Episode Two… The Art of Genuine Salesmanship: Lessons from Jim Prestipino

Episode Description

“If you want to be successful, you solve problems.”

For those entering employee-owned businesses or those who want to excel in their roles, understanding the responsibilities and mindset required is crucial. By focusing on problem-solving, building trust with customers, and gaining technical expertise, employees can contribute positively to the company’s overall success and growth.

In this episode of Empowered Owners, Jim Prestipino shares a wealth of insights and knowledge on the topic. Throughout his career, he has worked in sales, customer service, and management, honing his skills as a sales professional. His success in sales can be attributed to his honesty and vast knowledge of his products, which he believes are essential for creating strong connections with clients. Listen in to learn more about Jim and how to master sales success.

What You’ll Learn

  • The significance of honesty and knowledge for successful sales practices.
  • The advantages employee ownership brings to both businesses and employees.
  • How employee ownership contributes to addressing wealth inequality.

How to Listen or Watch

Listen below or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Watch below or @Empowered_Ventures on YouTube.

Read the full transcript here or below following the media links.


Episode Transcript

Chris Fredericks: Welcome to Empowered Owners, the podcast that takes you inside Empowered Ventures. I’m your host, Chris Fredericks. In each episode, I’ll have a discussion with one of our employees to discover and highlight their distinct personalities, perspectives, and skills, while also keeping you in the loop with exclusive news, updates on company performance and a glimpse into the future plans of Empowered Ventures. This is an opportunity for me to learn more about our amazing employee owners and an opportunity for you to hear regularly from me and others from within Empowered Ventures. On this episode of Empowered Owners, I’m talking with Jim Prestipino, senior sales consultant at TVF, a fabric supplier, and the founding portfolio company of Empowered Ventures. I’ll also be joined by EV’s chief of staff, Emily Bopp at the end of the episode to debrief my discussion with Jim and talk about a few other EV related topics. Jim Prestipino graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in management and has more than four decades of experience in the textile industry. Jim worked in sales, customer service and management in multiple textile finishing companies before joining TVF in 2002, Jim has been TVF’s leading sales consultant by dollar volume, many years running due to his vast textile construction expertise combined with relentless problem solving and an intense desire to help his customers succeed. Personally, Jim enjoys playing golf and is an avid Gamecocks fan, and he has become a passionate fan of Indiana pro sports, including the Pacers and Colts. In this conversation, we cover some really interesting and surprising topics, including what it takes to be a great salesperson, Jim’s love of teaching and mentoring, what employee ownership means to Jim and advice Jim has for aspiring salespeople. Without further ado, let’s get to the conversation. I thought a fun place to start might be your first time in a textile plant or factory. Can you remember the very first time you set foot in a textile plant?

Jim Prestipino: Right out of college, I joined Milliken& Company and they sent me to Toccoa, Georgia, and I was a supervisor there for five years, but texturizing, nylon and polyester, making it go from a very much stringy thing and heat it, twist it and makes it feel like a natural fiber like cotton. So that was’82 was when that happened.

Chris Fredericks: Got it. And what was the textile industry like back then, and what led to you ending up in the textile industry to begin with?

Jim Prestipino: Listen, I’m from South Carolina, Spartanburg, home of Milliken& Company, one of the largest textile firms out there in the world, and my dad worked for them. All three of my brothers worked for them at one point, just part- time here and there, both in the US and overseas. And it was just a natural progression. They were the largest employer. They hired a ton of people out of college. They put them into swinging shifts, the cream stays and rises and the other people go to lead other companies. But that’s it. I mean, they were by far the biggest employer of where I was from, so that got me in there.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. And how was that first job for you? Did you enjoy it, not enjoy it? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like?

Jim Prestipino: It taught me a lot of stuff. It taught me a lot of things swinging shifts. So I’d work first, second, and third, all in a period of three weeks. Those were 10- hour shifts. We had one day on Wednesdays, eight hours, and it just taught me how to deal with people. That’s it. I learned one of my most valuable lessons from one of my employees there and you just learn how to deal with people actually in the textile world, but we hung out part of the social softball team, things like that. So it teaches you you have to work very closely, especially when third shift, three o’clock in the morning, something that goes wrong. You got to figure things out, but also how to deal with people.

Chris Fredericks: Interesting. So you said you learned a really valuable lesson from one of your employees. What was that?

