Mini-cast 57: Let’s Meet in Vegas - Literally!



Are you going to be in Las Vegas in November, 2019 for a national ESOP conference? The KEISOP Group would like to meet you in Las Vegas!

  • We want to listen and learn: The KEISOP Group invites a dozen rank-and-file employee owners to join us for dinner and discussion on Wednesday, November 13th at 7:00 PM. You can RSVP online here.

  • We want to grow the sandbox: There will be an open lunch for a dozen emerging advisers on Friday, November 15th at 12:30 PM. We’ll discuss how to grow your ESOP practice, including how The KEISOP Group can help. You can RSVP online here.

  • We want to amplify your impact: From November 11th – 16th, 2019 we’ll have a suite at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas where we’ll be recording episodes of the podcast and the Professional Spotlight series. Reach out via email or social to reserve a time slot.

Shoutouts, thanks, and congratulations to:


On the EO Professional Spotlight series: Kevin Sensenig, PhD, President and Senior Coach at Interaction Dynamics Group. Interaction Dynamics Group is a leadership consulting firm that helps organizations be more magnetic to the best talent and more attractive to the best customers through coaching, development and facilitation of strategy that helps the organization radiate goodness. They work with visionary business owners, executives and HR professionals to grow good leadership--the art and science of creating powerful interactions that generate dynamic results!


Listen to this episode on Soundcloud. Or subscribe on Google Play or iTunes/Apple Podcasts.


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



Mini-cast 57 Transcript


Announcer: 00:03 Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast. A great way to wrap up the week.


Bret Keisling: 00:14 Hello, my friends. Thank you for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership. Are you going to be in Las Vegas in November, 2019 for a national ESOP conference? I'm going to be there from November 11th through November 16th and I'd love to meet with you.


Bret Keisling: 00:34 There are a couple of events I'm very excited to announce today: On Wednesday, November 13th at 7:00 PM I'm hosting a dinner for employee owners and The KEISOP Group and I'd like you to join me. I have spaces for 12 employee owners to join us for dinner. It will be completely at The KEISOP Group expense and I'm looking for employee owners that aren't in the C suite, quite frankly, not CEOs, not CFOs, but rather rank and file members of the team. I'd like to sit down at dinner and to be honest with you, I want to listen. I want to hear about what's important to you in employee ownership. I want to hear what you think the employee ownership community can do better and I want to answer any questions that you might have for me. If you're interested in joining me, simply either send me an email, you'll hear contact information at the end of this episode or on October 30th we'll have an online registration available that you'll find on our webiste [for the luncheon here and for the dinner here] and on social media.


Bret Keisling: 01:34 The second event is directed towards what we've been calling emerging advisers on the podcast for the last month or so. I've been working with a number of folks to come up with ideas for emerging advisers to try and gain traction in their practice. Regular listeners will know my interest in the emerging advisers is to meet with folks who have a sincere interest in employee ownership, have been working to develop their practice for a bit, haven't really gained traction, and there are a number of you who work for excellent firms, valuation firms, CPA firms, law firms that are really successful firms in other areas, but just haven't developed traction in the ESOP area.


Bret Keisling: 02:19 So I'd like to meet again with one dozen emerging advisers and talk about ways that you might be able to improve your practice area and ways that The KEISOP Group and The ESOP/EO Podcast might be able to help you. The emerging advisers event is scheduled for Friday, November 15th at 12:30 Las Vegas time. We'll spend about an hour together and in this event, unlike The KEISOP Group taking employee owners to dinner, at this lunch, the emerging advisers, we're going to ask you to pay for your own meal, but we'll sit down, we'll talk, we'll help you any way at all we can. Our goal is to help you build your practice area. We figure it's worth it to you to pay for the cost of a lunch, no fee to attend, no fee to The KEISOP Group, buy your own lunch. Let's talk about how to build your practice.


Bret Keisling: 03:09 Finally during that week I'll, as I said, I'll be in Las Vegas from November 11th through November 16th, Saturday, and if you’re a company, if you're a listener, if you're a professional adviser, separate from the two events that I've mentioned, I'm going to be meeting a lot of folks. I'll be recording; we have a suite at the Paris to which do all of our recording, so we won't be involved in any organized activities, but if you're interested in spending time with me or The KEISOP Group, you want to learn what we're doing and see how we can help you, send me an email or hit me up on social media. Again, contact information is available at the end of the show. The ESOP/EO Podcast has a new feature designed to help professional advisers and emerging advisers gain traction in their practice and to introduce them to the broader ESOP community through our audience.


