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Mini-cast 259: The VEOC 22nd Annual Conference

The EsOp Mini-cast: The VEOC 22nd Annual Conference, featuring Jesse Tyler, host of the Owner to Owner podcast, and Matt Cropp, executive director of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC)

Bret Keisling shares a brief clip from the Owner to Owner podcast. Host Jesse Tyler is joined by Matt Cropp, the executive director of the Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC), to discuss the VEOC 22nd Annual Conference which will take place on May 31, 2024, at the University of Vermont’s Dudley H. Davis Center in Burlington, Vermont and will feature keynote speaker Melissa Hoover from the Democracy at Work Institute.  


Attendees will gain invaluable knowledge from industry experts, thought leaders, and pioneers in the field of employee ownership. They will learn about the latest trends, best practices, and innovative strategies shaping the landscape of shared ownership, and create relationships with experts, advocates, and employee-owners at Vermont-based EO Companies.

This excerpt originally appeared on March 28, 2024, in Episode 63 of the Owner to Owner podcast.


Mini-cast 259 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. The Vermont Employee Ownership Center is having its 22nd annual conference on May 31st, 2024, at the University of Vermont's Davis Center in Burlington, Vermont.

[00:00:30] It's one of my favorite conferences. I've been to it a number of times and they pack an awful lot into a single day. Last year, they set the record for attendance, but still managed to have it in a relatively intimate atmosphere where you can meet everyone, network, learn, and really benefit from the environment.

[00:00:48] This week on the Owner to Owner podcast, Jesse Tyler was joined by Matt Cropp, who is the executive director of the VEOC, who talked about the conference, and some of the things that go into planning it. If you check out the show notes for this episode on our website, you'll find links to the VEOC and the conference, and I hope you'll check them out.

[00:01:07] Here's Jesse Tyler and Matt Cropp from Episode 63 of the Owner to Owner podcast.


[00:01:13] Matt Cropp: Yeah, so this conference we've been doing for over 20 years now. And when the center started our founder was mentored by some folks at the Ohio Employee Ownership Center. And John Logue, who was their founder, kind of made the point that a conference was a really great way of building, kind of building community and a central event to get a sense of like that employee ownership is not just one company here, one company there, there's a lot of things that really come well from it.

[00:01:35] And so, for us, we've been doing it for many years and there's some things that are consistent, but we're always trying to kind of figure out ways to improve. And as it's expanded, the thinking about, we've had to occasionally move to larger venues. And this year again we're adding an additional sort of, we've had five tracks of sessions, this year we decided we're going to have six tracks, as we had record attendance last year.

[00:01:55] So, there's a, there's that kind of each year getting together after the conference and looking at the evaluations people share, which are really important for us to think about how to tweak the knobs and to make it a little bit better each year.

[00:02:07] So, we get going and think about, all right, well, what was the content that really resonated with people? What were people asking for that we didn't have? And we send out a call for proposals to a big list of folks who either we've had encounters with, or we know have presented at other conferences and have expertise that is broadly respected.

[00:02:25] We have a little committee that's, makes sure folks on our board, and we oftentimes include some folks from different employee-owned companies as well to look at the proposals and see, okay, what fits or are there, is there duplication or can we combine some things? And there's this kind of massaging of what comes in.

[00:02:38] And we always have some sessions that it's less of a, we're looking for a proposal and more looking, we know we want to cover this content and thinking about who would make sense to kind of, to cover that particular thing, right? Things like an intro to employee ownership. We always want to have something for the total newcomers who know nothing to get a, a good sense of what it is and things like that.

[00:02:57] So, we kind of, get that in place. And then, the other big piece of it for us is, it's the sort of a sponsorship side where, you know, a big chunk of our funding comes from each year it comes from, the conference and particularly the sponsorships of the conference, which are employee-owned companies, service provider firms, economic development organizations. You have a pretty broad base of folks who've been supporting us over the years. And I'm happy to say that this year our sponsorships are, also hit our, a new record level. So, that's feeling pretty good in terms of kind of where we're at to get this this 2024 edition in a really good place.

[00:03:28] Jesse Tyler: Yeah, you've got a lot of momentum. That's great. And I appreciate the insight. So, looking at May 31st, people can learn more on your website. What are attendees or participants at your conference in 2024 going to walk away with? What are the learnings they can actually apply when they get home?

[00:03:44] Matt Cropp: Yeah, so, to a certain extent, that's a little bit of a different answer for the different types of attendees.

[00:03:49] And one of the great things about this conference is that is the opportunity for people kind of coming from somewhat different places to mix and learn from each other. So, we have folks who are coming who've You know, they're thinking about employee ownership and there's a track for them. And our goal for those attendees is really to come away with a solid sense of what is the ESOP model? How does it work? What, what does implementing one of them look like? And is this, could this be a good fit for my company or is it worker co-op or an employee ownership trust the direction I should go? So, it's an opportunity for those folks to both learn a lot of those nuts-and-bolts details, but also talk to those of you who are coming from employee-owned companies and get a sense from the first-person perspective of, oh this is something that can work and this is what it means. And that's incredibly valuable for those newcomers to get a sense of really what employee ownership is beyond the abstract ideas and structures.

[00:04:34] For folks coming from employee-owned companies it's kind of a mix of, definitely we aim to have folks walking away with some updates and kind of new technical knowledge that's relevant to the structures they're in, whether it's the ESOP or co op model. We want them to also from a culture perspective, we try to have a pretty rich vein of sessions that get into what are some of these cultural practices and approaches that different companies use to really build a strong ownership culture and identity among employees.

[00:05:00] Jesse Tyler: So, last question. Melissa Hoover from the Democracy at Work Institute. You have consistently good speakers and I'm really excited to hear Melissa share her thoughts. What are you excited about with the Democracy at Work Institute, Melissa, and the keynote speech?

[00:05:17] Matt Cropp: Yeah. Yeah. So Melissa is really one of those people who I, as long as I've been in the employee ownership world, I've kind of, she's been playing on a variety of different roles, but it's been one of those people who both has some deep practical experience and also is really gets some sort of has, interesting perspective on the big picture of like, strategically how are we building the employee ownership space, right? And so, her talk will be kind of really focused on communicating ownership culture and really some of the lessons learned from her experience working with worker co-ops, being involved with the Kelso Institute as a fellow there. So, so she has both the connection to the co-op and the ESOP world.


[00:05:52] Bret Keisling: With that, we'll wrap up this episode of the Mini-cast. Check out the show notes for this episode for a link to the Vermont Employee Ownership Center's 22nd Annual Conference, May 31st, 2024 in Burlington, Vermont. We'll also include a link to Episode 63 of the Owner to Owner podcast, which includes the full approximately 15-minute conversation with Jesse Tyler and Matt Cropp all about the VEOC Annual Conference.

[00:06:19] Thank you so much for listening. This is Bret Keisling. Be well.

[00:06:23] Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook at EO Podcast Network and on Twitter [X] @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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