Investing in Learning | Jennifer Levin

Companies that want to have a strong values system, and live by it, are the companies that have the greatest success." Jennifer Levin, Episode 126

There’s power in investing in learning…

In this episode, Jennifer Levin shares how education has shaped her leadership practice.

As the Personal Development/Organizational Development Partner at Blum, Jennifer works with a U.S. team of 460+ employees as well as a team internationally.

She’s here to discuss her experiences with international exchange in the workplace & how leaders can create a workplace that feels like family.

Jennifer will also cover:

  • What we gain from learning about people

  • The importance of a strong value system

  • Benefits of a large global company

  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Jennifer Levin: To me, I just find that companies that want to have this strong value system and live by it and really encourage their employees to do that, that those are the companies that have, in my opinion, the greatest success.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast with professional speaker, coach and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and they call me the vibrant coach. I am absolutely delighted today to have a very special guest on our show. It’s somebody I have had the privilege of knowing for an extended period of time. I’ve known her as a student. I’ve known her as a client and every kind of thing in between. And dare I say it, I’d actually call her my friend. I’ve got on the show today, Jennifer Levin. 

Jennifer is the Personal Development / Organizational Development partner at Blum, a leading manufacturer of functional hardware headquartered in Austria. Blum’s U.S. facility is located in Stanley, North Carolina in Lincoln County and has 460 employees. You thought you had a lot of people to take care of. Hmm, Jennifer’s got a boatload. 

So she is a coordinator for Blum’s International Leadership Network, a program for the company’s worldwide subsidiaries, to help connect people and strengthen relationships within the organization. She has her professional Human Resources certification from HRCI and has held previous roles in human resources for over 30 years. But when you take a peek at her, you won’t be able to tell that’s the truth. 

So Jennifer is currently pursuing a degree in organizational leadership and learning from the University of Louisville, and is a board member for the nonprofit, Keep Lincoln County Beautiful. And in her spare time, she also organizes Blum’s Adopt a Highway program. Jennifer loves to spend time with her family, she loves to travel, maybe we’ll hear a little bit about that. Because her job lets her do that, which I’m terribly jealous of. And she’s an avid runner. Please welcome to the show, Jennifer. 

Jennifer: I’m so happy to be here.

Nicole: I’m so glad to have you here. Yeah, and if you’re looking at the video that we’re gonna post up to the YouTube, she’s got this great poster in the back that says do hard things. So tell me a little bit about do hard things.

Jennifer: It’s actually it’s a two part poster. And it says we can do hard things. So it’s really a mantra, I think for myself, but also anybody who steps into my office. And it’s been, I don’t know, I think kind of my motto over the last few years. So I would say especially through the whole pandemic, there were just so many things that came our way that we had just never gone through before. And to me just always reminding myself like, hey, we’re strong. 

You know, we can do all this stuff that at the time seems really hard and difficult. But once we get through it, we feel so much better and proud of ourselves that we can get through all the difficult situations. So, we, I think we all can do hard things all the time. If we just put our mind to it.

Nicole: Yeah. And like, Jennifer is a walking, talking example of this, because she’s actually started running here in the last few years, right? You’re getting ready to do some big races and things like that?

Jennifer: I have my first half marathon next week. And I’m like, I can do hard things. But I’m like nervous about it. It’s in Charlotte. So I live in Lincoln County. So I run like the Denver area. And I’ve been hearing all this talk like the Charlotte area is like super hilly and really difficult. So it’s like psyched me out a little bit. I’m like, oh my gosh, can I do this? But I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it with a smile on my face. I run very happy. So I’m very, very excited to conquer that first half marathon, and a marathon at the end of this year. So we’ll see how that goes.

Nicole: I know you could do it. I know you can do it. Like if she’s not talking about organizational leadership or organizational development, she’s talking about shoes, yoga pants, running.

Jennifer: That’s right, right. That’s right. I believe that having at least 30 pairs of running shoes.

