LTS Podcast Ep. 2 – Our Purpose, Mission, Vision & Values

In this episode Jonathan Jones and Aaron Heim discuss DEMDACO's Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Values, and how each of those help guide the company. This episode was recorded on February 1, 2023.

Lift the Spirit a Podcast from DEMDACO - Episode 2

Jonathan Jones: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the Lift the Spirit Podcast from DEMDACO. This is Jonathan Jones and my co-host Aaron Heim, this is a new podcast for DEMDACO and we're looking forward to getting to know you better and helping you get to know DEMDACO. But really where we want to head with this is we want to get to know you.

We want to hear other people's stories. Some have relationships with DEMDACO, some will not. People that we've found, Really what we're hoping to do with the Lift the Spirit Podcast is do just that. We want your time with us to be something that lifts your spirits and helps you lift the spirit of others.

So thanks again for joining

Today, we want to talk about, DEMDACO's Purpose. Mission, Vision and Values, and I'm gonna let Aaron ask the questions. [00:01:00] Aaron is, is newer to DEMDACO. That's been how many months, Aaron?

Aaron Heim: Almost seven months now. Yep.

Jonathan Jones: So I'm gonna let you ask the questions and, and really kind of lead with why you joined DEMDACO.

Aaron Heim: Well, one of the things that I have admired about DEMDACO and it being a Kansas City company, I've known more about DEMDACO than I think most people do. Is just their commitment to living, their mission, their purpose, their values. And having been here for seven months now, I'm inspired by the vision for the future as well.

So I think one of the things that I, as someone who's newer to the company, I'm still, obviously we're all in learning mode, but one of the things that I'm excited to talk to you about a little bit is what your perspective on those things are. So let's talk about DEMDACO's purpose first and foremost, if we could.

Jonathan Jones: If it's okay, I'm gonna back up a little bit and just talk about purpose, mission, vision, and values. What are they? Just for anyone? I think that'd be a great place to start. Okay. And and what's the [00:02:00] difference between each one of those? And, you know, I've been at DEMDACO 16 and a half years in this role. My, my title is Cultural Conversation Leader.

Which always gets a a sometimes perplexed looks, but it always opens up an opportunity for a conversation, no pun intended. And really what I do is, is help give language to our purpose, mission, vision, and values and, and what it looks like in the day-to-day work. And I'm borrowing language from other people.

I read a lot on these topics and, and so I'll just kind of break them down how I see them on what I've learned from other people. A company's purpose. Your purpose is really your why. I think most people are familiar with Simon Sinek and his book Start With Why. It was one of the first Ted Talks that got Ted Talks on the map.

But your, your purpose is why do you exist as a company? For most companies to give thought to this, while finances and generating income is part of it, and we'll probably talk about that at the end of this podcast, if that's your only reason [00:03:00] for existing is to make money and it's all about the bottom line.

That typically does not benefit everyone at the company. And so we want to think beyond that. The language that we've given it is that we at DEMDACO see business first and foremost as a human endeavor and not simply a financial endeavor. And that goes back to our why, our purpose, which is to pursue business the way it ought to be.

And we'll talk more about that here in a little bit. So your purpose is why you exist. Your mission is what you do. DEMDACO has chosen to be in the, the gift space, and we have different categories under that, but that's not what we do. We do have amazing products, but what we do, our, our mission is to lift the spirit.

That's what we do. Product, finances, that, but other companies have different missions and, and really for companies who want to succeed and really want to have high [00:04:00] engagement. It's when they live out their mission of what the company actually does. So your purpose is your why. Your mission is your what, and I like to describe your vision as what it looks like when you're living out your purpose and your mission.

And then you come to values. Hopefully, most companies have values. DEMDACO has five. We wanna be a better place to work, and we're not using that as comparative to any other company. We want to constantly be improving. And we want to be a better supplier to our customers and consumers. We wanna be a better business partner.

