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147: Sandra Reid of Davey Tree Experts

Bret Keisling is joined by Davey Tree Experts’ Sandra Reid, who is also an NCEO board member. She shares Davey Tree Expert’s history, culture, and the multiple ways employees can become employee owners.


Episode 147 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. I'm very pleased to bring you this long form conversation with Sandra Reid of Davey Tree Experts. She has spent her entire professional career with Davey and since 2017, she's also served on the board of directors of the National Center for Employee Ownership [NCEO]. She's going to tell us a little bit about Davey's history, how employee ownership affects its culture. And she's going to explain the multiple buckets by which Davey employees become employee owners. And we'll talk a little bit about NCEO as well.

Bret Keisling: 00:54 You'll hear us reference a couple of episodes of the ESOP Mini-cast or EsOp Podcast, and you can find all of our episodes wherever you get your podcasts or at Please enjoy this conversation.


Bret Keisling: 01:09 It is my great pleasure to be joined by Sandee Reid, who is the Vice President of Corporate Communication and Strategic Planning at Davey Tree Expert, Sandee, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Sandra Reid: 01:23 It's great to be here, Bret.

Bret Keisling: 01:25 I appreciate it. You folks actually had an anniversary and made it to -- you're on the tops of NCEO's most largest [majority] employee owned companies. And so I did a little Mini-cast [Episode 126] probably about six weeks ago and you and your team were kind enough to reach out and we're just so happy because I didn't have the full Davey story. So hopefully you'll tell us the Davey story today. Is that okay?

Sandra Reid: 01:47 That sounds great. I'd be happy to do that. We were really happy to see on your Mini-cast, your mention of Davey's anniversary and it's something that's core to our company in terms of our culture. So love to talk about the Davey history with you.

Bret Keisling: 02:01 Excellent. And as you know, Sandee, we have been collecting since September, and we are proud of this, what we call the EO A-ha Moment. And we like to start -- and it's that moment not where you heard about employee ownership, not where you thought it might be a good thing. Have you ever had that A-ha Moment where you said, wow, employee ownership could be transformative or make a huge difference?

Sandra Reid: 02:24 I've had several employee ownership, A-ha Moments in my 35 year career with the Davey Company. The first one for me was when I obtained my first share of stock. I wanted to dedicate that first share to my grandfather. And so I was proud to take my certificate and show him. He had worked all of his life in the steel mills of Western Pennsylvania and always encouraged, saving and planning for retirement. And so it was a really fun moment to share that certificate with him and talk about ownership.

Sandra Reid: 02:57 Another A-ha Moment for me, Bret was when we celebrated our 40th anniversary of employee ownership. Some companies aren't even 40 years old and the Davey Company was founded in 1880 and, you know, in 1979 we became employee owned. And so we were able to celebrate 40 years, which now is 42 years an still growing. So that legacy of employee ownership is something we're quite proud of!

Bret Keisling: 03:26 As you know, although ESOPs were created by an act of Congress as part of the ERISA Act in 1974 -- and boy, my listeners love when I talk about the ERISA Act -- but most of the ESOPs that we talk about, maybe, you know, someone was formed in '95, '98. We're like, oh, they're a seasoned ESOP. You've had a 35 year career there and it was in place when you got there. That is very cool.

Sandra Reid: 03:50 It was very, very cool. And you know, when I joined the Davey Company, I didn't didn't know anything about ESOPs. I was very familiar with the Davey organization as I grew up in Kent, where we're based. I went away to college, came back and kind of had my own A-ha Moment that there was an opening at the Davey Company for a writer. I was intending to relocate to someplace like Columbus, Ohio. My mom actually suggested that I consider Davey and I had went to high school on one side of our corporate complex and worked at the golf course on the other side and I thought I need to go to the city. So I, you know, my mom, I think actually sent my resume in, I was interviewed and started with the company and I've never really looked back. So it's kind of interesting. A lot of Davey people look at the Davey Company as someplace where they might stay for a short period of time. And, you know, it's not unusual for somebody to retire with 30, 40, 50 years of service with the company. So I guess that's another A-ha Moment -- listen to mom and that probably was the best move that I made!

