Mini-cast 135: Vermont EO Conference with Matt Cropp


Bret Keisling is joined by Matt Cropp, executive director of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center, who describes the VEOC’s Virtual Annual Conference to be held June 3, 2021.


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Mini-cast 135 Transcript

Bret Keisling: [00:00:06] 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. The Vermont Employee Ownership Conference takes place on June 3rd, 2021 and this year it's virtual. I'm joined on the Mini-cast by Matt Cropp who's the executive director of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center [VEOC]. Matt is recognized as a national and international thought leader and doer in employee ownership generally and he has such an amazingly deep knowledge of ESOPs and co-ops.


Matt has appeared on our podcasts before most recently on Episode 150 of our primary EO/ESOP podcast, discussing with Leo Sammallahti and me about co-ops and a quest for an EO movement.


If you check out the show notes for this episode on our website at www.ESOPpodcast.com, you'll find a link to the Vermont conference registration as well as other information, including a transcript of this episode.


Here's Matt Cropp discussing the upcoming Vermont Employee Ownership Conference.


Vermont Employee Ownership Center logo

Matt Cropp: [00:01:25] June 3rd is going to be the 19th annual Vermont Employee Ownership Conference. Because we're not quite out of the woods on the pandemic, we are doing it remotely again this year with dreams of in-person in 2022. It's going to be a one day thing. And we are going to do at least some for folks who are in town and a in-person gathering and switch back at the end to outside -- toast a day of Zoom calls.


A good mix of stuff for, we always do a track for folks who are exploring employee ownership that covers both the ESOP, co-op paths and probably a little bit of content on employee ownership trusts as well. We usually have a couple of culture tracks that overlap, both people from established worker co-ops and ESOPs are interested in those and some technical sessions.


And really trying to think about, and I think everyone who's been trying to do events in this time has been really thinking about, okay, so you've got the educational content, but the other, I think really important function of our conference is that it's a hub and central point in building and maintaining a sense of community among Vermont's employee owned companies and the people in them. And what are the ways that we can still make it as -- using breakouts and other things like that --make it as engaging as possible in terms of creating opportunities for that kind of building relationships, finding other people with shared interests, and finding big and little opportunities for collaboration between companies, between the folks.

An introduction to the VEOC 2021 Virtual Conference Agenda

And for the new folks who are considering employee ownership, seeing all those people who do it day to day can really make it feel real and achievable in a way that simply reading up on the model, it doesn't get quite as concrete as that. Versus sitting at a lunch table with someone who's on an ESOP committee and hearing the nuts and bolts of how they communicate, what this means to all their coworkers.


And so I think it's going to be a pretty sort of rich varied the mixture of content and opportunities for networking and and hopefully really enjoyable for everyone involved.

Bret Keisling: [00:03:07] It's really great. And you'll have the Zoom version or the virtual version of it. But we're all looking forward to getting back to the in person conferences and I would encourage people to register whether you're in Vermont or not. And especially this is the year, since it's virtual, take advantage register for the conference and see the content.


If folks have the opportunity when you resume in person in 2022 and darn it, that's a policy [laughter] we are resuming before then. But I just want to say that one of the coolest things about your conference and a little bit to do with Vermont being a small state, but it's an intimate conference.


Your rooms are packed, but you can -- I would sit and just in the hallways, where your sponsor's display just have conversations and you'd see the same people. And it happens at the big conferences, but it really is a lot more intimate and a lot more opportunity to do meaningful networking.


Matt Cropp: [00:04:00] Yeah, it's usually about 200 to 250 people. You know, there's definitely people who are there every year. And then it's also oftentimes a good place for companies will send sort of new folks who are like, okay, yeah take a day, go and learn what this is now that you've been here for a year or something like that. To really get the their intro to, go to the practice session, the ESOP 101 type thing, and get the details on that.


And it's something where we're even, hopefully before that we're hoping in October to expand our usual employee ownership month party to have some kind of company focused educational content too. So that that's the time where we're like, all right, we can get people together in person. Let's throw a big party, probably at one of the employee owned companies here that's near the airport that has a big hangar, so we could fit lots of people in there if we wanted to, and kids could look at airplanes. And really bring that community together in a way that it's been challenging to. We found a decent ways to try to keep the flame lit in the meantime, but there's just something about the community building power of seeing bodies in a room, milling about, eating good food, having a beer, chatting and making new friends across the-- across companies.


Bret Keisling: [00:05:04] Anecdotally, Matt, I can tell you that of my 15 or 16 EO A-ha Moments, three of them have taken place at conferences. So you're absolutely right.


Now, I am curious about one thing, because you said something in passing. Hey, wouldn't it be cool to do something like a hangar by the airport and I'm imagining you don't have 80 companies with hangars! So I'm assuming not ready to announce it but you got something now you're working on.


Matt Cropp: [00:05:28] Yeah, yeah.


Bret Keisling: [00:05:28] That is very cool.


Matt Cropp: [00:05:30] We have the rough framework and then we're going to start hanging the items on it once we're over the hump of the June conference. Because, you know, June to October, we've got a little lead time there.


Bret Keisling: [00:05:38] Absolutely. And your hands are full with the conference. That's very cool.


If you're listening again, register for the conference. And as I've pointed out in various podcasts, and Matt, the folks who come from the organizations don't necessarily feel comfortable about financial issues, but a contribution to the Vermont Center is tax deductible. And so if folks want to support your work they can do that through your website. So I'd encourage that as well.

My thanks to Matt Cropp for joining me today. I hope you'll check out the Vermont Employee Ownership Conference. It should be a great and impactful day.


Bret Keisling: [00:06:06] Although the light has appeared at the end of the tunnel, our country and world continue to go through an awful lot together. And that's how we'll get through it, together. And that's in the best spirit of employee ownership.


Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling; be well.


Bitsy McCann: [00:06:30] 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 Descript, 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.