Bret Keisling shines the EO spotlight on Colorado with Dick Peterson and Bill Kirton, co-founders of the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center (RMEOC). Also, Jennifer Briggs on Colorado Governor Jared Polis's efforts to build EO.
Episode 122 Transcript
Bitsy McCann: 00:03 Welcome to the EO Podcast, where we amplify and celebrate all forms of employee ownership.
Bret Keisling: 00:12 Hello, my friends. Thank you for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. Happy October! It's Employee Ownership Month. We've been celebrating it all month long on this podcast and our ESOP Mini-casts and if you're involved in employee ownership, happy EOM to you.
Bret Keisling: 00:35 Today, we're turning our spotlight onto the state of Colorado. We're going to talk about the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center, RMEOC, and I'm going to be joined by very special guests, Dick Peterson and Bill Kirton, co-founders of the RMEOC.
Bret Keisling: 00:50 Before I bring you the interview with Dick and Bill, I'm going to spend a couple of minutes with Jennifer Briggs. Chances are, if you're involved at all in employee ownership, you know, Jen. She is a very talented, very passionate, tireless advocate for employee ownership. Jen will be my guest for the entire episode next week on the podcast. So I'm going to save for the full on introduction until then, but Jen is here to talk about Colorado today from her positions as a board member of Governor Jared Polis's Commission on Employee Ownership and she's also a board member of the Rocky Mountain EOC. So we'll start our spotlight on Colorado with Jen Briggs.
Bret Keisling: 01:34 Happy Employee Ownership Month! I love October happy EO!
Jen Briggs: 01:39 Yes to you too, to you too. Let's make it happen!
Bret Keisling: 01:43 We are, it's it's my favorite time of the year and I would actually play "the most wonderful time of the year" song, except I don't want to pay royalties. So but it's so cool to see everything that's employee owned going, and Jen you are based in Colorado, you are on the board of the Colorado Commission of Employee Ownership, you're on the board, I believe, of RMEOC. Could we start with just a couple of minutes of the state of employee ownership in Colorado as you see it?
Jen Briggs: 02:09 Yeah, I think it's, I think it's exciting here. So we were fortunate to have Governor Polis start a Commission on Employee Ownership. It's through the [Colorado] Office of Economic Development and International Trade. So it's really cool. And one of the reasons, I think, Governor Polis, he himself started multiple businesses and he didn't have like, we kind of talk a lot about ESOPs, he didn't have an ESOP company, but he had broadly shared cap tables. So when those companies were sold, it wasn't just a single founder or a single, you know, instigator, whatever title you want to put on them that got wealthy in the sale. He created those ripples through these broadly shared - this idea of broadly shared participative capitalism. And so he saw the value in that firsthand and he wanted to bring that more into it. So that's the genesis of it, essentially.
Bret Keisling: 03:00 Excellent. Can you share some things I understand, and you were kind enough to introduce me to Dick Peterson and Bill Kirton, who are the co-founders of the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center and they've mentioned Governor Polis has he set a a goal of 20 transactions, do I understand?
Jen Briggs: 03:21 Yes, so by the end of the state year, which is actually mid year 2021, we want to have 20 transactions done. So, and that could be any employee ownership, whether it's a broadly shared cap table, ESOP, employee owned cooperative, employee owned trust -- 20 of them done by midyear next year.
Bret Keisling: 03:39 That is very cool and I can't think of any political leader or elected official. I've never heard of setting a goal like that.
Jen Briggs: 03:49 Yeah, no. And I think, you know, the point is economic development here. You know, that we believe that this idea will create better economic conditions for the state as a whole. And so, you'll see leaders going out and trying to attract like tech industries or clean industries, or, you know, these kind of economic development incentives. This is really the first one. I know that's specific to this particular idea.
Bret Keisling: 04:17 It's very exciting and Governor Polis has done a number of things just beyond that to support, I mean the commission is one, but Colorado is really moving with the state government driving it in some respects with a lot of very positive activities and that sort of thing.
