EP 10 - Barth Getto - The Significance and Origin of a Cooperative: How They are Beneficial
|Awesomers Origin - We'll talk to an Awesomer about where they came from, the triumphs and tribulations they have faced and how they are doing today. An Awesomer Origin story is the chance to hear the backstory about the journey our guest took on their road to become awesomer. These stories are incredibly varied and the takeaway is that awesomers come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, creeds, colors and every other variation possible. On your awesomer road you will face adversity. That’s just part of life. The question as always is how YOU choose to deal with it.
Barth wants to live in a world where no eCommerce entrepreneur ever feels alone or has to vehemently defend to friends and family that leaving that corporate job WAS a good idea.
As an executive for 20 years at a large cooperative in the flooring industry, he got to experience how, joining together, independent retailers leveled the playing field with vendors and armed them with tools for their businesses to thrive. He brings that experience as President of the Empowery eCommerce Cooperative to make the eCommerce world a better, less lonely place.
Barth is an avid outdoorsman, triathlete, woodworker, golfer, and a wannabe farmer. He lives on an old dairy farm 50 miles from Pittsburgh in idyllic Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
E-commerce cooperatives make the E-commerce world a better and less lonely place.
In this episode, Steve introduces Barth Getto of Empowery E-commerce cooperative. Barth wants to live in a world where no E-commerce entrepreneur ever feels alone and shares valuable lessons to the young Awesomers:
The significance of a cooperative and its origin.
There's always somebody smarter than you and why you should recognize and make the most out of it.
How cooperatives can be beneficial to E-commerce and E-sellers by providing better influence, better negotiating power, better deals, and better vetting.
So pay attention to today’s episode, learn amazing insights from Barth’s co-op leadership experience and find out how you too can benefit from joining Empowery E-commerce cooperative.
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01:15 (Steve Simonson introduces today’s guest, Barth Getto of Empowery E-commerce cooperative.)
Steve: This is Awesomers podcast episode number 10. To see all the relevant show notes and details you can go to Awesomers.com/10. That's Awesomers.com/10 and you'll able to see the page that we've created to help you see the summary of this episode and related show notes. Now today our special guest is Barth Getto and Barth tells me that he wants to live in a world where no E-commerce Entrepreneur ever feels alone. Or has to vehemently defend to their friends and family while leaving that corporate job was a good idea. As an executive for 20 years, Barth has been working with large cooperatives in the flooring Industry and beyond. And he's kept experience in the know-how of joining together independent players that help level that playing field with vendors, and then arming them with tools, strategies and tips to help their businesses strive. He brings that experience as the President of the Empowery E-commerce cooperative to make the E-commerce’s world a better less lonely place. Barth is also an avid outdoorsman, triathlete, woodworker, golfer and a wannabe farmer. If you want to know the truth. Barth lives on an old dairy farm, 50 miles from Pittsburgh in a beautiful little setting in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Also, called idyllic but I haven't been there so I can't vouch for that. Anyway, we're thrilled that Barth joins us today to talk about this very important concept of the Empowery E-commerce cooperative and really about Barth’s origin story what makes him an expert in this field. We definitely are big supporters of the non-profit member-owned cooperative and it's something that you know myself, Steve Simonson, I believe in and I've seen it work in other industries so we're super thrilled to have Barth as our guest today. Okay, everybody you are back here at Awesomers.com/10 podcast coming to you today and we've got a special guest Barth Getto. How are you Barth?
Barth: I'm extremely well!
Steve: Excellent, glad to hear it! For those Awesomers out there - listen don't forget if you haven't already, subscribe. I share this with a friend. You know sharing is caring it’s what they say and it's easy to do. All you’ve got to do is share not just this episode but the fact that you love Awesomers and you want to share this with other Awesomers that you may know. So Barth we're thrilled to have you here today and we're going to talk a little bit about kind of the new project you're on and so forth with the Empowery E-commerce cooperative but first I'd like to just start with where are you now? So where do you live now and what do you do in general terms?
3:47 (Barth talks about his origin story.)
Barth: I live in a small town outside about 50 miles away from Pittsburgh called Ligonier. Very historic town. There was a French and Indian War battle here, one of the biggest ones of the war in 1758 and so the entire community kind of revolves around that. There's a big fort downtown and actually of George Washington's personal duelling pistols or saddle pistols. You'll get corrected by historian if you misrepresent that but so very historic area to live in the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania. So beautiful to boot. I am a president of Empowery cooperative right now. I've been in the position about almost two months month and a half and we'll talk about that a little bit later but you know work remotely. I have a great team around the country and we're ready to be Awesomers in every way.
4:39 (Steve talks briefly about Empowery.)
Steve: I love it, yes and I tell you that a full disclosure that I am a member of Empowery and it's partly my idea to bring it to life and amongst others to try to have a way that a non-profit cooperative of members so all the members own the cooperative and it's a non-profit. Can join together to get better buying power and things like that. I will dive into that a little bit but just full disclosure that I am a member. I did pay to become a member by the way and it's something that I truly believe in and ultimately I'm the financial backer until it can stand on its own. So there's a little disclosure for everybody. Now that we kind of know where Barth lives, kind of what he's up to. Everybody should know in the show notes that will have all the right links to the things we talked about, websites and the like. So don't feel like you need to take notes. You'll be able to find those in the show notes later on. All right so before we dive into your kind of deep background we're going to take a quick commercial break here. Our sponsors need to tell us a very important message so we'll be right back
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Steve: And here we are back again. Barth Getto joining us to talk a little bit about where he came from and you know I always like to start at the very beginning. Barth where were you born?
Barth: 24 miles from here in Jeannette, Pennsylvania and a suburb of Pittsburgh again obviously and very blue-collar. I grew up in a place where the main businesses were glassblowing. They had a general tire rubber plant there and I got to see I think one of the early impressions on me was watching how you know businesses start to go offshore and what it did to the community. When you go down there now you know it was really a thriving place. I think the population dropped from about 15,000 to 9,000. So very early on I got to see what you know blue-collar workers worked hard for their money and what can happen when you know the leaders of companies don't stay on top of making sure our manufacturing facilities viable.