Jim Prestipino: To this day, I had two guys on my shift that were really good, and when you’re on third shift, the guys come in in the morning, you want to see everything running close to a hundred percent efficiency. And this one guy who was my best employee, if a machine went down, he could get it running quicker than anybody else. And I would take him off of his machine and go put him on there and somebody else would do his work. And he came to me one time, he said, ” Listen, I have no problem helping out, but how do you ever expect the other people to learn how to do it?” And from then on I made everybody, there was no help. Nobody was coming to help them. Nobody was there if they couldn’t do it. Everybody stayed on their own machine and ever since that happened, my numbers went up as far as efficiency, our shift was number one, anything that you can measure as far as a shift, we were there and it was all because of him. That’s the most valuable thing I’ve ever learned in business.

Chris Fredericks: Wow, that’s awesome. That’s such a good lesson. So you were there in that job for about five years, you said?

Jim Prestipino: Five years.

Chris Fredericks: What came next?

Jim Prestipino: I wanted to get out of swinging shifts. I was tired of it and I let it be known. And one Friday morning when your shift ends, we were sitting underneath a tree by the side of the road drinking a beer, and they called me up and said, ” Hey, you’ve been promoted and the good thing is you’ve been promoted, but you’ve got to meet your boss in the Atlanta airport Monday morning you’re moving to Connecticut.” And I told him we had a big plant manager there, I said, “I’ll do whatever you want. I just want to get out.” He got me out. And then I went into carpet sales in Connecticut.

Chris Fredericks: Oh wow. Carpet sales. That’s interesting.

Jim Prestipino: It’s good. They have a machine that can do patterns and things like that. And truthfully, they have their solid colors, which every other mill can do, probably much better than they can the way they dyed it. But everywhere else in the world, you got pattern carpet or area rugs. And when I put something in my house, now it’s a pattern, a solid black, white, charcoal, whatever. We did a big business in area rugs and we had pattern carpet. And I enjoyed it. For five years, I called on Massachusetts, Western Mass, Connecticut, Vermont and Eastern New York except for New York City and all the way over to Buffalo. Did that for five years, swinging shifts. My largest customer was right there in southern Connecticut in Trumbull. And he introduced me to my wife. It was his niece. So not just having good sales with him, I knew him personally and professionally for all those years. And after a few years he said, ” Why don’t you meet my niece? She works on Saturdays.” And I would help out my dealers on Saturday if they needed some help. And he said, ” Just come on down. Don’t tell her that I asked you to.” And the rest is history.

Chris Fredericks: That’s amazing.

Jim Prestipino: It gave me a nice living with the job, but also helped me find my wife.

Chris Fredericks: Gosh, that’s so cool. So was that your first sales job actually, because you weren’t in sales before I don’t believe?

Jim Prestipino: It was my first sales job.

Chris Fredericks: Interesting. What was that like at first? Was it a hard transition to shift into sales or was that relatively easy for you?

Jim Prestipino: No, I thought it was relatively easy. When the recruiters come to the universities, I said, “I don’t want to do manufacturing. I saw what it did to my dad.” I mean, that guy could fall asleep if it World War III is going on around him. At the end of the day, he could fall asleep at nothing. And I just said, ” I want sales.” Never considered myself a salesperson. I thought I did a great job in manufacturing. I learned how to do it, but it’s become natural, I think. And I don’t think you can get a better testimony when your largest customer introduces you to his niece and says, ” We like you that much, why don’t you do it?” So it was an easy transition for me. I’m not a born salesman at all. I’m pretty much just me and just try to be truthful with them, and that’s all any of these people ask. So I enjoyed it. I did a lot of traveling. Glad I’m not doing that as much anymore. I think I should do more traveling here, but I enjoyed it.

Chris Fredericks: When you say a natural- born salesman, I think everybody might have ideas in mind about what a salesperson’s personality should be. So what do you think about that idea that there’s like a personality type that’s for sales and then everyone else is not for sales. How do you think about what it takes to succeed in sales, depending on your personality?

Jim Prestipino: Most people think if you’re a slick salesman you can sell anything. My sales method here is to be the most smartest guy in the room, not the slickest. You can make a lot of promises, but if you can’t back it up… And so I just try to be honest. That’s it. But there’s some salespeople in here that are great. I’m not the best. I work hard at it. But the biggest thing is you got to tell the truth. If you don’t tell the truth, it comes up to bite you sooner or later. And I just try to be me. I’m generally the quietest in the room, except when I’m selling. I can talk in front of a president or whatever, but I’m not the most outgoing guy. But let’s say I’m consistent I think.