Jen Briggs: 04:35 Yeah, absolutely. You know, we have a great commission. There's a lot of work, especially because it's Employee Ownership Month. One of the things they're talking about doing now is starting this Office of Employee Ownership, which I think would be the first one in the United States too. And the state's really taking the lead on promoting Employee Ownership Month, gathering stories, getting some marketing behind it. But you know, the big deal is I think the connection with the Small Business Administration and making sure that if any company is in the midst of a transition or something like that, want to sell the company, contact the SBA, this is going to be on the menu here in Colorado. And you know, in a lot of ways we just want this idea to be on the menu. We don't want some, you know, sometimes technical advisors kind of advise people away from employee ownership or ESOP, they'll say, oh, you know, the DOL they're too difficult to deal with -- and before we even get a chance to talk about it. So it's, it's pretty cool. I'm excited to see what happens in the next year.
Bret Keisling: 05:43 That is great. And now let's talk about RMEOC if we can, for a moment. And as you well know, because we saw each other a couple of times while I was out in Colorado, I spent much of the last year until frankly, the pandemic made me want to stay in Pennsylvania, but I spent much of the last year in Colorado joined the RMEOC, met with your executive director last October, as a matter of fact, but in September, back in Pennsylvania, I renewed my membership because you guys are doing great stuff and I just want to, even though I'm not physically there, support you guys. So can you talk a little bit about what RMEOC is doing right now?
Jen Briggs: 06:17 Well, first, thank you for your support. So the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center is a nonprofit. It's been around for a while and you know, several, a couple of years ago -- I don't know, I'm losing track of time Bret! [laughter] -- but it helped get some grants on the docket with the state of Colorado. So, if a company was looking to go to an employee owned cooperative it could help offset some of the costs of going to a cooperative. Amy does a lot of technical assistance. So somebody comes in, the way it kind of works now, is something can come through the state through the SBA, then go to the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center and they'll do triage and feasibility and help figure out if this company is really a candidate for employee ownership. So basic technical assistance, education, awareness and just trying to do it all as a small nonprofit. So, you know, having support is incredible because we really do it all on our own.
Bret Keisling: 07:21 That was Jennifer Briggs sharing her insights to the state of employee ownership in Colorado. And again, I hope you'll check out next week's episode in order to hear the full podcast conversation with Jen Briggs.
Bret Keisling: 07:35 Without further ado. I am pleased to bring you my conversation with the two [of the] co-founders of RMEOC, Dick Peterson and Bill Kirton.
Bret Keisling: 07:44 Perhaps, Bill, we can start with you. Do you want to tell us a little bit and then Dick, join in wherever you'd like, can you tell us what brought you to the point of forming the RMEOC or bring us back to where this came together?
Bill Kirton: 07:55 Well, I think actually Dick was responsible for presenting the idea of employee ownership and he'll say more about that later. My concern, this started kind of in 2010 after the economic collapse of 2008 and '09, and I think we were looking for some kind of way to do something positive rather than just complaining about it.
Bill Kirton: 08:30 And I've always been for many years, been involved or interested in economics. Actually I'm a retired Methodist minister, but there's a close relationship between theology and, especially in the Jewish and Christian traditions, close relationship between these religious traditions and economics, if one reads the ancient texts carefully.
Bill Kirton: 08:56 So I've been an advocate of social justice issues for many, many years and it seemed like the time was right to try to create something that would respond to the fact that millions of people had lost their homes and their employment at that era and because of the the activities of the big banks and Wall Street. And so it made sense to me that we need to figure out something to move the economy from Wall Street back to Main Street. And during my work in various congregations, I've belonged to local chambers of commerce. I was on the board of directors of a local business group for about four years and I'm familiar with small business and the people who run them and so I'm very committed to finding ways to provide -- that people can be engaged in their own, to create their own economies, rather than being subjected to what I call the economic hierarchy.
Bret Keisling: 10:21 What I find, Bill, very interesting about that and your path, many of us get into employee ownership in the business community, either working for an employee owned company or professionally advising them or that sort of thing and we see all of the social justice issues that you've alluded to, and that maybe changes our prism of employee ownership. In your case, you've spent your life devoted to the social justice issues and came to realize that employee ownership fit in with what you were doing all along. I think that's absolutely wonderful!