Nicole: Depends on how those feet are feeling today. Well, Jennifer, one of the things that I do on the show is I invite people to kind of give me their working definition of leadership and you know, leadership is so central to what you do. So tell me, what’s your definition of leadership?

Jennifer: Oh, that’s a great one. I mean, I think for me, well, first of all, I think we all can be leaders. I think, you know, we always think about a leader being, you know, somebody who manages people or, you know, is, you know, running a company. And yes, those are the things, but I think just individual contributors to the company can have such an impact. 

And I think if we all kind of have this mindset that we all want to lead, and to be good examples, and that, to me, is what a leader is. It’s a person who is setting good examples, that is keeping a positive attitude, who is constantly wanting to have a growth mindset, and be, you know, a contributor in a positive way. And I think, you know, why would you not want to feel that way, on a daily basis. 

I mean, I think, you know, if you don’t feel that, I think you’re missing out on just being, you know, happy and wanting to do more. And I feel like, you know, I want that for my own private personal life, but I definitely want that for my work, too. And to me, they’re the same. You know, I think we have to be leaders at home, and we have to be leaders in the workplace. So for me, leadership is definitely just, you know, doing the best that you can, wanting, you know, more for yourself, and more for those around you. 

And, you know, again, I really am a big advocate that we all have that ability to be able to do that. So to me, whether you’re, you know, at an entry level position, or you’re running a company, you can be a leader, just by the way that you present yourself, the attitude that you have, and the direction that you take yourself.

Nicole: I totally agree. And I think that this old adage, you know, lead by example, that is definitely what you’re talking about.

Jennifer: Yeah, for sure. I think, you know, we, you know, have a choice. I feel like every day, you know, we can say, okay, I’m just going to come in here, and I’m just going to do you know what I can do the best I can. You know, I mean, of course, you’re going to do the best you can do. And I feel like sometimes, you know, we just think, okay, there’s only so much I can do, I’m just going to do it and move on. 

But I think if we really look every day of how can I myself be better, then I think once we can figure that out for ourselves, then we can really help the people around us be better. And I just think about so many leaders that I have had just in my life, that have really been good examples for me, and have really helped me to grow and develop. 

And that’s, you know, to me, what I want to do for other people. But I think we all have that ability to be able to make an impact on people around us. And that to me is being a leader is, you know, trying to help everybody around you do the best that they can do while you’re also doing that for yourself.

Nicole: Yeah, and you know, just harken back to what she said, you know about running, she said, I run happy. And to me, I think that is a fantastic thing to think about. Because you can also lead happy. That’s what I also heard you say. Yeah, so it’s kind of like the energy or the, again, the positivity that you bring to things. And so I’ve seen Jennifer in action, and she certainly does that. That is fantastic. So both you and I have these weird degrees. Well, you’re pursuing yours. But how many more semesters do you have left? One?

Jennifer: So I obviously you know by saying that I’ve been in HR for 30 years, I am not young. I’m kind of at the I don’t like to say I’m close to the end of my career. I still have a lot of time left. But I feel like an old lady in this education world. And I laugh or joke with myself that if I can at least get the degree before I retire then I have accomplished something. But I actually am what they would consider a junior. 

So I have probably officially maybe two more years, but the reality is maybe a little bit longer because I’m kind of slow going. I do a lot of travel, which I’m sure we’ll talk about. And I’m super busy at work and so I can really only take about one or two classes a term. But I’m doing it. I’m pursuing it and it has been, oh my gosh, I’m just so grateful for first of all, for the opportunity. Blum is supporting me for doing that. 

So, thankful to have a company that, you know, wants their employees to continue their education. And, I like I said, I have learned so much from just the courses that I’ve taken, but also the discipline that you have to have to, you know, get stuff done. And I have, I’m the typical student, just like maybe your kids at home where I actually just complained last night, because I have a professor that, you know, I have to have stuff done, like by 5pm on a certain day. And I’m like, I work, you know, I work during the day, I can’t get this done. 