Chris Fredericks: When you say smartest guy in the room, I think I know where you’re headed with that. But what does that get you to go into a situation with a president of a company or a bunch of buyers and what are you wanting to feel when you go in there? What kind of level of preparedness about what’s your real goal or intention when you’re going into a meeting like that?

Jim Prestipino: First of all, you got to make sure you kn ow why you’re going there. Just don’t try to show up to show up, but you have an idea what they’re looking for. Most recently, I went down to Myrtle Beach to play golf and I stopped on my way down and made a customer visit. And I saw the owner, his fourth generation son who’s going to take over the business sooner or later, and the purchasing person. And he just started asking me questions. Like I said, I’m not slick. I’m not going to say he’s going to do this or that, but I could answer every technical question he asked for. And I just try to be at least the most knowledgeable about what I can provide. But I just try to make sure I want to be the smartest guy that if he’s going to do business, do business with me and TVF. That’s it.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, that makes me think about, you started at TVF in 2002, is that right?

Jim Prestipino: Yeah, I just hit 21 years. 20 years, I just hit 20.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. That’s awesome. How did you end up at TVF?

Jim Prestipino: I was in Connecticut after carpet. I could see that unless you’re the top 3% in Millikin, the raises don’t come as quick. And I had one of the few million dollar territories, but they were looking for certain things. So I started looking around and I found a dye house in Connecticut and I joined them. And Top Value was our second or third- largest customer, depending upon what day of the week it was. So I’ve known Bob and Robert, for those first 10 years, they were my largest customer Top Value. And after about five or six, Bob came and said, ” Hey, listen, have you ever decided to make a change? Why don’t you think about us?” And it got to the point where Amerbelle was not doing financially well when I couldn’t get a TVF lot coded because we didn’t pay the bill on time. Bob happened to call me at the right time, said, “Hey, have you ever thought about joining us again?” Bing bang, boom. I had a couple visits and I joined TVF, but that’s it. I called on Bob and Robert for those 10 years. They needed somebody to quote, I’m the guy that took them out at the trade shows. So it was been a great fit. When I moved in here, I knew all the salespeople. So it was good. And I knew Dick and Dick, both owners at the time, but Dick Hansell, he was the one there. And I’m very grateful that he said, ” Come on, come join us.” He let me take my wife out here, fly her out here. And it’s been fantastic.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, the rest is history, as they say, right?

Jim Prestipino: It is.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. So you came to T F, you were a seasoned salesperson, I understand from Bob Burns who you’re referring to. He was a vice president of T V F around then. He considered you just an outstanding salesperson back then before you joined, and just did a phenomenal job on the relationship and taking care of TVF. So I’m sure that was a lot of what he saw and why he reached out to you in that way. So you end up joining TVF going into sales. I don’t think it took you too long to become quite successful at TVF as well. Your personal sales volume, which was always what a salesperson would be interested in growing it really took a big leap not too long ago. And from what I gather, it’s really the success you’ve had landing a particular kind of customer and a very large program. And that was something you worked really, really hard on and landed, and it’s just become an incredible success story that’s continued to this day. I was wondering if you might be willing to share a little bit about the story of how that came about, but almost more importantly, how it was that you figured out how to land a customer like that.

Jim Prestipino: Here every salesman’s got a few customers, and I happened to see one that Bob asked me that another salesman had at the time. He didn’t like dealing with the big guys, so we switched a few accounts because I saw the potential in this customer and they weren’t as big as they are now. But I started talking to them and the owner who was trying to get into the medical business had a engineer. And every time you talked to him, you almost had to have a brand new notebook. He could just talk, talk and talk. And the owner came to me and said, ” Listen, you develop the products with this engineer. You keep me in the formative of the pricing and I’ll give you all the business.” The owner, he trusted me enough to know that I was not going to go around his back do anything. I worked with this engineer for a long time. We started with one product, got two more, got several others, and then I’ve got other divisions calling me now, ” Can you help me develop this fabric?” But it was all the owner just saying, ” I don’t have the time to deal with it.” Because he was trying to grow his business he let me develop the textile part. I’ve kept him informed and the rest is history. I mean, when you have that trust from an owner that did it for me right there. He trusted me enough to just put his business in my hands, at least for that company.