Bret Keisling: 04:07 We call it a "Professional Spotlight" series. We start the series today with a conversation with Kevin Sensenig, PhD of Interaction Dynamics Group, and if you like what Kevin has done and he does a great job, contact us. We'd love you to do a professional adviser spotlight as well. By the way, there's no charge for these. There's no costs. We work with you to bring great content to our listeners, so if you're a talented professional looking for ways to improve your exposure, please think about The EO and ESOP Podcasts. We've had 33,000 listens since we started September, 2017 we've had about 13,000 and a half listens just since Memorial Day of this year, and it's a great way to communicate what you do and in a way to break through the clutter. If you're having trouble getting presentations at ESOP conferences or you can't afford a big booth, come on the podcast! It's free. It's a lot of fun! So we'll get Kevin sensitive in just a few moments, but first...


Bitsy McCann: 05:13 Shoutouts, thanks, and congratulations.



Bret Keisling: 05:17 Our first shoutout today is to HDR. It's an employee owned design firm specializing in architecture, engineering, environmental and construction services. They have 10,000 employees worldwide, 200 plus offices around the globe. They operate in 13 countries. There are 14 different markets they serve and they've been in business pushing boundaries, as they say, for 102 years. They've made a really cool video. One I saw on Twitter, featured employee owner, Neil Richards, and it just explains a day in the life of an employee owner. It's very well done, so for Employee Ownership Month. Thank you, HDR for setting a great example for the rest of us. Congratulations on a wonderful video and a great culture and thanks for showing us how it's done. How did the video come to our attention?


Bitsy McCann: 06:09 We got tagged!


Bret Keisling: 06:10 Thanks to our friend Leo Sammallahti of the Coop Exchange for bringing this to our attention. He tagged us on Twitter. It's a great video. His tag said, "@EO_Bret, you might like this." I certainly did and we really appreciate Leo and others thinking of us and tagging us and when you do, we're going to highlight the company that you tag. We're also going to give you a thank you as well. So thanks Leo, and I'm going to reach out to you as soon as I figure out how to make overseas phone calls!



Bret Keisling: 06:38 Our next shoutout goes to the DVL Group. DVL Group was founded in 1985. It started originally in Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey in the Philadelphia area, and Delaware as well. What originally caught my eye was the DVL Group's offices. They're headquartered in Philly, as I said, specifically Bristol, Pennsylvania. They have offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Denver, Colorado, Harrisburg, PA and Salt Lake City, Utah. And for those of you who are regular listeners, I'm a central Pennsylvania native. I was raised and raised my own children in Harrisburg, PA, and just this summer I opened offices for The KEISOP Group in Denver, Colorado. Drove through Albuquerque, New Mexico just this summer and almost went to Salt Lake City, Utah for NCEO national conference. So all of the areas that DVL Group, I just thought it was kind of interesting. It is such a cool company. On October 24th, I showed up unannounced at the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania office. Was lucky enough to meet with Deanne and Todd for a little bit. I brought them pie in celebration of Employee Ownership Month, so for everybody at the DVL Group and all of the offices, congratulations, happy EOM month and by the way, I was really impressed with Deanne and Todd. They were the only ones in the Harrisburg office when I was there, but the day earlier, DVL group had had an ESOP breakfast and since Deanne and Todd weren't near the main office where the breakfast was being held, they had breakfast on their own to talk about employee ownership. I love when satellite offices can get involved sometimes in this case even involve themselves, but DVL Group, you have a really great culture, really cool company, and we appreciate everything that you do.



Bret Keisling: 08:22 The final shoutout is to The Aspen Institute. They have a program on October 25th, the day this episode releases, in Washington DC called "Opportunity in America." I'm signed up and registered to be at that program. I'm looking forward in a future episode to talking more about it and The Aspen Institute, but one of the things that I've realized is in my mind, I'm pretty well versed with the "whats" and the "hows" of employee ownership certainly with ESOPs, but the Aspen Institute is working on a lot of items that I call related to the "why." They address culture, they address poverty, they address important issues to democracy. They are thought leaders and have a huge bench strength of really talented, bright people. So an early shoutout to The Aspen Institute. I'm hoping to learn more about them in the coming months and see if I can't just learn as much as I can from them. So thank you for what you folks are doing.


