In this episode of The EO Podcast, Bret Keisling discusses Employee Ownership Month including ideas to celebrate, advocate, and serve the community, and why it's so important to share your EOM activities with the world.
We give shoutouts, congrats, and thanks to:
100% ESOP Scot Forge,
International EO Advocate Antony McMullen ("That's Cooperation"),
Episode 83 Transcript
Intro: 00:01 Are you a passionate employee owner or advocate? Would you like to share your passion on The EO Podcast and ESOP Mini-cast? We're looking for correspondents to help us share the great stories of employee owners and their companies in one- to four-minute long segments that can be recorded remotely over the internet or the telephone. If you're interested in drop us a line, you'll hear contact information at the end of this episode.
Bret Keisling: 00:29 Welcome to The EO Podcast, where we amplify and celebrate all forms of employee ownership. Hello friends. Thanks for listening. I'm Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership.
Today we're going to talk about Employee Ownership Month, which takes place in October and it's a great opportunity to do a number of things: Celebrate your employee ownership, perform works of service in your community, and also do some employee ownership advocacy. So we're going to talk about that in just a bit.
Bret Keisling: 01:02 But first I'd like to open with some shoutouts, thanks, and congratulations. I've been following on social media a company called Scot Forge. We'll have a link to them in our show notes. Scot Forge recently, I believe over the summer, converted to a 100% ESOP and I've taken note of them on social media because since the conversion to 100% ESOP they've gone to Washington and done advocacy. They've really helped grow the sandbox by sharing their stories and they tweeted something just this week. They had a community service project where they filled backpacks for school students. They had set a goal of 110 backpacks and they ended up having 135 backpacks filled. This is a great way to serve the community. It's the finest form of employee ownership where we understand the same culture and values we want to bring to an employee owned company we can bring to the community. Scot Forge, thank you for being such a great example and if anybody there would like to come on and chat a little bit about your company, we'd love to have you.
Bret Keisling: 02:10 Another shoutout. There's another Employee Ownership Podcast across the ocean. The folks in Scotland have launched an EO Podcast and we want to give them our support. We want to give them our best wishes.
Bret Keisling: 02:28 I used to, candidly, through much of my career, not really be focused on the international business community. I was American-centric, quite frankly. Now what I've realized as I've delved into employee ownership is that you can't be myopic. The fact of the matter is employee ownership has been in various forms around the world for much longer than [in] the United States. And I've discovered there is so much to learn and so much that we should be working to incorporate in the United States. And by the way, there are plenty of EO thought leaders who are already way ahead of me. I'm working on this. I just want to add my voice.
Bret Keisling: 03:06 To that end: besides the Scotland podcast, there's someone I follow on Twitter that I have a lot of respect for. Antony McMullen is in Australia. He's a passionate EO advocate. He's a thought leader and what Anthony does that is really, really great is he puts out a Co-op newsletter, essentially, online through social media and it covers employee ownership stories from around the world.
Bret Keisling: 03:34 They certainly have a lot coming from the United States. I know that ESOP Partners, our friends there, have provided content. I know Jason Wiener's law firm in Colorado has provided content. So it's not just world, but they also bring in a lot of very interesting stuff around the world. So Antony, I want to give you a shout out, a thanks, and a congratulations. You do a great job. You help educate, you help grow the sandbox. And here's an example where as much as I'd like to amplify employee ownership, I love highlighting the ones who are amplifying it as well. So Antony, keep up the great work.
Bret Keisling: 04:12 Earlier this week we got tagged on Facebook [correction: on Twitter] by Exit Coach Radio. I wasn't familiar with them before they tagged us. And I had an opportunity and I went and I listened to the most recent episode. I encourage everybody to check out Exit Coach Radio. What I found fascinating or very, very interesting is first of all, it's conversational but very informative and educational. That's frankly what I aspire to do when I have guests on to do the interviews. What I also liked and what I found very educational is the episode that I listened to dealt with intellectual property and how to maximize the value of the intellectual property prior to the sale of a company.
Bret Keisling: 04:58 As you probably know, I've spent seven years prior to The KEISOP Group with Capital Trustees and as trustees we did numerous transactions that created new employee owned firms. But the reality is by the time we get involved in a transaction, the company had either maximized the sale value, the shareholders, through the tips they would get on Exit Coach Radio. Or we would join the process, recognize where value could be enhanced, but as the trustee buying for the participants, it certainly was not my job to say, "Hey, if you go do this, you'll increase value." Rather it was, "Boy, the ESOP or the trust can buy the company and they can increase the value." So to a certain extent, it was great to listen to conversation about how to increase value on intellectual property. Haven't had a chance to go through their archives yet. What I'd be curious, and Bill Black is the editor and just a great job as host, how much he's done about building up the culture prior to the sale of the company. Because the fact of the matter is, as you know, and it'll tie into employee ownership a month in our conversation there, the better the culture, I believe very strongly, it adds to revenue, it adds to value. So to the folks at Exit Coach Radio, thank you very much. If you'd like to get some ESOP folks on, or employee ownership folks on, I know some of the finest in the country and I'd be happy to connect you.