Steve: Yes, that's for sure and for our listeners at home who can't see Barth on the video screen as I do, audio only listeners, he's actually wearing a blue shirt with a blue collar today everybody. So he's really sticking to the program. Really the roots yes. How about your parents Barth? Tell us you know what kind of background did they come from.
Barth: They grew up, they were born in the same town so it was one of those things I could never do anything wrong when I was a child or you know everybody knew my parents, my grandparents you name it. My father was a salesman. Sold carpet his whole career for different companies, large companies, but always a kind of a traveling salesman. Never moved, never wanted to move the family. My mom was an occupational therapist which my wife is also an occupational therapist. So you know maybe it's Oedipus a little bit but they kind of look more like mother and daughter than I look like the son of my mother.
Steve: Oh my goodness this Oedipal complex going here, fully on, yes. It's a family show Barth, come on.
Barth: I think so but you know they just a really solid background like I always tell people and you know if I went on a speaking circuit or something everybody has a story. I have one story I'll tell you that's a tough one to start off with but mostly just you know solid family, not divorced parents, I mean just pretty damn good life to start out with.
Steve: Nice! Really nice.
Barth: Great roots.
Steve: How about siblings? I know of at least one. But what about your sibling count?
Barth: Yes, just one brother, older by three years. He's a CEO of a company called Fechheimer and that's a Berkshire Hathaway company so he works for one of the Berkshire Hathaway companies. Smart guy. They make military uniforms so they make the naval like when you see the Army Navy game, all those blue coats, they're all made by them. The marine dressed blues for like the Chiefs of Staff and all that, they're made by them. Army uniforms so big company, been around 175 years in it. An interesting thing is they made uniforms for the north and the south. That's how old they are.
Steve: By the way, in the world of military arms and related supplies, if you can sell to both sides you come out a winner. Kudos!
Barth: Yes, you can't pick a loser when your selling to both.
Steve: Yes, that's right. You know we're really pulling for you north and we're really pulling for you south. Depends on the sales guy. Very good! So any Berkshire Hathaway company’s obviously got to be something that people should look up. We'll put in the link in the show notes because that you know such well-respected Warren Buffett related acquisitions. How about University? Where did you? Oh go ahead.
Barth: Steve, I can also take care of them with a discount code on the vertex or stuff that's for personal use and so I'll take care of them there. I'll put it up there to make them, you know reward them for being on the podcast.
Steve: Now you guys are getting paid to be listening to a podcast. A free podcast to begin with and you get paid. That's amazing! They're very nice, thank you for that Barth! How about University, where did you go?
Barth: Went to Penn State, middle of the state you know it's kind of the it's a go-to place here in the United, in this part of the United States. Fifty nine thousand students you know all the campuses. I spent one summer term and I will actually fall term in Nice, France at the Universitaire de Technologie de Nice and that's probably not pronounced with much French flair but that was in Nice, France and I made a huge mistake in going through college in four years and getting a marketing degree when my father was paying. You know after I got that I'm like why did I not change my major two or three times like well my kids didn't do it but they should have done it too.
Steve: Kids out there when you're going through school and you got a parent who's on the hook, why not just keep that dream alive?
Barth: Yes and just go to them and you know take your classes often. Pretend like you cried. Dad I really need to change majors and you know you got to sell it. You got to sell it hard but change majors.
Steve: There's that sales experience showing through and was there anything noteworthy about your university experience that may still have an impact on you today?
Barth: Well going you know to France for that semester was, we were in terms and we had 10-week term so I can't really say semester but that was very impactful. You know to go learn another language and see how the other half lives and you know people think of Americans. I'd travelled before. I was an exchange student in Brazil in high school so it wasn't my first time doing it but it's kind of interesting seeing the European way that they look at Americans versus the South American way to look at Americans and you know it's an international community. Now you can't you isolate, you can't hide in a corner. We're all there together. Even more so with podcasts and you know the internet and everything we have today
Steve: It truly is a small world. Hopefully that song won't get stuck in people's head now that I've said that it's a smaller world.
Barth: Now go to Disney.
Steve: How about your first proper job, your first formal job, what was that like?
12:46 (Barth talks about his first job and series of interviews.)
Barth: That was right out of college and it was I think that's one of the funniest stories and I think this is good for everybody to know and never take no for an answer. I mean no typically means that you haven't given someone enough information. So I am you know at Penn State there were 5,000 people graduating May that year and you had to put four interviews with different companies. Since my father was with Armstrong World Industries which is still a viable company to either like a hundred and twenty-five year old brand and I did not get chosen out of the five further probably I don't know fifteen hundred people just in marketing graduating with me and I didn't get chosen for the interview so I waited on the outside of the room and when the door opened there was a young lady sitting there and a guy came out and the interviewer, interviewee came out and I said hey I'm really interested in your company would you mind if I could you know get an interview. And she goes you know we're looking for people like that, that are a little bit you know aggressive, assertive and she goes you know come back at 4:30. This is an honest story. I hand her my resume cause remember she's never seen it before. I handed my resume and she looks down, she goes are you Barth? And I'm like well does say Barth Getto in my resume. And she goes you live at 130 North Gill Street. I said well I do yes it said it on my resume. She goes I slept in your bed last weekend. Don't go there Steve. Do not go there. The background story is I lived with four girls in a house my senior year and I was away that weekend and the one girl had her sister coming in and her boyfriend in and so this gal ends up sleeping in my room cause I wasn't there. So needless to say, went on to the next interview. I mean I was kind of it in if you will.
Steve: Yes, that’s pretty sweet. Yes I thought we were heading down a Three's Company route there for a minute but yes.
Barth: I guess the bottom line of the story is I was told no. It didn't bother me. I went and got the interview. I got lucky. Luck is the residue of design. If you don't put yourself out there you'll never get lucky. I got lucky that I knew it you know that she knew of me. I wasn't there that weekend so she didn't know me personally but it all worked out and then that job that I took, she was interviewing for my father's company so my father and I actually got to work together for seven years. But I never mentioned that my dad in the first part but I did tell her you know afterwards and that was actually a negative because it hired people before that didn't work out. There were sons of like legendary salespeople. In the company my dad was a legend and you know it was a kind of a negative for me in a way but I overcame that too somehow. Armstrong is a great company, great beginning, great training and you know a great place to sow my path.