Bret Keisling: 09:24 And now I'm very proud to bring you our very first professional adviser spotlight. Kevin Sensenig, PhD is a principal at Interaction Dynamics Group and he fits the classic example of an emerging professional. He's really talented, he's got really great ideas -- you're going to hear about that for yourself -- and having a little trouble breaking into the ESOP space. They're really talented culture communication firms in the space. I'm friends with many of them. The reality is, it fits into that thing that I've been talking about for six months now. There are approximately 7,000 employee owned companies in the United States. About 800 of them touch the organizations in some fashion. That leaves about 6,200 employee owned companies or ESOP's that have no touches to the organizations. And yet folks like IDG are having trouble, for example, getting speaking spaces and really breaking through. So our solution is to help the emerging advisers get known a little bit, bring them to your attention. We don't endorse the guests on the show just as they don't endorse us, but we're sure happy to introduce you to them. With that, here's my conversation with Kevin Sensenig.



Kevin Sensenig: 10:38 Hi, this is Kevin Sensenig with Interaction Dynamics Group. It's pleasure to be with you today. We are a boutique leadership consultancy located in Western Pennsylvania and our focus is on helping organizations and particularly leaders in organizations radiate goodness as they take their organization to the next level. Our main focus area is to help leaders build that sense of alignment around a robust and compelling strategy for the organization. To build the commitment of their team and help teams align around that compelling direction and then identify and build the open accountability that allows people to see that line of sight between what they're doing every day and how they're helping to drive the organization forward.


Kevin Sensenig: 11:17 Now, we find this work is really valuable in employee owned organizations because there is that desire and sense of employee owners to see that they're contributing heavily to the success of the organization. And so we're excited about working with employee owned organizations for that reason and find that the message tends to resonate extremely well in employee owned companies.


Bret Keisling: 11:37 There are a number of firms doing really great stuff in the communications and cultural space in employee ownership and ESOPs. We've had some of them on previous podcasts and we work with them and truly love them as companies and love them as people. How do you differentiate IDG from what some other culture and communication companies might be doing?


Kevin Sensenig: 11:59 Thank you for that question, Bret. I find that those organizations have great success in helping employee owned companies build the mechanics of their ESOP. So how do I make the right, build the right committees, have the right people in those committees, manage those committees extremely well from the ESOP mechanics side of things. Our focus is very different than that. Our focus is on the strategy of the organization. So how are we building a sustainable organization that is not only is growing today when the economy is strong, but is also now established and set up to continue to grow even if there may be a downturn at some point in time. That they have the right people in place, they have the right direction, and they're really focused on strategy and execution at a company level, not just an employee owned company level. And so I think our differentiation is just how we approach the concept. We approach it from a leadership and strategy standpoint and allow that then to lead to good communication structures and culture in the organization versus building culture and communication first and now allowing leadership to kind of build out of that, which is what we find many in the space tend to focus on.


Bret Keisling: 12:59 Can you give us one or two items in employee ownership or ESOPs that you think are of particular importance that we should focus on?


Kevin Sensenig: 13:07 I think right now what we're finding in the employee owned organizations we work with, there are really two critical issues that many of them are struggling through. The first is around that idea of building a compelling strategy, having a sense of not only how are we making the organization successful today, but how are we building a strong enough, compelling enough vision and strategy that we see this organization being very sustainable long term. And so we do a lot of work with organizations, and we encourage organizations to think about, how are we not just putting together a business plan every year, but we're truly putting together a strategy and a strategic direction that's exciting to people. People see themselves as part of that compelling strategy. They want to be part of driving it forward and they see the organization as an exciting place to be going forward.


Kevin Sensenig: 13:55 The second area that I think most employee owned organizations are facing currently, and it kind of builds from the strategy standpoint is now we're excited about where the organization could go, but as any organization that's facing right now, there's a big leadership transition coming up for most companies. Many organizations have not put that focus on true talent development and thinking about that leadership bench strength to the level they need to be thinking about that. In the next five to seven years, there's going to be a significant change at the senior leadership level of many organizations, particularly employee owned organizations. For those that have been employee owned for less than 10 years, for example, they've spent all that energy and time, you know, reestablishing the organization, get excited about the ESOP transaction, making sure the company is sustainable, having leaders to kind of lead today. And now they're being to realize, my goodness, next few years we have to have that next level of leaders ready to go.