We want DEMDACO to be a company that's easy to do business with. We want to be a better community citizen, and we want to be a financially secure organization. Those are our five values. Your values are really kind of like your compass. Your purpose is your why. Your mission is your what, your vision is, what it looks like, and your values Are what guide all of those. 

And so if you have conversations, this happens here at DEMDACO, if there's a, a [00:05:00] disagreement on your why or a disagreement on your what, your mission, go back to your values and let that be the guide for that conversation on, on what should happen. So purpose, mission, vision, and values are all important, but all kind of have a slight difference.

And they're all unique in, in what they do.

Aaron Heim: Well, you briefly touched on what is DEMDACO's's purpose. I don't know if you wanna elaborate a little bit more on that, or if you want to maybe get into how is that purpose lived out here?

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, I'll, I'll answer that together again. Our why is to pursue business the way it ought to be.

There's two key words there. The first one is pursue that's aspirational by intention. Our purpose is not doing business the way it ought to be. Because we fail every day in some way. And if we kind of raise our hand and say, Hey everybody, look at us. This is how you do business. There are gonna be a lot of other hands that can quickly be raised to go, well, you didn't do that here, or you didn't do that here.

And for us, we always want to respond to that. So [00:06:00] if we've erred in some way, again, we go back to our values. Let's say that something in the shipping wasn't quite right. Well, one of our core values is to be a better supplier, so let's. Let's get that corrected. I often say customer service, customer care departments exist for a reason because the company's failed in some way or come short. And it's, it's how you respond to that. So our purpose, it is aspirational to pursue business the way it ought to be. So that first word pursue second word ought, we could say should. , intuitively we believe that everyone has this sense that There's a certain way things should be.

Again, it's why people call customer care When something doesn't go right, They're, they're saying, Hey, this shouldn't have happened. What can you do about it? How this looks for us? There are a lot of different ways, but again, it goes back to, you know, our, our language that we believe businesses, first and foremost, a human endeavor.

When you [00:07:00] kind of draw a line in the sand that way and you go, we want to take into account Everyone's full humanity, not just this transactional aspect of our relationship, it, it really causes you or should cause you to pause. So when it comes to, let's say something as simple as invoicing, and so DEMDACO has as a practice, not a policy, has as a practice.

We like to pay invoices when we get them, regardless of the net terms. Have we done this every time? No. Have there been times where I have forgotten to submit an invoice? Yes. But as a practice, we want to pay invoices when we get them. So you ask the question why? Well, a why question ties to your purpose, why you exist to pursue business weight ought to be. We like to pay invoices when we get them because we just think that's how it should be.

And oftentimes how that plays out. Many of our invoices [00:08:00] are not that large. It could be we've hired a, a, a freelance designer to do a specific project, and the invoice may not be very large to us, but it is to them. And very quickly it can turn into rent or groceries or shoes for their kids. And DEMDACO's by definition are still considered a small business.We're right at about 250 people. But we're big enough to hold onto those invoices, particularly the smaller ones. But we don't want to be that kind of company cuz it doesn't align with our purpose, mission, and value. So that's just one example of how that that looks.

Aaron Heim: I think what's interesting for me is, since I'm a word guy here, you and I have never talked about the difference between should and ought, and I think there's a.

Like you touched on, there's an aspiration to ought, oh, I ought to do something versus I should, which feels more like you're checking off a list. That's, that's good language. And I, I think it's the ought that keeps you inspired. It's, yeah. It [00:09:00] invites possibility. It invokes innovation business, how it ought to be done.

Yeah. , the semantics are important there.

Jonathan Jones: They're, they really are.

Aaron Heim: Next onto, onto the mission. Let's talk about that a little bit. Let's, let's, , I think you touched on it just a little bit, but is there anything you wanna elaborate on with our mission and how we do live that out here?

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. So your mission is what you do.

We are, , a gift and home decor, baby accessories, , women's fashion accessories, and we have amazing product. But what we do is we want to lift people's spirits. And we, we look at that three different ways. So, Again, like our purpose, there's an aspiration to our mission. Our full mission is we strive, there's that aspirational word.