Bret Keisling: 04:55 Sandee, I have to laugh a little bit because roughly it would seem that we're in the same age group. You and I, and I've got a couple of kids in my twenties and I can't imagine a young person today letting mom send in a resume. [Laughter.] That is very cool.

Sandra Reid: 05:09 I think my mom actually did it twice. One of my sisters also should credit her as well, but yeah, at the time I didn't, I was just kind of went along with it to say, okay, fine, we'll try it for a while and see how it goes, but there's no place else for me where I could have experienced as many different hands-on experiences in communications and marketing and strategic planning and had the opportunity to be part of the growth of the organization the way that I have. So, thankful for that move from my mother.

Bret Keisling: 05:39 Can you give us just a... that actually is very cool. Let me not just brush past that. That is very cool. It's a throwback story and a win one for mom! I hope she didn't lord it over you with Thanksgivings and that sort of thing. That is a very sweet story.

Sandra Reid: 05:53 Yeah. Thank you.

Bret Keisling: 05:55 Let's talk about Davey. Give a bit of a snapshot. One of the interesting things about your company is it's really huge in terms of the number of employee owners, but small centralization at the home office. The corporate office is pretty, pretty tight if you will. So can you just tell us a little bit about your numbers and how the employee owners break out across the country?

Sandra Reid: 06:17 Sure. So our, our company now has 10,500 employees within the company across the United States and Canada. Very few of them actually are based in our support and administrative services out of Kent. Most of our employees are located where they live and work, whether that be Hawaii, California, Texas, New York, basically any state you can find a Davey. One of the things I'm quite proud of is that those Davey employees you encounter had the opportunity to become a Davey employee owner, and many of them are. And that's something that we encourage.

Sandra Reid: 06:52 So once you reach your eligibility period, which is a year, you can participate in our, any one of our employee programs. We are a little unique in that we offer a number of different ways that you can purchase stock. The ESOP, which was our, one of our foundation pieces is rolled into now our 401 KSOP and the ESOP match is in Davey stock. So if you participate in the 401k, your match is in Davey stock, and that automatically is a way for you to become an employee owner.

Sandra Reid: 07:26 One of our founding programs is what we consider to be our subscription program. So about every 10 years, we offer employees the opportunity to buy a bulk number of shares, let's say 500 or more. The company finances that purchase and the employees can pay that back in an annual payment or through payroll deduction. That program, the employees get the dividends and the voting rights to those shares and then at the end, they're their shares.

Sandra Reid: 07:57 So I call it a foundation program because in 1979 when our employee purchase was finished, 114 employees had stepped forward to be part of that original founding group. And they were our first subscription. So really our building blocks of employee ownership were the subscription and our original ESOP, and those two pieces came together to enable our employee group to purchase the company from the Davey family.

Bret Keisling: 08:28 We could devote a very long whole episode to the nuances. If I may let me just pause a couple of -- or point out a couple of things for our listeners, particularly the employee owners, because first of all, you had referenced with your grandfather that you had the actual share certificate, as you know, in traditional ESOPs the employees don't, and this could always be a rabbit hole, but the employees don't in a traditional ESOP own the shares, they're, the beneficiary of the shares owned by a trust. But at Davey, if someone's an employee owner, at Davey, it sounds like they actually literally own whatever number of shares they might own. Is that right?

Sandra Reid: 09:09 Well, so that's a good point. So the third way that we enable employees to purchase stock is through what we call our employee stock purchase plan. In our employee stock purchase plan, once you hit one year with the company, you can payroll deduct a dollar amount from each pay that goes into an account and twice a year shares are purchased for the employees out of that account at a 15% discount. So those shares you actually receive a certificate for. You're correct, the shares that are in the 401 KSOP, you receive a statement for, so that there is a little bit of difference there. That story that I told about my grandfather, I actually bought my first -- so you can buy outright as well. And so my first share, I bought outright at full price because I wanted to share that moment with him and to actually have that share certificate to talk to him about, so that's another option as well.