So I was like, complaining about that and I thought, you know, gosh, I sound just like my daughter did when she was in college. And so I had to tell myself, okay, you got to be better. You know, the night before you got to get that stuff done. So it’s been an amazing experience. I would encourage anybody really, if they either never got their degree, or if they got a degree, they want to go get their masters or, you know, you do not have to be a certain age, to get that done. You should do it any time. 

I’ll be honest with you, when I was younger, it just was not something that I really think I would have been able to achieve. It just was not something that I wanted to do. But as I got older and just started realizing just how important knowledge is and how much better you can be for knowing things. And so I just said, you know what, I’m gonna do this. And I have become just such a better person, you know, for having the experience.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. Yeah. So I’ve been with you during this journey of getting your degree. And we both have this, this longing to help organizations develop. And yours is organizational leadership and learning. And so you spend a lot of time putting together programs for leaders inside of Blum. 

And again, Blum is a company located in Austria, and they make beautiful hardware that goes on cabinetry that makes your Ikea furniture possible, and also other amazing lines of furniture and cabinetry. So it’s a cool, cool company. And what would you say you’ve learned from putting together all of these learning programs? What have you learned?

Jennifer: So I think, and again, I just, I cannot express enough how grateful I am to have or to be with a company that values learning, and really sets aside so many resources for us to be able to have programs. One of the programs that you help us with is we have an expertise and leadership training program where for nine days, we put leaders in our company through extensive leadership training. 

And we also do and you’ve helped with this too, we do mentor training, where we have people from our production staff, go through training so that they can be mentors for the apprentices that we have. And we just do just on a regular basis, just you know, team lead training. We do just individual training. We do a ton of safety training. So just so many opportunities that we have here, for our employees to grow and to develop. And I think for me, just having the opportunity to work on putting that stuff together, I’m just so grateful for. 

I think from what I have been able to experience and I hope this is the case, that everybody appreciates it. They learn from it. One of the things that I recently did, that I was just really excited about is I just did a course just on the company’s history, and our values and kind of just who we are. And I know I got a lot of good feedback from that where employees just said, you know, hey, that was just really nice to just learn about who we are as a company. 

And so, you know, I think I would encourage, you know, organizations to do stuff like that. Like, it seems like it was a simple, you think, oh, they know this, but sometimes they don’t. They don’t know, you know, how the company was established and some of the things that we’ve had to go through all these years to get where we are today. And so you know, just taking some time out and teaching a course on something like that, I think is really important. 

And then like I said, I’ve just gotten so much, really just positive feedback. And, just seeing the employees who have gone through a lot of this training, how they have grown. I don’t know, Nicole, I got like, happy, because we just finished our expertise in leadership module last week. 

And, you know, just to hear the people that had gone through that just say, oh, I learned so much about myself. You know, so self aware now, and I just was like, yeah, you know, it’s just so exciting to hear people like come out of these programs, really excited about what they’ve learned. Wanting to take it, you know, to the next level. 

So I mean, that, isn’t that why we do this stuff, right? So that they can grow and be better and, and make the company overall better. So it’s worth it to me to get all this training done, and put people through what you know, at the time, I’m sure seems difficult, and it’s very time consuming, and I get that. But they really do I think become better for it, which in turn, makes the company better.

Nicole: Yeah, 100%. Yeah. And I will tell you, that group of people we worked with this last time, first of all, you know, talking about, like diversity, and like how you can do inclusion, right. So this program that she does expertise in leadership training, people from all over the company, from Austria, to Mexico to Canada, from LA to Denver, North Carolina, Stanley, North Carolina, you know, people come far and wide, and they get in a room for these nine days. 

And it builds these superduper relationships. So there’s a big investment on Blum’s part, which again, I know, you’re grateful for, I’m grateful. What do you see happens to these people who get in a room and, you know, have the experience of each other, you know, from different countries and different places?

