Episode Three… Embracing the Challenge: Makayla Simmers’ Machining Journey

Episode Description

“Being young and a female, I like to show that I know what I am doing. I have the confidence behind it.”

Many people strive for the confidence Makayla Simmers has. She’s a machinist at Firstar Precision Corp., a precision machine shop near Cleveland, Ohio, and has a constant curiosity to learn more. Her hard working nature and driven personality push her to the best she can be.

In this episode of Empowered Owners, Makayla shares what her first year at Firstar has looked like. Not only does she explain in detail what she does on a day-to-day basis, but she also describes how being a female in a predominantly male field has pushed her to learn more and remain confident. Makayla embodies an inspiring presence that will leave you encouraged, motivated, and influenced.

What You’ll Learn

  • How Makayla Simmers has charted her professional path in a male-dominated industry.
  • The ins and outs of the machining process and what makes a machinist successful.
  • The vital role that the board of directors plays in directing and defining the culture within Empowered Ventures.

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 the following 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 Makayla Simmers, a machinist at Firstar Precision Corp, a precision machine shop near Cleveland, Ohio that EV acquired in April 2021 and was EV’s first diversifying acquisition. As you’ll hear, Makaylaa is extremely smart and engaging, and as a woman in a predominantly male field, she shares some compelling thoughts and insights as well as a thorough dive into what a machine shop actually does. I’ll also be joined by EV’s Chief of Staff, Emily Bopp, at the end of the episode to debrief my discussion with Makayla and talk about EV’s board of directors and what a board does. Makayla officially joined Firstar in May 2022 after a brief stint as an intern. She came to Firstar after completing the Precision Machining Technology program at the Medina County Career Center. She chose the precision machining field after being encouraged by Firstar’s founder, David Tenny, after they met in a mock interview meeting. She was the first woman in six years to go through that program. Makayla works in Firstar’s milling, turning, grinding, and finishing departments, which she prefers rather than specializing. With that, let’s get to the conversation. Hi Makayla, welcome to Empowered Owners. I’m so excited to chat with you and really appreciate you taking the time to do this. I understand that you joined Firstar a little over a year ago, and I’m really curious just to start, how your first year or so with Firstar has gone.

Makayla Simmers: Actually really good, in my opinion. A lot better than a lot of the machine shops I’ve seen and toured. I get firsthand experience on most of the machines I really wanted to get firsthand experience on. It’s pretty cool that they give us the opportunity to pick what we want to do.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, that’s awesome. So I’m really curious, how did you find your way into the machining industry?

Makayla Simmers: It’s actually a crazy story. I met Dave Tenny ninth grade year for a fake interview during school and I nailed it, I like to say, and two years later he convinced me what machining was because I like building things and putting things together and making something into something. So he definitely steered me into the career center’s machine shop and I just fell in love with it the first year.

Chris Frederick: That’s awesome. So that was ninth grade, so it was a high school program where you got to meet Dave Tenny and he’s the president of Firstar, so that’s really cool.

Makayla Simmers: Yeah, it was actually pretty cool.

Chris Fredericks: Before that, you said you liked taking things apart, putting them back together. Was that something you grew up always doing? Was that an interest of yours?

Makayla Simmers: Yeah, it is. Me and my dad used to do car parts together, put stuff together all the time, so I fell in love with turning into something. You actually build something into something. I did a couple of vice grips and stuff in school that I built my own, designed my own, so fell in love with it from there on.

Chris Fredericks: That’s so cool. That’s great. So it sounds like that time with your dad was really important and led to where you are today.

Makayla Simmers: Oh yeah, a hundred percent. He helped me become the woman I am and I like to say, yeah, it’s helped me a long way, especially with this machine class or machine shop and everything like that.

Chris Fredericks: Very interesting. Did your dad also have a similar job or…

Makayla Simmers: No, he did more like construction, but I didn’t really want to build houses. I like the material difference in what we do, how we go from brass, copper to aluminum to anything while construction really doesn’t do that as much. So I got to taste what construction was the first year, but I didn’t really fall in love with it like I fell in love with machining.

Chris Fredericks: Did you grow up in the area where Firstar is now in Medina County?

Makayla Simmers: Yeah, I actually live right down the street.

Chris Fredericks: Oh. Well, that’s convenient.

Makayla Simmers: Yeah.

Chris Fredericks: I think you might be the perfect person to educate me a little bit on what a machine shop even is. So if we take a step back for people that don’t even know, how would you describe what a machine shop is?