Bret Keisling: 10:58 Dick your background leading up to the formation and then as you put it together, certainly talk about that, but can you just tell us a little bit about your introduction to employee ownership? What was your path?
Dick Peterson: 11:10 Well, mine predates Bill's by quite a few years. I, too, am an ordained Methodist minister, but I quit serving in the church after four years and the longest part of my career was in what sounds like a pretty unexciting career of real estate. Selling, managing offices, those kinds of things. In about the late seventies, I was the owner of several RE/MAX offices when they were very, very new. And I found I hated to be the owner. It just, that it was an awkward position. All the agents, and I had quite a few agents, I had about five offices at that time, but they all thought I, as the owner was rich. It was just the whole looking at it that way.
Dick Peterson: 11:54 So I began to looking around and I heard a little bit from somewhere, I'm not quite sure where, about employee ownership, that the employees could own it. And so as I began to explore that further, actually there was in Fort Collins, Colorado there is a remarkable real estate company called The Group that is a hundred percent employee owned, agent owned, including the secretaries and all, everybody owns it and it still is there, now, after 50 years. I had also heard about Mondragon and that's of course in Spain and that's a very, very large worker cooperative of about 85 or 95,000 employee owners and it's a fairly complicated deal, but it's a very impressive world known, worldwide known, employee ownership. And I learned more about that and a few people that had written on that. And so then I decided just to go ahead and sell my offices too the agents or employees, if you want to call them that.
Bret Keisling: 12:58 What year was this, Dick?
Dick Peterson: 12:58 About 1980.
Bret Keisling: 12:58 Wow. You were certainly an early adopter. They had only been around six or seven years at that point. Wow. Very impressive.
Dick Peterson: 13:05 I was one of the early ones in RE/MAX, I was in RE/MAX before it was a franchise. Anyway, long and short from that point on, to speed up my part of the story, a couple of those offices sold, they made money, they're okay. One of the offices is still in existence and that's RE/MAX with Cherry Creek.
Dick Peterson: 13:23 The head of RE/MAX decided they didn't want any more employee ownership offices. So they were, they had to be selling them to a broad base. These are broad based employee ownership, not, you know, four or five agents. This is...
Bret Keisling: 13:37 Right.
Dick Peterson: 13:37 ...almost all the agents in equal ownership, which is the RE/MAX in Cherry Creek, which is in existence still and a very strong and very powerful force here in Denver.
Dick Peterson: 13:48 Now I'll jump forward. I actually did this. I went to work for another company, [inaudible] Keller Williams Realty when that was, again, a new company and I actually converted one of those companies to an agent owned company, and I'm not particularly going to go through that story. It was basically very successful. Then I retired in when I was close to 70, 67 or something like that. And after doing what I promised with my wife, and that is travel for a few times. Well, you know, quite often when your wife says you've got to travel, when are you going to retire?
Dick Peterson: 14:28 So there's traveling, but in that process, I kind of snuck a trip to the Mondragon in Mondragon, Spain. So I went to Mondragon to visit Mondragon which is really a worldwide model of employee ownership.
Bret Keisling: 14:43 Wow.
Dick Peterson: 14:43 And just became terribly impressed with what I saw. Mondragon is a small city called Mondragon and the whole enterprise is called Mondragon. So from there on I, when I came back from Europe and now this was actually right when the Great Recession was happening, whenever it was, but anyway, I came back to America and I just kind of then thought, I ought to just go on the web and see if there's anything else [in employee ownership] going on in America. I had done all of this never really seeing what else is going on. I found out there was a lot going on.
Dick Peterson: 15:24 And so my first step was is I found there's a Ohio Employee Ownership Center, which is having their conference about a month or two later in Akron, Ohio. So, pretty cheap, pretty cheap to fly back there. So I went back there, they kind of treated me and like a guest of honor, like I was the only person west of the Mississippi [laughter] at that conference. And but I realized that was our model. It was the Rocky it was the Ohio Employee Ownership Center. At that time, there were only two or three in the nation, a Vermont one, Ohio, the New York state and a few other one that have kind of come and gone.