Sandra Reid: 10:06 So one of the things I think that makes us unique is that we have always been focused around having a variety of ways that people can buy stock or participate in employee ownership and also we wanted to make it affordable. So throughout our history, we've had numerous stock splits where it enabled the price to be lower per share, still the same number of shares, but the employee who was having something deducted from their paycheck on the employee stock purchase plan, we wanted employees to be able to see at the end of that six months, they had accumulated a number of shares and could celebrate their investment in the company and themselves.

Bret Keisling: 10:46 About how many of your employee... Well, I almost said how many employee owners have shares in the company? I guess all of them! You know, if they're -- to be employee owned. But how many of them participate in any one of the forms in the company?

Sandra Reid: 11:01 So yeah, so we have a number of people who participate in all of them, and we have a number of people that have a favorite program. So we have some people that have their shares just through the 401 KSOP, or we have some people who participate in the employee stock purchase plan, and some people who participate in all of them. It's really up to each employee.

Sandra Reid: 11:19 When I started with the company I was based in our Davey Institute, our science and research facility. And I was, I was the only communicator that was in that group. I used to joke that I was surrounded every day by -ologies biology, plant pathology, plant physiology. And my -ology was really focused on people and communications. So one of the first pieces of advice that as a young employee that I was given by my co-workers was don't try to figure out what's the best method participate in all the methods, because -- that you can -- because they all have, they all have benefits. And the key is that investment in yourself. So as you're able participate in all the programs.

Sandra Reid: 12:05 The advice I give to young employees that are starting out with the company is don't feel like that you need to make a large investment to begin with. You can take, you know, a simple exchange of reducing a purchase for a cup of coffee, you know, at a coffee shop and invest that in yourself. And so if you start early the shares will add up and certainly the investment will add up. And then as you're able continue to increase your investment, because, you know, we have a number of people throughout our history that were in all levels of the company from from administrative to working in our shop or working on a frontline in the field and they have retired with an amazing retirement that is a hundred percent due to their participation in Davey stock programs.

Bret Keisling: 12:57 And Sandee, we have these conversations and these are the coolest conversations because quite frankly, as you know, and I don't want to be crass, but ESOPs et cetera, are a retirement plan. And that's when we get our money. So we are not being crass now. Without obviously going into specifics, I'll just throw a number out. Have you had any retirees with a million dollars or more?

Sandra Reid: 13:20 Absolutely!

Bret Keisling: 13:22 People can't see on the podcast, but you just got a nice smile. More than one might I assume?

Sandra Reid: 13:28 Yes, absolutely. And so, you know, one of the interesting things is you're right, an ESOP is a retirement account and those employees who were here at the early stages of the ESOP certainly benefited. Employees currently still benefit through the match and the 401 KSOP. But yeah, we have a number of success stories throughout the company where people have an amazing wealth that has been gained for retirement through their participation in the Davey programs.

Sandra Reid: 13:58 And in addition, I think we're a little bit unique in that we have the purchase programs. So we have a number of stories of employees that have been able to pay for college tuition for students buy their dream boat or buy their dream house, take wonderful vacations. So I think we're unique in that you can you can cash out your employee stock purchase shares to use for things to, you know, enjoy the benefits that you might've waited for to use at retirement. And then you can continue to invest and still have the opportunity to have a retirement income. So it's kind of the best of both worlds. I have a number of teammates that have purchased summer homes, new cars, you know, and again, been able to do things that otherwise they other, they might not have been able to do. And we think that's just great, too. It's all part of the benefits of working together to create the company that we have.

Bret Keisling: 15:03 First of all, what's striking is all of the times that we have talked about how ESOPs work at companies, or how employee ownership works at companies, and I always say well, it could be different where you are, and as you know, the plans change or whatever it is. So it's always a little bit different. But I think from this point forward, when I say this is how an ESOP works, I'm going to have to add except at Davey Tree [laughter]. So, and, and I just want to draw home the point a little bit because the folks who have done well, and certainly some of them are probably C suite or upper management, but we see with retirement, we see people, it doesn't apply to Davey, but works on the factory floor with a million dollar disbursement. And by the way, we're not Sandee and I aren't selling anything. We're not saying, oh, anybody will get whatever. But these are your arborists, these are the folks who are cutting the trees. These guys are guys who at any other company would not expect to retire with high volume. Is that a fair way to say it?