Makayla Simmers: What we do is basically take material, like bars, blocks that were just cut off of a machine that had material that we needed at a certain size, a certain depth, and so we go step by step. Each machine does its own step. Lathes do mostly holes, I want to say. Finished turns, all that kind of stuff actually takes it to the diameter that we need, while our lathes and wire cut stuff, our holes, what we need to actually be a cylinder and stuff like that. I like to say it’s turning nothing into something so you have a normal block that has nothing to do with what we are doing, and by the end of it should look like what the print looks like and everything. It really depends on what machine you’re working on. You got the shaper that actually makes the gears while mills and lathes cut and actually form the shape of the piece and everything like that. While the shaper doesn’t do that, it does the finer things, like it needs a gear at the top of it or it needs a gear in the middle of it. That’s what the shaper would do, while our lathes and mill actually do all the work, carve it out, everything to the last couple steps a mill can’t do or a lathe can’t do. So it depends on what kind of piece we’re talking about, but I’ve seen almost a hundred operations on one job because it has so much stuff. It has so much inspections we had to go over and everything like that. So it really depends on what we do, because Firstar, for example, doesn’t work on the exact same pieces every time. We work on very similar pieces. They might look the same, but not everything was the same from the last job. So we would have to change the tools, change the position, change the machine that we were running at the time. It just really depends. I’ve learned, especially with Firstar, that we can’t say everything we run is the same because it’s not, because it’s a little different or it’s a huge difference.

Chris Fredericks: Fascinating. Wow. So these machines, generally they’re considered CNC machines, correct? We’re already getting into territory where I don’t understand.

Makayla Simmers: Oh, yeah. All these machines are computer operated. That’s what basically CNC means where we would tell the machine where our zero is on X, Y, Z, B, A, what other access it has, and then tell the machine, ” Hey, this is where our pieces, this is where you need to cut and not over here and somewhere other and open that the piece is not even going to get touched,” so we don’t slam it into something. I like to say, how the machine runs, it’s like a picture. It goes to point to point and it makes the picture of your piece and it makes sense.

Chris Fredericks: So you’re essentially using multiple different types of machines, like you mentioned a shaper. Well, you wouldn’t start with a shaper, you would end with a shaper.

Makayla Simmers: We have a band saw. That’s what cuts all our material to the size that we need or that it calls out. Then it goes to the lathes usually or the mills first. It depends on what it’s doing, but usually it goes to the lathes and then mills, and then either the shaper or the EDM, the wires, because both machines do the similar things and just does more the finer touches to the piece.

Chris Fredericks: Fascinating. 

Makayla Simmers: So yeah, it’s going from this block all the way down, smaller, smaller, smaller… Until it-  Until it’s a final…  Diameter that what the customer wants and everything. And then, if it’s a brand new piece, we stay in contact with the customer on each step of the way so they know what we’re doing. If we can’t do it a certain way, we will find another way to do it so they can get what they want. We like to satisfy our customer any way possible because that’s what we do. That’s what we’re known for.

Chris Fredericks: To some degree, someone could hear this and almost think, oh, this sounds like it could be almost automated. You wouldn’t need people involved. It’s just machines doing machine stuff. But I know that’s not true. So why is it so difficult actually to be a great machinist? What makes this a challenging and interesting job essentially?

Makayla Simmers: Prime example, we have a robot that runs this one specific piece all day long. I like to say, to make a good machinist, because it’s hard to be the greatest because it’s very hard to know everything and that’s what you have to do. There’s no way to know everything unless you live thousands upon thousands of years. There’s just way too much information. I like to do is I learned everything from top to bottom, what every word is, the definition is, so I know off the top of the head what they’re talking about. I don’t have to look it up in my book anymore or anything like that. I like to ask questions. A lot of people don’t, but if you ask questions, it helps you later on. Once you get back to a similar piece like that, you already know what to do and now you’re just basically fine tipping it where, ” Oh, I really don’t know how to adjust this or I don’t know how to do this.” Our robot runs 24/ 7. We have a guy that only change out tools when all the tools are broken. So yes, basically all our machines run by themselves, but what we do is tell the machine where it’s cutting, how it’s cutting it, how fast it’s cutting, how fast it’s feeding into the piece. Because if we don’t tell them that, I’ll just keep on breaking pieces or destroy the piece or weld it to the piece and stuff like that and we can’t make a good piece out of it. So yes, theoretically all our machines could run all by themselves as long as they’re programmed to the right way, and without having the program or a machinist, you can’t do anything.

