Episode Twenty… Inside Our Philosophy and Approach to Company Support

Episode Description

Do you ever wonder what it takes to support a group of successful companies and help them thrive? Maybe this is something you’ve wondered about but don’t know where to start.

Good news.

In this episode, Chris Fredericks, CEO of Empowered Ventures, and Emily Bopp, chief of staff at Empowered Ventures, discuss the unique approach taken by Empowered Ventures to ensure the success of each and every company. We hope you’ll walk away feeling proud, empowered, and eager to embrace the foundational principles that fuel success within Empowered Ventures and beyond.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • An “Empowered approach” is the secret sauce. We only buy healthy, successful companies with a competitive edge. This sets the foundation for long-term growth and stability for the companies we work with.
  • Cultivating relationships with company leaders is key. They collaborate to align long-term goals, financial plans, and continuous support, all rooted in trust and empowerment.
  • Building a community of companies is vital. We foster connections between our companies, creating a network where everyone benefits from collective success. There’s strength in unity and shared resources.

Jump into the conversation:

[01:25] Who inspires Chris
[03:10] EV’s “Empowered approach”
[05:27] Part 1: Investing in successful companies
[08:05] Part 2: Supporting leadership
[10:12] Part 3: Building a community

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

Emily Bopp: If you think about a castle and it’s got this mode around it, it’s not easy for other people to break in to either take things or start doing what you’re doing, et cetera. So for our companies that they’re already succeeding because they do have some sort of durable competitive advantage. It just lends to the strength that how do we help them succeed?

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, Chief of Staff Emily Bopp and I talk about our approach to supporting our companies and helping them succeed, which is a big part of what we do at the holding company and something we’ve put a fair amount of thought into. It’s also a question we get asked a lot. So I’m excited to share our thoughts with you. Let’s get to the conversation. Hi, Emily. How are you today?

Emily Bopp: Hey, Chris. I’m doing great. How about yourself?

Chris Fredericks: I’m doing really well.

Emily Bopp: Awesome. Well, I’m excited to be back for another EV update episode, and today I wanted to actually kick off with an impromptu question, and I wanted to ask you who has been the most influential person in your success? I’m really curious.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, great question. Obviously, there’s a lot of people that have played a part in me just being fortunate to be where I’m at today. And definitely one person that stands out in my career is Dick Hansel. He was one of the founders of TVF, Top Value Fabrics. And Dick really gave me so much opportunity. I was working in the business as CFO and the opportunities Dick gave me to grow and learn, and he empowered me so much and trusted me so much that ended up leading to the ESOP creation at TVF and ultimately where we’re at today. So I’d have to say Dick Hansel.

Emily Bopp: Yeah. And so I heard you say he gave you a lot of opportunity. Does anything else come to mind that what was it about that relationship that empowered success?

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. He believed in me in many ways before I did. So he saw potential in me that I wasn’t necessarily seeing, and he told me about that potential that he was seeing and he encouraged it, supported me to take on more responsibilities, challenged me a lot. He was a pretty challenging leader with where I was at the time. It was the combination of being challenged, but also given being empowered and trusted and encouraged to take on more, that really unlocked, I think, some creative energy in me and some aspirational energy in me to grow and have an exciting and interesting career.

Emily Bopp: Ultimately, it’s so powerful to be believed in, to be encouraged, to be challenged, to be trusted. I love all of that. And the reason why I’m asking is because this episode is all about how we at EV help our companies to succeed. And just given that’s been your experience personally, how much of that sort of bleeds over into our approach with our companies?

Chris Fredericks: There’s like a direct connection, for sure. Sometimes I’m hesitant to use the word too much, but it’s truly an Empowered approach that we take with our companies. Not all investors or groups that buy and own companies truly empower and trust and lean into this kind of a model where the leaders of our companies, the employees, the workers of our companies, they are making it happen. We’re not taking on the burden of the day to day and the hard work that makes our companies successful. We are not doing that at the holding company. And that’s very intentional because we think an Empowered approach, combined with employee ownership and all those things is what really unlocks so much potential in our businesses. Having said that, there’s ways we support this Empowered approach. And I think that might be what we’re here to dig into a little bit today.

Emily Bopp: Yeah. What are the ways that we support this Empowered approach? So three of them. And then maybe we can go back and unpack. So first, it’s really simple. We buy awesome businesses to start with. We buy healthy companies to start with. So how do we help our companies succeed? We start with really amazing companies in the beginning. We’re not buying what they call turnarounds out there in the business world. We’re not buying companies that are struggling. So that’s number one. Number two, how we work with and support the leadership of those companies. I’d really love to dig into that a little bit. And then number three would be our community, that all of our companies belong to a family of companies. And there’s something very intentional that we do with that community. So three things. Buy awesome businesses, develop a relationship to support those leaders, and then it’s the community. Let’s go back and talk about some of that, if we could. When we say we buy only companies that are already succeeding. What does that mean?

Chris Fredericks: I think there’s two simple answers to that. One is they do something that’s valued by their customers. That business is doing something important that the customers want to buy, people want to continue to buy, and we see a track record of that. That’s a business that does something that’s really of value. And the people in that business are the ones that create that value. And two, that kind of shows up in the numbers. We only buy businesses that have a real track record of financial success. Generally, that’s going to be seen in some sort of a long history. Ideally, this is a business that’s been around for quite a few years, has proven that in a steady amount of growth, the revenue has steadily grown over time and profitability. It’s been a very profitable business for a long time, ideally. And we can lean into that track record and know that this business has real value because it has this track record of financial success.