Dick Peterson: 16:01 So I came back and I was talking with friends of Bill [Kirton] and Larry [Dunn]. It was Bill who said at a meeting at a state entity's house, when all they were complaining on is [inaudible]. He said, Dick, you've been talking about this employee ownership, let's start a movement!
Dick Peterson: 16:19 So it was really Bill who said, let's do a movement. And from that point on he -- Bill and I -- and Larry just sat down and started creating the employee owner - the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center. So that was how it really began. Bill was the one who said, let's start it. Then we had a friend, an attorney, who helped us put it together, legally, we kind of went for awhile that it was just ourselves.
Bret Keisling: 16:44 Bill, what made you realize that it was time for a movement? In other words, Dick and you had the opportunity to be talking about this, but Dick credits you for giving him the idea of spreading this around. What was driving you? What was it you saw?
Bill Kirton: 17:01 Well, we were at this political meeting and the party doesn't matter, but the office holder was complaining that if the other party won how terrible it was going be. And you know, this kind of thing goes on all the time and there was no vision. No saying, okay, we need to do this to change the situation, there was just complaining. And so you know where there's no vision, there's a saying, where there's no vision, the people perish. And it seemed to me that it's time just to have a vision about a different kind of economy, a different way that would actually involve working people, enable working people to share the wealth rather than just the stockholders. That people who are actually doing the work should reap some of the, more of the benefits in terms of building wealth for themselves and their families.
Bill Kirton: 18:08 I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma and a worker or producer co-ops were central to our economic life. So that's part of my story. I knew about cooperatives, my family, my grandparents were members of co-ops and these were really sustained us through the hard times on the farm. So it seemed like that it was time for a positive vision.
Bill Kirton: 18:39 So, and when Dick shared this idea about employee ownership, it's time, this sounds, you know, I just, I got it immediately because it made sense to me, partly because of my farm experience and partly because it is time for people, working people to have the ability and the opportunity to create economic opportunity for themselves.
Bret Keisling: 19:09 As you know, I've been talking about people in employee ownership who have their "A-ha Moment," and Bill, you have this experience that kind of led you to it, but was hearing Dick's plan was that your "A-ha Moment" of saying, hey, I've got to spread employee ownership, or did you have an employee ownership "A-ha Moment" previously?
Bill Kirton: 19:33 No, I really had never thought about employee ownership and Dick's -- that was practically out of his mouth, it took me about five minutes after he explained it a little bit to say, okay, let's do this! And it was an, it was an "A-ha Moment." And I had no idea what we were going to do because I wasn't that educated on what employee ownership was, but it just it was like a light bulb went on in my head that this needs to be done. And of course I've known Dick for more than 40 years. So we were over the years acquainted, but not in regular conversation, we'd never talked about this. So I trusted his idea knowing him as I do and his family. And so it just, it seemed like, right. I don't know, it was just one of those things that comes out of the wherever, and it was time it's time to move this forward.
Bret Keisling: 20:41 So Dick, let me ask, was Mondragon your "A-ha Moment," or did you have an moment that led you to, to Mondragon?
Dick Peterson: 20:51 You know, I did not have a Mondragon moment. Because it seems like something, well, let me just say this briefly on here -- Bill has heard this once or twice, and I don't want to make too much out of it -- but way back when I was growing up, I'm in my early, well, my mid-eighties to tell you the truth -- so when I was growing up after World War II, when there was these massive labor strikes and in that one, I remember thinking as my dad was kind of in politics himself and he was Republican, but he said, there has to be a better way than just these massive strikes, but we have to have labor because -- labor unions -- until we figure out something else.
Dick Peterson: 21:36 So he was actually struggling himself with this whole thing of these massive labor unions after World War II, because after World War II, there'd been price controls, wage controls, and the employer, big employees -- employers -- didn't want to give up those wage controls, wartime wage controls. Massive railroad strikes and steel strikes and on and on; these great big mass strikes.