Chris Fredericks: So it’s a machine, but it needs to be set up properly and that setup process is, I gather, a big part of what you do is make sure. It probably takes a lot of work to figure out how to set it up just right so that these teeny tiny ultimately parts that are high precision are consistently produced at the same specs without breaking anything and all that kind of stuff.

Makayla Simmers: Yeah, and we’re not wasting company time where we’re checking the piece while the machine’s not running. We like to run the machine, check the piece, and if we have to make an adjustment, we can stop the machine, make the adjustment or wait till the next piece. But yeah, I like to say theoretically our wires run all by themselves for three hours of the day every day, and what we do is just tell it, ” Point A, point B, point C, just go do it,” and it’s done. And it won’t change it until you have another machinist say, ” Hey, I have a new piece. This is what you’re going to do now, not that anymore.”

Chris Fredericks: Do you have a favorite machine or step in the process that’s the part that you enjoy the most or do you just like it all?

Makayla Simmers: For me, I’m one of the only people, or I don’t want to say only people, but I’m one of the only persons that actually go from lathes, mills, grinding, shaper, sandblasting and everything, and I like the mills and lathes because they actually do more work. It challenges you more. You have to think about it more before you actually just run in, do it.

Chris Fredericks: Interesting. What is it about the lathe and the CNC mill that requires so much careful attention?

Makayla Simmers: Like I said, they do more stuff. Our lathes have six accesses all together, but we only use three of them. So for, say, if we just came from operation where we’re only using three of the accesses and now this new operation uses all six, we have to tell the machine, ” Hey, this is all the accesses we’re using now.” It has to program it. It’s more touchy, I like to say. If you just run it as is, there’s a lot of factors that could be like, hey, you could crash it, you can damage the tool. It could go a completely opposite way or it could be this, while our shaper and wires really don’t have that. It’s more like it’s going to go feed right into it. You watch it. You know it’s not going to be as touchy, it’s not going to hit anything, while our lathes and mills are a lot bigger, they move a lot more differently. They move faster, so when we go to slow it down, we have to slow it down very, very slowly so we can actually watch it. Because if we don’t really watch it, we don’t know what’s happening inside the machine and we like to know what’s happening, especially on our first piece. So after 300 pieces, we know this is how it’s going to run every time.

Chris Fredericks: Got it. So thinking through the rest of the job, so once you’ve got it set up just right and it starts to run, does it become essentially an observation thing where you keep an eye on it and maybe even with one or two machines at the same time, or how does the rest of the job go?

Makayla Simmers: Yeah. Usually after we turn inspection and get our green tag, people are saying, ” Yeah, this piece is good to go, this is what meets all the print.” What we do is run it again, check everything like we did for our very first piece, and then continuously run it. We do not stop running it unless you’re like bathroom, lunch, all that kind of stuff. But other than that, we do not stop running so the machine stays within relatively the same area, so it’s not really hard to keep it in the same area. It’s more like when we leave for the day and come back, that’s when most of our machines or some of our machines, we take it back some and then trawl it back in. By the time the machine’s all warmed up, we know it’s not going to drop on us or it’s not going to cut way more than what we want it to cut or break a tool because it’s too much pressure on it. We already know I can leave this machine, go run another machine and still have that run running because you know it’s going to stay the same at all time.

Chris Fredericks: Very cool. Thank you for educating me on both the industry as a whole and also what makes Firstar unique a little bit too. Maybe pivoting a little bit, you mentioned earlier being a woman in this field. I’m curious, it is maybe a male- dominated field traditionally.

Makayla Simmers: Yeah. I was told in school it’s only 25% of women in my type of field, so I like to say it’s maybe one or two actually machinist girls that actually run stuff out of 100 or 200 because it’s very uncommon for women to be in this field. I like to say it’s a heavy, heavy, heavy male- dominated field, and it does not bother me at all. I’m a tomboy, I like to get all dirty, so these boys don’t do anything to me. I like challenging myself just as much as they do. There’s no difference. I like being young and as a female to show that I know what I’m doing and I have the confidence behind it and everything like that.

Chris Fredericks: Wow, that’s amazing. That’s so cool. When you first started getting interested in this and you learned about those statistics, it didn’t scare you off at all?

Makayla Simmers: No, it actually drove me more into it. It makes me want to show them, yes, I can do it better or as much good as the rest of them, and don’t matter the gender to me.

Chris Fredericks: Impressive. Do you think it’s concerning that there’s so few women in the field?