Sandra Reid: 16:03 Yes, absolutely. And you know, in many organizations they would not have had the opportunity to participate, perhaps. You know, I know some organizations it's only limited to certain levels of the organization. You know, or they might have been in a circumstance where somebody might have had a significant majority of the ownership and other employees might have had a small portion. And I think one of the things that we have looked at and been proud of is that we really have a widespread ownership. We don't have, you know, from the leadership group down, we don't have someone that has a dominant number of shares. We focus on ownership for all employees, regardless of level. You know, we like to say, you know, we own it, we care. And you know, one of our strategic plan priorities is to make sure that all employees understand how the programs work and that this is a benefit for them, that they can participate in. We want widespread ownership

Bret Keisling: 17:01 For the listeners, again, it's the uniqueness of Davey's multi buckets, if you will, of employee ownership. So when the average ESOP employee owner hears you say, my colleagues cashed in some shares and bought a boat or a summer house, that's actually unique to not even your plan, but all of the prongs, all of the buckets within your plan. Am I saying that right?

Sandra Reid: 17:22 Yes, that's correct. You know, you can't do that with your ESOP shares, but with our employee stock purchase plan you know, you can, you can do that if you want to. So we encourage people to plan for their retirement and also enjoy the hard work that they've put in today. I think one of the things that we feel as current employee owners is a responsibility to the legacy that was set forth by our employee ownership pioneers.

Sandra Reid: 17:49 So 1977-ish, the Davey family was, you know, Davey family owned the company. It was founded 1880. So we are an old company.

Bret Keisling: 18:00 Right.

Sandra Reid: 18:00 We've been employee owned since 1979. 1977-ish, the family was looking at, you know, what they were going to do. And so Jack Joy was named the company president, and he was a non-family member. Then the family announced that they going to sell the company the next day.

Sandra Reid: 18:20 And so Jack, I knew him personally, and, you know, I remember him kind of joking that he wondered if the first announcement had something to do with the second. I can say, you know, we are thankful that that first announcement did happen because he quickly rallied together the employee ownership committee from his leadership, Doug Cowan, who became our CEO later, Jim Pohl, who was an executive vice-president, and they formed the employee ownership committee. And Jack would tell a story that, you know, they basically looked around and said, we can work for ourselves, or we can work for someone else. And we want to try to make this happen. So as Doug Cowan used to share with me, you know, when they put together that original 114 group, you know, they, some of them took second jobs. Some of them took mortgages out on -- second mortgages. And some of them had a spouse that went to work so that they could afford that investment and that payment and that commitment and pulled together and made multiple offers.

Sandra Reid: 19:25 The first couple offers were, were declined and they kept going back at it making offers to purchase the company. In the meantime, it was a kind of an interesting time in the company. There was, the family was receiving offers to purchase the company from some of our competitors, from other entities. There were inquiries to break up the organization and the employee group kept the company running and continued to work to put together the deal to purchase the company. And one of the pieces that that I really should mention that was significant was “Brub” Davey, who was the third of -- John Davey founded the company, his son, Martin Sr., and then Martin Jr. was known as "Brub" -- actually kept his family shares initially, so that the employee deal could go through because he was committed to the employees being able to purchase the company and that, and that deal was accepted. So the Davey Company became employee owned and then you know, things rapidly started going well. So that commitment to keep the shares from Brub Davey was paid back quicker than it was intended. And we've been employee owned ever since and continue to be focused on paying back that legacy and growing the organization for future generations of employee owners.

Bret Keisling: 20:56 That is very cool. And I want to have you just chat for a bit about Davey's culture, particularly as you believe it derives from being employee owners, but you said something -- and Sandee, I'm racking my brain because I had this conversation with one of my podcast guests, and I just can't picture which one. We have always talked about ESOPs and employee ownership as a way of preserving the founder's legacy. That if Davey went employee owned, that the Davey's family name would continue on and the story of Mr. Davey and the subsequent Daveys and that sort of thing, but what you alluded to it's the second time I've heard it like in six weeks and I think we should all make it a thing what you were speaking to was the succession legacy of the employee owners themselves. Am I right that it almost sounds like you are looking at yourself and your colleagues as sort of an employee owner class, and that is your legacy on the line? Do you know what I mean? It's not just the Davey family, it's the employee owners. Am I saying that right?

