James Karst | June 26, 2019
As employers go, HB McClure checks all the right boxes. The century-old mechanical contractor based out of central Pennsylvania offers health insurance, a 401(k) plan, bonus structure and an in-house training program. Oh, and the employees? Well, they’re all part-owners, thanks, in part, to the 2008 recession and an HR guy named Bob Whalen, a father of four who married his high school sweetheart and always wanted to run his own company.
Just before the economy began to falter, Whalen struck a deal with HB McClure to become the first non-family member to run the HVAC business headquartered in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The plan was for Whalen to start as a minority owner and eventually buy 100 percent of the company. At the time, the company was in the midst of a record fiscal year, and Whalen intended to use cash flow to finance the purchase. But it wasn’t long before that plan was thrown into jeopardy by the financial crisis that reverberated through the American economy.
Whalen sought a way to save money by making the purchase more tax efficient. That led him to consider an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP — a defined contribution plan that provides workers with an ownership interest in the company.
The more he researched, the more it made sense — and not just from a fiscal standpoint.
“It perfectly aligns with my thinking from a company culture standpoint,” said Whalen, whose background is in corporate human resources. He earned an executive MBA from Cornell University in 2004 and now hops a plane twice a month to travel to Notre Dame’s Chicago campus where he’s working toward a Master of Science in Finance through Mendoza’s Stayer Center for Executive Education.
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