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Mini-cast 239: Starting to Build an EO Culture

The EsOp Podcat: Starting to Build an EO Culture

Bret Keisling takes a brief look at how to start building an employee ownership culture. It doesn't happen overnight, and success has a lot to do with where the company's culture is starting from. The first step is to organize an ESOP culture or communications committee and to have the correct mix of employee-owners on the committee. The committee should plan for regular interactions with the employee owners and Bret discusses newsletters and content ideas for them, arranging ESOP-related speakers to the company, and other company events as well.

Is your company celebrating Employee Ownership Month? Let us know what you're doing. We'd love to share your events and successes on future episodes of the Podcast.

Listen to this episode on Soundcloud or subscribe on Google, iHeart, Spotify, Amazon, or Apple Podcasts...

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The ESOP Podcast is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND Creative Commons License.


Mini-cast 239 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. Happy Employee Ownership Month 2023! I truly hope all of our employee-owned companies are taking the opportunity to celebrate their employee owners, their successes, and the companies themselves.

[00:00:32] Last week on Episode 238 of the EsOp Mini-cast, I shared some of my favorite ideas for Employee Ownership Month.

[00:00:39] Oftentimes, if you see employee-owned companies being celebrated on social media, or even here on the podcast, it's the companies that are relatively far along on the path to having a great EO culture. It obviously makes sense to highlight those who are doing well. But I'd say the majority of companies that reach out to me are in the opposite situation. Either, they haven't really begun to work on employee ownership culture, or they feel that they're just sort of sputtering along.

[00:01:06] So, I want to spend a few minutes talking about how to start building a great employee ownership culture at your company. The good news is that if you're mindful and continue to work on the culture, you'll get where you want to be. The bad news is it can take a while.

[00:01:21] The first thing to consider is where a company is starting from. Now, it's possible that a company can be a worker cooperative from its inception, and in those cases, they're usually pretty mindful of the sort of best practices for company culture. It's often hardwired into the co-op's mission and founding values.

[00:01:39] On the other hand. It's all been impossible to create a new company as an ESOP. So, automatically, whenever a company transitions to an ESOP the company culture is set in place well before the transaction occurs.

[00:01:52] As an ESOP trustee, I was fortunate enough to transition some companies that truly felt like they had an employee ownership vibe long before they became employee owned. But those companies were in the minority. In most cases, companies had a top-down structure and sometimes even took the form of the hard-nosed "my way or the highway" approach to management.

[00:02:14] Obviously, the closer to the ideals of employee ownership that accompany has when it transitions, the easier the culture work will be.

[00:02:22] For those that are just starting out, however, where do you begin?

[00:02:26] Step one should be the formation of an ESOP committee, which is often called the culture or communications committee. Ideally, the committee will include members from throughout the company representing different locations or shifts or job descriptions. If your company sells and services equipment, for example, the committee should include members from both sales and service as well as the back-office operations and warehouse.

[00:02:50] I'd prefer to not have a member of upper management chair of the committee. And to be honest, there's a lot to be said with not having the top people even on the committee. In my experience, committee members participate differently depending on whether their boss is in the room.

[00:03:05] It's important that the committee begin having regular interactions with the employees. These touches should occur at least quarterly, but ideally no less than monthly and more often if possible. A great place to start would be a monthly or quarterly newsletter. And each issue should consist of at least three aspects. The first is to celebrate or announce important company news, product innovations, or goals being matched, et cetera. The second aspect should include some level of ESOP education, be it about the valuation, the role of the trustee, or the vesting period, for example. And the third component should always be celebrating the employees themselves. Whether it's recent or upcoming birthdays or company anniversary dates, or even celebrating important family events like an employee owner's child graduating from high school.

[00:03:53] I always like to see the ESOP professional advisors come and meet the employee owners. This is another great programming opportunity. I wouldn't bring them all in together, but set up meetings where your trustee, valuation advisor, third-party administrator, and even your ESOP lawyer come in to do brief and hopefully interesting presentations.

[00:04:11] In addition to the quarterly or monthly interactions, you can then begin to layer on annual events, such as holiday parties or a company picnic in the summer. And I particularly love when employee-owned companies include family members at these types of events, because I think it just adds nicely to the company vibe.

[00:04:30] On the Owner to Owner podcast, Jesse Tyler usually asks his guests how long they think it takes before people truly 'get' employee ownership and the consensus seems to be approximately two to three years. So, don't be discouraged if the EO culture isn't where you want it to be yet. Keep at it. You'll get there.

[00:04:48] Feel free to reach out to me if you'd like to chat about your company. I'd love to help you if I can. You'll hear how to reach out to us on social media in just a moment, or you can email me at Bret with one "T" at KEISOP -. K E I S O P .com. That's

[00:05:05] 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.


[00:05:15] 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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