Steve: Yes, very famous in that particular industry for having a comprehensive training and kind of deep roots in bringing people from out of school and into a productive selling unit. I presume you're in sales or marketing or what was the role?
Barth: Sales. Yes, they put me in South Louisiana. I had South Louisiana, South Mississippi cause I just got back from France so I knew French and you know there's a big Cajun contingent down there that speaks French and it did help me quite a bit. Some of them, some places I'd go the business people always spoke English but the customers would walk in sometime and very broken English, more French than English.
Steve: That's amazing! How about tell us based on where you are today in your career and there's other things that we'll probably dip into talking about your co-op experience in history and so forth. But was there any defining moment that puts you kind of on the road that you have arrived on today?
Barth: The one good thing as I was glad that I worked a long time before I started to manage people. I probably was in my position 11-12 years in one job being a Sales rep on the road. And then I became and I went over to this other big cooperative named CCA Global Partners, they're still in business too. That would be Carpet One Flooring, America ProSource, The Floor Trader. There's 13 different brands and I ended up becoming Vice President there. But I think the defining moment for me was I got there and I'm worried sometimes with like my children and things when they kind of want to get further up in a company very quickly. And I always say, “It's so important to pay your dues and to understand” and I was in the field a lot I got to deal with customers. I got beat up a lot and you know I think this grey hair I've earned it and I wouldn't trade it. I don't dye it because I like it. I like to show the fact you know that I had to struggle to get where I was so I got into the position and I had a boss that was again a consummate salesman. Learned a lot from the guy and he passed away from cancer and so they made me VP and I think you know I'll tell you a story, quick story about my childhood too but I think that really made me look at it like you know life is short. He was 49 years old. He was a mentor to me and he you know you get to the point where you're like I'm going to make every day count and you're not going to sweat the small things. So I think that was the defining moment but I'll digress just one second when I was born my mom was, she was 8 months pregnant with me and she was hit by another vehicle in the passenger side and ejected from the vehicle and so I was born..
Steve: Ejected from the vehicle.
Steve: Physically removed from the vehicle. That's a serious accident.
Barth: Yes and my dad was coming back and actually you know saw her laying. He's gone to buy a paper and it was two blocks from my house so my mom had me with a fractured pelvis glass altar. She still has a piece of glass here and a piece of glass in her leg but emotionally this was better. Yes, she you know recovered. It took her three months. She was in the hospital so you know that really started the whole cause you know I don't remember it obviously but it really started the whole thing like when everybody tells you you're lucky, you know it could be a lot. You're lucky to have gone through that kind of stuff. You know you get to the point where you believe you're lucky. I mean I really believe I am. You know if something bad happens and you think you're unlucky, you're going to look at it a negative way. Something bad happens and you really in your heart feel you're lucky, you're like you know it's a setback in the road. It's a bomb but I'm going to move forward. You know that was a personal defining moment and the business defining moment all wrapped up in one. I am a crier sometimes too. I get emotional when I..
Steve: That's good! Well later we're going to talk about my favorite episodes of Seinfeld and we'll have you crying and laughing. But you know listen, the reality is I love those kind of stories because they really do help the perspective on things and Awesomers out there know that you know we're going to have those lightning bolts that show up in our businesses and our personal lives and that we've talked to other Awesomers already who shared extraordinarily personal stories of triumph and tragedy and everything in between. And this is what life is, right? But there's a fundamental truth though that Awesomers don't just let life tell us the way it is. We deal with it. We're grateful for what we have and we make the best of what we have and we continue to incremental II try to improve our lives. That's what Awesomers are all about. So I really love that story and what an incredible way to come into the world honestly.
Barth: Yes, and you know when you have nuns telling you you're special your whole life, you start to think well it must be special or something and you know me well enough now, you probably don't think so, I'm kidding. But it's interesting with my children, raising my children, I have a 29 year old the 27 year old and they would you know come home from school and you know they'd have a bad day and somebody would have said something to them or they got a bad grade on a test and I'd be like great! You know and they'd be like well dad you know you're supposed to be rooting for me. I said I'm rooting for you. I'm just rooting for you to overcome it. Bad stuffs going to happen people. I mean it is going to happen and you know just shakte it off. I always tell people if you have one more day to live, you know you have a chance to change the world, you have a chance to turn it around, if you have one more day. The only time it's really bad news is when someone says you're going to die tomorrow. That's bad news. Other than that live each day you know to its fullest.
Steve: Yes, and the day tomorrow yet. So let's make it go over today. So yes I definitely agree with that. I love that. How about when you think about your journey professionally, so far especially in the co-op world? Well is there a big lesson that you've learned that you wish to share with the audience?
12:36 (Barth talks about the cooperative world.)
Barth: Yes, it's really you know it's the solidarity of what you can do. And you know I came here specifically because I thought I'm intrigued by the whole E-commerce world. I'm intrigued how E-sellers feel alone out there and are looking for a way to.. You know they have there are a mom and pop there. You know two or three people, brother, sister, you know couple partners. And they don't have this infrastructure you know you and I both in corporate America. We know what it’s like on both sides. We know what it's like to sit in our home office like I am now and I know what it's like to be in a big office with marketing departments and everything else. What a co-op, I think might the biggest learning I had from my co-op experience was when you join together and you do things together in like you know you and I kind of have a roadmap of where we see things going but when you get all this other brain power involved with these successful people these other Awesomers, what can develop out of it is beyond anyone's expectations because you know you go where the collective wants you to go and the collective always wants you to do things that betters everyone. That's why cooperative is so cool I think and I work in all industries too.
Steve: It really does and this is one of those things and we're going to dive in a little bit more here in a bit. What is a cooperative? And why does it matter? And so forth. But the reality is when you have more brain power around the table you get better results, right? As smart as Barth is or I am or anybody else, all that smart either way people can judge for themselves but regardless you know individuals can make decisions based on our own knowledge, our own inputs, our own resources. But the more of those you put around a table the better things can happen. This doesn't mean we turn things into a church committee where nothing ever happens. This means we take decisive action based on the best available information and the most profitable and the most productive outcomes whatever those may be. So I think it's a really good lesson to share there.