Sandra Reid: 22:13 Yeah, absolutely. Bret, I mean, I think, I think we have a commitment to we, you know, we appreciate, we have a commitment to the heritage of our company and our original founding in 1880, but we also see that 1979 milestone as a new chapter, a new era in the company. And then I think each of us as a current employee owners has a responsibility to uphold that legacy to those before us, whether it be the history and the founding and our scientific services that we, you know, we try to provide to all of our clients every day, but that employee ownership group that stepped forward and made it happen, made it possible for for those who have left the company with a nice retirement nest egg and those who will become future employee owners. So yeah, I think it's absolutely a responsibility. It's a different, it's a new chapter in the company and whoever comes next has a responsibility to uphold the future

Bret Keisling: 23:18 A little bit about the Davey Tree services. A lot of talent, a lot of really creative talent in your projects.

Sandra Reid: 23:25 Yes, absolutely. You know, so if it has anything to do with green and growing, the Davey Company is probably involved in it. Our brand promise is proven solutions for a growing world. And so I think if we look at our company, our residential tree care, residential/commercial tree care services are, you know, what the company was founded on. John Davey wrote the book The Tree Doctor in 1901. He self-published that book. He was lecturing and providing training about tree surgery before anybody even knew that existed. And that was one of the foundation services of the company was tree care. And so that's the service that would be provided for a homeowner or commercial property that needs anything taken to preserve -- or anything done to preserve their green assets around their property.

Sandra Reid: 24:13 In 1930s we got involved in utility services as power was, you know, evolving throughout the country. And so that's utility line clearance, basically keeping the power flowing, keeping the vegetation away from the power lines so that there is not a loss of power. One of the key things that that group is involved in is emergency services. So all -- whether it's hurricanes and wildfires or wind storms, there's an amazing group of people that go out and leave their homes to go into other areas to help provide clean up services, help as part of power is restored, and help keep the power flowing and help get things cleaned up.

Sandra Reid: 25:04 Commercial landscape services, that's, you know, traditional type of landscape services, so mowing mulching flowers. And so that whole group is involved in everything from commercial properties to HOAs, to military bases, government entities. We've got a amazing portfolio of project work that the company has been involved in the commercial landscape services area, even some golf courses. And we have a tree farm where we grow trees that we use in our projects.

Sandra Reid: 25:39 And Davey Resource Group is our newest division. Shouldn't call them new anymore because they're, you know, now 25 plus years old.

Bret Keisling: 25:50 [Laughter.] Sorry.

Sandra Reid: 25:52 [Laughter.]

Sandra Reid: 25:52 That group is consulting services whether it's ecological consulting for wetlands and urban forestry assessments to utility vegetation management, so that's some of the pre-work for utility projects, permitting and tree health assessments and managing projects. Or asset management which has really not much to do with trees. It's more around you know, some of the build-outs for the 5g and you know, more of an engineering type approach.

Sandra Reid: 26:27 And so with all that, we still have our Davey Institute which I -- which is where I mentioned, I started my career with the company. But our Davey Institute, which provides technical support, science support, research and development, and also training that backs all of our operations. We have laboratory services where if a field person needs additional support, they can send plant samples in and the lab team will give them recommendations. So it really is -- we're all in it together. Our corporate support individuals many based here in Kent, Ohio, others based in regional locations. Our role is to keep our frontline employees and our clients taken care of. And so everything for us revolves around employees, clients, and shareholders, and, and it's a double bonus that our employees are shareholders.

