Mini-cast 109: From EO "Huh?" to "A-ha!"



Vince Kruse joins Bret Keisling to share his EO "A-ha Moment." When USA Mortgage became an ESOP, Vince said “huh?” Before long, it turned to “a-ha!”


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Mini-cast 109 Transcript

Bret Keisling: 00:05 Hello, my friends and welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. In September, 2020 on Episode 101 of the Mini-cast, I shared my EO "A-ha Moment" -- that moment, where I realized holy moly employee ownership was something different. I posted that on Twitter and a number of people shared their A-ha Moments. I recorded and shared a number of them on podcast episodes. You can find them as well as all of our archived episodes www.ESOPpodcast.com.


Bret Keisling: 00:43 Today, I'm really happy to have our friend Vince Kruse back on the podcast to share his story. And what you're going to hear is that it doesn't start with an A-ha Moment -- at first, we don't know what to think! Have a listen.


Bret Keisling: 01:03 Vince Kruse, my friend and employee owner at USA Mortgage. Thanks for coming back on the podcast.

Vince Kruse: 01:12 I'm good. Thanks for having me again.


Bret Keisling: 01:14 Vince, we've been sharing EO A-ha Moments with lots of people. You were on the podcast a couple of weeks ago. Your boss, Doug Schukar is going to be on the primary ESOP podcast Tuesday, but I wanted to get your A-ha Moment, if you would.


Vince Kruse: 01:31 I'd be happy to. How I got to an A-ha Moment, and it really started with a "huh?" moment. It was announced to us that we were becoming owners of the company kind of in surprise at our company kickoff party. And so we all kind of found out at the same time that we just, you know, a few weeks prior had just bought the company from the founder, Doug Schukar. And we were all sitting in a big auditorium, you know, doing the presentation portion of our company party and it was announced to us that we were selling the company and, you know, a lot of concern and nerves kind if went high there. And then when it was announced, you know, it kind of slipped through some of the potential suitors that wanted to buy the company kind of listed off some other big banks out there, but then went to, you know, panned out to us on the video that it was all the employees who had just bought the company!


Vince Kruse: 02:27 It was really cool, exciting everybody was pumped, but we didn't, none of us knew what that meant. We were just like, wait, do we owe him a bunch of money now? Like, do we have to pay our paycheck back? Like what's going on?


Vince Kruse: 02:36 So it was a big "huh?" moment for me and I did a deep dive. I, you know how some people like hear something and jump on to Wikipedia. I jumped into any resource I could find, which was very little at the time. There's more now, but not, not a ton more -- your podcast being one of them that really let me get off the ground with that.

Vince Kruse: 02:56 But my big "A-ha Moment "was after getting into all that going to, I think the first conference was in Kansas City that I had gone to for the Heart of America chapter. And just sitting through some of the classes, some of the sessions learning about like from a completely unrelated to our company standpoint, it wasn't the owner trying to tell us, hey guys, this is cool because of this. Or, you know, somebody else telling us why it was cool. It was just ESOP professionals explaining to us here's what these things mean. And you know, at the kind of entry-level, the 101 course level explanation of this is exciting because of this. This is what this really means. When they tell you that you don't, you're not paying into it. You don't owe any money, you don't invest your own cash into this. It was like, oh... Wow! A-ha!


Vince Kruse: 03:51 You know, they really did mean this! Like this wasn't just kind of like a cool PR piece to send out and tell the employees to be excited about it so we can tell, you know, future employees, recruiting, whatever else. It's not like some made up thing. Like, yeah... it doesn't really mean anything though. Like, this is real, this is solid. This is, it's a government established program. Like we really did transact. The company was sold from the founder to the ESOP trust. And really learning that and hearing it from a variety of other ESOP related professionals and seeing other people from companies that were also employee owners and all the other stuff that goes on at these conventions, it was really eye-opening. Because it was no longer, you know, the ESOP sandbox that I was aware of was my company. I didn't know of anybody else that had ever said anything about an employee owned thing, any employee owned company. It was literally just, oh.. are we like the first one? You know, what is this?


Vince Kruse: 04:58 And and that was really neat was to find out, you know, I sat at a table with a guy that worked at a company up the street from our home office. Okay, cool. So we've made a connection. We've had a kind of a networking group since then of other local, you know, we're there probably within five or six zip code area where we live, where we live and work, of other people that worked for employee owned companies. And it's been really cool to help create that relationship and keep that relationship going just for us to kind of have our own brainstorming, networking kind of situation, where we can talk about what we're doing in October and what we're doing throughout the year.


Bret Keisling: 05:38 Vince, here's what I love about this. You had that "huh?" moment and it's an important reminder. So many people did, I've been focused on the A-ha Moments. So many people were like, uhh... it sounds interesting. And you took us through that. I love that you did the deep dive, but it was the Heartland of America Chapter of the ESOP Association where you just at that conference, that was the A-ha Moment. And now everything else that you've done, all of the work you're doing as an ambassador at USA Mortgage, all of the work you've done with other companies in St. Louis, coming on the podcast, sharing your story, all of that really does spring from that A-ha Moment. Am I right?


Vince Kruse: 06:18 Yes, that exactly the origin there for me.

Bret Keisling: 06:21 Vince, next Tuesday on the primary podcast, your boss, Doug Schukar is going to be on. He's going to talk about USA Mortgage's origin story. He's going to talk about how gangbusters they're doing. He's going to talk about how important the ESOP has been to USA Mortgage from his perspective as the founder and selling shareholder. But one of the things I learned on that episode with Doug, as you and I have talked about, you guys are really freaking busy. So I'm going to let you go have you go back and do your thing, but thank you so much for sharing your A-ha Moment and if there are other employee owners out there in any company, I hope they'll reach out to me, Vince, just like you did a year, year and a half ago and I'd love to share those A-ha Moments as well.


Vince Kruse: 07:09 Thanks again for having me on!


Bret Keisling: 07:09 All right, my friends, thank you so much for listening. If you'd like to support our work, we really do appreciate it if wherever you get your podcasts, you like, follow, or subscribe and help spread the word. Our country's going through an awful lot right now, we're going through it together and that's how we'll get through it, together.


Bret Keisling: 07:29 And that's what employee ownership is all about. This is Bret Keisling. Have a great day.


Bitsy McCann: 07:37 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.

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