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Mini-cast 194: 3 Words to Describe EO

Bret Keisling shares an excerpt from the Owner to Owner podcast with Jesse Tyler, and guests Jessica Carlson of King Arthur Baking Company, Sarah Diaz of Switchback Brewing, and Kadie Brenes of PC Construction, who each share three words to describe employee ownership and what they mean to them. Recorded live at the Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC) Annual Conference.

...or watch it on video here.


About the Vermont Employee Ownership Center:

The Vermont Employee Ownership Center is a statewide non-profit whose mission is to promote and foster employee ownership in order to broaden capital ownership, deepen employee participation, retain jobs, increase living standards for working families, and stabilize communities. They provide information and resources to owners interested in selling their business to their employees, employee groups interested in purchasing a business, and entrepreneurs who wish to start up a company with broadly shared ownership.

About PC Construction:

PC Construction is a 100% employee-owned construction firm providing integrated construction services through a full range of delivery methods. They excel at projects of all sizes – from a single office fit-up to water supply programs valued at over $300 million.

About Switchback Brewing Company:

Founder, brewmaster and president Bill Cherry took a bold step in 2017 when he turned ownership of the brewery over to the employees. Switchback is now 100% employee owned via an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and will remain locally-owned and -operated forever. Switchback is the first Vermont brewery to operate under this structure.

In addition to Cherry, the brewery is operated by a management team with an off-site board of directors providing occasional support. It's a collaborative management style and environment of ingenuity that assures Switchback will always be made locally by real brewers and not high-production operations.

The best news? Beer fans can count on the brewery to provide a great beer experience every time they choose Switchback beer.

About King Arthur Baking Company:

King Arthur Baking Company is 100% employee owned, and believes in the power of baking to make a difference — for people and the planet. They work to build stronger communities and increase access and connection to real foods. They take pride in their responsible sourcing and "never bleached" guarantee. And they work closely with farmers, millers, and suppliers in a continued commitment toward sustainability.


Mini-cast 194 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, we released a great new episode of the Owner to Owner podcast with Jesse Tyler. It was recorded live in June at the Vermont Employee Ownership Center's annual conference.

[00:00:28] Jesse led a session called "What Does Ownership Mean to You?" which essentially was a live version of a regular Owner to Owner podcast episode. You can find Episode 24 and all of Jesse's episodes at

[00:00:43] Today, I want to bring you a clip from that episode. Jesse's panelists were Jessica Carlson of King Arthur Baking Company, Sarah Diaz of Switchback Brewing, and Kadie Brenes of PC Construction. In this clip, Jesse asked the panelists what three words they use to describe employee ownership and then he asked them to expand on why they chose those words.

[00:01:05] Here's Jesse Tyler and his guests.


[00:01:08] Jesse Tyler: But in this moment, if you describe ownership in just three words, what would you choose for words? Katie first.

[00:01:15] Kadie Brenes: Belonging, responsibility, and opportunity.

[00:01:18] Sarah Diaz: Connection, longevity, and passion.

[00:01:21] Jess Carlson: Communication, equity, and inclusivity.

[00:01:23] Jesse Tyler: That's awesome. I've recorded at least 20 of these that's the first time people have actually done it in three words! [Laughter.] What's fun about the question, and I'd encourage folks in the room and listeners is, when people answer, there's often a really insightful context that follows that, that sort of let me explain, this is my experience.

[00:01:42] So, I'm going to invite a second question. Do you want to start like a little bit more, repeat your words and give us a little context? This is, this is personal. Yeah. Give us more. Yeah.

[00:01:51] Jess Carlson: So, mine were community, equity, and inclusivity. I'm very much like a real person. So, I was like, we have to have three succinct words. So, that's why I did that. I think for me, I haven't been at King Arthur for a very long tenure, so I'm about that year and a half mark, which I think is very interesting with employee ownership, because I'm still finding my way.

[00:02:09] My first day was actually during October and Employee Ownership Month when we were doing our stock price reveal. And so, I was sitting on that session being like, " what is going on?" Kind of like too much stuff on that first day to really understand how it all worked.