Barth: Yes. I’ll just tell you one thing you know John F. Kennedy would make decisions. He always would have a round table and he would always listen to everyone's opinion. He knew he was the final word. He knew you know Cuban Missile Crisis Bay of Pigs whatever it all rested on him. But he always you know solicited. His brother was a big part of his administration because he trusted him. But he always solicited the best and the brightest minds opinions and then he based his decision on that. That's the best way to run a company I believe.
Steve: Leadership really should be about that idea of bringing in multiple opinions and ultimately the leaders responsible for that choice and even if there's dissent you know and the leader knows or feels that a certain direction has to be followed. That's okay but bringing in that input I think it makes better decisions at large for sure.
Barth: Yes, I never.. Steve, it's funny and I never think I'm right. Ever! I never think like if you say are you right Barth? I'll be like well based on the information I have yes. Based on what everybody else told me I think I made the right decision. But what my right decision today or in three hours like with this legislation for E-commerce though is not having to pay sales tax. You know a decision I made yesterday might have been great if that wouldn't have gone that way and then all of a sudden it's not a great decision so I never ever feel right.
Steve: Yes, it follows my Axiom Zero, Awesomers. Some of you may already know this but it is “I don't know nothing about nothing”. And you know for me that's how I approach every meeting as I approach every decision because there's other people who know more about it and I just want to learn and then make my best choice. So I really do respect that. How about in your journey was there a time you know maybe you face adversity? Where you're like I just want to give up, this just isn't worth the pain.
Steve: Never for you? Now that's because of how you were born. You're like this. The point I was ejected from a vehicle.
Barth: Never like I've never you know and I've had friends that you know chose not to live and I mean that kind of thing but you know it's never. You know cause it's always if you know, if you really, if there's no adversity you know like back to my kids when they’d come home with that story I'd be like if you didn't struggle you wouldn't know how to handle you know the next setback, I won’t say defeat. I saw a quote the other day and I can't remember who said it but they said you know one defeat is not a final defeat. And that's true! It's just all a string of you know.. But there was never been, I can never remember a point where I said that's it. You know I give up all my business career.. Cause you know in sales and I love it. I think you know the Awesomers out there watching this can tell that I ooze that I love people. I ooze that you know I love to share my story. But you know it's so much fun to walk in and develop relationships with people. That's why I co-op back to the co-op thing because the members own us like back in my past world at CCA. You know you care about them anyway because you know they're people. You care about them because they're buying things through your group but they also own you and they're kind of we look at ourselves in a co-op as it as the sailors. And the members are actually have their hand on the tiller. So we're swabbing the decks, we're setting the sails, we're repairing things but the captain's telling us which way to go and that's so you know in the co-op world it was always so much fun to get close to people and I'd be helping them fix their issues so it never it always like never felt like my issue is the worst because I was trying to help them more.
Steve: Yes, that's an interesting perspective to be able to kind of help from the outside. Often the storm is not a stormy from the outside looking in, right? When you're in the middle of the storm itself on the lightning bolts are hitting you. Sometimes you just don't know what to do but this is where co-ops are kind of an external force for good and can lead to good thing. So how about give me a you know in your professional life was there a best day? Some day that really stood out where you're like oh man I am so thrilled to be a part of this today. Being it you can share.
27:58 (Barth talks about work-personal relationship.)
Barth: Yes, you know when it's back, I hate that I hate to keep going back to the overcoming objections but I was early on in my career. I was like the first two weeks I've come out of college and going to work for Armstrong and they put me at like I said South Louisiana, South Mississippi and I didn't know where the heck I was going like I didn't know. You know I was from Pennsylvania. I didn't know where the roads went. I didn't know how to get the Biloxi or Ocean Springs or any of that. New Orleans, Baton Rouge all you know those are all places like Terrebonne, Houma. I mean I went down a New Iberia where they make Tabasco. So I had that all as my territory and I went to visit this one account because it was you know right off the interstate and about ten days went by before I visited an account that was near them. Probably 20-30 miles away that they were competitive against that I didn't know because obviously I didn't know the landscape or the marketplace. And I walked in and this lady, Peggy Chambers (God rest her soul), but she was called me all sorts of names and she's like you know I can't believe that you didn't come see me first. Because I guess a rep had seen me over at a competitor. And so she was all over me and you know I'm 21 years old just get out of college. First real you know first week on the road and I had been through training but this is the real deal and she's all over me and I'm like you know I didn't know what the heck I did wrong even. So I took it on the chin you know drag my tail out of there afterwards. So I knew my parents were coming down to visit me and my dad was with the same company like I said so I pull the family car. So my dad big guy 6’5”, 300 pounds, big voice, he passed away six months ago. Great guy. But he goes in and he's emotional like I am so he starts giving her the handle on the chest like my son, my son. So the day that I left that territory, I was only there about a year and a half and I got promoted to the St. Louis territory where I met the CEO of the company, the CCA, you know where I ended up for 20-25 years. But the day I left, she had a going-away party for me including a cake at the store.
Barth: And to me that was like you know you would talk full circle here's this young guy going in getting it handed to him and then by the time I was done with her I employed the father and brought my mom into and she's a doll. So the two of them worked on Peggy and then you know I performed for her. I made sure that I took care of her problems. But by the time I left I had a cake with my name on it. That is knowing that and they did a lot of business with me in the meantime too. Supported my brand really well but that's when you know you got it when you know when you get to see somebody.. I love when someone says no to me. My wife hates it because when we're at you know at even buying anything, I like to get no three times. If I don't get no three times I feel like even when I was you know negotiating with you Steve I like when you say no. Because if you don't get said no to, if someone says yes right away you're like well hell what was laying on the table.
Steve: There's more to be had. Yes, that's for sure and just for everybody's reference out there in that particular industry you know sales reps change relatively frequently and you know let's say you know every year and a half, two years, three years you have a new rep on a particular brand. It is not common. I've never even heard of somebody throwing a party for a sales rep going out of town. Let alone bringing them a cake. You know it's usually like oh that guy's gone, I liked him, he's a good guy. I hope the new guy’s that good or vice versa. It could be you know their judgment or opinion but I've never seen a party given away. That's amazing.
