Integrity Marketing Group, LLC, the nation’s largest independent distributor of life and health insurance products, recently provided a collective $50 million payout and meaningful ownership to all of its 750 employees.
“To celebrate the launch of this remarkable Employee Ownership Plan, the company has retroactively paid out almost $50 million to all employees in recognition of their contributions to Integrity’s success and to demonstrate the commitment to employee ownership at Integrity,” according to a press release by the Dallas-based company.
Like a similar holiday gesture from Maryland-based St. John Properties, the Integrity payout wasn’t divided equally among employees — it was based on an employee’s role and tenure in the company. The lowest amount an employee received was $7,500.
Bryan W. Adams, the co-founder and CEO of Integrity Marketing Group, had a unique way of sharing the good news with his employees.
“I wanted to personally tell all of our employees,” Adams told Yahoo Finance in a phone interview. “So I literally got on a plane and flew all over the country to every one of our offices over a couple-of-week period. We would just hit several offices a day, and we would come in and meet with all the employees and surprise them with this opportunity.”
‘I can now afford to have back surgery’
Adams noted that the “main part of this was being able to give ownership for every employee regardless of their role or their position.” The new Employee Ownership Plan “provides meaningful ownership to all of Integrity’s eligible employees who have at least one year of tenure, at no cost to them,” according to the press release.
Adams added that going forward, every time the company makes a new acquisition or brings on new employees, they too will have the opportunity to become owners of Integrity.
“That alignment of interest, that whole idea is really the American Dream,” Adams said.
With more than 30 locations across the country and 750 employees serving almost 4 million clients, this surprise came as quite a shock.
“We had one employee that could barely walk and she needed back surgery, incredibly bad,” Adams said. “She wasn’t able to pay the deductible, the co-pay, just because she didn’t have the funds to do that. And because of that she started crying and hugged me and said: ‘I can now afford to have back surgery,’ which is incredibly humbling.”
A woman who works for the company and lost her husband to a heart attack was able to use the payout money to get out of medical debt, Adams said.
Another employee, who only had enough money to rent an apartment, fulfilled her dream of buying a house. She and her husband, whom Adams had never met, FaceTimed him and told him that they just put a down payment on a house.
"There’s so many examples of lives changed that happened that we’re continuing to hear,” Adams said. “It’s just humbling."
‘It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done personally’
Bill Kiray, VP and chief marketing officer of another Integrity-owned company, Neishloss Flemming, LLC, said that the bonus was about rewarding the workers who helped build the business.
“The best thing about this new partnership is really rewarding our employees,” he said. “They are the ones who built this business.”
The idea had been years in the making, according to Adams.
“I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time, of trying to figure this out,” he said. “We first started talking about this probably 10 years ago, thinking about how do we do this. Probably three years ago we got really serious. It takes time and it is difficult for people to figure out.”
Despite the length of time it took to make it happen, Adams could not hold back his joy at the plan’s success.
“It is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done personally,” he said. “We didn’t do this for the news. [We did this] to help all of our employees aligned and grow in the business.”
Olivia is a social media editor for Yahoo Finance.