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Mini-cast 218: Benefits and Challenges to EO Culture

The EsOp Mini-cast: Benefits & Challenges to EO Culture

Bret Keisling shares an excerpt from the Owner to Owner podcast where host Jesse Tyler shares insights on the benefits and challenges of employee ownership culture, including: the positive power of peer pressure, why "my voice matters" are the most powerful words in EO, and challenges such as saying no in a culture that values saying yes.

Jesse has 15+ years of experience at 100% ESOP Hypertherm, where he has facilitated several thousand conversations about ownership through onboarding and at numerous NCEO and The ESOP Association conferences as well as the Owner to Owner podcast.


Mini-cast 218 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. As you are hopefully aware, I produce the Owner to Owner podcast with host Jesse Tyler for the EO Podcast Network. Usually, Jesse's episodes featured guests from a wide range of employee-owned companies. He focuses on the rank and file employees whose voices are often not heard loudly enough in conversations about EO.

Hypertherm Associates logo

[00:00:39] Recently, on Episode 36 of the Owner to Owner podcast, Jesse shared his reflections on ownership, which has come from his almost 16 years at 100% ESOP Hypertherm and, since 2022, as host of the Owner to Owner podcast.

[00:00:55] It's a great episode. We'll include a link to it in our show notes, and you can find all of his episodes at

[00:01:05] Today, I want to share a brief excerpt from Jesse's episode, where he touches upon some of the beauty and challenges of employee ownership. Here's Jesse Tyler.


[00:01:16] Jesse Tyler: So, if you're new to employee ownership or don't have a -- you're sort of curious, listening to the podcast, don't have a lot of exposure, what does employee ownership culture sound like? What's the big deal, I guess you'd say? And I think it really, you know, boils down to three words that I've heard across shifts, across roles, across tenure, across education, and that's "my voice matters."

[00:01:37] And so, the equation of having a sense of safety and trust and being trusted, and then you add a simple and inclusive ideas process, you can end up with boundless safety, profit, efficiency, work experience, quality ideas.

[00:01:55] And so, I generalize with continuous improvement. It's something in employee ownership culture that defines it best. You can hear it, you can see it, you can measure it, you can track it. But it was based on "my voice matters" and I get to ask questions or consider to have input. That can be really amazing.

[00:02:16] It's a sense of engagement, a sense of being valued, and you can systematize that in some pretty reasonable ways and there's a lot of advice on how to do that. But we have a very mature program and it's something, for sure, that we're known for.

[00:02:29] And if you'd like an insider's tip, when you're setting up a continuous improvement process and try to embolden that in your culture, peer pressure is not a bad term! Peer pressure drives successful continuous improvement. It is not up to the leaders to push or pull. It's up to the leaders, really, to say it simply, is to protect time for those that are not used to being empowered, to have that impact, to do their work, learn, make some mistakes, try, try again.

[00:02:58] But you'll know you have a successful continuous improvement culture feeding your EO culture when you can observe that the peer pressure drives it,

[00:03:09] So, I've had a lot of fun over the last, it's been almost a couple years now, with the Owner to Owner podcast. I ask a series of similar questions and get, there's certainly some recurring themes, but, you know, the big question, "what does ownership mean to you?" Having asked probably a couple thousand people over conferences and the podcast and onboarding and ownership projects, never gotten the same answer!

[00:03:34] It's unique. It's a fingerprint. It's a unique identity and it evolves. I love asking that question because there's always going to be a unique and different answer.

[00:03:43] So, I'm want to throw in some insight. I was thinking about, okay, the ownership sounds good. What is the hard part? What's the catch? I guess some of you would ask.

[00:03:53] And I think the single hardest part of an active ownership culture is feeling like you can say, "no."

[00:04:01] It is not going to fly well in a healthy employee-owned company to hear, "not my job." "Go figure it out." "Don't speak up for six months or until you prove yourself." And I think that is something that is worth recognizing because you need to stay on your core tasks and your plan and get your work done. But we're also in this together for the daily experience, the job, you know, the job quality and security and the long term potential wealth building with the ESOP.

[00:04:29] So, I think flexibility is absolutely vital. Always keeping your eye in the long term gain, but really having some understanding and being willing to navigate that it can be very difficult in a high-volume, high-pressure environment to not have that sense that it's okay to say no.

[00:04:48] And I think one of the other aspects, the other hardest aspect, I certainly see people learning at our ESOP and it comes up when talking to other employee-owned companies is that there'd be so many voices that because people's voices do matter, you know, finding those reasonable, what are the reasonable limits with that? And when is a decision made? It can, you know, decision making can be bogged down if there's a lot of input. And finding that balance. You know, I really appreciate your input. I need to make this decision. We need to move forward. I'm accountable.

[00:05:19] Working in some of that language and even just talking about that potentially being a challenge in the culture, right? That everybody's voice matters. How do we move forward expeditiously?


[00:05:29] Bret Keisling: With that we'll wrap up today's episode of the Mini-cast. I hope you'll check out the Owner to Owner podcast. And again, you can find links in our show notes and all of his episodes at

[00:05:43] Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.

[00:05:48] 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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