Bret Keisling: 27:22 The work that you folks do is really cool. And let me just share something. And I think I mentioned it on the Mini-cast that I thought was great. I had gone to the website and "enter your zip code to find those nearest office" and I'm in Pennsylvania and at some point as you grow, and again, lots of offices and over 10,000 employee owners, maybe you'll be in this service area. But what I really loved i I entered my address and a little window popped up, said, sorry, we're not in your area, but I guess there's a national trade association. And it automatically said, hey, check here. They can recommend somebody qualified in your area. And a lot of people don't have that business approach. I just really -- and I wasn't truly looking, I was researching, you know, this.

Sandra Reid: 28:03 Sure.

Bret Keisling: 28:03 But I just thought that was a really great way to say to somebody, if you're not able to be our customer, now here's a good deed. And hopefully we can meet again. Is that kind of the approach?

Sandra Reid: 28:15 It is Bret, you know, our -- it's very, industry leadership, industry support is very important to us. One of the committees that I'm on is the Tree Care Industry Association [TCIA] Accreditation Council, and that's the governing board for tree care companies and making sure that they have safe, trained employees with ethical practices. So we feel it's important to, if we're not in a particular area to provide the TCIA website link so that people can can take a look. Also, you know, many of our employees are International Society of Arboriculture [ISA] which is the organization for the tree care industry as individuals and the certification body for ISA certified arborist or board certified arborist, or many of their other programs. And we have a number of Davey employees are involved in their local ISA chapters. We have a number of employees that are involved in the leadership of the ISA and TCI organization. So I think it's just the right thing to do. I mean, we encourage people to, you know, get, you know, if you have a, if you have a tree care problem, get a quote from an ISA certified arborist and take a look at a TCI accredited company. Because there's a lot of things in the tree care space that you don't think about. Like, you know, somebody might have a cheaper price, they might not be insured, or if they, you know, if the problem is too complicated and you try to do it yourself, somebody could get hurt and they might cause property damage. And, you know, people don't realize that might come back on you, if you're employing a contractor that, or a provider that doesn't have the right certifications and insurance coverage. So yeah, I think, I think it's absolutely important to to, to share the knowledge and I think if you look throughout the rest of, I mean, we have a lot -- whether it's on our blog or whether it's on the website -- we have a lot of information about how to select an arborist. You know, how to spot the sick tree, how to know if you've got a specific problem. And that's just all part of, that's all part of our legacy and our culture.

Bret Keisling: 30:30 Are there any examples? And what I'd like to do is just wrap up here and out of respect to your time, Sandee, we do want to talk a little bit you're on the board of NCEO, but can you give and Davey has a really whole culture and forgive me, I do want to point out also, you mentioned your blog. You folks have a cool podcast, which happens, you know, I catch them. And just a couple of weeks ago, it was a podcast based on showing your children the beauty of spring, or it's not quite the right topic -- your podcast host gets to talk about creating a magical experience for children and I mentioned ERISA a lot. I just think that's really cool, but I do a podcast, a podcast host wanted to give a shout out to yours. It's a really great service.

Sandra Reid: 31:13 Well, thank you. Our "Talking Trees" series has been something that we're also quite proud of, whether it's on YouTube, our training and education videos that we share, or it's the Talking Trees podcast we launched this year, or last year we launched Talking Trees Live on Facebook. And both the podcast and Talking Trees Live, one of the things we love about it is we have, you know, passionate people throughout North America who love to talk about trees and we have two great host partners in Doug and Katie who just love to make it easy for people to share what they know. And so I think that's a common thread throughout the organization is that we love to talk about our company and our industry.

Bret Keisling: 31:58 Any other culture stuff that we didn't cover that you think being employee owned has made a difference? I mean, you've just laid out a great vision of Davey's culture. Any final examples that you'd like to add or anything that comes to mind?

Sandra Reid: 32:13 Well, you mentioned the NCEO board. So I think 2017, I joined the National Center for Employee Ownership [NCEO] board and I've really enjoyed learning about ownership programs. NCEO is a wonderful resource or any topic that you need information on. I find myself, even, frequently, something will come up and I wonder, geez, I wonder if there is an employee owned company that creates this product? And if I ask my friends at NCEO, I get an answer back very quickly. And then, you know, even more complex topics, the NCEO website has a wealth of information on. If you're thinking about becoming employee owned, or if you are employee owned, or how do you preserve employee ownership? I really have to give our friends at NCEO a shout out.