We strive to lift the spirit in consumers in each other and in our communities. And so I'm gonna peel back the onion a little bit on, on our mission cuz there's layers to it. So that the first layers are the three parts. We strive to lift the spirit in consumers. [00:10:00] That's primarily through our product, but it's also how we interact with our consumers. We design product, and I'll talk more about this with our vision, with three things in mind, comfort, love, and joy. That's how we design. That's how we want to interact with our consumers. That's where we want to come alongside them. In those, we call them meaningful moments. So that's the first part of our, our mission we strive to lift spirit in consumers.

The second part is we strive to lift the spirit in each other. That's the hard part because when you have people working together in an office, online, virtual meetings, there's a lot that has to happen for a healthy company culture to exist, and that's where I probably invest the vast majority of our ti my time in.

Are we lifting the spirit of each other? And it comes down to how are we communicating? How are we collaborating? How are we developing trust? How are we holding each other [00:11:00] accountable? Are we working towards the things where do, do colleagues know that the people on their team or maybe in other departments have their best interest in mind?

Are they looking to see others flourish and they're not just in it for themselves? So that's the second part of our mission. We wanna be lifting spirits of each other. The third part is we want, we strive to lift the spirit in our communities. We look at the community lifting spirit of the community in three ways.

One, through financial donations. We have, , a commitment to that. We have a team that, that helps make donation recommendations or, or goes through donation requests. Because we do have amazing product. , we get often, it's not quite daily, but almost daily donation product donation requests for silent auctions for fundraisers.

I have two emails in my inbox this morning for product donation requests, and we just have some great stories, , that we'll talk [00:12:00] more in other podcasts about some of our retail partners who are doing great work in their communities and we're able to come alongside them with product donations. But the other thing that DEMDACO colleagues have is we have what are called Lift the Spirit days.

And each colleague has five paid days. You can use it by the hour to be involved in the community or be involved in things that are near and dear to them. It could be with a nonprofit that someone has a relationship with. It could be Kansas City has an amazing zoo. It, and we have colleagues that have school-aged children.

And, , it may be cold here, today's February 1st, but warm weather's coming, and so are field trips to the zoo. And it may be that you are using somebody your lift spirit days to help chaperone or be a parent on that field trip. And so we really leave it up to our colleagues to determine the best way for them to use their lift the spirit days, so that that's our mission.

What we do is we [00:13:00] strive to lift the spirit.

Aaron Heim: One of the parts of the mission that I love here, that it's, that it's encouraged, it's time is made for it, which is very important. The second piece that you talked about real qu really quickly is, Lifting each other's spirits up. ,

Jonathan Jones: I love quotes. One of my favorite quotes is be kind to everyone you meet, because everyone's fighting a great battle.

And, and that just dovetails really with our mission, because when you're lifting someone's spirit, really what you're doing is you are showing an act of kindness to them. And it's, it's really, , just a, a great guide for us.

Aaron Heim: Yeah, I think that I'm, I'm a big believer in, in kindness. You never know what people are going through.

And some people do a very good job of, of hiding it and masking it and doing the best they can to put on a, their game face and come into work. But I think it, it's also just checking in with people. I made it one of my New Year's resolutions this year to check in with friends. I hadn't, I had kind of fallen out of touch with because of the pandemic or [00:14:00] distance.

And so that's gonna be one of my goals this year is just to a quick text, a phone call, things like that, just to check it out on people.

Jonathan Jones: My wife and I were talking about this the other day when we were on a walk, and one of the things that I do from time to time, I've just gotten into practice, is I'll just go through the contacts on my phone and it's like, oh, I haven't reached out to them in a while.

And you're right, just a text that has no strings attached. Just say, Hey, was going through my contacts, saw you wanted to hope, say hi and hope everything's going well. You never know. If at that moment, that's exactly what they needed.

