Zingerman’s Community of Businesses: Broad-Based Ownership, Governance, & Sustainability

Case Solution

Wayne Baker
WDI Publishing at the University of Michigan ()

The Zingerman Business Community (ZCoB), Inc. magazine’s “Coolest Small Business” by Inc. magazine, is an exemplary positive organization known for its award-winning food and culture. This case includes ZCoB’s decision in 2013 to move to broad-based employee ownership and the iterative and integrative process that the Zingerman Partner Group used to research and develop a new ownership design for ZCoB. Should they use an ESOP, share compensation, become a cooperative, or create their own model? As students learn about Zingerman’s culture (e.g., his forward-thinking views on sustainability, commitment to open book funding, consensus decision-making) and evaluate which model is best suited, are faced with questions that are relevant to the partners having the highest priority: who owns ZCoB and how is it managed when the founders (each of whom owns 3,067% of Zingerman’s company) are no longer alive ? How can you nurture a positive and prosperous workforce that is the driving force behind a sustainable business?

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