Sandra Reid: 33:04 You know, from a cultural standpoint. I think, you know, again, I can't say enough, you know, we also say, you know, we work for ourselves, we work for each other. And the every day, the reason why I come to work at the Davey Company is to support our frontline employees to help communicate whether it's information about our ownership programs or share our Davey Green Leaders stories for people who are participating in amazing activities in their communities, Our employee owners truly live and contribute to the communities that they reside in and work in. And so you know, it's a pleasure to interact with other Davey employee owners, regardless of the location that they live in and see their good works and and give them shout outs or the work that they're doing, whether that's something we can share on our social channels or in the podcast or in our company publications.

Sandra Reid: 34:03 So can't say -- you know, mom was right! There was no place else that I probably should have been than here at the Davey Company, and I'm looking forward to my 35th year service anniversary coming up here soon.

Bret Keisling: 34:16 Well, that is very cool -- and everything is cool and I love the sweet aspect of the story of your mom setting you up. Something I very much like and respect about NCEO and some of their folks who've been on. And by the way although it will be in the past, by the time people hear this episode, you and I are recording this three days before the start of the virtual annual conference -- pre-conference -- and we're the week before the virtual conference. NCEO, and you're on the board of it, has just done a tremendous job, as have the other orgs, but just a tremendous job of pivoting during the pandemic. Just seems very exciting and very fresh and I give them a lot of credit.

Sandra Reid: 34:59 Well, thank you for that, Bret. I agree, you know, last year people were getting ready to go to Minneapolis -- was that Minneapolis? Thinking about going to Minneapolis and then suddenly the pandemic hit and you know, the NCEO staff, I have to give them incredible kudos. They pivoted and pulled off one of the first virtual conferences that I had attended in 2020. And you know, and the energy of the attendees, as is always amazing at the NCEO conference, there's no place else to find a more energetic, passionate attendees, but it was different last year virtually, it will be different this year, certainly, but kudos to that staff team who continues to work tirelessly to give forth, bring forth the message of the power of employee ownership.

Bret Keisling: 35:53 And I do like to be inclusive -- certainly there are a couple of other of the big employee organizations, there are now -- and folks who've been on the podcast, I'm not trying to tap around -- but besides [The ESOP Association] TEA and ESCA, we now have EOX, Certified EO is doing amazing things. And then we've got folks like Democracy Collaborative and Project Equity that are sort of growing employee ownership, but not quite in the same way. So I wanted to kind of acknowledge, there are a lot of great people in the space. So, Sandee, what do you like about NCEO from the perspective of the employee owners?

Sandra Reid: 36:31 I think NCEO is like a family organization. When you come to the NCEO conference, it's like a family reunion. And so I'm looking forward to being able to attend a future conference live, but in the meantime we'll gather for a virtual family reunion.

Bret Keisling: 36:49 One other thing that I would like to say, and you referenced it early -- earlier -- Sandee, and boy, everybody's doing great things. When we look at research, we often talk about Joseph Blasi and his colleagues at the Rutgers University Center. They now have a program called CLEO, which is the Curriculum Library for Employee Ownership. There is a lot of really solid data out there, but when I find I'm doing quick research for an episode -- and quick may take an hour or two -- when I start Googling stuff, it's NCEO that comes up, NCEO's lists of [employee owned] companies or that sort of thing. So some of it might be search engine metrics, but NCEO is really putting out a lot of information and it's not geared for the policy wonks. I mean, NCEO information really is, employee owners could sit down with family members and understand a lot of it.

Sandra Reid: 37:47 Yeah, Bret, I think that's been a conscious focus particularly recently, NCEO updated recently its website trying to make it easier for people to find information about employee ownership and they're, you know, there's conscious efforts on providing information to people who are thinking about ownership and then helping people transition to ownership. I think those are two key pieces because I, you know, I've been with the Davey Company most, all of my career. So I can't speak to what it's like, but we have had numerous organizations join the company through through the acquisition process and as I've talked with them over time, you know, many of them were looking at becoming employee owned. They found it overwhelming, or it didn't seem to work for them, but they love the idea of their employees being able to become employee owners and so by joining the Davey Company they, they achieved that.

