Founder Sells Remaining Stake in Atomic Object to Employees, CEOs Continue Worker Ownership

Recent sales mark new chapter in firm’s 14-year-old employee ownership program

June 21, 2023

In 2009, Atomic Object Founder and then-CEO Carl Erickson sold equity in the first round of Atomic Object's non-ESOP employee ownership plan. Atomic employees Shawn Crowley and Mike Marsiglia both bought into the custom software consultancy at that time. 

Fourteen years later, Erickson sold his remaining 35 percent share of the firm to the employee-owned company and retired from the company. With this sale, Erickson completed the transition he began more than a decade ago when he started working with Crowley and Marsiglia as potential successors and appointed them as co-CEOs in 2019.

This spring, Marsiglia and Crowley executed an ownership sale for the first time since taking the helm as Atomic’s leaders, selling 10 percent of their own equity to Atomic employees.

Crowley says continuing Atomic’s tradition of employee ownership is the right thing to do.

“In professional services, the value gets delivered through the brilliance of the team,” he said. “I believe it’s important to see earnings go to the people working every day to help the firm succeed.”

In the latest offering, 16 employees opted to buy equity sold by Crowley and Marsiglia. Now, more than half of the company's 100 workers own part of their employer, and non-CEOs own about 65 percent of the company.

Unlike other employee-owned companies, Atomic does not operate an ESOP. Whereas ESOPs operate ownership through retirement accounts, Atomic’s profits are distributed to owners as quarterly dividends. 

Marsiglia says the non-ESOP model lets employees feel the effects of their work in real-time.

“We want a system where people have some of the reward and actually feel some of the risk of owning a business,” he said. “Over the years, employee ownership has helped us get through challenging times. There's more on the line than W2 employment for our people; it’s more personal and financial for them.”

Marsiglia credits Erickson with the foresight to diversify Atomic’s ownership back when the company had less than one-fifth of the $20+ million in annual revenue it brings in today. 

“I’m grateful for the generosity Carl showed in getting this plan started only eight years into Atomic’s history,” he said. “That tradition of generosity is what we’re carrying forward—where significant shareholders become the source of shares for those who will one day succeed us.”

Erickson says the execution of the latest internal sale helped solidify the company’s goal to reach 100 years.

“A company that loses control of its ownership to outsiders loses its ability to prioritize the long term,” he said. “If we’d chosen the wrong people to take over from me, this story could be ending differently. Mike and Shawn making shares available for sale to other employees shows our long-term succession plan is working.”

From here, Crowley and Marsiglia say they will continue sales under the plan on an annual basis.