Chris Fredericks: How did you earn that trust so quickly with that owner?

Jim Prestipino: Because I can talk the talk. I can talk technical terms which he couldn’t talk.

Chris Fredericks: Tell me more about that.

Jim Prestipino: Yeah. It is just my background. When you’ve been in textiles, in the plant I was texturizing polyester, so I know what nylon and poly feels like in an untextured state. You texturize it and it makes it feel like cotton or natural fiber. Then I go to the dye house and I know how to dye it and I know shrinkage and all those little things. What do I need to do? Twist this, that, whatever. And I think I earned his respect. I took one program it needed to get started, I took a less than a normal percentage commission because I could see the end use and you just with the owner, try to keep him informed, but I earned it through what I could talk to him about and I could more importantly talk to the engineer. And that’s how it all started. I knew enough stuff to get the engineers and the final customer I knew enough where he could call me on anything and we could talk about it without me having to go back and forth.

Chris Fredericks: Got it. So were they facing technical challenges? Is that the situation?

Jim Prestipino: That’s part of it. Part was this guy just wanted to talk to this owner about a ton of stuff. He didn’t have the time, I did. And yes, it was technical and the very first thing that we developed, he gave me all his wishes. I gave it to him exactly how he wanted it, did it just fine. But there was another engineer who got a sample from another customer and mine was a plain weave. Mine would do what he wanted to because it was woven the right way. Well, this other company came in with a little rip stop weave. They said, ” Well, we like the technical look of that,” but it had to be processed a little bit more. I said, ” Piece of cake, we’ll do it.” And that’s where the rest is history.

Chris Fredericks: Got it. Yeah, because what I was wondering, and I think from what I know about you, problem solving and figuring out what the customer really needs, and that could be a bunch of different things. It could be a technical requirement or a personal preference of some sort. Or in this case, even an owner prefers that you work with their person so that they don’t have to spend the time to do that. You’re willing to invest that time. So it sounds to me like you take a very wide perspective to solving the customer’s challenges and needs, and you kind of come in with a really open mind to figure out how you can really add value, not just by selling fabric, but with a much broader perspective than that. Is that kind of how you think about it?

Jim Prestipino: It is. When I’ve talked to new guys coming in today, we’re not a salesman. If you really want to be good you’re a problem solver and you’ve got to meet the customer’s needs. And you meet it, you find out did it really work the way you thought it was going to work? And that’s when he told me about he liked the weave of the other one. It looks a little bit more technical. But yeah, we’re problem solvers to be top of the line and at least it’s, for me, that’s how I sell that. I try to be the most knowledgeable. It’s solving problems. That’s it. And that’s what we all do every day. You get a call, these are my requirements, I can do this yardage, I can do this color, it’s got to meet this fastness, whatever. These technical specs I need, that’s what we do. So we’re not just salesman, we’re problem solvers. If you want to be successful, you solve problems.

Chris Fredericks: That makes so much sense. You seem to have a real strong interest in teaching and a passion even for passing on the knowledge and the expertise that you’ve developed. I was curious, when you go back to your early career again, did you have any mentors or has anyone stand out as someone who treated you in that way as well? Or where did that come from this kind of mentoring approach that you take?

Jim Prestipino: In sales, no, because everybody had a big territory and I’m out in Connecticut all by myself. My boss was good, but here’s your territory, start selling. And I didn’t have that. In the mill though that one customer or my one employee told me about how do you expect them to learn? And that was it. That kind of just set the tone right there, but I didn’t have a real big mentor. I knew the technical end of what we were selling. I didn’t know how to sell it to our final customer at the time. And Bob has taught me a lot of that. But I knew the technical stuff. I just didn’t know, all right, he’s going to buy. He needs 59 inch wide rolls. He’s going to buy five at a time. Bob is the one that took me on that one.

Chris Fredericks: And what stands out about Bob and how he helped you develop further in that sense?

