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How One Small Business Became One of the Nation's Largest Federal Contractors

The co-founder of Torch Technologies, Inc. designed his company to be 100 percent employee-owned. Why? To hold himself and his team accountable.

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Torch Technologies, Inc., has risen to become one of the largest federal contractors in the nation — as a 100-percent employee-owned small business. Co-founder Bill Roark spoke with Entrepreneur about why giving employees a slice of the pie can make for better work, faster growth and tangible benefits for those serving in the U.S. military.

Torch Technologies | Facebook

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What does your company do?

We’re one of the nation’s top 100 defense companies — we work with the federal government and the Department of Defense on engineering services across the board. Just a few of the things we do are designing, modeling and simulating missile and aviation technology.

How do you define success?

Torch is 100 percent employee-owned, with owners across the country. This means everyone that works here is highly motivated, the way the owner of any company would be. Everyone has a stake in the outcome of everything we do. A big way we measure success is by tracking employee engagement: While most companies have employee engagement rates in the 30 to 40 percent, ours is in the high 90s, and in my view, that's because everyone feels 110 percent committed. Ultimately, success is for our employees to be financially successful and to have everything they need to work and retire.

How important is your company culture?

Employee relationships are one of the most important parts of any business. I’m always committed to securing the best benefits and working conditions for the people who work with us.

What is your advice for retaining both customers and employees?

Concern yourself with others first: To the best of your ability, make sure your employees have everything they need to do their jobs. My daily life involves lots of long-term, strategic thinking, and that’s key to keeping both employees and everyone we work with happy.

What are some challenges in your career that led to breakthrough moments?

My business partner and I worked for a publicly traded company years ago… and then it sold. We realized there wasn’t a way to effectively transition the original founders out of the company. We had made lots of promises and commitments to our employees, but under the new leadership we weren’t able to honor those commitments.

That’s why we went with the employee ownership model for Torch Technologies — we're able to buy a founder out without selling the company. It’s a new set of rules that allows us to honor our promises.

Kate Foster

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Kate Foster is a writer and editor in Brooklyn, New York. She was formerly an editor at ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, and Seventeen. You can read more of her work here