Makayla Simmers: I like to say I would love to have more women. For example, I’m the only actual woman or girl besides one other girl that actually runs machines here. I would like to have more girls in the field because it would show that we’re not here to just come in and just show around and come out. We’re here to stay permanently and everything like that. I hope in 10, 15 years, that that will change, that the odds will start evening out. I was the very first girl in the career center in six years to take machining class, and then the year I graduated there was 10 girls that signed up because of me. So I hope if I make a difference and show women that it’s not what you think it is, that maybe more women will come out and do it.

Chris Fredericks: That’s awesome. So you said 10 people went into the program, 10 women, because of you essentially. How did that come about?

Makayla Simmers: Our career center does touring to all the schools in Medina County, so all the eighth graders, all the ninth graders, all the 10th graders. I personally wanted to sit down with the groups and tell them and all the girls that it’s not what you think. Yes, I’m the only girl, but you can dominate them as much as they dominate you. It does not matter. You shouldn’t be scared just because there’s more guys in the field than you.

Chris Fredericks: Fantastic. Thank you for sharing. That is so cool and quite inspiring. It seems really good too for the machining industry, other industries that are similar that have traditionally been male- dominated, there’s a challenge finding enough labor for a lot of companies like this, so it makes a lot of sense. Why not start to look at women, since it’s clearly something that for the right people could be a really fulfilling and interesting career? So it makes me feel a little more optimistic, I guess, that maybe there’s a whole other way to find great people to join companies like Firstar in the future.

Makayla Simmers: It depends on what they were looking for. For me, I toured 10 different places before I actually sat down with Firstar and everything like that. It was more because I wanted to be viewed as a person and not a number, that I have a choice and if something I don’t like or I’m tired of running the same machine over and over and over again, I have the choice of going to my boss and being, ” Hey, I get it that we’re busy here, but I’m getting worn out. I would like to switch with someone else,” and if someone else wants what I do, we usually switch. It gives you a more opportunity to learn more new machines. When we got a robot, that was a whole new game for all of us, the new ones to our oldest machinists, because we’ve never seen something like this. So with all of us learning something new about that machine, it drove us all together as we can do it. We could put all our minds together and we could do it together.

Chris Fredericks: That’s great. Yeah, that makes me think about, as I was wondering about this job and what makes it so interesting, it seems like solving puzzles is part of it.

Makayla Simmers: Yeah, I like to say it’s a mystery every day. You don’t know what you’re going to get yourself into. Some days it’s a chill breeze day and some days you hit stumps every hour and it’s like, ” Okay, I got to take a step back and actually readjust how to figure it out,” and I like that because it’s very hard for a lot of different fields to hit all those challenges all at once like a machine shop does.

Chris Fredericks: Wonderful. I understand you wear cowboy boots to work; is that correct?

Makayla Simmers: Yeah.

Chris Fredericks: Well, I need to know, what’s the story? Why cowboy boots?

Makayla Simmers: I don’t know. Honestly, that’s my thing. I’m a more cowgirl than anything, so I always have worn cowboy boots.

Chris Fredericks: That’s great. What advice do you have for people, young people, anybody that’s trying to figure out what they want to do and find something they love doing?

Makayla Simmers: I like to say take as much opportunities as you can. For example, the career center gives you two years in high school or as an adult, as night schools and stuff like that. You can pay$ 600 to go to school, and say the first year you thought you would like machining and you didn’t quite like it, and then you want to go try a different field that they offered, they give you the choice to say, ” Hey, yeah, we understand you don’t like that, so go try this before you don’t know what you want to do.” I like to say if something like building something or putting something together, if that drives you, try to find something that falls into it so much because you don’t want to go to a job that you don’t want to go to every day. Because for me, I love my job. I love going to work at 5: 30 AM every day. I put a smile on my face because I enjoy what I do on a day- to- day basis, so I have no worries about me getting tired of it one day. So I like to say, if you really like something, try to find it. I tell my cousins all the time, try to find what you really enjoy in life and then hold onto as much as you can.

Chris Fredericks: Makayla, you really are inspiring. Thank you for coming on and being a guest on Empowered Owners. Welcome back. In each episode of Empowered Owners, we bring our featured guest back for a short and hopefully fun segment. This time, we have five questions to get to know Makayla Simmers a little bit more. So you have the choice between East Coast, West Coast, or neither. What sounds most appealing?

Makayla  Simmers: West Coast.

Chris Fredericks: Got it. Okay. Next one. Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, or neither?

Makayla Simmers: Neither.

Chris Fredericks: Not a big fan of game shows?