Emily Bopp: That’s awesome. And I would just say maybe in addition to that or sort of a layer underneath that, a part of all of that points us to get really comfortable that they have some sort of competitive advantage in their industry. So you mentioned it when you talked about value to customers. But I love the word moat to think about. If you think about a castle and it’s got this moat around it, it’s not easy for other people to break in to either take things or start doing what you’re doing, et cetera. So for our companies, they’re already succeeding because they do have some sort of durable competitive advantage. It just lends to the strength that. How do we help them succeed? We start because they’re in a really strong position to begin with, and they’re companies that would not easily have their share taken by a competitor or not easily. These aren’t commodity kinds of businesses.

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. So well put. I think of it mainly how that plays out too, is in pricing with customers. If you have to win on price by itself, you might not have the strongest competitive advantage. And across the board, our companies, they’re able to provide value to their customers. That’s super meaningful. And it’s not about winning on price to those customers. They care about the product and the service they’re getting. And that’s a mutually beneficial relationship ultimately for our companies and their customers. And that’s what we like to see.

Emily Bopp: Absolutely. Okay, so that’s the first one we buy companies that are already succeeding. Second one, we work with and support the leadership of those companies to help develop plans for the businesses. So can you tell us more about how we do that?

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, it’s a supportive process where we collaborate with leaders to basically be on the same page around, what’s the plan for this business? The long term plan, the short term plan, meaning, like, on an annual basis, what do the leadership want to accomplish? How can we support that if needed? What’s the financial plan on an annual basis? And when the business is in the middle of the year, just kind of reviewing plans and performance together and ultimately just working collaboratively to support them as they really work with the team to execute those plans. So I think that’s, number one, is just making sure we’re all on the same page around what are the hopes and expectations for that business?

Emily Bopp: And when we support our leadership, are we getting in and offering, oh, I see this over here. Ooh, I see that over there. Or what’s our posture?

Chris Fredericks: Yeah. True to the Empowered model, I guess, is we take a very relationship oriented approach. So it’s mostly about being on the same page, earning trust. Hopefully, they know we really care about them as people, and we care about their business and their employees, and we’re all in this together. We all want to succeed. So there’s an alignment around kind of interests. So we’re not trying to find every little thing that we could make a suggestion, because we trust them, we believe in them to do what they’re doing and lead their companies. But we also have experience to draw on. There’s things that maybe we’ve seen that some of our leaders may not have seen yet. So our hope in practice, I think it plays out, is that they look to us as someone that’s a partner and supportive, and maybe they’re asking us questions sometimes, what have we seen? How can we help? But ultimately, we’re very much leaning into a trust based, kind of Empowered model with our leadership.

Emily Bopp: I love that approach. So the third thing, our community, and this, I think, is one of the most unique and perhaps just impactful aspects of how we help our companies succeed because of the intentionality that we have toward it. It doesn’t happen on accident. So, yeah, let’s talk about those subtleties. I mean, our companies belong to the EV family of businesses. So what? How does that help them succeed?

Chris Fredericks: Yeah, you could almost imagine a world where they all are just off in their own world, doing their own thing, and they don’t even know each other as people. That would be very easy for that to take place. And we’ve been super intentional, and you’ve played a big part in this, in bringing different groups of people together. So far that’s been especially like the leadership teams of the companies and also the employee ownership committees from each company. So we’ve been pretty intentional to start to build those subset kind of communities over the last few years, and we’ve already seen lots of dividends from that just in the relationships that have gotten built. And we talk about, we love hearing that people are calling each other directly and not having to go through us. If they have a question, they just call each other and learn from each other, get inspired from each other. And then there’s just this underlying connectivity of everyone being in it together, truly meaning they financially benefit from each other’s success. It’s a peer group kind of situation where people are truly invested and they also, I think we’ve done a great job working, bringing people together who are really good people, really great people. And the camaraderie and the enjoyment people seem to have just getting to know each other, I think that matters too. So not only are we all doing something fun together and get to work with and be inspired by each other, but we get to do it with people we enjoy working with too, both inside our companies and across the companies. So yeah, I think it’s a pretty powerful and fun thing that we’ve been able to foster this peer group kind of approach in this early stage at Empowered Ventures for sure.

Emily Bopp: And that community beyond the peer group, which is the part that I think is so earth shatteringly amazing. But even beyond that, do we pool resources? Are we empowering success in that way?

Chris Fredericks: That’s true, yeah, because we’re all part of one bigger whole. We’re able to take advantage of some things and pool resources in various ways. We have a shared benefit plan that I think is a real positive across the board. And there’s other ways we can tap into outside resources. Maybe we have an executive, a fractional executive that we can talk to and support our companies. Yeah, I think there’s a litany of ways that we pool our resources and we create this diversification for our employees through their retirement plans. Yeah, it’s definitely not just the soft benefits of community, but the actual pooling of all of our assets too. That helps a lot.

Emily Bopp: This has been awesome to hear from you on how we help our companies succeed. Thanks for letting us inside the EV world a little bit and expounding on some of that. Looking forward to in a couple of weeks taking this conversation a little further. And it’s the flip side, what do we do if a company isn’t succeeding in spite of all of these things. So looking forward to picking up part two, so to speak, here in a couple of weeks with you. But for today, thank you so much.

Chris Fredericks: Thank you, Emily. See you next time. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Emily. An inside glimpse. It gave you into our philosophy and approach to supporting our companies. If it sparked any questions or ideas, please be sure to send them our way. Thank you Emily, for joining me and Share Your Genius for producing this episode. Remember, we want to hear from you. To reach us, send an email to [email protected]. Thanks for tuning in.

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Episode Nineteen… A Path to Empowerment: Overcoming Life’s Challenges with Jennie Rossi
Episode Twenty-One… Leading Change and Impact: A Conversation with Luke Orszag