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Mini-cast 101: What's Your EO A-Ha Moment?

Woman pointing finger and saying "A-Ha" with the ESOP Podcast logo

Many people love EO. Bret Keisling shares his "A-Ha Moment," that moment where the true positivity, power, and potential of employee ownership became clear to him.

What's your "A-Ha Moment"?


Mini-cast 101 Transcript

Bret Keisling: 00:07 Hello, my friends and welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast, thanks for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. As we're releasing this episode on September 25th, 2020, we are just days away from October, which as you know is Employee Ownership Month.

Bret Keisling: 00:28 Employee Ownership Month has been one of my favorite months for years now, one of my favorite holidays, if you will. For those who followed last year, each week during Employee Ownership Month I'd visit unexpectedly, unannounced, different employee owned companies or service providers and I would deliver pie as part of Employee Ownership Month. You probably know, "share the pie!"

Bret Keisling: 00:52 I can't do this this year because of COVID, but I'm so looking forward to seeing all of the different companies post on Twitter and LinkedIn and social media. If you tag your posts with either #EOM or hashtag #EmployeeOwnershipMonth we'll try and help share them and if you're on Twitter, if you'd like to go ahead and tag you the podcast or myself, we'll make sure that we help publicize your great efforts.

Bret Keisling: 01:18 As I've thought about Employee Ownership Month coming up. I've been thinking about all of the great passionate employee owners and advocates and practitioners who very much believe that employee ownership is wonderful and can address so many issues important to all of us.

Bret Keisling: 01:35 But I'm not alone in having what I'll call the "A-Ha Moment." The moment where I suddenly realized, in my case ESOPs at the time, but employee ownership, wasn't just a good idea - it was a great idea! I'm going to share my A-Ha Moment with you and then I hope at the end of the episode you'll listen to our contact information and reach out to us and let us know your A-Ha Moment. I'd love to share them.

Bret Keisling: 02:02 I completed my first ESOP transaction in 2009. There were three brothers in Central Pennsylvania and I was their outside counsel at the time and according to a plan, after the transaction, about a month after the transaction was completed, I joined the company as Senior Vice President with an eye to elevating to CEO in a few months time. So a couple of months after the transaction, we're having a meeting with the employees. It wasn't the kickoff meeting, but it was a subsequent meeting about two months later and we're discussing employee ownership and what it means to be an ESOP and how the company would change and how it wouldn't change and one of our employees who was a service technician, a great guy, a really talented guy. By the way, the company sold and serviced commercial laundry equipment. The kind of really huge equipment, for example, that casinos would use covering, you know, a couple of city blocks.

Bret Keisling: 02:54 So the people who fix these machines and kept them running are very talented and very dedicated people. So one of these service technicians asked at the meeting, if he could make a suggestion and he proposed that in order to support the ESOP that everybody give up their Christmas bonuses, put the money back into the company, and that would help grow the company. This suggestion was made in October. And that was the "A-Ha Moment." When a guy who's just a working person wants to give up a benefit and put it back into the company. I went, A-ha!

Bret Keisling: 03:37 Now, I do want to explain a little bit about his suggestion. It was October, I was new to the company. The specific idea wasn't a great idea. First of all, it's never a good idea in my mind to ever withdraw a benefit and substitute employee ownership for it. Employee ownership should be a benefit, but if it becomes a trade off, it really just becomes part of your à la carte of perks, if you will. So I don't like the idea of saying we're going to take away profit sharing, or we're going to take away bonuses, to support employee ownership. It's just not a good trade off.

Bret Keisling: 04:17 Secondarily, as we all know, the first year you're at a company and you get a Christmas bonus, it might be a bonus. Although it's called bonuses every year after that, the reality is we tend to count on them. We tend to expect them and we certainly look at them as a way to rate our own performance. In terms of it being October, none of his colleagues knew that he was suggesting giving up Christmas bonuses. I suspect his spouse did not know. And in that sense, it would have been very jarring.

Bret Keisling: 04:48 And then the third thing, and it's very coincidental, and I say this, and I say it with a chuckle, so if it makes you laugh that's okay. I happen to be Jewish. I was a month into the company. As, as incoming CEO. There was no way in heck I was going to cancel Christmas!

Bret Keisling: 05:04 But I hope you'll agree, this type of suggestion and something so important as someone's Christmas bonus, that is the spirit of coming together for an ESOP. The thought behind that idea, even if the idea itself wasn't great, that is the spirit and that's the Holy Grail that I've been trying to find in all my years as an ESOP trustee and now as an employee ownership advocate and podcaster.

Bret Keisling: 05:35 If you have an "A-Ha story," I would love to hear it. I would love to share it. You can reach out in the contact information that you'll hear in just a moment. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you have a wonderful Employee Ownership Month and I do hope you share that in social media and let us share it with you.

Bret Keisling: 05:54 Take care of yourself and those around you. We're going through tough times together. That's how we'll get through them, together. This is Bret Keisling. Have a great day.

Bitsy McCann: 06:05 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.

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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