Jim Prestipino: Back then we had a training program where you stayed in the senior salesman’s office for a year. Now I’m the one guy that had the technical experience, because I’m the guy that called on Bob, but I sat in this office where I’m at right now. We have a desk over there. I did it for a full year, so I could ask him, I could just turn around, ” What do I do?” It never seemed to be as bad when Bob talked about it. It was very calm, cool, and collective. I’m pretty intense on this stuff. Bob’s pretty cool. And he would just say, ” All right, it’s not that bad. Let’s do this, this and this.” Bing bang, boom, problem solved. And sometimes it cost us a little bit of money, but we got it taken care of. But for a full year, I stayed in Bob’s office. By being able to turn around and just ask him right then and there, that was a big help. Now I will tell you, as soon as I left his office, that’s when my sales really went up. I do think that you kind of hold back on your talking some, but once I left his office, then things really started to click a lot better.

Chris Fredericks: Yep. That’s awesome. I think you’ve taken that kind of your interest in teaching and mentoring to a new level with TVF in recent years too. It seems like you really look for every opportunity to pass on knowledge and help this next generation develop a similar expertise to what you have. How’s that going, do you think? How are we doing both TVF and the industry as a whole in terms of passing on that industry knowledge that’s so important.

Jim Prestipino: We all had the textile experience. Me being in the office with everybody from purchasing to whatever, I can answer those questions and especially dealing with the mill. One question about how do you handle a return? The person was, they’d never done it before and they weren’t going to write a thesis? No, just give them the facts. That’s it. Just the facts. These bell numbers, this is the problem, this is the yardage, you handle it. Little things like that. But if we get quoted by one of our suppliers and it’s not quite perfect, I can understand why, ask them, what are you doing? But just helping everybody here. One thing was we had a salesman who ordered from the old guy that worked at Amerbelle when I was there, and she said, ” I can’t have a water- based coating” for her end use, water- based coating. Come to find out, my old boss quoted her an aqueous based coating, pretty slick move. Aqueous is water based, and he got one over on her. So ever since then, they can come to me or if I see things like that, ” Yeah, this is what you asked for, this is how you write it. These are the parameters that you have to have.” Only because I called on Top Value for 10 years. So I knew the questions that I needed to ask, but I could also tell them how to go to a mill and write it this way. These were the information. I know one thing when Lori came here and she was sourcing fabrics from us, I wrote down a thing I need for you to quote this. Well, she wrote it perfectly correct. I don’t write perfectly correct. I give them textilese. This is what they need to know in the mill. You don’t have to write it where your grammar’s perfect. No, this is what he needs to know. It’s short, basic points, tears this, whatever. And I just try to help people with that. That’s all.

Chris Fredericks: That makes me think about. I think people even listening now might get a sense. I think, you have a good reputation for being a direct communicator. You’re honest, you’re direct. For some people that directness could come across as a little strong at times because you’re so passionate about what you’re doing and you want make sure the customer’s ultimately very happy with what’s going on. And at the same time, I know you as someone who likes to have fun at work, what do you think about relationships at work? It seems like you are willing to hold yourself and others accountable to high standards, and yet it seems also important to you that you have a good time at work and really get along with people.

Jim Prestipino: When Covid hit, everybody had to go home except for the three folks, somebody picking up the mail, somebody paying the bills, and somebody putting the money in the bank. We’ve got a nice group here now, and it’s always been this way outside of Covid. If I can help, why not? I think that’s part of the reason you hired me when Bob said, you got the information and why shouldn’t I help? I’m not just looking out for me if I help everybody in the company do a little better. And most of these folks know it, they just might not write it in the exact same way I would write it or ask the question, but that’s what we’re here for. We should be helping everybody. But yeah, I’m pretty intense at work and I tell people it’s nothing personal. It’s just the way I’m built and it’s nothing more than trying to do a good job for the customer. If we do a good job for the customer, then we’re doing a good job for TVF. but that intenseness can be taken as really tough sometimes. Nothing more than just trying to do a good job.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, makes a lot of sense. Since you joined TVF, it became employee owned in 2010, and I think we’ve had a nice run as an employee- owned company. I’m curious what employee ownership has meant to you.

Jim Prestipino: I had no idea what an ESOP was when the whole thing came about. And that very first paycheck or our first share price of whatever, under a dollar, I probably wasn’t so impressed. And I said, ” Come on, what’s going on here?” And luckily we didn’t have to pay into it. But since then to get what we’re at now is unreal. That I can leave with a nice little paycheck for doing nothing more than my job. It’s pretty cool. It’s very cool. You never think that you could earn this kind of money just from doing your job. And I talk about it all the time. I had a friend, they were trying to get an ESOP at their place, said, ” Dude, you got to do it. It’s fantastic.” And that company was asking the employees to buy into it, and you did not ask us to do that, which is a fantastic way to start it. I know that whatever I do affects more than just me and my customer. It affects all of us. So I’m scared to death. And some of the markets that I’m in, I don’t want to make the decision that let’s get lawyers involved this and that. It didn’t produce what it was supposed to do. Scares me to death because I don’t want to be the guy that could take a tremendous amount of wealth from TVF. That’s it. So that’s one reason I try to be very thorough in what I do. I’m slower, but I like to think I’m pretty thorough.

