those are more owners taking on responsibility for the company’s success, remaining resilient through COVID, and stronger communication throughout the organization. 

“Until you do it, it seems fictional that the culture is better, but it is. It’s unbelievable that over time, the culture improves without hitting a ceiling,” said Jordan. “This was really driven home during COVID - a catastrophic event and yet our company culture was the best it’s ever been.

“Gifted stock in exchange for key employee commitments proved to be a great way to introduce employee ownership without a lot of upfront costs.” 

Leadership remains impressed by the success of their employee ownership model and the organization plans to add one to three new owners each year. At their leadership meetings, they discuss employee owner prospects with employees who fit the vision and mission of the organization. 

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Learn more about Palmer Flowers

Learn more about the Employee Ownership Office