Dick Peterson: 22:04 And so I had kept in my mind there has to be a better way. And so when I found myself in that very position of being an owner, well then I was on the owner side, not the other side. And I realized everybody was looking at me like I had a lot of money and I -- we were coming up to the eighties when there was a depression looming, I'll have to admit that, and I thought there just is a better way. And that's when I began to discover Mondragon, begin to discover The Group in Fort Collins, and just worked with an attorney to do something. He, the attorney, didn't know what he was doing. He was just doing the best he could, that he knew. This was before I even knew there were co-op laws in place in Colorado.
Dick Peterson: 22:47 We just put the best we could together. And I got a lot of agents to work with me. They were kind of excited about it and the offices worked very well. We all really worked together. I had top offices in Keller Williams for nine out of ten years straight in Colorado because we worked together. We all got little dividends at the end of the year, pretty good dividends as a matter of fact for percentage wise. And so they worked very well, to be frank with you.
Bret Keisling: 23:21 That Dick, let me just say, is one of the hallmarks of employee ownership. People get the dividends. You know, we say for Employee Ownership Month, we share in the pie, you know, and the pie gets bigger, but it is that working together that I think is fundamentally for me, why employees ownership works. And then all of the different things addressing pay incomes by race or gender making, you know, strengthening communities and all of that kind of thing are possible because it's a very successful business model.
Bret Keisling: 23:53 On the podcast I've been actually doing a multi-part series, we're taking a break for a few weeks, but it's called, "Where is EO?" And my premise of the series and I've looked at it in political discussions and that's not to be partisan politics, but for example, everybody who runs for office is talking about employee ownership, but they don't realize it. Some of the things we've talked about, they're talking about economic justice, they're talking about communities and I'm screaming at the TV saying, hey, that's employee ownership. And nobody knows we're absent from the discussion.
Bret Keisling: 24:29 Regardless of where people feel. We are you know, our country's at a great moment, regardless of where anybody's at and employee ownership isn't a movement in that sense, in my opinion. And then finally with 17 million employee owners in the United States, we don't have any influence as consumers. We don't, you know, business to business, employee owned companies don't necessarily seek out other employee owned companies. So in the context, Bill that Dick came to you and mentioned employee ownership, and you said, we need a movement. Would you agree that we're not quite a movement? And if so, how do you think we can get there?
Bill Kirton: 25:09 The interesting thing about the process of RMEOC was it was all these things happen, it was kind of like the time was right. Now, in the crisis we're in right now, it seems like every crisis offers an opportunity and this may emerge as a more viable option or a more, I don't know you'd say, may emerge more front and center than it has. And actually both the Republicans that have had it in their platform. Ronald Reagan talked about it and it's just not gotten out into the -- most people don't even know what it is. And I don't know, to answer your question, I don't know. We're just, we'll just keep working at it. I don't know how you get it out into the mainstream.
Bill Kirton: 26:03 But there's a lot of stuff going on worldwide in terms of cooperative development and not just here, but in Europe and especially in Africa and South America. An acquaintance of ours who is a cooperative expert is from South Korea, and this was a year or so ago, she went there and returned saying that the cooperatives were exploded in South -- exploding in South Korea. I don't know the details about that, but it is happening, but it's all kind of under the radar.
Bret Keisling: 26:40 Well, one of the reasons why I do the podcast is my little part of trying to get things more on the radar. Dick, do you have any thoughts in terms of EO as a movement or anything you'd like to build on what Bill just said?
Dick Peterson: 26:53 Bill is absolutely right. There are movements around the world. There's a few countries that actually have it in their budgets to support it. In Italy, one region of Italy has that. One of the things in Mondragon that's kind of interesting is Mondragon has its own university, the University of Mondragon. They have their own bank, the Bank of Mondragon. And when I was closer to studying this, that bank was the seventh largest bank in Spain. That means they control the money so that if new businesses want to start up on the co-op model, they will help fund it. So there's a money side there. There's the educational side that the University of Mondragon, which has several branches around the country, these are --- these are the [things] that we just really don't have.
