Employee-owned Friesens Corporation (Altona, Manitoba), Canada’s largest publisher of hardcover books, had a very successful 2021, achieving a record $100 million in sales for the first time, while enjoying one of its best years in over a decade due to strong performances in its Book Division and subsidiary company, FriesenPress. Senior Vice President, Byron Loeppky added: “The company benefited greatly from investments made over the last five years as we’ve expanded our facilities, upgraded equipment and automated processes, and added capacity. All these efforts contributed to our success as we enjoyed unprecedented demand from our customers.”
The increase in demand was the result of strong retail sales of printed books, and the shortage of supply is a result of limited book manufacturing capacity in North America and major disruptions to global supply chains – all of which positioned Friesens as a desirable print partner for Canadian and American publishers. There were certainly challenges over the last 12 months, said the company, including navigating the health threats of the pandemic, a recruitment shortage, difficult supply chains, and a drop off in its yearbook business due to school closures and restricted activities. But Friesens managed to overcome most of those challenges through persistence and innovation.
According to CEO Chad Friesen: “As a 100% employee-owned company, the staff of Friesens and FriesenPress participate in our financial success. This year, those rewards will exceed $3 million, and represent more than a 75% increase in employee-owner payments. Employee-owner payments are determined by several factors, but essentially when the company earns a profit, we first invest back into the business, then we set aside some cash for the future. And finally, if there is money left over after that, we pay ourselves as owners.
For many of our staff, their employee-ownership benefits are equivalent to about 13%-14% of their base wages. If you divide those payments over their hours worked, for some it equates to over $4 an hour. So, a team member who earns a base wage of $20 per hour, is effectively earning $24 an hour when combined with employee-ownership payments. That can make a huge difference in the earning power of our employees, and it differentiates Friesens from most other employers. Many of the employee-ownership payments are taxed at a lower rate, so not only do our employee-owners earn more, they also get to keep more.
Lastly, as Friesens succeeds so does the community. Our definition of community is broader than just the geographic region that surrounds us. We define community as our neighbours, our customers, our vendors, and society as a whole. We are proud to have increased support for many initiatives in 2021, including the YFC Altona expansion, the Kiddie Sunshine Day Care expansion, and the Altona Library relocation initiative, along with numerous other projects. We are proud community supporters. Looking ahead, we are very optimistic about the future. Demand for our services remains very strong, we continue to invest in new technology, and our employee-ownership model will continue to deliver great rewards for our owners,” he concluded.