Chris Fredericks: That’s awesome. What advice would you have for your fellow employee owners and other listeners?

Jim Prestipino: As far as salespeople, be yourself. I mean, on that one right there, that’s the number one thing. You can’t be what you aren’t. One of the girls that sits across from me, she can smile over the phone. I can’t do that. So I use my technical experience, what I have. So just be yourself. Do stuff on time, do the best you can. Have some fun while you’re doing it. There’s nothing wrong with that, and that’s it. But be yourself.

Chris Fredericks: Fantastic. I think that’s great advice. Jim, this has been an awesome conversation. So thanks Jim, and we’ll be right back. All right, welcome back. In each episode of Empowered Owners, after we have a chat with our featured guest, we’re going to bring them back for a quick and hopefully fun segment. Today, Jim and I are going to draft our top five best sports to be a professional athlete in. Our goal, Jim, and I know you’re competitive, is to have the best top five list. So you want to have a better list than me, which I don’t know, we’ll see who comes out on top. But knowing how competitive you are, I spent a fair amount of time preparing for this. So Jim, what do you say? Are you ready to get started?

Jim Prestipino: Sure.

Chris Fredericks: You ready? Okay. You get the first pick.

Jim Prestipino: Number one’s a golfer. You play in good weather. You can do it till you’re 65. They got tournaments for the older folks. I think by far, number one’s a golfer.

Chris Fredericks: I had a feeling you were going to say golf, Jim, because I know you love to play golf, so I’m going to go, my first pick is baseball. I think baseball of all the kind of professional team, sports is the most casual and fun. Whenever you look in the dugout, baseball players are always having a lot of fun. And really, if you’re a pitcher, you only work one every four days. And even if you’re in the rest of the roster, you’re mostly standing around waiting for the ball to come to you. But it’s a skill too. It requires a lot of skill and let’s be honest, they can make a lot of money. So I think being a baseball player is pretty good. So that’s my top choice.

Jim Prestipino: I agree.

Chris Fredericks: All right, so those are off the board. What’s your second choice?

Jim Prestipino: I’m going to have to go NBA player. I think, again, you play in great weather, you make a good bit of money, even if you’re sitting on the bench you’re doing pretty damn good and you’re making a tremendous amount of money. And if you stay healthy, it’s a fun sport. People know you. You’re only one of five or one of 10 on the field, on the court at any given time. So you get a lot of exposure and the money’s pretty good,

Chris Fredericks: Good choice. I’m mad because that was my second choice and I didn’t think you were going to pick that. So I’m going to have to jump down my list a little bit. So this might be a little off the wall, but I’m going to go with eSports. So professional video game, does that count, Jim? Can I count that as a sport?

Jim Prestipino: Sure, of course it counts.

Chris Fredericks: Okay. I just think indoors, get to play all the most fun current games. No risk of injury other than your thumbs, I guess. So that’s my second choice.

Jim Prestipino: Going on along that route, a professional poker player.

Chris Fredericks: Is that your third choice?

Jim Prestipino: That’s going to be my third choice.

Chris Fredericks: Nice.

Jim Prestipino: Great weather. I would think most of those people might not need the money. So you’re sort of having fun, no risk of injury. And if you’re good, you can win a few dollars.

Chris Fredericks: Good call. Poker/ gambler. I think that counts as a sport for sure in this context. My third choice, this is going to sound weird, but I’m going to go with professional cricket. It’s not big in the US, but it’s one of the biggest sports in the world. It’s kind of like baseball, really. It’s the India and other countries’ version of baseball. So it’s similar in terms of low injury risk and stuff from what I know, I don’t know much about cricket. But seems like it’d be fun from what I’ve seen. So I’m going to go with cricket.

Jim Prestipino: Fair enough. All right. Well along those lines, I’m going to say professional water skier. That’s what I really wanted to be when I was younger, that was the very first thing I ever wanted to do. Going to see ski shows and those things. I said that would be cool, and I can water ski and I can barefoot and those things.

