Since the 1980s, Select Sand & Gravel, a leading sand and gravel provider in Texas, has grown to serve many communities across East and Central Texas, from Dallas and Austin to Houston and San Antonio.
In 2007, Jason and Kim Rudman purchased Select Sand & Gravel and put everything they had into it. Their approach to running the business themselves was all or nothing—and since 2007, they were all in.
Fast forward to 2022. The business was booming, and the Rudmans were looking to spend more time with their family. They knew that if they were going to sell, then they had to transition fully out of the business rather than supervising from afar, but it would not be easy.
They were worried about their employees, their customers, and their legacy. They needed to sell the business to someone who understood how important it was not just to them, but to the community they built and served.
After entertaining offers from several buyers, they accepted one from a company called Teamshares, which came with a unique proposition: transition the business into the hands of their employees at no cost to them, and ensure the business would never close its doors.
When the transaction closed in June 2022, I took on the role of president. I have had the honor of experiencing firsthand how employee ownership has allowed us to extend Jason and Kim’s legacy and transform the company.
My leadership style was first forged as a cadet at West Point, where I learned how to handle responsibility at a young age. As I worked my way through leadership roles in the Army, I also learned what great—and not-so-great—leadership looked like. When I was given the opportunity to lead as a platoon leader and company commander, I led with those examples in mind.
When it was time to leave the Army, I took those leadership lessons with me into civilian life and began to lead companies in the corporate world, starting with a sand mining business. After seeing how well employee ownership worked in a California painting company, I was hooked and jumped at the chance to bring employee ownership back to my home industry and state at Select Sand and Gravel.
Employee ownership can be difficult to understand, but once you take the leap, it opens a world of possibilities. I started by teaching my company about dividends and ownership percentages. It is important to understand that those numbers start off small; for example, our company is currently 14% employee owned, and has paid about $1,500 in dividends to each full time employee.
As a group, we work to become more financially fluent and apply that fluency to every aspect of our company. Colleagues ask how specific practices impact our bottom line, to the point where employees consistently ask about delivery margins.
That’s because our ownership model was designed to reward us for the time that we invest in the business, and encourages initiatives that help it grow; as the business grows, so do our ownership percentages and long-term wealth. We currently have four locations across Texas, and are beginning to grow our service area.
As we serve more customers, we will have more profit to spend on retiring our initial buyer’s stock, meaning that every employee’s stake in the business will increase without costing any of us a dime.
The impact of this was best demonstrated by Ethan, our general manager. Curious about how the employee ownership model would work for him, he ran the numbers to determine his financial outlook at retirement and when he would be eligible to sell back his stock to Select Sand & Gravel. He came back with a single sentence: “This is my future.”
Ethan’s peek into the future was a breakthrough moment for our company. Colleagues started to see the promise of employee ownership, and connected the work they did day-to-day with the company’s long-term financial performance. As I had seen time and time again in the Army, everyone was motivated by sharing one mission. Employees realized that today’s efforts directly impacted their future prospects, and they took control of their destiny.
Suddenly, we had a culture of proactive questioning, innovation, and engagement like never before.
As a group, we work to become more financially fluent and apply that fluency to every aspect of our company. Colleagues ask how specific practices impact our bottom line, to the point where employees consistently ask about delivery margins. They take ownership of our service values and reputation of the company with every sale. Our finance lead has started to workshop changes to our accounting systems, making the company’s financial moves accountable to the larger team.
We constantly develop new processes more suited to our transparent operations, including improving our approach to billing and better tracking our performance. We celebrate our wins as a team, and ring a gong every time we hit a new milestone— even though the location of the gong is still up for debate. Best of all, we have been able to invest more in our community. We have spearheaded the formation of a charity committee to share the wealth that we’ve been blessed with. This enables us to be good stewards of Jason and Kim’s legacy of kindness and dedication.
As a result of these transformations, business has been better than ever. Our revenue is up over 20% year-over-year since we started becoming employee owned, and the eight of us who work at the company are on track to own 80% of Select Sand & Gravel within 15 years.
We have that chance because Jason and Kim decided to put their trust in their employees’ ability to run and own the business by partnering with Teamshares, and we are not going to waste it. Employee ownership unlocked something for us, giving us access to the tools and information we needed to do the things we always have wanted to do with this company. It is a blessing to come to work every day with the excitement of building something together. I cannot wait until more people have the opportunity to experience it.
Nathan (Nate) Wilkes is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and a former Army engineer officer. He earned a graduate degree in business administration from Texas A&M University. In 2017, Nate founded an aggregates mining company that uses mobile equipment to decrease logistics dependencies. He was selected as president of Select Sand & Gravel by Teamshares in 2022, where he currently leads the employee-owned company in sand and gravel distribution across the state of Texas.