Maximum Fun is a worker-owned co-op!
On June 30, 2023, Maximum Fun officially converted to a 100% worker-owned cooperative.
Worker co-ops have been around since the Industrial Revolution, and take many forms. The common theme is that worker-owners collectively control the business. In MaxFun’s case, this control takes the form of worker-owners directly voting on major company decisions, and electing a Board of Directors from fellow-worker owners. As in the case of any company, the Board is responsible for steering the company’s strategy and overseeing management. The management of MaxFun is responsible for day-to-day decisions, but they are accountable to a Board of worker-owners. Like any other owners of a business, worker-owners are also entitled to share in the prosperity of the cooperative, if it has a good year.
Nothing about our relationship with shows on the network has changed. Our management is staying in place, and Jesse Thorn, the founder of the original MaxFun, became a founding worker-owner alongside 19 of his colleagues.
Still, this is a monumental change, because of what it means for the long-term future of MaxFun.
The ways companies operate, the decisions that they make, and the culture that they espouse, are all a function of the priorities of the owners. Companies owned by investors looking for a financial return will make decisions that maximize near-term profits. This is how you maximize returns.
Worker-owners have different priorities. They want to feel good about the place where they work. They want to feel like the work that they do matters. They want to know that they and their colleagues are being treated fairly. They want the place where they work to be around for a long time.
Consequently, companies owned by their workers will operate differently from those owned by investors. And because the workers are in control, they can ensure that the company remains independent, and able to continue to practice and espouse its values in the long term.
Why did Maximum Fun become a cooperative?
Maximum Fun has always operated under the principle that doing what is right is more important than doing what is most profitable, and that the company should grow responsibly, for the long term. At first, that was a natural consequence of the fact that the company was Jesse’s life’s work. He wanted it to embody the things he cared about, and he wanted it to last.
Owning one’s work is also a tradition of the company, starting with the fact that creators on the network own their shows.
The worker-owners of Maximum Fun are now entrusted with upholding these values, as they own their own work too. It’s a natural next step for a company that has always defined itself by what it means to people, rather than how much money it makes.
But at the same time, it feels incredibly important that we are taking this next step now, at a time when the podcasting industry is chaotic, and frankly scary. The last several years have seen an influx of investment into podcasting–literally billions of dollars. When the market turned in early 2023 and prospects for a financial return faded, podcasting saw the natural consequence of those speculative investments: show cancellations and layoffs.
We have operated MaxFun to survive boom-bust business cycles, and as of summer 2023 we have been through two so far. We avoid hype cycles and letdowns by focusing on what we do best: producing and partnering with shows that matter to our audience, and asking our audience to support those shows, so that the shows can continue to exist.
Being a cooperative helps to ensure that we continue our mission of bringing good things into the world, and that we do so in an equitable, ethical way. By supporting MaxFun now, you’re not only uplifting the shows that you love; you’re also supporting a business model that cares.
How you can help
If you like the direction we are heading in, and want to support us, here are some things you can do:
- Become a MaxFun member to support your favorite shows (as well as the operations of the co-op).
- Make a one-time contribution towards co-op operations
- Tell your friends about what we’re doing and why you think it matters. We think this is a pretty big deal, we’re proud of it, and we think others should do it, too…but, we don’t have a big marketing budget. We need your help to spread the word. Tell your friends to listen to your favorite shows, too, while you’re at it.
At the time of transition, every full-time employee was given the option to become a founding worker-owner. Employees who wish to join the co-op later on will go through a waiting period and must complete training before applying. New worker-owners must be voted in by a supermajority of current worker-owners.
Meet the worker-owners of Maximum Fun who will take part in shaping the co-op going forward:
The Board of Directors
Our initial Directors, pictured clockwise from top left, are the people who worked on the transition to become a co-op over the last year and a half:
After a while, we’ll rotate out these folks by holding elections for new Board members, making sure to always overlap terms so new Board members have guidance from the Directors with experience on the Board.
When did MaxFun become be a co-op?
We officially converted the business into a worker-owned cooperative on June 30, 2023.
Have the shows I enjoy been affected in any way?
Nope! Nothing has changed between Maximum Fun and the shows you love.
Who makes the decisions now?
The worker-owners have a say in a lot of the big decisions. Our management team remains in place, but now they’re overseen by a Board of Directors made up of five worker-owners that the co-op votes into leadership. The Board will head up planning and strategy for the co-op, and the worker-owners will get to vote on big issues.
Learn more about becoming a co-op
Project Equity https://project-equity.org/
L.A. Coop Lab https://lacooplab.com/
California Center for Cooperative Development: https://www.cccd.coop/co-op-info/co-op-types/worker-co-ops
Directory of co-ops in the United States: https://www.usworker.coop/directory/
LA Times: His L.A.-based podcast company faced a crossroads. Now Jesse Thorn’s employees are owners (subscription may be required)
Axios: Podcast network Maximum Fun to be worker-owned (subscription may be required)