[00:02:22] But I think one of the great things at King Arthur, we've been around since 1790 and this is our 26th year as an ESOP. So, we have a ton of, kind of, institutional knowledge. We've had folks who've been there before we've become an ESOP. We've had people who have started during the pandemic. So, it really runs the gamut.

[00:02:39] And one of the great things is that I think there's this really great sense of community around how we've evolved as an organization and that any time someone new joins, it doesn't matter if you've been here for 25 years, or if you're just starting yesterday, there is that feeling of belonging and inclusivity within the organization, especially as we grow and we change kind of how our culture is seen because pre-pandemic a majority of our workforce was on site and now we're kind of all over the US. We have hybrid, we have still on site. So, I think as we're changing, I think it's always really great to remember those three things that are kind of at our core and have that transparency communication, making sure that people feel that they can bring their full self to work and that you are kind of making sure that everyone feels like they have the equitable seat at the table, which I definitely do feel as we've kind of evolved even in the last year and a half.

[00:03:33] Jesse Tyler: Thank you.

[00:03:34] Sarah Diaz: So, my words were connection, longevity, and passion, but I kind of want to edit passion to compassion. Because I really liked what Jessica just said about people coming to work as they are. You know, we don't always have good days, but I think the part of the culture of being in an employee-owned company is being connected to your coworkers and your co-owners and the people that you see every day no matter what's going on in our lives. And so, kind of that connection and compassion kind of go hand in hand in terms of yeah, being, you know, a family member, being a community member with the people that you're working with and working alongside and for each other.

[00:04:11] So, I think that's a kind of a big part of the culture. But also, just the day to day, you know. And longevity, of course, kind of that understanding that this is an opportunity to have a really stable kind of part of our life when things are chaotic. No matter what that looks like. And kind of just having the understanding that.

[00:04:33] The success that we have now, the success that we are working towards in the future will also be benefiting ourselves and the people that may retire before we do but are on our team now. And the people that are, you know, close behind us whoever that might be is sort of the longevity of not only the individual, but also the company that we are working for.

[00:04:53] So, I know we're really proud that Switchback is not going to be bought out by Anheuser-Busch or anything like that. And kind of the decision to shift to an ESOP structure really made that kind of community base part of our mission kind of manifested and come to life because we're not planning on moving out of Flint Avenue anytime soon. So...

[00:05:15] Jesse Tyler: That's great. Thank you.

[00:05:16] Kadie Brenes: Belonging, responsibility, and opportunity where my words. Belonging is that opportunity to be unique and bring your uniqueness to work. We want to know; we want to learn what you know. What were your experiences? What abilities and skills you have? What brings innovative thinking and, just be you, right? There's... everybody, we can't just go buy another version of yourself. You bring your own value. So, we want to add to that culture.

[00:05:40] And then responsibility, as you can see, you don't only have to be effective but efficient. So, if you're told to do it in three words, you do it, yeah. [Laughter.] And spirit, and you need it in a timely manner and so forth.

[00:05:53] So, that shared responsibility is okay, how am I doing it? But how am I going to do it in a way that is going to benefit everybody?

[00:05:59] And opportunity is you get an opportunity to grow every day, to learn something new, to connect with someone else, to learn about what they're doing. You know, I like to think of every day as a new opportunity to expand the people that I know, the knowledge about the industry, my market, my competitors. You know, how do we stay in the know? Because that's what keeps an organization competitive, and it gives us an advantage. You got to know what's happening outside and how will that affect your work family, right? Like what, everything that is happening around you also impacts what we do. So, bring that in because it is that shared responsibility that we have and belonging that really will make us stay in the market for a long, long time.

[00:06:44] Jesse Tyler: That's great. That's great.


[00:06:45] Bret Keisling: With that, we'll wrap up today's episode of the Mini-cast. I'd like to give my thanks and great appreciation to Matt Cropp and the team at the Vermont Employee Ownership Center who facilitated the presentation and the recording for the Owner to Owner podcast. Jesse's having great conversations with rank-and-file employee owners on every episode and again, I hope you'll check them out at

[00:07:10] Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.


[00:07:14] 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 cannot guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.


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