Makayla Simmers:  Oh no, I suck.

Chris Fredericks: Okay. All right, next question. Chicken, beef, or neither?

Makayla Simmers: Chicken, a hundred percent.

Chris Fredericks: Okay, fourth question. Water- skiing, snow skiing, or neither?

Makayla Simmers: Snow skiing.

Chris Fredericks: Okay.

Makayla Simmers: Yeah.

Chris Fredericks: You like snow skiing?

Makayla Simmers: No, I have always wanted to do it though. My parents are a little… No.

Chris Fredericks: I think you should. I think you should learn how to snow ski. All right. Last question. Silly question. Sorry to put you through these. Being a guest on a podcast, doing karaoke, or neither?

Makayla Simmers: Podcast, a hundred percent.

Chris Fredericks: That’s great. All right, Makayla. Those are all awesome answers. I do feel like I know you a little bit better after hearing those answers. Thank you again for coming on Empowered Owners.

Makayla Simmers: No problem. Thank you for having me.

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

Emily Bopp: Hey, doing great. And that was so fun to listen to. Oh my goodness. What did you think of your time with Makayla?

Chris Fredericks: I’m overwhelmingly excited about that conversation. She’s amazing. Not just impressive, but just a really neat person in addition to being very, very impressive too.

Emily Bopp: If I could think of one word to describe her, I would say genuine. There is something just through and through purely genuine about her. I think of how many kids in high school pick up all of the social cues of what they’re supposed to do, what they’re supposed to like, how they’re supposed to be, and I just got the sense that for some reason or other, she was true to herself from the very beginning and she’s just genuinely, ” This is what I love.” Even her advice to our cousins, find what you love to do and then hold onto it. Oh my goodness. How many of us had the confidence to make that kind of decision for ourselves? Yeah, I’m with you. Totally inspired.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. Yeah. She’s so strikingly comfortable being herself, and the way that impacted already at least 10 other women to choose to go into that program, I envision a very bright future for her. She’s a natural- born leader too.

Emily Bopp: I had that same thought. I thought, oh my goodness, she’s young and she’s new to this industry, but it’s not going to take long before she’s really having an influence in a lot of major ways. She is. She’s not even trying, but she’s naturally influencing.

Chris Fredericks: I guess that’s what I love about that, and taking it a little broader, is they say leadership at its best is just influence, and it’s everyone, especially in an employee- owned company, is part of that, has the opportunity to lead through influence, and I think she’s just a shining example of what I would hope everyone can aspire to.

Emily Bopp: Yeah, so a huge thank you to Makayla. You’re an inspiration to all of us.

Chris Fredericks: So yeah, other than that, one of the questions I get the most I would say from our employee owners is what a board is. We have a board of directors and most corporations do, but it’s a black box part of a lot of businesses. It’s like, ” Well, what is a board? Who are they? What do they do?” And I get that question a fair amount. So I thought it might be good if we spend a little time on that since we recently had our annual board meeting where our board came together with some of our leadership teams and recapped the year, so I thought that might be a really interesting topic.

Emily Bopp: Well, I’m going to turn that around and ask you some questions so that you can educate us. I think that is an awesome topic. You just threw out annual board meetings, so question number one, how often does the board meet with us?

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. Quarterly. So our board will get together quarterly and review the results of the previous quarter, and then once a year we have what we call the annual board meeting, which is one of the quarterly meetings, but it’s a little more robust. It’s to inaudible the full year that just ended for us, which is March 31, so that’s why we fairly recently had our annual meeting. So four times a year our board gets together.

Emily Bopp: And so as with everything when we talk about Empowered Ventures, there’s the way that businesses that are not employee- owned typically do things, and then there’s the way that an employee- owned holding company that we are does things. So I’m wondering if you could just describe for people who don’t know what a board of directors is or does, what is it normally in what we call a privately held company? In other words, a company that isn’t traded on the stock exchange, but it’s just owned by a person or a few people. What is a board of directors normally? How does it get made? What does it do? And then, how is that different or the same for us since we’re employee- owned?

