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Mini-cast 48: Employee Ownership - Where are they and who are we?

In this episode of The ESOP Mini-cast, Bret Keisling discusses challenges to growing the EO sandbox, including identifying how vast employee ownership is currently, how “we” can work, and shares some ideas for bringing employee ownership to the forefront of national dialogue.


Mini-cast 48 Transcript

Announcer: 00:04 Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast brought to you by Capital Trustees, a great way to wrap up the week.

Bret Keisling: 00:20 Hey friends, thanks for dropping by The ESOP Mini-cast, I'm Bret Keisling. This summer I've been focused nonstop on transitioning from Capital Trustees to The KEISOP Group and growing The ESOP Podcast and Mini- cast into The EO Podcast Network that will debut later this fall. I've also traveled by car from Pennsylvania to Colorado twice. First time I went home by way of Las Vegas and then drove home old Route 66. Reality is, I've had plenty of time this summer to think about employee ownership and how we grow the EO sandbox.

Bret Keisling: 00:54 First, let me define "we." In this mini cast, anyone who is an advocate for growing employee ownership is part of the "we". Whether you're an employee owner, a professional advisor, work for an advocacy organization or in some other way promote growing the sandbox. One of the challenges we face is the fact that there isn't really a "we" rather, there are many, many advocates promoting some form of employee ownership. Many players in the EO sandbox have no clue what other players are doing and frankly, many aren't interested in what the other players are doing.

Bret Keisling: 01:29 Let's talk about who are "they", the 17 million employee owners in the United States. To start, no one is sure what the actual number is, but I've seen 17 million, so I'll stick with that. Part of the challenge that we face is that we can't really quantify how many employee owners there are. The ESOP Association and the NCEO do a great job with their members, but it's acknowledged maybe only 18 - 20% of ESOP companies are involved with the major organizations. I think that's true if you throw in ESCA and anyone else. So the fact of the matter is there are employee owned companies or ESOPs that are out there that don't have any touches, but we're going to stick with 17 million.

Bret Keisling: 02:15 The reason I keep coming back, this summer, to the 17 million is where are they? Because we don't seem to have any collective clout either politically or economically. In light of the sheer number of owners, you think we'd grab more attention. So what if we could somehow mobilize the 17 million employee owners? What could happen then?

Bret Keisling: 02:35 So these are a couple of things that I've thought about as I've traveled the country this summer. And I don't even know who would implement them. There is no "we". Perhaps someday before too long we can have some sort of an employee ownership congress or guiding body that all of the advocates can participate with, but for now I'm just throwing out the ideas.

Bret Keisling: 02:56 One of the things that I've noticed traveling around is that most states have specialty license plates that show support for organizations, you've probably seen them too. They support universities, nonprofits, or that kind of thing. How cool would it be in every state to have a license plate that said, "I support employee ownership!" I think that there's revenue that can be shared. So I would hope that one or two states could take the lead. Pennsylvania, for example, has dozens of specialty license plates already. It'd be really cool for one or two states can take the lead, get a program established and then port it to the other states.

Bret Keisling: 03:33 Many employee owned companies have an annual dedicated day of service. This is really cool, we've highlighted some on The ESOP Podcast previously. And part of the mission of employee ownership is they go out and they serve their community. What if we just declared a national day of service for employee owners everywhere? Imagine the positive impact we'd have on our communities, our states, and our country and the positive media coverage, if nationwide there was an employee owner day of service. I don't know who would be the one to declare it. As long as we're picking days. How about a day where employee owners have a picnic and celebration on state capitol grounds come not to politic, not to be angry, but rather just to celebrate employee ownership, bring families, to the extent that there are speakers limited to pro employee ownership speakers. That would be really cool and we'd get a lot of attention.

Bret Keisling: 04:29 Today as we're releasing this, it is Friday, August 23rd, and Senator Ben Cardin of uh... Maryland, forgive me, spoke to an ESOP group this morning in Maryland and that made me think that there are an awful lot of political leaders and politicians that support employee ownership who don't agree with each other on anything else. And one of the challenges again is that it's portrayed, even employee ownership, as adversarial. What if we brought together the political leaders who supported employee ownership even if they don't agree on any, anything else? So for example, I think it would be really cool if Senator Cardin in Maryland would hold an ESOP employee ownership event in the Baltimore area and have as his guest Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Senator Cardin is a Democrat and Senator Toomey is Republican. Have an employee ownership program in Baltimore at nine AM, then the senators could take a drive up 83 and have an employee ownership meeting in Harrisburg at one o'clock. It's only about 90 minutes from Baltimore to Harrisburg. And then -- this is where my dream gets exciting to me -- Frank Luntz who really set me off on the mission in a positive way at the Washington DC conference, he would host, in my dream, a town hall with Senator Toomey and Senator Cardin, limited exclusively to employee ownership, and the whole thrust would be, "this is what we could get along."

Bret Keisling: 06:04 With that, folks. I've just thrown out a couple of ideas that I've liked. I want to keep it short. We are about two weeks away from coming out with The EO Podcast and The ESOP Mini-cast, of course, will continue on, and we'll be introducing new titles. Meanwhile, I'm very happy to be recording this. The KEISOP Group has taken on office space in southern Denver and we'll be sharing more about that. But we are excited to be operating from both Colorado and central Pennsylvania. Folks, I would love to hear what you think. You can find me. My email is Bret with one "T", I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for tuning in. Bye, bye.


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