Kevin Sensenig: 14:50 And so what I would really encourage employee owned organizations to start thinking about is: What does our leadership bench strength look like for the next five to seven years? Do we have that really good group of people are going to step into senior level leadership positions ready to lead an organization, not a department, not an area, not a function, but lead at the organization level. And that's a piece that we can add some unique perspective on but it's really important that employee owners, particularly in leaders in employee owned organizations, buy into and embrace and take action on today, so that doesn't become a challenge to sustainability over the long term.


Bret Keisling: 15:27 Kevin in the ESOP space we look, as you know, at repurchase obligations, which down the road is how much is the company going have to pay for employee owners who leave the companies or retire or what have you. It seems to me that one of the key aspects of the repurchase obligation is making sure you have the resources, which in that case is the funds to make the repurchase obligation. What came to my mind is five or seven years down the road as the baby boomers are aging out and retiring, the focus isn't just finding leadership, but I would imagine developing leadership programs for the younger generation to bring them up. In other words, are there going to be less potential leaders available in five to seven years because of age and whatnot? And that's why they have to start the focus so early?


Kevin Sensenig: 16:22 Well, I think you hit a key point there and that is we're finding with the newer generations entering the workforce, there's not as many individuals excited about taking a managerial leadership position. They tend to be more focused on, I want a good job, I want a good opportunity, but I don't necessarily want to move up in an organization to be successful. And so that's put even more pressure on mid-size companies, particularly, and employee owned companies because there's been this natural thinking that everyone wants to move to a senior level. That's not the case today. And so yeah, when you start looking at repurchase obligation and the amount of revenue it takes to cover those repurchased obligations, all of a sudden you start saying, wait a minute, we're, we have a potential challenge, basically, just in a few years if we don't take action today. And so it's not like taking action on the ESOP side of it, taking action on the leadership side of this that that leaders are really bought into -- I'm taking a leadership role, not just because it's a position in the company, I'm taking of a leadership role to help sustain all of my fellow employee owners. And that brings some different expectation and I believe some different level of obligation with it that I think is really important in employee owned companies.


Bret Keisling: 17:31 The tools that you're talking about sharing with your clients really are applicable in any industry, in any geography, et cetera. And by the way, we should point out, you're based in Western Pennsylvania, but you do work nationally, correct?


Kevin Sensenig: 17:46 Correct. And actually globally. Yes.


Bret Keisling: 17:49 Is there any particular resonance for you personally to be in the employee ownership space? You know, as opposed to any other industry anywhere else. Is there something that brings a little bit of meaning to you and your colleagues at IDG?


Kevin Sensenig: 18:03 Well, I mentioned at the beginning that our focus is about goodness in organizations, and as we've done our research around how goodness pays in organizations, we've identified some key factors. One is it has to be a compelling plan people can buy into. If there's a team based culture that people want to be part of it. That there's timely decision making, in that there's some magnetic ethics that people want to be part of the organization because they live and work well. But one of the parts that we've identified in research is that makes goodness really pay is when employees see that profits are healthy for all. And what we're amazed by is the best fit, and the best analogy for that, is within employee owned organization. Because employee owners recognize the more successful the organization is, the more successful we are as an employee group. And so they recognize that all the profits aren't going to one or two people at the top or one or two owners in a certain area or one strata of the organization. It's shared across all employee owners, so we're excited about the fact that working with employee owned organizations because the goodness message resonates so well with all the owners. They say that's what we want to see in our leaders. That's the kind of leader I want to be around and be part of and be connected to and it fits well within the employee owner mindset.


Bret Keisling: 19:15 I really appreciate Kevin Sensenig coming on the show today. We are developing a series of mini-cast minutes that are going to be focused on the goodness pays concept that IDG and Kevin are proponents of and to all of the professional advisers out there. It's real simple to have your own professional spotlight and if you're interested in being a regular contributor to the podcast like Kevin's going to be and like our friend Jenn Krieger from Weaver, CPA in Texas already has become, reach out, let us know. There is plenty of podcast time coming up. Lots of new podcast titles coming up and we'd love to have you participate. With that, folks, thank you very much for your time today. Hope you have a great day. I really appreciate your listening and your spending time and employee ownership and we look forward to seeing you next time. Stick around for how to contact us and for the show credits.


Bitsy McCann: 20:10 We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email Bret@KEISOP.com, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.


Standard disclaimer: The views expressed herein are Bret Keisling's and don't represent those of his own firms or the organizations to which he belongs. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field, and the fact that he mentions 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, we'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself!

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