Jennifer: Absolutely. I mean, I think it’s critical. Because, first of all, you know, you find out how much you have in common with this group of people. And I think, you know, that is very important, because I think, you know, you’re unfortunately, sometimes just kind of in this particular area, or you’re from this one part of the country, and you’re just like, oh, you know, I do this every day. I don’t realize that, you know, there’s people, all these people all across the world, that are also going through very similar situations. 

Have, you know, same the hobbies as you, have the same, you know, family dynamics. And I think that is very positive, to have this connection with someone else from, like, say from another country, or from another area. And then also, it’s, it’s really nice to see them interact with each other, just from a work perspective, in that, you know, maybe one person is in production, but another person is a salesperson, maybe another person is in marketing, and you think, okay, how does that work? 

You know, and then you find out that, again, a lot of them have very similar day to day struggles that they go through very similar wins that they have, you know, and they’ll talk about that. And it’s, it’s been for me just amazing to watch that connection. Plus it just to me, it builds just a more productive environment for the company, when you can now know, like, hey, I know so and so from Brazil, and you know, or I’ve met, you know, Lucy from Canada. 

And so, and we do things outside of that training, where they maybe will interact with each other again, and I have even before we’ve been on videos, for maybe like a meeting or something. And I have seen like, just the excitement in people’s face when they see, like somebody that they had been in training with, you know. Even it was like, several years ago. But they’re like, oh, hey. 

Like, they’re just so happy to see each other. And it just like I said, it warms my heart because I think that is so important. And you should, it’s almost, to me, it’s what connects our company. It’s what gives you kind of that, that family feel. And it’s something that I know, my company Blum really wants and prides themselves on and like I said, it’s for me, it’s very exciting to be a part of it.

Nicole: Yeah, and so I’ve witnessed it firsthand that these people love each other. And you know, we had those three cohorts of three days a piece or those three sessions of three days apiece, and you don’t like when they come back together, it’s like long lost brothers and sisters or something. And then they have all these stories that they’ve developed with each other, they’ve got nicknames for each other. 

And they pick on each other in the greatest way, like brothers and sisters pick on each other. And it’s just been fantastic. There was a young man that was in the group and, and he was such a good sport, but like, every time he ate a doughnut or had a dessert, they’re like taking pictures of him and teasing him with it and everything. So it was just, you know, it really is like a family.

Jennifer: No, it is, and like I said, I really, like it makes me really happy to see it and to experience it. Because I know how that connection works. You know, I tell the story to people that are coming into the training about my own experience, because I went through this expertise in leadership training back in 2019. About how I, before that there is a colleague of mine, I’ll say her name, because and she’ll be so embarrassed that I did. But her name is Becky Jackson, and she’s in our finance department. 

And she does expense reports, right? So she’s excellent at this. And that is a hard job. And we have a lot of travelers, and we have a lot of sales folks that are doing traveling all the time. And her job is to make sure that all those expenses get put in and everything’s done correctly. And I am not a finance person. And I like barely can balance my own checkbook, much less keep up with finances. 

And I know before I had gone through this program with her, if I saw her name pop up on my phone, like I would go into hives, because all I could think of is like why is she calling, me what have I done. I know I’ve messed something up. I was so scared of her. And we were in this program together. And we became just the best friends. Our children come to find out, went to the same college. And we just had all this stuff in common. 

And also, I learned through this learning, like what she has to do every day, how difficult it is. And it changed the way like I even viewed my expenses. So like I thought to myself, Jennifer, like you need to be better, you should be keeping up with your receipts. Like you should have all this stuff together. 

And so I changed the way that I was doing that, and the way that I even interacted with her from a work perspective, because I learned, you know how much she needed me to be better. And I also think, you know, just again, I think she learned about me and she knew, you know, okay, Jennifer is not good with finances. So I’m not gonna be so hard on her, you know, if everything doesn’t balance out, you know. Or I’ll be more patient with her. 