Aaron Heim: Yeah. One of the things that I, that brought me here and that I'm very, very excited about is the, is the vision for the future. Where we're going, what we're choosing to stand for, how we're taking what is great about what we try to do, and making it even more meaningful for people and, and getting into wellbeing and kindness, things like that. Talk to me a little bit about your understanding of where we're going, our vision and your part in bringing that to life as well.

Jonathan Jones: [00:15:00] Yeah, I'll, I'll tie it back to purpose and mission again. Your purpose is your why, your mission is your what. And the way I like to define vision is what does that all look like? So that not only includes forward thinking, , which is, is really your question, but I'll just touch on to summarize our vision.

We believe there are meaningful moments in people's lives and, , there's many different kinds, but the meaningful moments that we want to come alongside people are the moments of comfort, love, and joy. We want to do that with our product. We want to do that with how we interact with with people, customer service, how they take calls.

We want to be in those moments when we're out involved in the community. Comfort, love and joy. Comfort can be tricky. Comfort can be from a product standpoint some of our amazing baby products, you know, bath towels, wraps our amazing plush, which is the [00:16:00] industry term for stuffed animals. But comfort can also be some of our products that typically from our giving collection, like some of our shawls and wraps and our weighted giving heart are given in times of grief. Someone has passed away, maybe someone's going through chemotherapy and we, we know this because people share those stories with us. Our giving collection product most, most of those products have a postcard included in the packaging, and people mail those in. We get postcards weekly, sometimes daily.

And just the, the raw stories and vulnerability just constantly inspire me when I read them. I often take them to our shows, , for the buy, the buyer's markets. And when I interact with our, our sales force or at their national training meeting, or kind of post them internally because they just show the type of work that we get to do and how we get to be involved in people's lives.

And so [00:17:00] that, that vision, what it looks like, is we want to, we wanna be at work in those moments of comfort, love, and joy. Vision also is forward looking. We want to constantly, again, go back to we see business primarily as a human endeavor and it needs to be kind. It, it needs to have a, a focus of kindness. it needs to have a focus that I'm seeking your best. And we believe that, , just because there may at times be a product or something that you're asking someone to purchase does not negate the underlying value that, that this is designed to help you in, in our language, lift someone's spirits and maybe lift your own spirit.

Aaron Heim: Yeah. I think that's one of the beautiful parts, especially about Willow tree, is that the situations that are sculpted are so universal, yet specific at the same time, because people can look at those and infer their own meaning, derive their own meaning from them and [00:18:00] say, that's my sister and I, or That's my mom and I, right?

Or this is my, yeah. Those kind of things. Yeah. And the more that you think about, sometimes it happens by accident, but the more you think about the many different situations that this could be appropriate for, The more home, the more home runs you hit for people, because they're gonna know you as a place that is there for you to help you say the things you don't always know how to say or comfort someone in a way that doesn't seem artificial.

It seems genuine, authentic, oh, that person knows me, they get me. This reflects that. Yeah. Alright. Should we talk about values?

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. So again, you know, your, your values are your compass. And, and they, they should, well, first of all, you should have values and they, they should give guidance. And again, just to repeat what I said earlier, DEMDACO has five core values.

We want to be a better place to work, meaning we want to constantly [00:19:00] be improving. We want to be a better business partner. We want DEMDACO to be easy to do business with. We don't want to complicate things. We want to be a better supplier to our customers and consumers. One thing that definitely came out of the pandemic, whether two things, everyone knows how, what a QR code is now if you didn't before, you do now.

And two, everyone knows the term supply chain and at least has an idea of what it is and what happens when it's not working well. So we want to be a better supplier to our customers and consumers. We want to be a better community citizen. And we wanna be a financially secure organization.

Aaron Heim: A couple examples maybe of how we do live our, we we live our values that maybe come to mind over the years or something more recent.

What, what are your thoughts on that?

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, I, I think I'll, I'll focus on being a better community citizen first for us. You know, one of [00:20:00] our compass settings is our one, are we involved in the community? How are we being a better community citizen? And you know, I'm often in these conversations and. And I, I will say it's easy to see whether or not you're living out your values.