Chris Fredericks: That’s good, I did not have that on my list and I didn’t have poker either. So those are two good choices I didn’t have. And my next one is going to be, we’re both really doing a good job doing the easy, low injury risk sports and stuff. I’m going to go with billiards, probably not great money, but yeah, I just think billiards would be a lot of fun to be a professional in.

Jim Prestipino: That would be a good one. I agree. But after that, let’s say tennis. It’s a grueling sport, but you get to travel all over the world, you make good money, you get your name out there if you’re one of the top. You got to work to get to number one. There’s nothing wrong with having to work and once you get there, you’re pretty well respected. So I’ll go with tennis as my next one.

Chris Fredericks: Good choice. Yep. All right. My last choice is bowling. Another one, just easy, low injury, risk, a lot of fun, social. We both picked a lot of social sports which I think make a lot of sense. I like our list. So your picks were golf, basketball, poker, water sports, tennis and mine were baseball, eSports, cricket, billiards, and bowling. I’m going to give us credit. Jim, neither of us picked football, MMA, boxing, auto racing, rugby or hockey. I have a feeling we both sensed that those would have too much risk for our tolerance. All right, that was a lot of fun. Hopefully we hear from our listeners on who they think won the draft. But Jim, this really has been so much fun. Thank you for joining us on this episode of Empowered Owners, and hopefully you had fun with this too. And look forward to seeing you again next time.

Jim Prestipino: I did. Thank you for asking me.

Chris Fredericks: Coming up next, Empowered Ventures Chief of Staff, Emily Bopp will join me for a quick debrief of my discussion with Jim. Hi Emily. How are you today?

Emily Bopp: Hey, doing great. And I loved listening in to your talk with Jim. What a fascinating individual.

Chris Fredericks: That’s great. What did you think about Jim?

Emily Bopp: Okay, so the whole time I was thinking if Jim were an author, the title of his book would be More Than Sales

Chris Fredericks: Good. 

Emily Bopp:  Seriously. And think about all of the chapters. There would be technical expertise and how to be an awesome salesperson because you actually know your industry and you can talk both sides of the customer, and in your case the mill, more than sales. And then there would be another chapter on relationships. Relationships with all of that trust- based relational problem solving. Well, maybe that would be another chapter is on problem solving. So it’d be relationships, it’d be problem solving, it’d be technical expertise. And finally, there’d be a chapter on interpersonal relationships at your company and how you influence others, how you help everyone. I mean, seriously. He should write a book called More Than Sales.

Chris Fredericks: Seriously. That is a really good idea. It’s so true. It’s so true. Anything else stood out to you about the conversation?

Emily Bopp: So glad that we were able to get to know him a little bit. And who knew Jim was a water skier? Super cool.

Chris Fredericks: Yes. Super cool. So what else is going on inside Empowered Ventures lately that we might want to highlight for the audience?

Emily Bopp: One of our businesses, I’m glad you thought to ask, one of our businesses had a visit from one of their congressmen, and I don’t know the whole story on that, but I think you do. So I think everybody needs to know what happened at First Star. Can you fill us in?

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, so First Star, our precision machine shop in Brunswick, Ohio. Dave Tenney, founder and still president of the company. He has always been really good about staying connected with the local city and the governance and function from the town and the area that he’s in. And they moved to Brunswick a few years ago, and ever since then he got very plugged in to that local city government. And they’ve basically always brought in, they have had multiple visits from lots of different representatives, and anytime that city is wanting to coordinate visits with politicians to highlight interesting things going on in businesses and that city specifically innovation or automation or jobs First Star’s on the list. And they always give Dave a call and they’ve had numerous people visit. And I just think it’s so awesome because now there’s an added element for First Star of talking about employee ownership. They’ve done this for a long time, but now when the Congressman Max Miller recently joins or someone like him in the future, they get to hear the story of how First Star became employee owned as well and who Empowered Ventures is. So personally, I’m super grateful that Dave does this because it’s not something all employee owned companies do a great job of. There’s an organization called ESCO that tries to organize things like this and does a great job, but it’s an opportunity. And in a way I feel challenged in a good way by Dave to say, ” Hey, this is something that’s important and it’s an opportunity and I’m just really glad First Star does it.”

