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Mini-cast 68: EO Professionals and State Centers

Why should EO professionals support State Centers?

More EO means more business for the professionals. Bret Keisling shares his experiences as a founding member of PaCEO, and how it was important to his former firm’s growth, even if there were no “direct” referrals. Also: Congrats to Rich Heeter and Capital Trustees on its new offices.


Mini-cast 68 Transcript

Announcer: 00:03 Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast, a great way to wrap up the week.

Bret Keisling: 00:14 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. As regular listeners are aware, I've been involved in employee ownership for about 12 years now. I started my first transaction, I was outside counsel to selling shareholders served as company counsel as well. That led to me being CEO of an employee owned company, 100% ESOP, for about two and a half years. And after that my former partner Rich Heeter and I formed Capital Trustees. During that time I went from a professional ESOP advisor, that frankly was primarily focused on getting hired for transactions, doing them, well, don't get me wrong, but from a business marketing sense, getting hired from transactions, running a business, driving revenue and that sort of thing.

Bret Keisling: 01:08 Certainly I've always been aware of the potential benefits of employee ownership. The ESOP company that I ran, I really bought in, drank the Kool-Aid as we say about how everybody could benefit from everyone's efforts, but I still approached it from a transactionist model. Now, one thing I should explain is if there are no transactions, there is no revenue, there are no professional advisors and that sort of thing. So when I say I approached it trying to drive revenue, well of course I did and that's what many professional advisors do now. But certain things began to change and it was an offshoot of the efforts we had as professional advisors. One of the important things was Capital Trustees support of the Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership. When it opened in 2016 Cap Trustees became a founding member at that time, made a three year financial commitment and because it's expired and I'm no longer with Cap Trustees, I'll share, it was $10,000 a year, not small change for a boutique firm that was owned by two individuals, but we thought it was an important commitment to make.

Bret Keisling: 02:16 Now, certainly on the podcast in the last six months since I formed The KEISOP Group, I've been focused on state centers, et cetera as a means of growing employee ownership, but when we were first approached by some other ESOP professionals, Jim Steiker, Ed Renenger, Ed Wilusz, well known national names all based in Pennsylvania, about supporting what was at that point, the concept of PACEO, w3e made the decision, my partner and I made the decision, to support it for purely business reasons. Candidly, and I'm not telling you anything out of school, if firms that are in a position to give you referrals suggest that you look at something good faith, it's very wise to look at it in good faith and the reasons that they approached Cap Trustees were for us to help support growing employee ownership broadly. But we wanted to make sure that if the Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership was going to open any way, that Cap Trustees was going to be a founding member, that we were going to trumpet our participation and do whatever we could to make PACEO successful because Cap Trustees wanted to be recognized as part of the success and somebody on the ground floor.

Bret Keisling: 03:38 Now, during the three and a half years that I was both with Cap Trustees and a member of PACEO, I don't think a single transaction or opportunity came to us specifically because of PACEO. What I mean by that is that PACEO would have developed a transaction or a lead and put out referrals, that sort of thing. I don't think any came our way. It did benefit us that if it was a Pennsylvania company that the referral came from a different source, even if it wasn't PACEO, we would highlight the connection to PACEO and even in the other 49 states, and we're active in about 30 of them, we certainly would show our support of PACEO as just an example of, frankly, that Capital Trustees is a real player nationally and certainly in our home state. It's part of a firm's general marketing budget.

Bret Keisling: 04:35 Similar to our supportive PACEO, Cap Trustees, my partner Rich Heeter and I, attended 10 to 12 conferences a year every year. We'd speak at them when we had the opportunity, but we made sure that both of us were there ideally or at the very least one or the other was there so that we would have a presence. We would have a networking. Now, certainly in the last couple of years we would go to conferences, and I've talked about this on previous podcasts, once you have an established business, you're going to the conferences and yes, you're networking for new opportunities, but you're also taking care of current transactions, current ongoing work, et cetera, et cetera. So the conferences have a little bit of a different purpose once you're established. But in the first couple of years where we were going, we went to conferences like many emerging professionals do, and just had a sense that we had to be there.

Bret Keisling: 05:30 There was no magic bullet where someone would come up to us at a conference and say, we want to hire you. It's a building process. So for us, just as we attended all of the conferences that we possibly could or that made sense for us to do, we didn't have any expectations of return on investment. And for me, the important thing to remember is we're talking about, at least in Cap Trustee's case, a firm that is successful by any metric, including revenue. And for us, we didn't have any way to separate out, well maybe the Great Lakes conference wasn't as good for us as the New England conference. And by the way, just as examples, the Great Lakes conference -- amazing. Every chapter, every organization conference that we went to has had great value.

Bret Keisling: 06:22 So what I wanted to do is just take a couple of minutes on a Friday, perhaps over the weekend as you listen to this to just give a broader explanation on why I think supporting the state centers and all of the organizations who are supporting the work that the professionals do is so very important.

Bret Keisling: 06:41 One final note before we wrap up, just want to give a congratulations to Rich Heeter and Capital Trustees. He's relocating his office just across the Susquehanna river from where we worked together for many years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He's just across the river. But I'm so happy for my friend Rich and former partner. Cap Trustees continues to do really well. He's doing well. I love the new offices. If I weren't so happy with my own offices in Colorado, maybe I'd be a little bit wistful. But Rich, thanks for 12 great years of friendship and employee ownership advocacy. Enjoy your new offices. With that. Everybody, thank you so much for taking the time. I hope you'll join us Tuesday for The EO/ESOP podcast. This is Bret Keisling. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Bitsy McCann: 07:29 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, 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.


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