Hillary Hughes

Chartered Financial Analyst

Prairie Capital Advisors, Inc

Topic: Practice Transitions and Developing an ESOP

Topic Description: 

Ownership goes far beyond dividing up stock. Ownership is a mentality, it is a culture and it is a way to empower your team members to do their best work in all elements of the business. Have you considered giving ownership to your team members? Being an employee-owned business has a lot of advantages and should be an option you consider when establishing your ownership and business model.

Hillary Hughes has spent much of her career advising businesses on how to establish ownership structures that help them meet their long-term goals for their businesses. An employee-owner model is one option. Hillary has been a part of the Scaling Up team in the past and presented on how to determine the value of a business. This year, she is going to walk you through different ownership model options with an emphasis on the benefits of creating an ESOP.

Mortenson Dental Partners, an employee-owned company, is one example of the success of establishing an ESOP in order to fulfill the founder’s goal to create a legacy company. It is one way to help create security and safety for team members. It is one way to invest in team members, to empower team members, to prioritize great patient care and to share success. If you are unsure of what the future of your business looks like, Hillary is a great connection to make when you attend Scaling Up!

Hillary’s Bio:

Hillary Hughes is a trusted advisor on ownership transition. She provides strategic insights to assist business owners and board of directors to address long term ownership transaction goals. Ms. Hughes has been highly involved in the structuring and valuation related to Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) on behalf of ESOP Trustees as well as business owners. Based out of Prairie Capital Advisors’ Cedar Rapids office, Ms. Hughes has provided financial advisory services to clients ranging from small family owned businesses to large multi-national conglomerates. She specializes in the valuation of businesses and business interests for purposes of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), ESOPs, gift and estate planning, and strategic planning.

In addition, Ms. Hughes is a frequent speaker in forums around the country on topics including valuation, ESOPs and ownership transition planning. She is a member of The ESOP Association Valuation Advisory Committee and the immediate past president of the Iowa/Nebraska Chapter. Ms. Hughes was recognized as a Top 40 Under Forty honoree by the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA). Ms. Hughes is also active in her community and is a member of the Linn County Conservation Board. She is also a Board member for two private companies.


Prior to joining Prairie Capital Advisors, Ms. Hughes was a Senior Associate for Columbia Financial Advisors, Inc. Her duties included project management and assistance on all aspects of appraisal engagements. Prior to joining Columbia Financial Advisors, Inc., Ms. Hughes was an intern with RSM McGladrey, Inc., in their valuation consulting group.


Ms. Hughes holds two Bachelor of Science degrees in Finance and Agriculture, Business and Economics, from Iowa State University. Ms. Hughes currently holds FINRA Series 79 and 63 securities licenses.


  • Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Charterholder
  • National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO)
  • The ESOP Association