Dick Peterson: 27:45 I know we, Bill and I -- and Bill's a little further along than I am -- but looking at some kind of bank that would help fund these people that want to go employ ownership from day one, early on, or want some help on the money converting into employee ownership because they have a right to be bought if their company is selling. They have a right to be paid for the company that they're selling and none of us disagree with that. But we have a right to getting a fair price.
Dick Peterson: 28:17 But we don't have these other tools of really, university [inaudible], one way or another, and we don't have the banking system in place that could help fund it as it was moving. The state has a little bit of money this year for that, our governor did help move that along, but we're still far behind on what they have in Spain, probably have in a part of Italy where the two bigger pieces of Mondragon -- or big worker co-ops -- going in the world. But Bill is absolutely right and we know about it in South America, in Korea, this [inaudible] -- I'll remember her name in a minute -- but she was saying that they had started 700 new employee ownership companies in South Korea and that was like three or four years ago. So there's a lot of movement we're just really -- America's just really [coming late] on this. And I don't know why, it's not a political issue one way or another. Meaning the Republicans aren't against it. The Democrats have tended to be against it some of the time, to be frank with you, or they have more trouble with Democrats than the Republicans. And I don't, well I do know kind of why, but I'll leave that off for now.
Bret Keisling: 29:30 Well, and Dick, one of the challenges though that we have politically and you guys would know better and correct me if I'm wrong, but for example a concern and I'll put it with a small "c," but you know, not a major concern, but Governor Polis has done amazing things to support employee ownership. And I know that there has been concern that the Republicans not end up looking at looking at employee ownership as either a Polis initiative or a Democratic initiative, it's finding that balance of celebrating our heroes wherever we get them and, you know, in the Senate, as you guys probably know Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who is one of President Trump's biggest supporters and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who's not one of President Trump's biggest supporters, are the two biggest friends of employee ownership in the Senate. So it's crossing those boundaries, but I know in Colorado, there's a little bit of a tight rope of not making it too Democratic to make it unappealing for the other party.
Dick Peterson: 30:30 You know, I really hadn't thought in those terms to try to get both parties much more involved. I mean, a few years ago we started, Bill and I, actually started doing some work with the local districts -- Democratic, we were both Democratic -- so we were going to the Democratic meetings like in District Six and District Seven, districts of Denver. And that might be one of the ways that to kind of move that over into the Republican side where they're having their Republican gatherings and just go talking about the benefits. Because that a piece that really needs -- so much needs in all fronts that is kind of astounding a little bit, because we need to get people understanding what employee ownership is, that it is a free enterprise system.
Dick Peterson: 31:22 This is not socialism and it's not communism. It's just another form of ownership. It's when it's right down to it, that's all it is and it doesn't stop the other ones and you can do anything you want, but it's just the other one more form of ownership. And we really probably need to keep reaching out to that whole idea in America of the co-ops and ESOPs primarily working together is really not happening much as far as we can tell. We feel bad over that. We don't quite know how to do that. Bill does some calling, but the companies here in Colorado don't ever, quite a number of them, but nobody's working very hard -- Bill's maybe the best one -- is trying to get them all to know we exist. We'd like them to do better. How can we work together for employee ownership companies to somehow work together? And that's just all part of the movement that needs to be worked on. And I mean, and our staff, what do we have? Just two staff people, Bill in RMEOC?
Bill Kirton: 32:28 We have just two.
Dick Peterson: 32:31 Yeah. So we have two, I mean, and when we name it we named it so I could move beyond the state lines.
Bill Kirton: 32:36 Right.
Dick Peterson: 32:36 That's why it's Rocky Mountain and not Colorado.
Bret Keisling: 32:41 Let's turn back to the RMEOC. Bill. I know that you're involved with board development there you're the treasurer. Can you tell us a little bit, and then Dick we'll get your thoughts, but where RMEOC is now and where you think it's going?
Bill Kirton: 32:56 Well, I think, you know, we're getting a significant help from the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the state organization. We trained, there's 14 offices around the state of the Office of Economic Development. Our leadership has trained people in all of those offices about employee ownership, so that they have that in their, I guess you would say, portfolio when they work with businesses in the local communities, areas like Durango and Grand Junction, et cetera. So the word is spreading and we're actually financially better off now than we've ever been because of not only, we've been funded primarily by foundations, primarily the Denver Foundation and the Piton Foundation, but now the state is helping us where we're able to do more. I just believe that the times in which we live, which are times of crisis, that that we're actually going to grow.