Bret Keisling: 06:29 And another reminder, by the way, if you're doing anything related to employee ownership or the broader business community, if you tag our podcast or tag me in contact information is on, is at the end of the podcast. But if you tag us on Twitter, be more than happy to take a look at what you're doing and if it appropriate love to amplify it on the podcast.
Bret Keisling: 06:52 Okay, let's go to Employee Ownership Month.
Bret Keisling: 06:54 First of all, there are a number of things that you can do. I think I mentioned this earlier: celebration service, advocacy. Let's start with the celebration. If you're not at a company that celebrates the fact that it's employee owned, you are missing an important component of the culture of employee ownership. I've said on numerous podcasts, including just the last week or so, when I talked about health and wellness, that these programs as well as the culture and the celebration enhances the company's revenue. It adds to the value. So I believe employee ownership is very, very important and you should celebrate yourselves. The other thing quite frankly is the more we celebrate ourselves and the companies and employee owners and very importantly the employee owners themselves, the more we're going to grow the sandbox because others are going to see here and want to emulate other employees that companies selling shareholders, et cetera.
Bret Keisling: 08:02 So a lot of companies who are involved in either The ESOP Association or NCEO or any of the other advocacy groups already may have Employee Ownership Month celebrations planned. I want to give some ideas how you can ramp up if you don't have anything planned yet. First of all, I would love every employee owned company sometime in October to have a town hall between the employees and the board of directors. A couple of weeks ago on our ESOP Mini-cast, Rob Zicaro's "Podcast Food for Thought" was, "Is there a shared meaning of ownership?" [Mini-cast 51 at the 5:03 mark.] And I'll say this kind of strongly, I believe the board of directors should have some contact with the employee owners at least annually. If you haven't met with your board of directors and you don't know your board of directors, I would very respectfully suggest to management and the board that there is great, great value in getting to know the employee owners of the company.
Bret Keisling: 09:08 So, right off the bat, schedule a town hall with your board if possible. Here's how you do it, and here's what a lot of companies do. We use the analogy often of "sharing the pie" in employee ownership, "growing the pie," et cetera. And that's a great way to say that if we work all work together, we get a piece of the pie. So if you're going to have a board town hall meeting, bring in pizzas. Some people call them pizza pies or otherwise, literally bring in pies for a little party, throw a dessert party. But the pies symbolize employee ownership.
Bret Keisling: 09:45 Let me give you one other example. Our friends at Gardener's Supply, great, great company, online Gardener's Supply and locations in New England. They have a customer appreciation day every December. Fun fact - and Cindy Turcot was on a couple of our podcasts, one of the great leaders at Gardener's Supply -- in their charter, the founders of the company in the company charter put a mandatory customer appreciation day every December. I love that.
Bret Keisling: 10:13 So what Gardener's has done is teamed up with King Arthur Flour, at least they did last December, and provided pies, pieces of pies, to every customer who came into the locations. I want to give a Twitter heads up to Beth Dumas of Gardener's Supply who brought this to my attention, someday I've promised Beth, I'm going to show up there myself with a bunch of pie. But now you can tie in a party for yourselves, you can do a customer appreciation thing, that sort of thing.
Bret Keisling: 10:41 One other just really quickly, a lot of companies, employee owned companies do either customer appreciation days or active service at various times during the year. On the one hand, it would be great if everybody did everything in October, but it's not necessary at all. And here's why. If you have a great program, an act of service, a celebration, anything that promotes employee ownership that you've done any time during the year, celebrate that. Nothing wrong in employee ownership saying, last March we held a fundraiser for schoolchildren. So don't forget, although we're celebrating in employee ownership and I'd love to see you do something connected to it in October, if you've done stuff throughout the year, just amplify that.
Bret Keisling: 11:38 Another cool thing you might consider is teaming up with employee owned companies in your area. Now, let me suggest if you're an established employee on company and you already do some sort of celebration or open house or that sort of thing, track down another employee owned company in your area, preferably one that maybe doesn't have a culture. Invite them over. Let them see what you're doing. Foster relationships in your own communities among employee owners. I really, truly believe that helps us all grow the sandbox.