Chris Fredericks: I think that’s a great question. So the short version, high level reason or explanation of what a board is, in states, state law, to form a business, there are different ways you can form a business. One of the ways is called a corporation, which I think is a word everybody’s heard of. Other forms that are different than a corporation would be an LLC, which many people will have heard as well. So a corporation is a very particular kind of legal structure of a business that has a long history. It goes centuries back, and each state has their own rules around how a corporation functions from a legal perspective. And it’s pretty much enshrined in the law of every state that a board of directors is essentially the governance function for that corporation. So no matter what, if you have a corporation, a privately owned corporation, publicly traded companies are also corporations, a board has to be named. To your point about a privately owned company, so a typical family owned business or an individual founder, if they use the corporation structure, they have to have a board. For many of those companies, the board will be the owners. So let’s say you have a family, three people, they own the company equally, it’d be very common for them to just say, ” Well, we’re the board of directors also since we own the company.” So the board in that sense, doesn’t have a very important function. It’s fulfilling essentially the legal requirement, but it doesn’t really do much else other than formalize, meet that requirement. For us as an employee- owned company, we are a corporation, so we have to have a board of directors. That board of directors is responsible to oversee our business essentially. Their primary job ultimately is to hire the CEO to run the company. That’s how most boards view fulfilling their role. It’s not the only thing they do, but it’s one of the primary things they do because a board does not run the company. They’re not involved in the day- to- day business. So, in an employee- owned situation like ours, and for many employee- owned companies, we choose to take advantage of having a board of directors to bring in some outsiders who essentially, they are paid, not highly paid, they’re not full- time employees, but they’re paid to be on our board and bring their professional skillset to overseeing our business. And that’s a best practice, we consider, to have outside people involved because it provides an extra layer of oversight to what we’re doing, and it really shows how serious we take this responsibility of being employee- owned and having accountability for the leadership team ultimately.

Emily Bopp: That is super helpful. Thank you for laying it out. So you said that one of their primary jobs is to hire the CEO, so in effect, they’re your bosses.

Chris Fredericks: Correct.

Emily Bopp: And that you answer to them and they hold you accountable. I also just have this sandwich picture in my head of Empowered Ventures, us as a company, who we serve, who we’re here for, who we’re all about, who are we accountable to. And if you think of it in as a sandwich and we’re in the middle, we’re really accountable to all of our employee owners because in our case, the owners are all of us. So we’re accountable. Every decision we make, the way that we’re shaping this family of businesses, it’s for the good of all of our employee owners. But on the other hand, if that’s one side of the sandwich, then the other side of the sandwiches, well, we have this board of directors who are using, as you said, all of their outside expertise in various ways, legal and the ins and outs of running an ESOP well, and its financial management and all those kinds of things, that they’re keeping us honest at the same time because we’re also completely open to their scrutiny for them to see the decisions that we’re making and to challenge us and to help us think maybe bigger or different.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. The employee owners are ultimately what this is all about for us. And maybe next, in a future episode, we can talk more about the rest of our governance, which involves the ESOP trustee and what they do on behalf of all the employee owners and how that relates to the board. But yeah, they are very much involved as well in a different way. And ultimately, I agree with you. We view our responsibility very seriously with regards to the benefits of what we’re doing accruing to our employee owners and over time creating life- changing outcomes for all of our employee owners. So the board knows that and is fully on board with that being the mission of the org, which is a critical component of what we would look for in board members, is that they have alignment around our vision and what we’re trying to accomplish, so they’re here to essentially help us accomplish that vision as well. They don’t have any other kind of outside influences or conflicts of interest or something that they would want us to be doing something else. They’re entirely here to serve the organization and help it achieve its purpose, which is what we’re here to do as well.

Emily Bopp: Yeah, that’s really good to call out, that they don’t have any ulterior motive. They’re here for our good. So how many board members do we have?

Chris Fredericks: Today, we have five total board members. I am one of the board members as CEO. We have four outside board members. For ease, I would point people to our website, the About Us page on the website. They can see our current team, which includes our four outside board members, but they’re all great people, highly qualified, so I’d definitely encourage people to go check that out.

Emily Bopp: Yeah, for sure. Well, thanks for shining some light on what is usually just a black box. Nobody really knows. And if folks have any more questions about the board or want to hear more, maybe want to meet one or the other of them, maybe we can have them on the podcast, but for sure let us know. We want to be able to answer those.

Chris Fredericks: All right. Thank you, Emily, for joining me to discuss both the board of directors stuff, but more importantly Makayla and the incredible job she did. I hope you have a good rest of your day, Emily.

Emily Bopp: Thanks so much. We’ll see you next time.

Chris Fredericks: Well, that wraps up this episode of Empowered Owners. I’d like to thank Makayla Simmers and Emily Bopp for joining me, and Firstar’s Ben West and Dave Smith for suggesting topics for the discussion. 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 hello @ empowered. ventures. That’s hello @ 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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