Bill Kirton: 34:15 Interestingly enough, we're better off now during this crisis than we've ever been in terms of our ability to do the work. The focus right now is primarily worker co-ops. But we do have ESOP, the ESOP attorney that we're, that is doing work for us pro bono. And I'm now involved in calling, there's about 140 ESOP companies in Colorado, I'm now in the process of contacting those companies, just to create relationships, to build a relationship with them. We believe that if we can build this relationship, we can create an ESOP network. I believe we can. They do have that sort of network in Ohio. I think we can do it here. So I'm optimistic about our future. And I think we're going to grow in influence and in the ability to keep this, to move this forward in our state.
Bret Keisling: 35:21 I think that's wonderful and filled with so many great ideas. Dick what's your perspective about where things are and where you want to go? Anything you'd like to add?
Dick Peterson: 35:38 I certainly commend Bill, he's doing the calling and I'm not.
Bill Kirton: 35:38 [Laughter].
Dick Peterson: 35:38 But he's right on the right track. We need to begin to get these different ESOP companies, normally what we're talking about, these bigger companies, to begin to work together and see that they're a part of a group that they can band together and be really supportive of each other. [Inaudible] as they have business dealings, deal with each other as they can and as they need to. So I think, Bill is, I think we are moving forward here with the state support and the governor's support. I just heard one of the -- she's on our board, but she's also kind of on the board up from the state -- and that is the governor wants 20 in conversions this year. And I think this year starts June 1st to July 1st, and so in a way that becomes our goal to try to get help them get -- all of us get 20 conversions this year.
Bret Keisling: 36:37 That's a great goal.
Dick Peterson: 36:39 I think it's a great goal too, and it's what the governor wants and I think he's going to be a little disappointed if we don't come pretty close to having that many or more in process -- there is a process of conversion. So that kind of, I think sets a real goal for us, which I think we have a board meeting coming up next week to really say that's really our goal now. The governor's goal and our goal are one and the same. 20 new ones in this year; 20 new conversions. So I think that's helped us really, I like his goal; I like that 20. And I think several of us on the board are retired and have more time to really do what Bill is doing or some other things to help that. So I think many of us are so committed -- almost can't even get away from the commitment. That's part of what I, a few times I spent a few years, I think I'll just forget about it for awhile and then it just kind of comes back to me!
Bret Keisling: 37:36 You are needed and I'm grateful that you keep coming back when asked or keep feeling the call. One of the great things about the goal and 20 is a good member. Although it could have been 15, it could have been 25. I think you said it Dick. I just love the fact that there's a goal and something that can be worked on.
Bret Keisling: 37:59 With that gentlemen, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. I'm the luckiest guy in the world. I am spending my life talking about employee ownership and celebrating folks like yourself and the RMEOC. And I want to say with, with, with tremendous respect and, and with a little bit of humility, I couldn't be doing what I'm doing, if you guys hadn't done what you've done and are doing. So, happy Employee Ownership Month, thank you very much for coming on the podcast and God bless you both and you keep doing what you're doing.
Dick Peterson: 38:40 And Bill, thank you!
Bill Kirton: 38:40 Thank you very much for this opportunity.
Bret Keisling: 38:40 With that we will bring this podcast episode to a close. Happy Employee Ownership Month to you. Thank you so much for listening. Join us Friday as we give some shout outs and celebrate employee ownership, and please join us next week for the entire conversation with Jennifer Briggs. I think you're going to find it as interesting as I do.
Bret Keisling: 39:00 Folks. We are, as we're releasing this on October 20th, 2020, we are approaching 220,000 lost souls from COVID. We are all in this together. That's how we're going to get through it; together. This is Bret Keisling. Have a good day.
Bitsy McCann: 39:20 We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email Bret@KEISOP.com, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.
Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.
A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Temi, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The ESOP Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.