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Mini-cast 110: On Giving Thanks and Pie

Bret Keisling gives thanks for robust EO organizations; the return of EO transactions; and owners creating wealth. Also: A look at the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH which is doing amazing, innovative things.

You can make a #GivingTuesday donation to The Fund For Employee Ownership here.


Mini-cast 110 Transcript

Bret Keisling: 00:05 Welcome to the ESOP Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. As this episode releases on Friday, November 27th, 2020. I hope you've had a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving. This has been an unprecedented year for all of us, and by most accounts we're in for some more bumpiness before we can put the pandemic behind us, but even with all of the challenges there's much to be thankful for in employee ownership.

Bret Keisling: 00:40 As we've seen during previous economic downturns, employee owned companies are faring better than non-EO companies with fewer layoffs, pay cuts, or closings to give just a few examples. Indeed, we see reports every day, especially on social media of employee owned companies who are doing very well right now. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, Doug Schukar the founder and CEO of USA Mortgage shared that they're having a banner year in their recession proof industry.

Bret Keisling: 01:13 It's also important to remember that in addition to faring better in this economy, employee owners, where their companies survive, continue to work towards their retirement, which for many is what employee ownership is all about. I hear anecdotally that transactions in the ESOP space have begun to resume with some professionals reporting a very robust fourth quarter.

Bret Keisling: 01:38 I wasn't surprised when transactions slowed down at the start of the pandemic, and I'm not surprised now that things are heating up. Our EO organizations and advocates are doing a lot of really great, groundbreaking work. I happen to believe that if employee ownership ever reaches critical mass and becomes a movement, then 2020 will be looked at as a transformational year.

Bret Keisling: 02:02 For most of the 12 years that I've been in this field, certainly focused primarily on ESOPs, the landscape has been dominated by two or three of the big players -- and don't get me wrong, I love the big players! We've talked about them a lot on the podcast. But now we're seeing state centers spring up around the country. By the way, Steve Storkan, who is the executive director of EOX, will be on next Tuesday's podcast to talk about the seven new state centers in his network. Other organizations such as Project Equity, Democracy at Work Institute, and Fifty by Fifty are all doing great things.

Bret Keisling: 02:42 So let me tie a couple of threads together. The transactional pipeline is filling up. The organizations are doing a great job of either supporting employee ownership or working to grow employee ownership. We need more professionals specializing in employee ownership, and we need these additional practitioners to support the organizations that are working to grow the employee ownership sandbox. It's for the exact same reason we sing the praises of employee ownership generally. If our pipeline is filling up, and I've said this for a few years now, we need to build a bigger pipeline. It's not that we'll be sharing the same pie among more practitioners and organizations. We're going to make the pie much, much bigger.

Bret Keisling: 03:38 So I'm thankful for where employee ownership is as we wrap up 2020. And there's something else that I'm excited about the bears well for the future. I've always believed, as many people have, that once the pandemic is under control, that our economy will return better than ever. It's kind of what we do in the United States after an economic challenge. Now, President-elect Biden calls his economic recovery plan "build back better." And again, let me stress, whoever won the election there'd be an economic recovery, but here's what I love and I'm optimistic about Joe Biden's "build back better." Part of the components that are being discussed include building back better in a fairer way, have more commitment to diversity, economic justice, racial and sexual pay discriminations going by the wayside, turning the economy to working for all of us, rather than a select few shareholders. That's exactly what employee ownership is all about. And employee ownership builds our communities and makes them stronger.

Bret Keisling: 05:01 And I'm going to give you a fabulous example: The Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio are just doing innovative work in employee ownership, and they're becoming literally a global model for how to build back their communities. The Evergreen Cooperatives are made up of several affiliated employee owned companies.

Bret Keisling: They include Evergreen Energy Solutions, which since 2009 has been a regional leader in the state-of-the-art, next-generation LED lighting systems, solar power and other energy-efficient solutions.

Bret Keisling: Green City Growers: They grow fresh, produce high quality, sustainably grown, tasty lettuce, gourmet greens, and herbs and they provide them to leading grocers restaurants and food service throughout northeast Ohio.

Bret Keisling: The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry: This actually caught my attention two or three years ago. They provide laundry services, commercial laundry services, to hospitality, healthcare, and hotels. Here's what I love about this and why it caught my attention. In 2008, I did my first transaction, ESOP transaction, that led me to becoming CEO of a 50 employee100% ESOP. We sold and serviced commercial laundry equipment. I love the fact that someone is in that space here in Cleveland and they're proceeding, not just as employee owned, but as a co-op.

Bret Keisling: But the Evergreen Collectives [correction: Cooperatives] do so much more and this is what's key. They also have a fund that invests in employee owned entities to help them start up. It's called The Fund for Employee Ownership.

Bret Keisling: All of the focus on the Evergreen Collectives [correction: Cooperatives] seems to be twofold. One, running quality businesses because that's where it starts and two, being a significant part of their communities, adding stability to the communities through better stable jobs and providing people a reason to stay in their communities and help make them prosper.

Bret Keisling: Now, the Evergreen Collectives [correction: Cooperatives] caught my attention this week because they are soliciting donations for #GivingTuesday. A lot of EO organizations are, and a lot of EO companies are doing a lot of great things for #GivingTuesday. And I love it. It's part of what employee ownership is all about helping ourselves while helping with others. But I hope you'll consider making a donation to the Evergreen Collectives [correction: Cooperatives] because what they are doing by investing in new startups, new co-ops new collectives, working with employee ownership is taking the values that we hold dear and turning them into real boots on the ground action.

Bret Keisling: We will include a link to the Evergreen Collectives [correction: Cooperatives] in our show notes. I hope you'll check them out and I hope you'll consider making a donation to them. Meanwhile, anything you do to support employee ownership, whether it's buying an employee owned product or service, whether it's volunteering or donating to an EO organization, or whether you're a professional, who's just helping to grow the sandbox by creating new transactions, new employee ownership, et cetera, et cetera. Thank you so much for everything that you're doing.

Bret Keisling: As I said before, I do believe that down the road, this is going to be looked at as a transformational year. That as crazy and unusual as the year was a lot of folks in employee ownership, got the job done and moved the ball forward.

Bret Keisling: Thank you so much for listening. I hope you'll check out for all of our archived episodes. You can also get them wherever you get your podcasts. And if you'd like to support our work, we'd be very appreciative. If you'd subscribe or follow or like our episodes. It won't cost you a penny, but it does mean a lot to us.

Bret Keisling: I hope the remainder of your holiday season is peaceful and happy. And as I've been saying, since the spring, we're going through an awful lot in this country together, and we're going to get through it in the best spirit of employee ownership -- together. This is Bret Keisling. Thank you so much for listening.

Bitsy McCann: 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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