top of page

Mini-cast 118: EO & Unity with Tracy Till

Bret Keisling is joined by Tracy Till, co-founder of Butler/Till and proponent of independent board members, to discuss unity and EO in this short excerpt from an upcoming episode.


Mini-cast 118 Transcript

Bret Keisling: 00:03 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. On our primary EO/ESOP Podcast, which comes out on Tuesdays. We've been running our best of 2020 interviews for about three weeks now. The plan was simple; take a few weeks off so that we could all recharge our batteries. I don't know about you, but in the last couple of weeks, I didn't do much battery recharging at all. But hope springs eternal and I believe in my heart that collectively we'll find our path to a future that will benefit us all.

Bret Keisling: 00:44 The day after President Biden's inauguration, I had the pleasure of recording an upcoming podcast episode with Tracy Till. Tracy is a co-founder of Butler/Till, she's the former co-CEO and former vice chair and chair person of the board of directors, she's also the national co-chair of the marketing committee of the Private Directors Association, and she serves as an independent board member for an ESOP company.

Bret Keisling: 01:09 I've done a lot of thinking about unity this week, and in many ways it's one of the hallmarks of employee ownership. If you talk about working together for the common good, where everybody benefits, you're talking about employee ownership.

Bret Keisling: 01:23 The full episode with Tracy is wonderful, and we're going to bring it to you mid- to late- February, 2021, but I wanted to share this excerpt where I asked her for her thoughts about unity in the employee ownership space.

Bret Keisling: 01:39 You and I are recording this on January 21st [2021], there was an inauguration yesterday that people might've heard about and without talking politics at all -- and you've just covered about some of the important things of EO. The word of the week is unity and I keep thinking back to when I was a GM of a furniture company in the 'eighties, when -- I was in my mid-twenties, I wasn't in my eighties [laughter] -- and the warehouse guys were at war with the sales reps and it was turf and who's saving the company. So when I hear unity, it's all the pieces. Can you share a little bit about what the call for unity means to you in the employee ownership context?

Tracy Till: 02:25 Yeah, for me, anyway, I think that there's so many good groups out there who are doing independently good work for the right reasons. I think the story is being told and being supported and being elevated, you know, you can't say enough about what NCEO is doing and ESOP Association and the new state centers aligned with the EOX team and the Certified EO groups and more. But I think what we're trying to do is to say for the betterment of this country for the betterment of, you know, businesses and employees and just humans, we need all these entities to be unified together. We need the EOX to be a voice for employee ownership across the United States as an option. And we need to funnel these groups into, once they become ESOPs, into The ESOP Association, into the NCEO, into ESCA, all these entities. So that needs to be a flow back and forth amongst the groups and be supportive.

Tracy Till: 03:33 I think then the other end of that is on the city and state and national level is to have government endorse it, the Small Business Associations, the Chamber of Commerce, the, the other associations aligned to businesses, you know, if they're builders or plumbers or whatever they are. It doesn't have to be service and it doesn't have to be manufacturing. So unity to me is about building this ecosystem, as you say, and doing it with the right mission and fearlessly together. That's unity.

Bret Keisling: 04:09 I think that's great, Tracy, and I was trying to, in my mind, apply your example to the metaphor for the company and we, in employee ownership, our favorite metaphor is "the pie." We share the pie, we grow the pie, et cetera. And if we look around the country and we tie it to ESOP Association and NCEO and ESCA as well, it would be akin to, hey, we are the employee ownership organizations, we are "the pie," and we're going to fight over the pie. What you're saying is, as other organizations proliferate, including ones that haven't been thought of yet of which I will support it is all of that's going to help to grow us all together. It's going to make the employee ownership pie together. And so for me, first of all, the unity -- boy, if we can knock down the temperature in anything in employee ownership, the country, we will feel better. But if we're working in this unity, we're growing the pie significantly and everybody gets a piece.

Tracy Till: 05:14 Yeah, I think, you know, we all need to sit down at a big communal table and have share a meal and, you know, just remember what the outcome's all about.

Bret Keisling: 05:23 You're going to love the full episode with Tracy Till she'll discuss Butler/Till the importance of independent board of directors and why it's critical to have more of the folks who built employee owned businesses have a louder voice in growing the EO sandbox.

Bret Keisling: 05:37 If you like what we're doing, we really do appreciate it. If you'd subscribe or like our podcast, wherever you get podcasts and all of our archives, there's almost 250 of them are available on our website at

Bret Keisling: 05:50 I'm going to close this Mini-cast the way I've closed them all since March, 2020, which to me signifies the very best of unity and employee ownership. We're going through a lot together right now and that's how we'll get through it, together. Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling, have a great day.

Bitsy McCann: 06:17 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.


bottom of page