Emily Bopp: For sure. So I saw a picture that ESCA published in their newsletter, and there were some of the folks that I’ve met there at First Star. So hats off to you First Star employee owners and Dave for leading the charge and putting First Star in the Limelight as an example to others. That’s an inspiration to the businesses and the people who are setting policy that influences business there. And now we have the employee ownership piece weighing in as well. It’s just super cool. So something to celebrate there with First Star.

Chris Fredericks: Yes, definitely, love it. And yes, huge thanks to Dave. Outside of that, I think what’s going on at Empire Ventures, we finished our fiscal year, well, March 31, and we finished the year. It was a good year, a really good year. Our three businesses all did well. And it’s an exciting time because as an employee- owned company, it’s when we wrap up the year and our share price gets figured out. So every year we have a new share price that gets issued and announced to all the team, the employee owners. And that share price is a big deal because it really drives the value of their accounts and it makes employee ownership real for everybody, the share price ultimately and the allocations of shares that go into their accounts. So I know everyone’s really excited to hear once that share price is figured out and announced. So that’s where we’re at just as an org is kind of excitedly waiting for the year- end stuff to get finished and that share price to get announced, and I’m just looking forward to it. So that’s what’s going on behind the scenes a little bit at EV these days.

Emily Bopp: Awesome. And I’m glad you brought that up, and I just am thinking about some of the folks out there who maybe have never heard the phrase fiscal year. So if you happen to be one of our EV years and you’ve never heard the term fiscal year, don’t worry. There’s probably lots of us that have never heard the term fiscal year. All that means is rather than the calendar year that goes January 1st to January 1st or the school year, that goes sometime in August to some time in May. A fiscal year is a business term for when the financial year starts counting. So we start counting in April 1st is the beginning of our financial year. In other words, we pay attention to what happened financially in this business. It’s sort of the New Year for the business. So April 1st, and then to the next April 1st, we finish out on March 31st. But yeah, now we’re in this season of valuation and how much are those shares going to be worth? And we’ll be revealing that in July. So everybody stay tuned for the big share price reveal date. But behind the scenes, there’s a ton of work. People would probably be flabbergasted if they really knew how much work goes into valuing, putting a price tag, on our collective business, our family of businesses, and that’s how then they come up with the share that every employee owner would get of that. That’s the season that we’re in. It takes weeks and weeks. So that’s what we’re busy doing.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. And great color on fiscal and all good stuff. So lots of great stuff happening at Empowered Ventures. Thank you for joining Emily for a quick breakdown of my discussion with Jim and highlighting some of the things going on at EV and look forward to seeing you again next time too.

Emily Bopp:  For sure. And can I say one more thing?

Chris Fredericks: Absolutely.

Emily Bopp: Employee owners who are listening, I need you. I need your input. I am going to make sure that you have my email, emily @ empowered. ventures, again, emily @ empowered. ventures, anything that you’re curious about, anything you want to hear about somebody who you’d like to hear interviewed, I want to know what you want to hear about on this podcast. And if you don’t have an email and you can’t send it to me at emily @ empowered. ventures, I’m going to get a box set up so that you can write it down on a piece of paper, on a napkin, on any little scrap of anything stick it in the box and someone at your organization will make sure that I get it. So little plug for Emily Bopp here at Empowered Ventures. We need your input, hungry for your input, excited for your input. What do you want to hear about? Who do you want to hear interviewed? Let me know.

Chris Fredericks: Fantastic. Thank you for mentioning that. And yes, please reach out to Emily and let us know any thoughts you have, suggestions, et cetera. Thank you, Emily.

Emily Bopp: Sure thing. Thank you. We’ll see you next time.

Chris Fredericks: Well, that wraps up this episode of Empowered Owners. I’d like to thank Jim Prestipino and Emily Bopp for joining me and TVF’s Connie Renschler and Bob Burns for suggesting topics for my discussion with Jim. Remember, we want to hear from you. Please give us feedback, suggest guests and topics for future episodes and tell us how we can keep improving the show. To reach us, send us an email at emily @ empowered. ventures, that’s emily @ empowered. ventures. Last but not least, a big thank you to our production team at Share Your Genius. Be sure to join us next time on Empowered Owners as we explore the lives and stories of the amazing employee owners of Empowered Ventures. If you haven’t already, follow our podcast on your favorite platform so you never miss an episode. Thank you for tuning in.

Tags: Podcast
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