Bret Keisling: 12:15 Let's talk for just a moment about advocacy. Advocacy is always really important. It would be great if you had public officials visit your company to learn about employee ownership and why employee ownership is so important to your company. A lot of times we focus on congressional leaders Congress people or senators. Certainly there's value in the state house. But let me make a suggestion to you. I am from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, kind of a small town. If you invite local elected officials -- towns, cities, townships, boroughs -- and you bring them to your company and you educate them about employee ownership. Here's why I think there's great value, in a lot of smaller communities the elected officials know everybody and if they get a sense that employee ownership really, really works as they know other company owners who might be considering transition, your local officials at a rotary meeting over a cocktail somewhere may be able to say, "Hey, look at employee ownership." On a bigger level and it's a bigger city and certainly the bigger the community, the tougher it is to have that small approach that I'm talking about. But the Pennsylvania CEO, PACEO and Kevin McPhillips have done a great job in outreach with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and there's an example of a larger city where they've worked with city council and it's just a wonderful way to grow the sandbox, but you can bring that down to a smaller level.
Bret Keisling: 13:52 Similarly, in New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey has made a commitment to employee ownership. That's absolutely great. By the way, if you're in the Newark area, connect with those for employee ownership.
Bret Keisling: 14:03 One of the thought is time is running short in planning. It may be tough to bring elected officials in in October, particularly frankly, the higher the office the more they're scheduled. But the one thing you could do is make an appointment, bring a handful of employee owners to the district office, ask if you can just talk to whoever manages the office, whoever the ranking person is and say, "Just want to tell you a little bit about employee ownership" and make future arrangements to have the elected official come down. One other thought about advocacy, and I just want to stress it, employee ownership, and I've said this before, is the only issue I can think of at this point in, in American history where at this point in American time I should say where it's bipartisan support. And no matter where you come, and I've said this a lot and everybody else has said this a lot, whether you've come from a kind of a conservative business background or you come from a progressive or a liberal or moderate background, employee ownership provides a lot of the answers we're all looking for.
Bret Keisling: 15:09 So what I like about engaging the elected officials, is remind them, and I'd remind them candidly, are you tired of fighting with everybody on the other side of the aisle? Here's an issue where if you can help, elected official, bring people together and come together on employee ownership, what a positive way to kind of cut down some of the frankly, ugliness that's going on in America right now.
Bret Keisling: 15:34 ESOP Association does a wonderful job of promoting Employee Ownership Month. They have a press kit available for their members. I'll be honest with you, I think it was two years ago where we inadvertently released a link to the press kit without realizing it was for members only. I didn't review the press kit this year prior to this podcast, 'cause to be honest with you, I didn't want inadvertently any suggestions they have to slip in to my thinking.
Bret Keisling: 16:02 But the fact that they call it a press kit, first of all, is a great reminder. Include the press on what you're doing. If it's a press release, whatever, it's a current celebration. If you're going to advocate with an elected official or even if you're just celebrating things you've done throughout the year, a press release or coverage helps grow that sandbox and helps get the story out. And that really does help all of us. ESOP Association has suggested that you use the hashtag E, O, M, E, S, O, P, EOMESOP on Twitter, #EOMESOP, and they'll pick up your tweets. They did a great job in 2018, don't know why they wouldn't do it in 2019, of bringing together a compilation of all of the tweets of employee, at least many of the tweets of employee ownership, last year. So if you hashtag it they're, you're going to be on their radar, and I suspect you'll get some retweets and mentions. We certainly are trying to retweet everybody we can at The KEISOP Group and the podcasts. If you're an employee on company and not an ESOP, on the one hand, if you use the same hashtag, you'll get on everybody's radar. And it's not like anybody will say, we're not going to talk about it, you're not an ESOP, but if you'd prefer, use the #EOMEO and we'll take a look for it here on our end and we'll try and highlight it. And I suspect if you're doing employee ownership month, the really great people at the ESOP Association and NCEO are going to help promote you.
Bret Keisling: 17:40 One other thing if you'd like to do, if you're doing anything in Employee Ownership Month, if you'd like to tag the podcast, or me personally on Twitter, we would love to help amplify and celebrate your story. And again, if you're doing something cool or exciting, we'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourselves.
Bret Keisling: 18:05 All right, as I wrap up, Friday's Mini-cast, I hope you'll join us. We're going to do a review from the Multi-state Conference, and I'm very excited because as our long-time listeners know, the conferences are where I get to meet in person with the experts. And so we're going to start having guests showing up in the next week or so. And we'll go back to what we've done in the past: less Bret, more guests.
Bret Keisling: 18:32 We'd love to hear from you about today's episode or anything related to employee ownership. There are a number of ways to contact us, but first it will help if you remember my name is Bret with one "T". You can email me at Bret@KEISOP.com that's B, R, E, T at KEISOP, K, E, I, S, O, P dot com, or find me on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling or on Twitter at E, O, Underscore, B, R, E, T. You can also find The KEISOP Group on Facebook.
Bret Keisling: 19:00 Finally, the standard disclaimers apply to this podcast. 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. This podcast is produced by The KEISOP Group thanks to our production team, including Third Circle, Inc and BitsyPlus Design. Archival podcast segments were edited and produced by Brian Keisling. The original theme music is composed by Max Keisling, and I'm Bret Keisling. Thanks for listening and have a great day.