And she was, and had we not had that training together and had the opportunity to learn about each other. And like I said, spend time together. So I don’t know that that dynamic would have ever happened. And I would have still, you know, been petrified every time she called. And so now like when I see her name pop up, I’m like, oh, it’s Becky, I can’t wait to, you know, talk to her. So that is part of learning. 

And that is why you do these types of programs, I think is because it connects people. It allows them to be able to find out about each other personally, but also from a work perspective. And it changes relationships. And, again, that is to me the win and why you invest in learning. Because there really are very positive outcomes that come from it.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. And so I’m just kind of reminiscing as I’m listening to you about this class. Because the other thing I think that comes out of this class is like, you realize that there are such hard workers around you too. Like it’s very inspirational in the group and the guy I’m thinking about right now, is Armando. 

So in our last cohort, we had a gentleman named Armando who is from Mexico. And we would ask him, what are you working on? He’s like Armando. I’m working on Armando. Most people are like, I’m working on the budget, I’m working on whatever, but he’s like no, I’m working on me. But the amazing thing about him, was that he was coming taking all these classes in English. 

Jennifer: Yes. 

Nicole: Like, translating it out of Spanish into English. And like working twice as hard as anybody else, because he’s got this language issue. And then, by like the third session, everybody was like helping him out and he wasn’t embarrassed anymore to be like how do you say this? You know what I mean? 

Because the whole room was like trying to help them give the vocabulary lesson today, you know. I mean, not only was there learning going on about Blum, about, you know, leadership, about building a culture, about change, about emotional intelligence. I mean, the list goes on the stuff we covered. But this guy is learning English, and the whole room was helping him.

Jennifer: Yeah. And I don’t know, if you noticed, like, it was really interesting from like, the first session to the, to the last, how better his English was. You know, he had really improved with that. And, I shared with the class a story, because I had a few weeks before that session, I had been in Mexico. And so he is a salesman. You know, he works for sales down in Mexico. But also, I found out when I got down there, that he’s also like a craftsman. 

He puts together a lot of the kitchens, and he has just this other like side hidden talent that I didn’t even know about that, you know, and I got to see that in action, too. And you just realize, we sometimes just see this one side of a person. But there’s all this like amazing things about people that if we don’t invest in them, if we don’t seek this, sometimes we don’t know it, and you have to spend time with people, and you have to, you know, really get at the core of a person sometimes before you realize, like, oh, this is a hidden gem. 

This person has got a lot that we can really tap into, you know. But if you, like I said, if you’re not asking, if you’re not seeking that out, sometimes you don’t, you don’t get it. And so I think that’s one of the things that I just really feel passionate about that we have to, we’ve got to ask these questions, and we need to be looking harder and deeper into what people have there. Because I think there’s a lot that we can gain from learning more about people.

Nicole: 100%. Yeah, and like we said, you know, of course, there’s that first day. But you know, we jumped in, when we worked with this team, and it was like, we’re gonna do you know, your identity, your vibrant identity, we’re gonna do your stepping stones, your points of light, all this kind of stuff. 

So they got to know each other very quickly. But I was just so impressed with the learning curves that these people went through. So let’s shift gears a little bit, because I do want to talk a little bit about the fact that you have an international company, you travel all over. And the world is going global. I mean, that’s just the way it is. 

We are a global world now in terms of like, we do business everywhere, we import/export things all over the world. And so that dynamic is definitely at play. Where do you see the benefits, you know, of being a large company across the globe, other than like sales and market share. Obviously, those are the two things, but what’s going on in your company that’s so positive because you’re global? And what do you see in your travels?

Jennifer: Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, if you especially if you have a company that is kind of all over, it’s very important to connect each other. Because I think we’re really seeing this now. And I think it really started with COVID when, you know, oddly enough when you couldn’t travel, but all of a sudden, now you’re having to spend more time I think trying to figure out how can I connect with these people from all over the world. 