Barth: There's another valuable lesson for the young Awesomers out there that sell and that is and I did this every time I went to a new territory and it was about four different territories I had. I never brought my product in on the first call ever. Ever! Because it wasn't about my product. It was about the relationship with the retailer and one of my best friends now he has a store up in Williamsport Pennsylvania. His names Jim Fink. I walked in there that day and he had hunt I'm a hunter and he has hunting stuff all over his walls and I didn't I didn't even talk about my product at all and years later he said the reason you know won me over quickly is because you didn't.. I could tell you cared about me and what I like to do and you know went around and introduced myself to every employee in there including the warehouse guy. But it was so weird like I didn't know I was doing like I didn't read a book, I didn't. I think was my father you know teaching me. You know in my family when you walk into a room, it's an Italian Catholic background. When you walk into a room you kiss everybody in the room. You go shake their hand and you look them in the eye. And you know there's some people you didn't even want to kiss because the aunts would grab your cheek and you know you have rosy cheeks the rest of the day but you know you always greet people and it's amazing what those little things do to make your career just flourish. And it's not how hard you work, it's how it's how smart you work and those little things of getting to know people just it.. I tell our staff this all the time the little you do when you first meet somebody, they remember that the entire length of your relationship.
Steve:Yes, you know relationships, we talk about regularly on this program. That you know we have a lot of Technology. We have a lot of kind of gadgets and gizmos but relationships are still one of the most important things if not the most important thing that can last a lifetime. And you know my philosophy and Barth shares this in fact this is kind of the premise of most of the things that we've done including the cooperative. But it's like what can we do for you first. Well you know and maybe we never asked for anything we need to have done. You know but giving to people, paying it forward is very important and building relationships comes natural to you because that's how you approach things. So that's a very good story.
Barth: One more thing, I was watching after the Berkshire meeting. My brother goes to that Berkshire Hathaway meeting every year obviously as a CEO. And so I was more you know I don't watch NBC all the time but I was more like focused on what the happenings of the meeting because I knew my brother and sister-in-law were there and Bill Gates, Charlie Munger you know his partner, Warren Buffett's partner for a hundred years. I mean they're 92 and 87 I believe. And they, the three of them are on MSNBC together and you know these guys can buy and sell most countries. Literally can buy and sell most countries. And they all said like why do you hang with each other? Every one of them said because I like to learn from people smarter than I am. So you learned two lessons there:
One there's always somebody smarter than you and
Two you better be humble enough to know that there's somebody smarter than you.
Because there's a lot of people in this world that always think they're right. You know them. Every one of you Awesomers knows. You know they may even be in your family but you know you should always strive to be the one they feel like you're the dumbest person in the room because that's how you learn the most. But other people tell you what they're thinking even though I talked so much as I do so I'm probably being hypocritical but I do know.
Steve: That's again well-founded advice there. When you really do take in information from outside and then form your opinion is better. When you hang out with people you know the old saying is you know you're kind of the that your net worth is your network or you’re the average of the five people you hang out with the most. May as well make them you know Awesomer kinds of people and not drag yourself down with people who are you know either normies or basics. The basics are that my definition of the guys who are just kind of the a-holes of the planet that don't add a lot of value and normies are great we love them. But they're not trying to break any paradigms. They just want to kind of carry on and you know Awesomers love to break paradigms. So before we jump into our kind of deep dive into the co-op concept and that looking to the future, do you have a tool that you use day to day Barth? That you want to share. Maybe it's an app or maybe it's a morning routine or anything that you would use a technology tool. Anything that you wish to share with the Awesomers out there that kind of help your life or business day to day.
36:19 (Barth talks about tools that help him.)
Barth: You're going laugh at this and cause all of my millennial employees and friends always do but I still use a regular planner. I have it right to my right. I use the old-school planner and I don't know I like to see things written. I think sometimes with technology and looking at screens all day you kind of lose you know.. My son was an English major and you know I can't remember how he put it but with the books, the flesh. The pages were the flesh and the ink was the blood. And so I still write a lot of things down. You know I'm especially you know now with in the E-commerce world that I've jumped into, I'm using so much more technology. I use actually a CRM that we're developing called Parsimony. I use that a lot and that's actually better CRM than we used. My last company we used Pipedrive. Oh man that's a tough one. I mean it's a commercial off-the-shelf product. It's really bad so that's really the way I run my life. But I still believe in paper and I use apps all the time but I still believe in writing things down every month. So cause it jogs my memory more.
Steve: Yes, there's also some I don't know if it's a study or some general research that indicated that you know when you write down certain things you're more likely to remember them as well. I'm not sure if that translates into typing things or physically writing them but there are definitely things that I still write down today. That's very good we're going to take a quick break and we will be right back
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Steve: Okay, here we are back again, Awesomer.com podcast. Thank you for joining us and thank you for telling a friend. It's the right thing to do. We've got Barth Getto with us today and today we are talking about kind of his background. We've already gotten kind of his origin story and we're going ask him to look to the future here in a minute. But first we want to dive into a little bit more about what is it co-op and Barth’s one of the stories that that I enjoy is kind of what's the first club? Is this a new idea? Is this an old idea? Where did these things come from?
38:58 (Barth talks about co-operative, Empowery, and its advantages.)
Barth: Amazing you asked me that Steve. The first co-ops were actually formed in Europe you know middle probably early 18th century so 1700’s. The first one in the United States was founded by none other than Ben Franklin. You know we wouldn't have electricity, these glasses I wouldn't be wearing these bifocals. There's a lot of things he invented but one of them I think he saw it in Europe. Because He would spend a lot of time in Europe. He brought back and it was in Philadelphia so every time there'd be a lot of fires houses were all wooden, obviously and they didn't have the fire trucks we have today so houses would burn down. The insurance company that the person was paying would abscond with the money because obviously they wouldn’t want to pay a big claim. I think Benjamin said “Hey, why don't we make it a cooperative? So everybody pulls their money to they're all equal share owners. When there's a fire obviously the money's right there. There's nobody to abscond with it and so it grew from there. Today there are thirty thousand you know, thirty thousand plus. I don't know exact numbers you see all different numbers on when you look this up.
All over the United States and all over the world, the ones all over the world typically are:
AG co-ops - Agricultural co-ops. The AG co-ops that you’re going to know are Sunkist Navel Orange, Blue Diamond Almonds, Welch's Grape Juice those are all independent growers, marketing together, growing to a certain standard you know maybe more organically whatever it may be.
