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Mini-cast 225: "If It's the Last Thing I Do," an ESOP-themed Novel



Bret Keisling highlights a new Kickstarter campaign for If It's the Last Thing I Do by ESOP champion David Fitz-Gerald, which tells the story of a retired receptionist who unexpectedly inherits her father's business and converts it into an ESOP in the late 1970s. The story includes many twists and turns that will be familiar to anyone involved in ESOP transitions and business succession.


David is a past board chairman of The ESOP Association, and long-time CFO of Carris Reels, a legendary ESOP based in Vermont.


 

Mini-cast 225 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. If you're involved in ESOPs at all chances are you know, or at least know of, David Fitz-Gerald.


[00:00:24] In ESOP world, he's known as the CFO of the amazing Carris Reels, a 100% ESOP based in Vermont. He's also a former chairman of the board of directors of the national ESOP Association. In addition to his business pursuits, he's also a novelist specializing in historical fiction with six published books to his credit. David recently announced plans for his seventh book and the concept knocked my socks off so much that I wanted to tell you a little bit about it and ask for your help and support.



[00:00:55] The new book is titled If It's the Last Thing I Do, and it tells the story of Misty Menard, a happily retired receptionist living in Washington, DC, until she suddenly and unexpectedly inherits her father's business in Lake Placid, New York. In a story all too familiar with employee ownership transitions, her father failed to prepare for his succession and the proposed sale to a manager didn't materialize. So, Misty wound up as the CEO of a good old-fashioned manufacturing company. As is often the case, the transition did not go well as her father's management team relentlessly tries to expel Misty from her role as CEO.


[00:01:36] The book takes place in the 1970s, not long after Congress enacted ERISA, which created the ESOPs in the United States. Misty connects with a young attorney who was one of the first to focus on ESOPs, in the fictional world, and they work together to convert the company into an ESOP.


[00:01:53] As with any good novel, there are great characters and plenty of twists and turns, many of them instantly recognizable to those familiar with these ESOPs. For example, a big customer files for bankruptcy. There's a catastrophic flood of the business. Stagflation is ruining the US economy leading to problems with the appraisal and problems with the bank.


[00:02:16] There are, as I said, a lot of great characters in the book and the synopsis that I read speaks to the twists and turns that can affect any business, particularly when some of the management team is not on board with the transition to employee ownership.


[00:02:29] David Fitz-Gerald is an excellent writer, and I can't wait for the book to be released, which I believe is scheduled to be in the summer of 2023.


[00:02:37] The reason I'm talking about this today is that David has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the book. There are a number of cool incentives for those who donate, including being named as an employee owner of the fictional company! We're going to include a link to the Kickstarter campaign in our show notes and I really hope you'll check it out.


[00:02:55] I made a modest donation and I'm really pleased and honored to help support Dave in his journey to get this book published. But what's really important to me is that all of us who love employee ownership generally, and ESOPs in particular, know that we're still fighting to get ESOPs more recognized in public conversations and being the subject of a book is a great way to expand the dialogue.


[00:03:17] Regular listeners will recall that Jim Bado of Workplace Development appeared on Episode 191 to discuss Mitchell's War, which is a comic book in development that also has a strong ESOP theme. The more ESOPs and employee ownership generally can be part of popular culture, the more it will help all of us continue to grow EO and ESOPs in real life.


[00:03:39] I mentioned that David Fitz-Gerald is the long time CFO of Carris Reels, and you can learn all about Carris Reels in Episode 169 of The EsOp Podcast, which featured a conversation with Cecile Betit and research she has done focused on Carris Reels from 1996 to today. By the way, David Fitz-Gerald himself appeared on Episode 78 of The EsOp Podcast to discuss his second book that was published in 2019. We'll include a link in our show notes to all of the episodes that I just mentioned.


[00:04:10] As we're talking about books, I want to take the opportunity to give a shout out to the Raven Book Store, which is located in Lawrence, Kansas. It was founded in 1987 and since 2022 has been employee owned. So, before you revert to habit and order books through some really large mega corporations, I hope you'll consider doing business with the Raven Book Store and support the employee-owned community. And yes, they ship anywhere!


[00:04:35] Again, we'll have a link to the Kickstarter campaign for David's book, If It's the Last Thing I Do. I hope you'll check the link out and if you're able, donate a little bit to support this very exciting ESOP themed novel.


[00:04:47] With that we'll wrap up today's episode of the Mini-cast. Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.

 

[00:04:54] 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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