Mini-cast 119: Taylor Guitars Joins the EO Sandbox


Bret Keisling celebrates and congratulates the new employee owners at 100% ESOP Taylor Guitars, internationally recognized for their quality acoustic guitars.


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Mini-cast 119 Transcript

Bret Keisling: 00:07 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. There's an exciting addition to the EO sandbox. In January, 2021, Taylor Guitars announced that they've converted to a 100% ESOP. As you may know, Taylor is recognized internationally as the top supplier of premium acoustic guitars around the world.


Bret Keisling: 00:35 Let me tell you a little bit about Taylor Guitars and then I'll share a thought on why its conversion to an ESOP is particularly exciting. Taylor Guitars was founded in 1974 by Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug. As it says on the company website, they met while working at a hippie guitar shop in San Diego, and they bought the business when the owner of the shop retired. It's worth noting that when they bought the business, Bob was 19 and Kurt was 21. In the decade since then, Taylor has attracted a lot of really talented employees and build an admired culture of creativity and innovation.


Bret Keisling: 01:16 In 2011, Taylor hired luthier Andy Powers as master guitar designer. In 2019 he became an ownership partner along with Bob and Kurt. Listen to why they transitioned to an ESOP -- and again, this comes from the website, quote, "Rather than selling the company to another guitar company or outside investor, they felt the best way to position the company for future success was to entrust it to the people within who are the lifeblood of its innovative culture and have directly contributed to its growth and success," unquote.


Bret Keisling: 01:53 This is such a common theme in transitioning to employee ownership. In some ways, it might be easier to sell to a competitor or to dance with private equity, but there is no better way to ensure the company culture and the founder's legacy remains intact moving forward.


Bret Keisling: 02:11 Check out Taylor Guitars website. They have a lot of cool guitars and related products and as someone who's not particularly musically inclined, I'm really impressed with the beauty of the instruments and the many options for the musician or aspiring musician to add a guitar to their collection.

Bret Keisling: 02:28 Something else caught my eye on Taylor Guitars website that isn't related to ESOPs or employee ownership, but it caused me to dream a little bit about what Taylor Guitars can bring to the EO sandbox. There's a philanthropic collaboration between Taylor Guitars and 54 musical artists, including Zac Brown, Jason Mraz, and KT Tunstall. They all got together and performed a brand new song called "I Know What Love Is" to support music employees affected by COVID-19. This is a really cool and important effort that speaks to the culture of Taylor Guitars and the artists involved.



Bret Keisling: 03:08 That got me thinking; imagine a year or two down the road when Taylor Guitars gets a little more time in as an ESOP, once annual statements are issued, the employee owners are likely to become ESOP believers. I always like when companies have annual meetings to review the ESOP, imagine if Taylor brought in established or rising stars to participate in a statement meeting. It'd be really, really cool for all of their employee owners. Beyond the employees it'd be so beneficial to all of us if some famous folks got on the employee ownership bandwagon and helped to spread the word. Perhaps artists participating in an annual statement meeting could learn enough and see enough to become a visible advocate. It's just a thought, but I'd love to see Taylor Guitars in some fashion use its connections to promote the cause. Again, once they get a little time under their belt.


Bret Keisling: 04:05 One way or the other, it's very exciting to have Taylor Guitars become a 100% ESOP. Congratulations to all of the new employee owners! You'll find an awful lot of us rooting for your continued success.


Bret Keisling: 04:19 On a programming note, we have wrapped up our Winter Wonderland [see #EsOpWonderland] where we brought you the best interviews of 2020 and we're ready to bring back new content. Over the next six weeks we've got some tremendous guests. Dan Mickle, who is a sports psychology consultant, will be on this coming Tuesday, followed by Tracy Till who's an independent board member advocate and co-founder of Butler/Till, an amazing employee owned company. We also have a podcast already recorded with Steve Storkan and Jennifer Krieger who take us through how the Texas CEO [Center for Employee Ownership] was established. We're also recording episodes with Ivette Torres, who is the conference planner of NCEO [the National Center for Employee Ownership] who is going to share all the amazing things NCEO has had to do to switch to an online conference presence. Chris Fredericks, who is the CEO of TVF will be joining us as well as Thomas Dudley who is the co-founder and CEO of Certified EO.


Bret Keisling: 05:24 So, a lot of great programming coming up! We're excited to be back with new content. And with that, we'll wrap things up today.


Bret Keisling: 05:31 Folks, we see the light at the end of the tunnel in our country, but we still got some tunnel to go through. We're going through a lot together. It's how we're going to get through it -- together -- and that's the best spirit of employee ownership. Thank you so much for listening today. Hope you'll check us out Tuesday. This is Bret Keisling; be well.


Bitsy McCann: 05:57 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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