There's also Purchasing co-ops ones you would know would be True value, Ace Hardware, NAPA Auto Parts.
REI is actually a consumer co-op that you can buy outdoor wear from and then you get a rebate check at the end of year based on your purchases.
So that's really where co-ops came from, that's the three basic types of co-op. There's actually the National cooperative Business Association in Washington DC, that kind of helps co-op grow. There's a national co-op Bank that will lend money only to cooperate. And Ohm! By the way, Credit Unions are all cooperatives too. I just read this recently a 100 million households out of the 300 million some that are in the United States, 300 million people in United States actually or a member of a co-op even if they don't know it.
Steve: Yes, I definitely. I'm glad you shared that because people don't really understand what a co-op is per se. Sometimes, they will hear the word co-op and it's like Oh! My preschool is a co-op and they don't even know what that means or yes! REI I've heard it's a co-op and I get this check back and they don't know how it all fits together. But I think it's fair to say that a cooperative is a group joining together for a specific purpose. And then the idea particularly with Empowery is to band together, to kind of aggregate buying power, maybe get you know a little upfront discount, a little extra perks and then have a patronage dividend for the equity members on the back side of the equation. Is that how you see it as well?
Barth: Yes, I mean I tell people all the time, it's most egalitarian and Democratic Business structure there is. We think of a franchise but you know similar to a franchise but it's owned by the members themselves. So you know in a franchise has is kind of paternalistic, it kind of tells you how to run you, the business and the best practices. This is actually flopped this is the members telling us “Here's how I want the business run”, but you do tend to try to find all of the little things that people do together and you go out and you have employees in place, they're experts. Subject-matter experts. We have a new gentleman just joined us and he was with me back at CCA Global named Ed Carr and he's our director of supply chain. Well he has bought hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of products collectively back in the day when we were on the flooring side and we brought him on to do the same thing here because again you know having that buying power is huge. So people ask me this all the time. Prospective members they say what is your vision of Empowery and this is tongue-in-cheek but this is absolutely positively serious and I respond very quickly to them and I say I would like to be getting a personal holiday card from Jeff Bezos in two years. And they laugh a little bit and I say no think about it. It's not about me. I want him to know that Empowery is strong enough. That he cares enough about the group that he's going to get to me and I hope he sends him to you know Steve and the rest of our employees too. But he knows were enough on the math that he says I need to stay in touch with those folks. I need to have you know a friendship with them outside of business because they are driving so much volume through Amazon. And you know I see us ultimately going to them someday another marketplace is to and saying hey you know give us a special deal we're bringing you the best, the brightest, good credit successful sellers that it's going to make your system work better so why not give us some sort of a perk pack or a discount off of the actual you know overhead take because we do it better, faster you know, smarter, cleaner.
Steve: Yes, and this is you know it is truly is a big vision. You know it starts with the idea that a member can join a co-op and you know have access to resources they wouldn't otherwise have access to. You know they're people like Barth who has you know himself been involved with you know hundreds of millions of sales, probably billions of sales actually with the members you brought into your past co-ops. You know I heard their sales is in the billions.
Barth: Billion. Probably over a billion dollars now easily. I mean we bought six hundred and thirty stores and when I was there and you know that was twenty years ago.
Steve: So the massive volume. Not just Barth but Ed and one of the other kind of thought leaders and co-founders Evan Hackel. They've been responsible for you know billions of billions of dollars’ worth of volume and throughput and so they understand how to negotiate. They understand how to put these things in structure and in place and this is what is important for members out there to understand or prospective members even that you can access to some of these resources that work on your behalf. They work as a collective they don't work you know for you individually like hey go scrub the floors but they're you know if you have a problem and you say gosh I really need to get this better deal done with you know Brand X. And we as a collective co-op say yes we have a deal with them or no we don't we should get one that's a really powerful thing to be able to deploy external resources and share a tiny little cost per member.
Barth: Well and I got to tell you Steve I am and have been every time I've been with a Co-op, I'm a drug salesman. I'm you know and I hope the DEA is not listening but now I mean I say a tongue-in-cheek a little bit but I'm selling it's like selling a healthy holistic organic drug that is legal and that we have sort of a patent on. Because there's nobody else in the business doing this but you know people get addicted to it because especially in the E-commerce world where I'm really finding there's a lot of loneliness and you know oh my god did I make the right decision and who do I go to. You know I I'm not a financial person and my business is doing two million dollars a month now and you know I need a CFO. I need somebody to talk to. You know in this business you see very successful companies like Amazing Selling Machine and those type folks. All unbelievably good organizations and necessary because collectively the knowledge is so important. We'll take them, take a group like that and add in executives that that you know that you guys all responsible basically for hiring and you own it so you have all that professionalism that these groups that they're out in the industry today. But you own the company too. So you're getting best of both worlds and when one member, it's like being in a neighbourhood. You know that when someone, they break their foot, you're going to go cut your neighbor's grass. You know that when you do, something happens, they're going to be over cutting yours. Same thing in the cooperative. You have a problem, you have an issue, everybody's going to come to your aid because they know when they have an issue that they're going to be looking back for your assistance too. A big bam!
Steve: Yes, this is one of those kind of intangibles but it's such an important thing when you think about a community that you know first of all the isolation that you can feel as an entrepreneur is difficult especially E-commerce guys. Often those who are Amazon cornerstone businesses, these people are you know focused primarily on Amazon as they're starting out. You know I always point to the you know the guy or the gal and their cat in the basement, this is the executive team. That could be a lonely situation and so by you know being a part of a community and being a part of a co-op that you know kind of own that community it helps everybody to share best practices. Nobody wins, nobody loses everybody just I guess everybody wins in that context. So it's a really powerful thing.
Barth: Yes, and we're really inclusive not exclusive like I hope we can have great relationships with the ASMs of the world. With you know a lot of the vendors that are out there. I mean we're just trying to make it better for everyone else. We're not trying to take anyone else's business. We're not trying to you know infringe on any other business type. We're just trying to have a repository for all the best practices and subject matter knowledge you can as an E-commerce E-seller. And we're also just trying to have a place where you can go feel safe. I mean we should be the place where any E-seller goes when they're stressed. When they don't know the answer to a question start here first because a lot of times we're not going to know the answer. I mean Steve knows a lot about E-selling and in E-commerce but he doesn't know everything. But we sure and a heck knows somebody that does. You know if you have when you get up to a thousand, two thousand members they're going to be a hell of a lot of brainpower there to help and that's really where we're going with it. So obviously I'm excited and enthusiastic but almost evangelistic as I've seen it work before. This isn't my first rodeo.
