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Mini-cast 192: Meier Supply's EO A-ha Moments

Four EO A-ha Moments from Meier Supply

Bret Keisling shares EO A-ha Moments from four co-owners at Meier Supply Co., Inc. It's not the first time they heard about employee ownership or ESOPs, but when they realized it could be transformative. Spoiler alert: it's about ESOP account balances and wealth creation.

The EO A-ha Moments are from Robert Tomaka, CPA, Meier Supply's CFO, who appeared Episode 206 of The EsOp Podcast, and Dave Laliberte, Victoria Babb, and Tim Fernet who appeared on Episode 23 of the Owner to Owner podcast with Jesse Tyler.


About Meier Supply Co., Inc.:

Founded in 1957, Meier Supply is an employee-owned wholesale distributor of HVAC & Refrigeration products with a rich history and family culture. With more than 100 employees and 17 locations in New York and Pennsylvania, the company’s core values (Excellence, Trust, People, and Respect) align strongly with its Mission Statement, “Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed”.

As an ESOP, Meier Supply values the contribution of every employee, providing an environment conducive to exceptional customer service, productivity and personal growth. The company is currently managed by the third generation of the Meier family and employs several members of the fourth generation.

With five distinct divisions (Commercial Refrigeration, HVAC, Technical/Training, Controls, and Applied Products), Meier Supply provides service and support throughout the HVACR community in NY and PA, partnering with the best vendors and manufacturers in the industry. Their executive offices and state-of-the-art distribution center are located in Conklin, NY.

Meier Supply Co., Inc. is hiring!


Mini-cast 192 Transcript

[00:00:00] Bret Keisling: 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. This week on our primary EO/ESOP Podcast, I had a conversation with Bob Tomaka, the CFO of Meier Supply Company, Inc. Meanwhile on the Owner to Owner podcast, host Jesse Tyler featured a conversation with three great co-owners at Meier Supply: Dave Laliberte, Victoria Babb, and Tim Fernet.

[00:00:38] It was special for us at the EO Podcast Network because Meier Supply this week celebrated its 30th anniversary as an ESOP and we were happy to join in the celebration. I hope you'll check out both episodes.

[00:00:49] One thing that struck me was the consistency of the EO A-ha Moments. So, I thought it would be fun on the Mini-cast to play all four of the A-ha Moments for you and then I'll end the episode with a few comments.

[00:01:00] To kick us off, here's Jesse Tyler, who will explain the EO A-ha Moment, and we'll hear from his three guests. And then I'll pose the same question to Bob Tomaka.

[00:01:09] Here's Jesse Tyler.


[00:01:11] Jesse Tyler: So, we like to ask our guests to share their EO A-ha Moment. So, it's not the first time you heard about employee ownership, or even when you started to like it. If you had a moment where you were like, A-ha! this is going to be really cool, we'd love to hear that.

[00:01:24] Dave, could you kick us off if you had one to share?

[00:01:27] Dave Laliberte: Yeah. So, point blank, it was the first time that I ran my account balance projector. So, we have this ESOP connections website that we send all of our co-owners after they receive their first certificate. It wasn't soon after I got my first certificate after only being with the company 12 months that I got on that ESOP projector and realized that, you know, at the end of all this, I could be a millionaire.

[00:01:50] So, I mean, it opened my eyes pretty quickly.

[00:01:52] Jesse Tyler: That's great. That's great. It sounds like a clear A-ha Moment. I can see it in your face. That's great. It's the longer view. It's, it's patience, it's dedication and the longer view. And it's amazing what can happen to people's personal wealth.

[00:02:04] Victoria, did you have an A-ha Moment you'd like to share?

[00:02:08] Victoria Babb: Yeah. So, you know, I was hired directly out of college, so I was young, and it took me a little bit to get the hang of it and to understand what it really was. And for me, it was when I had a family.

[00:02:19] So, once I had my daughter and I realized like, when I retire, like, you know, I need to be financially set. I need to not have that responsibility fall on her. So, I started looking into it and that's when it fully clicked. Like, it's right here, it's been here the whole time and I just didn't understand it.

[00:02:36] Jesse Tyler: That's great. Thank you for sharing that. Tim, what was your A-ha Moment?

[00:02:40] Tim Fernet: For me, it was my very first ESOP contribution.

[00:02:44] It was a hell of a lot bigger than I was expecting it to be and that it just, it blew me away. And I, I remember saying to my manager at the time I go, this, this is mine? To keep? And he was like, yeah, that's yours. You know? And that just made a pretty big impact on me at that point.

[00:02:57] Jesse Tyler: That's great.

[00:02:58] That's great. I appreciate you sharing that.


[00:02:59] Bret Keisling: And I'm wondering have you had an EO A-ha Moment or two you'd like to share with us?

[00:03:04] Bob Tomaka: Absolutely. There's one that really, really sticks out to me, Bret. About four years ago, we had one of our retirees from Meier Supply, who I'd been working with for several years, as they were trying to learn more about some of their retirement benefits when they would get their funds. And then finally, when everything all settled down, they came into my office and they were practically in tears seeing, you know, kind of once it all came together and seeing, you know, what their balance was like and all their hard years of work and service. And they were just so grateful and thankful to be part of an employee-owned company for the 30 years that they were here and what Meier Supply had done for them.

[00:03:36] And it was just really touching to see how much it really meant to people. Because even though, yeah, I'm very close with most of our co-owners here, I still don't get a lot of chance to dialogue with all of them on a daily basis. So, having someone reach out to me and talk to me about how important employee ownership was and how it really is going to transform and really change their retirement and seeing them breaking down into tears of all the things that employee ownership has created for them.

[00:04:00] I've always been a big proponent of employee ownership, as you know, Bret. And this was one thing that really even put me over the top in, you know, seeing how much it really affects our retirees.

[00:04:08] Bret Keisling: Bob, there would be nothing wrong in a traditional business where someone works for you for 30 years, they come in, they retire, they go off with a watch and a hardy pat on the back. But the differentiation for employee ownership is that we change lives, not just during the course of the career, but in and through retirement.


[00:04:28] Bret Keisling: One of the hot topics in employee ownership right now is the attention we're getting from private equity. There've been numerous conversations and posts, et cetera, about what really is employee ownership.

[00:04:40] On a recent episode of the ESOP podcast, Project Equity's CEO, Evan Edwards talked about what he called the gold standard of employee ownership, which he defined as equity, engagement, and governance. I agree with Evan's definition and that's the form of EO that I generally promote.

[00:04:56] But as I listened to all four of these A-ha Moments from Meier Supply, I was struck by the reminder that ESOPs are fundamentally a retirement plan. Engagement and governance are very important for job satisfaction and those things are what make many ESOPs the special places to work that they are. But at the end of the day, and at the end of someone's career, it's the wealth that's being accumulated through employee ownership that really differentiates employee-owned companies from non-employee-owned companies.

[00:05:24] We'll include links in our show notes to Episode 23 of the Owner to Owner podcast, which featured Jesse's conversation with the Meier Supply employee owners, as well as Episode 206 of the EO/ESOP podcast with Bob Tomaka of Meier Supply. I hope you'll check them out.

[00:05:39] Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.


[00:05:43] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you. You can find us on Facebook at EO Podcast Network and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. This podcast has been produced by Bret Keisling for the EO Podcast Network, original music composed by Max Keisling, branding and marketing by BitsyPlus Design, 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.


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