And you realized, you know, that there was this opportunity to really tap into a lot of potential that wasn’t not necessarily just in your particular area or your market, but all across. And I think that that’s something that Blum has done very well and that they have really tried to make sure that we look at ourselves as not just in Austria or not just here in the US, but that we have these you know, we have over 30 subsidiaries all across the world that we can really tap into to help us to grow. 

And from my perspective, and like I said, I’m probably doing it more from a learning or a kind of a leadership standpoint. But you can learn so much from everybody and see what other people are doing. And talking about Armando. So the the general manager for Mexico is a gentleman by the name of Dunstan, and he is this amazing leader and we learned from Armando just how much he respects him and his whole team really does. 

And one of the things that I love about Dunstan, he always says, you know, I’d go to these other subsidiaries or, you know, I look to see what they’re doing in the UK. Or what are they doing in Brazil? What are they doing in Singapore? And he takes all these different ideas, and he brings them back to Mexico, and uses it from like a sales and marketing standpoint, in his subsidiary. And that is what I think is very encouraging. 

And I have done that from a learning standpoint. I have a colleague that I work with in Poland. And I talk with her very often about what are you doing there? What is it that, you know, people in the Poland facility are needing and learning? And reaching out and saying, okay, is there something that I could do here in the US that would help me? Same thing, you know, I’ve got colleagues all over the world that I’m constantly just tapping into to say, hey, you know, is there a new idea? 

Is there a different way that you’re doing things that maybe I don’t know about? And tapping into that. And it all translates, right. It doesn’t, even though maybe it’s not in English, or, you know, maybe it can be a little bit different. I know, like sometimes in different areas, there’s different laws or different cultural aspects that you have to look at. 

But you can always, you know, modify it, and change it and make it better. And so I think we have to be constantly looking at ways that we can, ways that we can change, but also the ways that we can think from like a wider perspective. And I think that’s why you really should, especially if you are a more international company, that you should be interacting more with the company as a whole.

Because I think you’re just missing out on so many amazing learning opportunities if you’re not asking those questions. Like, you know, what are you doing here? How are you achieving your goals? And finding that out, and then in turn, bringing it back and saying, hey, let’s try this, let’s see if we can do something different here. 

And that, for me, has been just a positive experience to be able to see what other countries are doing. And then bringing it, like for me here in the US to say, okay, let’s, maybe I need to modify a little bit, but I’m going to, I’m going to take that idea. And I’m going to run with it. And I’ve seen it through the other subsidiaries as well. And it’s been very positive.

Nicole: That’s fantastic. So you’re very, very diverse. You’re all over the globe. But the final question I want to ask about Blum is this. We have this thing at Blum called the Fingerprints. 

Jennifer: Yes. 

Nicole: And so while we’re in Poland, in Canada and Mexico and LA and here and there and hither and yon and Austria, were the home offices, there is one thing that unites Blum, which is the idea of the Fingerprints. Will you share a little bit about the Fingerprints?

Jennifer: Yeah, so we originally at Blum have, I mean, we have our core values, of course. But back in 2018, we or and I say we, our owner, Philip Blum, decided, hey, I want to kind of add a little bit to our core values. And so we came up with this concept called the Five Fingerprints. And it’s just really, like I said, it’s kind of an addition to our values, but it’s how we want to really live our lives here at Blum. How we want to interact with our customers, our suppliers, with each other. 

And so for example, one of the five fingerprints is that we want to be approachable. And I love that one. Because I think about all the time how do people, and you say this a lot too, how do people experience me? Right? So when you meet me, am I approachable? You know, do you want to come and talk to me? Do you want to interact with me. I hope the answer is always yes. But you know, I think that’s important. Right? 

Like, how do you view me? And how do people view Blum? Are we a company that you could come to and always feel like you’re getting good customer service that as a supplier as a vendor, I love working you know, with Blum. They’re always great to work with. And then also, as, you know, a peer, you know, if someone calls me am my, you know, positive with them. Am I in a good mood? 

