Ownership, the American Dream, and Our Purpose at FBS

Sep 11, 2015 Michael Wurzer

One of the most important responsibilities I have as CEO of FBS is articulating our purpose both to employees and customers. In other words, why is our work here important?

Internally, we crafted the following core value statement quite a few years ago, and I’m still proud of it:

FBS is committed to creating an atmosphere of respect, freedom and opportunity enabling employees to exceed our clients’ expectations with innovative products and services.

These core values of respect, freedom, and opportunity were central to our decision to become a 100% employee-owned company back in 2005. We believe that being an owner of the company is the ultimate form of respect but it also is critical to freedom and opportunity for our employees. Without a doubt, helping each employee become an owner is a big reason why our work here is important.

Of course, the software we create for the real estate market also directly fosters ownership and a book I just finished reading, The Citizen’s Share, explains how broad-based citizen ownership of land/property was critical to the foundation of our country and that this is a good reason why more companies should use broad-based employee ownership to foster the same freedom and independence we value in our country.

The book covers a lot of the history of the framing of the constitution and how critical broad ownership of land was to creating the freedom and happiness central to our Constitution. For example, here’s a quote from Washington:

Men are better pleased with laboring on their own farms, than in the workshops. Even the mechanics who come from Europe, as soon as they can procure a little land of their own, commonly turn Cultivators. . . . I rejoice in the belief that intellectual light will spring up in the dark corners of the earth; that freedom of enquiry will produce liberality of conduct; that mankind will reverse the absurd position that the many were made for the few and that they will not continue slaves in one part of the globe, when they can become freemen in another.

President George Washington, fragments from drafts of the first inaugural address, April 1789

The book further emphasizes why “the founders of the new democracy considered it important that every citizen have an ownership stake in the economy, which in those days meant ownership of land:

American republicans valued property in land primarily because it provided personal independence. The individual with direct access to the productive resources of nature need not rely on other men, or any man, for the basic means of existence.”

The central idea of broad-based citizen ownership of land being critical to the values of the Constitution was at the heart of such landmark deals as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, funding of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the Louisiana Purchase, all of which resulted in the vast distribution of tracts of land to individual citizens. Again, the point is simple but critical: Ownership is key to freedom and democracy.

At the foundation of our country, land was the key resource to own. Today, land remains a critical part of the American dream as is home ownership, but share ownership in corporations has become equally important, and it’s in this way that FBS’s two core purposes are related into one: We help create owners. The software we create, along with our MLS, broker, and agent customers, helps create owners of real estate, and our company helps create employee-owners.

I couldn’t be more proud of what we’re doing here at FBS and, like our Founding Fathers, we want to create something that lasts and I’m confident that our core purpose of creating owners will help us do just that.

P.S. A local startup site here in Fargo, Emerging Prairie, published a fun article about how I consider FBS to be a “35-year old startup”, because we’re always trying new things. I hope you check it out.