Steve: Yes, it is really great and again this is one of the best parts is there's no adversarial line drawing here. Well between Barth and I there is. Yes, he's my nemesis but outside of that, in the co-op yes there really is no adversarial activity because give it an example like the Amazon.com guys. Wonderful community, wonderful training and we can as a co-op help bring some of that to new members or people who have not been exposed to that. There are other resources. Maybe they're shipping resources or maybe they're you know tools or you know ways to improve efficiency. All these resources can have a financially beneficial impact for a co-op member to get access to those things and so these things can be you know where a supplier or service provider or you know content creator can win. The co-op member can win and ultimately that means all the members win as well and so to me that's the power of a co-op and why I feel so strongly about it that you know it's an amazing way for people to come together.
Barth: Well you know to build on that a second Steve like think about it if we go in as a group but with any service really it doesn't matter. You put you know I'll say X service and you can plug in whatever you want X to be. But if we go in as a group, first of all we're going to have more clout with them, they're going to listen. Secondly we’ll negotiate a better than a favored nation or better than the street price because we're going in together. Third we're going to negotiate a rebate on the back end that is only available to the co-op shareholder, to the equity member. And then this is probably the most important well vetting it on the front end is probably the most important thing cause that saves somebody so much time and you don't make a bad decision but the last part folds into the first part. Into the vetting part that being when something goes wrong everybody has my cell phone number. If you look at when I send you an email, my cell phone is on my signature. I don't hide behind anything. You ever want to get a hold of me, text me, call me because I am going to be the first person that calls that vendor and says are you kidding? Are you kidding me? You know you have 200 of our members are buying through your system. Using your software whatever it may be and you're going to fight Joe in Keokuk, Iowa over this invoice. Do you want to lose all this business because now turn that around if you don't have the co-op you don't have this collective strength that Joe is going to have to go to that vendor and what's a vendor going to say? “I don't care if I lose your business you know see you later”. The other thing in a co-op that's important and I learned this you know first-hand being at other co-ops it's not what you buy it's what you don't buy sometimes too. So by not using a software system that is vetted and promoted by the co-op or a vendor that's vetted and promoted by the co-op, you know you're decreasing the power of all the other members because when there's solidarity, when they know when a vendor knows that they can't go around a co-op member to get anything they have to go straight through the co-op. They can't do a flank, they can't do a sidestep. It's unbelievable what happens. it's unbelievable the way the vendors start to behave. It's almost like you can open up a confessional and give them the sign of the Cross because they'll never sin again.
Steve: Well it really does you know ultimately help both sides because you know once the ground rules are pretty simple that's like hey we're going to do this, we're going to work in active as a group instead of as an individual, it helps vendors aggregate a volume. It helps them lower their cost per acquisition. It increases their lifetime value and for all the members it can decrease the kind of upfront cost and in many cases there might be a little upfront discount and then for equity members on the back side there's a patronage dividend that is paid. So believe it or not in the co-op environment when we get it right and when people really use the resources, a member can actually get paid to be a member, right? Regardless of you know whatever the fees are, they're going to be able to earn a patronage dividend. a co-op equity member can earn these dividends that could end up exceeding everything they paid and then some. So it makes an investment what a crazy concept to say I've got this external organization with all these great people working in it and they pay me to be a member. That's when the magic really starts to take off. Don't you agree?
Barth:Yes, I mean I think if there's an E-seller out there that is doing you know over five hundred thousand dollars a year on whatever market you know fill in the marketplace and they are using our programs you know and look we're new and a lot of them are still being developed then we need to hear from the members as to what programs they want. So we can go get them. You know it's kind of a chicken and the egg sort of thing but we have probably 30 programs today and if you're using those programs as a half-million dollars are up, you are going to negate you know self-liquidate the small fee that we charge on a monthly basis. No doubt about it. You know it's a give me if you're using the programs and you're doing you know a reasonable amount of volume.
Steve: Well and this again the power of these things is when you utilize the resources. There's really a lot to a co-op and we may do a deeper dive and bring Barth and some of the other team back at some point and talk about the authority an, Awesomers authority episode but the reality is it is a true you know non-profit which means once the overhead is paid and by the way the members always get the majority back right? So whatever it goes into it the overhead has to be paid turns out people who work want to make money and there are bills that go along with running a co-op but once that's paid the members always get the majority back and it's a non-profit company. So you know the corp. itself puts all its dividends you know after expenses all its dividends or patronage goes back to the members which is always the majority of the minimum.
Barth: Yes. Even our documentation and our bylaws they are so cookie cutter for co-ops. I mean there's no surprises in it. co-ops are very regulated. You know they're a solid business structure and when you see the documents you know so much of the wording is so common from any other co-op document I've ever seen but beyond I got to tell you Steve the beyond, the buying and how you know that the camaraderie and all of the things that I think you know were built because we're going to have a meeting, an annual meeting, every year. Probably in Seattle. Probably in April of 2019. For everyone, for this collective buying power and this collective knowledge that all be together in one room because you can't, computers can't well they will never ever I don't care how good they get they will never replace in-person meetings. But you know the real goal of this thing is that is like I said be able to go to the marketplace executives. Be at Walmart.com or Jet or Wish or Amazon and you know and say look we want something more. That's what happened in the flooring industry back where I used to be. The manufacturers were so large that the independence had no say in anything that would happen anymore in marketing, merchandising, pricing nothing! And they were at the will of the big manufacturer. Now they're as big as the big manufacturers. So they talk. It's two 800-pound gorillas as opposed to an 800-pound gorilla and a chimpanzee that you know can't possibly fight the battle because they're just outgunned, they're outmuscled. So my vision really honestly is that the day I see the mailman pull up and stick in my mailbox the holiday card from an Amazon executive cause you know who knows if Jeff will be around maybe he'll appoint someone else. I don't care who sends it as long as somebody up that food chain knows we exist that's all that matters.