And I tell people all the time, look, it’s okay sometimes if you know I’ve had, I’ve had people before that have knocked on the door, and maybe I’m on a call or something. And I have to say, hey, like, give me a minute or whatever. And that’s okay, I tell people like, it’s okay, if you need a little bit of time, you don’t have to always be on. 

You know, you can tell somebody, hey, I gotta get back to you. But you got to get back to them, right. So if you tell somebody, I need a little bit of time, make sure you follow back up with them. And then also make sure that that interaction that you have with them is always positive. Another one of the fingerprints is that we want to be dialogue driven. 

So we want to be able to have conversations. We want to talk through things. We want to be able to have sometimes difficult conversations. But we also want to be very candid, when we have those conversations, but we want to be open. You know, I tell people all the time, if I don’t know what’s going on, if you’re having a problem, and you don’t come and share that with me, I can’t do anything, right. You got to talk about it. 

You’ve got to be willing to come in and have that talk. And I think that it’s important as a company that we constantly are having those conversations, and like I said, not even just with each other, but with our customers, with the people from the outside. And so, again, we have this kind of concept that we are wanting as part of our value system, to always kind of make a fingerprint. 

Want to have those kind of lasting traces, you know, with each other and with, with everyone around us. And I’m very grateful, like I said for the company that they want to add this. And so one of the things that we’re doing with those fingerprints is, again, we’re making sure that our employees know what these are, we’re actually getting ready to put the fingerprints kind of all over the company, and in in the facility, so all of the employees will be able to get to see these. 

And then one of the things that I do is I’m trying to again, kind of push this out in even more detail. So we did it in the expertise in leadership training where we didn’t just talk about them. But we also talked about like, how can we, you know, implement this even greater? And how can we get this more ingrained in our day to day activities? 

I’m going to be doing a manager training on it in a couple of weeks, where all the managers learn again, not just what are the five fingerprints, but how can we lead with them? You know, how can we constantly make sure that we’re pushing these out in everything that we do. And so I think that’s another thing I think if we come up with the concept, within an organization, we got to keep, you got to keep going. 

You can’t just say, oh, this is our value system. This is who we are, I mean, you have to live it. And you have to want to do that on a regular basis. It just made me think, Nicole, you know, we just visited Piedmont Plastics last week as part of that training and so grateful for that company, and the opportunity to be able to go in there. 

And that was one of the things I really took from them is how they find that their value system is so important. It’s so ingrained in what they do. In everything that they do from just, you know, a phone call to a meeting to setting up a supplier to everything has to do with their value system. And you could tell that in just in the conversation that we had with the employees that we met, and I just, I appreciate companies that care about that. 

And to me I just find that companies that want to have this strong value system and live by it and really encourage their employees to do that. Those are the companies that have in my opinion the greatest success.

Nicole: Yeah. And you know, when we, when we arranged that whole thing with Piedmont Plastics, you know, the whole thing is, is they’re very family oriented. And, you know, here come, I think how many of us were there like 13 in our posse or something like that. Here come 13 people we’ve never met before, we’re going to, we’re going to buy them lunch, we’re going to show them around, we’re gonna visit over to another company, you know, so.

Jennifer: I just, like I said, it was like it, made me just so happy. Because I was just like, first of all, I just appreciated the partnership. And I gotta tell you, like Chad and Margo, who are at Piedmont Plastics, I mean, what a blessing they are for that company and I loved working with them. And they were. They were just so kind. They fed us gumbo. And we, we just all like it all and on the bus ride home, we just, were just so happy. 

We were just talking about like, oh, how, like, just that one an amazing day we had had with them. And I just like, why did we not do this more? Like why do we not have these, these stronger partnerships with other companies. And because we are all like, you know, we’re all really wanting to grow and develop and to build these companies. 

And this is, this is why you do connect with others, because you learn, like so much. I mean, I took so much of that day back with me, and then have been thinking about it and how I wanted, you know, to bring it to the company here. So I just think that we should be doing this more. And I’m, like I said, very grateful for them for allowing us in and sharing their experiences with us because it made us better.