Sandra Reid: 38:45 So I think it's just, you know, what works for you at that point in time? I know for many people they consider employee ownership to, you know, be more of a transitional piece. Others are looking at it as more of a legacy. And so we've talked about that at the beginning. You know, I think for us, the employee ownership piece was a beginning in our journey and we continue to write new chapters of the company history as we have new generations of employee owners join the Davey family.

Bret Keisling: 39:13 You don't need to serve on any boards, just in terms of, you know, your life or whatever. Why is it important for you not just serving on NCEO's board, but that's pushing forward the mission of employee ownership, which is appreciated. Can you just share a little bit why. What's driving you?

Sandra Reid: 39:31 I think it's important to give back. You know, a couple of years ago I started -- I had always been involved in professional organizations in my space marketing, public relations communications, and I'd been involved in serving some local industry boards. But you know, when I started looking at you know, my career and what I wanted to do for the last part of my career, it was important for me to give back. So I think sometimes you get involved in an organization because you want to learn more and the best place to learn is by being involved in the front line. And then other times it's because you want to share your knowledge, expertise, skills, experience -- positive or negative -- and give that back. And so I feel very strongly that it's important to, for those who are able to share their knowledge, they should.

Bret Keisling: 40:19 And I hope the folks that are listening, hear that and understand the value to you in giving back. And although we would appreciate and this actually fits in very much with Davey's culture, we would appreciate it if people would spend some time volunteering or whatever with the employee ownership organizations, but as to Davey's culture, find something to give back in your communities, in your towns, in your schools, you know, if you have kids, and that's a great message for you to give all the employee owners of Davey Tree, which is we're all here for a higher purpose, you know, let's do well for ourselves, but give back to our communities. I think that's wonderful.

Sandra Reid: 41:03 Well, thank you. I, yeah, we feel very strongly about that. We have a program at Davey called Davey Green Leaders. And so that program is all about that leadership -- and whatever works for you, whether it's coaching athletic events for your children or neighborhood children, whether it's involvement with the Girl Scouts or Goy Scouts or another civic organization, whether it's being involved in the Rotary or Kiwanas or Lions Club or an industry organization. You know, we want to encourage our employees because our brand -- we're an employee owned company in the service industry; our brand is our people. And you know, so I think it's important for people to give back because you get from giving and that just makes a stronger organization.

Bret Keisling: 41:48 That is excellent. Sandee, is there anything that you would've liked to have covered today that I didn't give you the opportunity?

Sandra Reid: 41:55 I think we talked about an awful lot, I guess I'd like to just give a quick shout out to all of our employee owners across North America, who keep our company flowing every day. And just so proud of the organization that we're all a part of.

Bret Keisling: 42:10 All of us join in celebrating Davey Tree Service. You folks really are leading the way. It's a cool company. You're doing cool work. You got a ton of employee owners. Probably many, many tons of we weighted them altogether, but, but just thank you very much. Thank you for coming on the podcast, but from me I'm just really grateful, not just for the employee owners, but what a cool company to have in our space. So thank you very much.

Sandra Reid: 42:37 Well, thank you, Bret. Have a great day.

Bret Keisling: 42:39 You too, be well.


Bret Keisling: 42:40 Thank you again to Sandra Reid for joining us on the podcast. I also want to thank Jennifer Lennox [Director of Public Relations] of the Davey Tree Experts who facilitated and set up this conversation.

Bret Keisling: 42:50 As I've shared on a recent Mini-cast, I'm on the new app Clubhouse, and I sincerely believe we can all build an amazing employee ownership ecosystem on that platform. I hope you'll consider downloading and joining Clubhouse and look me up there. My clubhouse handle is EO_Bret with one T.

Bret Keisling: 43:10 We've all gone through so much together in the last year. And although we're not done yet, I think we see the light at the end of the tunnel. So please remember, we're going through it together and that's how we'll get through it, together, which is in the best spirit of employee ownership.

Bret Keisling: 43:28 Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling; be well.

Bitsy McCann: 43:36 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, 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.

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.


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