Steve: Yes, I do love that. That's a great crystal ball prediction from Barth Getto right there. The reality is you know if there's enough members and we can pull together. Being able to negotiate you know better FBA rates, lower listing fees or rebates on some of the fees that exists, maybe even you know other benefits. Although this is again speculative and future driven. The only way it works is when you get enough people to make that 800-pound gorilla stand in the room with the other 800-pound gorilla. And you know I definitely think that some of the early founding members you know saw that same kind of vision and we asked them to kind of put up some of the headlines that would be you know in The Wall Street Journal ten years from the day we founded the organization. You know what would that look like and many of the headlines were you know driven to you know Amazon capitulates you know after Empowery you know goes on strike you know something like that and you know there's a lot of great vision from the founding members and I do think that it is possible. I know it's possible and it's just matter of getting it done
Barth: Yes, well again it's up to the people. It's up to the Awesomers. It's up to the members if they joined in belief. I got a shot in my knee this morning because I'm you know an old triathlete. You know I'm feeling the aches and pains. It was really interesting that the nurse comes in to me and she's an ex-triathlete too. She had two knee replacements. She's born the same year I was and she said when I put this shot in your knee she goes “you have to believe!” She said “if you don't believe it's going to work, it's not going to work! You have to believe it's going to work!” It's the first time a healthcare professional ever told me that. And I was like you know I believe it's going to work as I believe in almost any not I'm an optimistic person but I think my dead gone knees feeling better already. I got to go run right now. I got to tell you one other thing too because we're running it slow on time. The only person I don't think I.. I think I mentioned my wife, my brother, my mother, my father, my son but my daughter had a baby on the 11th I think it was.
Steve: Very recently.
Barth: 11 days... Shout out to you too. I almost forgot. If she watches this she'll be like why didn’t you say anything about me.
Steve: She's busy having a little one on the way. Well listen it has been great have it yes. I definitely you know in the show notes will have the information but you know how can people find you know more about Empowery and contact you?
1:00:23 (Where to reach Barth and Empowery.)
Barth: You can obviously visit the website Empowery.com. You know we have Facebook channel they can go there. My email is Barth@empowery.com. B-A-R-T-H. I think you're only to find one Barth anywhere. I've never had one yet myself.
Steve: One other one. Only one other Barth I've ever met and he works at Amazon and he was from like Finland or something.
Barth: I would love to, I'd love to hang with him. I have a lot of stories to tell but you know you can go either way and I'll just tell you my cell phone 603-674-1260. 603-674-1260 and I you know much to my wife's dismay it's always on. And you know I'm an early riser unfortunately too. But would love to talk to you and go out there and be Awesome!
Steve: Let the prank calls begin everyone. This will be fun. So listen let's definitely take a moment and remember that you know when you have somebody like Barth whose got deep experience and creating you know billions of dollars of consolidated buying power and Ed Carr, one of the new director supply chain, Evan Hackel.. These are these are professionals who have put together you know multi-billion dollar deals and now they're saying hey E-commerce guys we get it. We know where you've been. We've seen this before in other industries. We're going to bring this concept to you. Don't forget that a co-op is a legal business entity. There's corporations right? The Inc. at the end of the name. And there are LLC's, a limited liability corporation. Well a co-op is an actual legal type of entity and Empowery is founded in Minnesota which is known to have the best cooperative laws from members and really is a member centric state. So it's really all about who the members are and those members you know can be E-commerce guys near and far. So I highly encourage people to take a look at it. As I said even though it's kind of part of my brainchild and I'm funding it. To join the co-op, I had to pay money to join the co-op and it's a tiny amount of money. There's very little cost upfront or ongoing. If the value is overwhelming in my opinion but I'm just like every other member. Just one of one of many.
Barth: It's actually a non-appreciating share of stock. It's a non-appreciating share. So you can be in ten years and you own just as much as the person that comes in tomorrow. That's why I said earlier by egalitarian and Democratic. You know everybody is the same period.
Steve: Yes, and that one share by the way just get you your vote and it gets you your patronage dividend. And if you ever leave the co-op you get that money you put for the share back. So it's really a non-financial impact long-term. So anyway thanks everybody for listening. Don't forget to share the podcast. Thank You Barth for coming on. It's been a great pleasure talking to you about the all the history and all the other stuff we've talked about.
Barth: And I just want to go on record saying Steve out of all the members you are my favourite.
Steve: Oh boy yes that is definitely. I can't wait to hear how many other members use that same Barth said I was the favourite. But thanks everybody and we'll be right back after this
Empowery, the name says it all. Connecting E-commerce entrepreneurs with great people, ideas, systems and the services needed to sustain business dynamic into growth. Empowery is a network; a co-operative venture of tools and resources to make you better at what you do. Because we love what you do. We are you. Visit Empowery.com to learn more. You're listening to the Awesomers podcast.
1:04:08 (Steve provides his final remarks on today’s episode.)
Steve: Barth’s such a fun guy and really is somebody that understands the plight of E-commerce Entrepreneurs and Awesomers around the world. His mission really as the president of the E-commerce co-operative known as Empowery which again is a non-profit member owned cooperative. Who owns it? The members own it. Who says you know what the team should be doing? Ultimately the members decide what the team should be doing. So it's a really cool thing to be able to have you know E-commerce players joining together and being able to basically leverage the strengths of executives with the caliber like Barth and be able to you know set strategy, troubleshoot, and share best practices. I'm really excited about it and I'm thrilled that Barth’s able join us. Once again this has been episode number 10 of the Awesomers podcast and you can find all the details and show notes at Awesomers.com/10. And you shouldn't hesitate for a moment to look more into Empowery by going to www.Empowery.com. Again a non-profit member-owned cooperative. The first of its kind in the E-commerce world and I am just as excited as I could possibly be about it.
Well we've done it again everybody. We have another episode of the Awesomers podcast ready for the world. Thank you for joining us and we hope that you've enjoyed our program today. Now's a good time to take a moment to subscribe, like, and share this podcast. Heck you can even leave a review if you want it. Awesomers around you will appreciate your help. It's only with your participation and sharing that we'll be able to achieve our goals. Our success is literally in your hands. Thank you again for joining us. We are at your service. Find out more about me Steve Simonson, our guest team, and all the other Awesomers involved at Awesomers.com. Thank you again.