Nicole: 100%. So big shout out to Chad Roberts, Margo Gilmore over at Piedmont plastics for making Jennifer’s life, my life and of course, this whole cohort of people internationally. So we’re just trying to connect everybody. Well, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. You’re certainly doing that at Blum, and you’re building a culture that reaches far and wide across the globe. So I celebrate you, Jennifer, you’re amazing.

Jennifer: Thank you, and I’m so grateful for you and everything that you bring to us. We would be just so lost I think if we did not have you there to help us. And to guide us. And I think again, at the end of the day, like I said, we just we should always want to grow and to be better. And if you’re not in that space, you got to get there. You got to figure out a way to do it. Because once you are, it’s just amazing to just see the accomplishments that you can make and how much better you feel overall, when you are doing hard things.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. All right. So you’re over on the LinkedIn. And will you tell people where they can find you over there?

Jennifer: So um, that’s a good question. I think that if you put in my name you can find me. And again, I’m always available, just you know, email or through a phone call. I’m always so happy to talk to anybody. If you know if you need, you know, any information just about the trainings that we do here at Blum or even the trainings that I’ve done with you through Vibrant. 

And like I said, happy to share things. I can tell you some things that have worked, things that have not worked. Because we are always just trying to figure it out. And we grow from messing up. And so I’m always open to share some things that did not go well. So that you can do better, for sure.

Nicole: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. All right, so find her over on LinkedIn. And it’s Jennifer. And let me spell her last name for you. It’s l e v i n and then it’s hyphen PHR. She’s got that little certification tucked on the end there. Makes her an expert.

Jennifer: I worked very hard for that. That was a hard.

Nicole: Hey, everybody, this HR ain’t no joke.

Jennifer: But can I say that I gotta do a shout out for that. If you’ve ever studied for that, or if you’ve been thinking about doing it, I highly encourage you to do it. It is difficult. And I was a nervous wreck through the whole experience because I thought if I don’t pass this I’m going to be humiliated. So and I think everybody feels that way. They’re like, oh, like you put so much pressure on yourself. 

But I learned so much from it, I feel like I am a much more strategic thinker from having like gone through, you know, that experience and very grateful to have gotten that knowledge. You really, you study parts that, you know, you don’t normally think that you would know and learn and stuff and, and like I said, I’m a better person from having experienced it. 

And it is worth the studying and the courses and stuff that you have to take. So anybody who has ever thought about doing it, I would, I would encourage you to do it. And see if your company will support you, because usually they will.

Nicole: Yeah, and it’s the Professional Human Resources certification through HRCI. And, you know, dare I say this, Jennifer, but I think even the people in our C suites, not just our HR person, but you know, if a CEO, a COO, VPs, anybody who’s managing people, you need to know about DEI. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion. You need to know about the law. You need to know about, you know, training, you need to know about putting together a culture. So that certification covers all the gamut of all parts of HR, but I think any true leader, any true professional must understand how to manage and lead human resources.

Jennifer: Absolutely. And you gain like I said, you just gain so much knowledge on just like on employee relations and just, you know, how to better you know, handle circumstances that come your way. So yeah, don’t don’t necessarily always depend on you know, your HR team to do it. You should want to do it as well, for sure. And like I said, it only makes you better. And that, like I said, at the end of the day is what we are aiming for.

Nicole: That’s exactly right. Thank you so much for being on the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. I know you love listening to Jennifer. You’re picking up all her energy, you’re ready to go out there and seize the day. So go down to the bottom of the screen. Wherever you are on your iPhone or on your Android or on your laptop and click like and leave a comment about this episode. And then of course, subscribe to the Build a Vibrant Culture podcast. Thank you so much, Jennifer.

Jennifer: It was so good to see you.

Voiceover: Ready to build your vibrant culture? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her strategies, systems and smarts to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Your organization will get lit from within. Email And be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at

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