If we have a value that says we want to be a better community citizen, and we're not involved in our community at all through financial donations, for us having the ability to have product that we can donate or we're not donating time, guess what? That's really not one of our values or we're so far off course that we need to course correct and, and live into that value.

So, You know, I have two voicemails, couple emails that I need to respond to from organizations that we've partnered with in the past, and they're asking us to come alongside them again. That's just one way where that's what we want to do. We wanna align with that value and let that value guide us, , to kind of go through is this something that we think we can do now, [00:21:00] our fifth value to be a financially secure organization that, that one's, , can be challenging.

We'll segue here. I, I know we have a a question we want to answer at the end. Where does, where does profit come into all this? Cuz it is, we're, we're a for-profit company and we'll talk about that here at the end of the podcast. But to have a value that says we want you to be a financially secure organization a financially secure company, , you have to make hard decisions sometimes.

And it, it comes up in simple things where like all of our we're primarily wholesale companies, still, every one of our retail partners, if we said, who would like free freight? They'd all raise their hand and say, yeah, we'd like free freight. There are times that we've been able to offer through specials free freight.

Can we do that every time? No. Because we can't do that and align with our value to be a financially secure organization. That might bring that value out of alignment, as it were. So to be able to offer free freight occasionally you have [00:22:00] to make wise financial decisions to be able to do that and still have that as a value.

It goes back to. And when I talked about paying invoices, when we get them doing that as a practice, we've been able to do that because one of our values that we've lived into is being a financially secure organization. And again, you know, companies can't offer guarantees, especially in economic uncertainty like we have now.

And I think it's unreasonable for companies and employees of companies to expect that a company should be able to offer financial guarantees when so much of the future is a little bit shrouded in uncertainty. So our leadership and decision makers, , here at DEMDACO are going to make decisions using that compass setting of being financially secure to help navigate these, these times where we really don't know exactly what's gonna happen with the economy. But for all five of our values, we want to live into those. And again, those to me are a guide for our [00:23:00] purpose, your why, and our mission. What, what we do.

Aaron Heim: I think the thing that I love about the articulated values here are that each of the values fuels another value. Ah. So to be a financially responsible or financially secure organization fuels our ability to give back to the community, to do all of these other things.

And so they are interlinked, they're tied together, and they. That's how you know you've got great values set in stone is when they, they compliment each other.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. I just had this exact same conversation with our Western sales region this last week. We just finished up the the winter gift show at the Las Vegas market and there's a morning standup meeting and I always like to tie together how everyone has a role here at the company and our sales team is at the end of that cycle where the, they're the ones working with our retailers, helping their retailers succeed in their businesses. [00:24:00] But the sales team helps generate the income that helps us fund everything else that we want to do. And the language I give it is, your hard work funds our mission. The question that, that I often get when I'm out in the community.

How can you have these fluffy cotton candy purpose and mission pursuing business the way it ought to be and lifting the spirit and be a for-profit company? Well, it goes back to how we view business. That we view business first and foremost as a human endeavor, not just simply a financial endeavor. And I think viewing business as a human endeavor, , because it takes a broader view, it does take into account people's economic realities. People do need income. They have mortgages or rent, groceries, planning for their future. And, and so I think viewing it from a human perspective is more inclusive in that way and does not exclude [00:25:00] the financial bottom line. And so what we've done or tried, tried to do in practice is borrow language from the book Leadership Is An Art by Max De Pree.

Max De Pree was the CEO of Herman Miller Office Furniture. In his book, , he talks about this question like, how do you reconcile people's humanities in the financial bottom line? And I'm summarizing this quote from the book, but he says, companies should view profit like air. We don't live to breathe, but we need air to live.

So DEMDACO is a for-profit company. We wouldn't exist if we did not generate profit, but again, it goes back to what you were saying a little bit ago, that how these all build off each other and, and the, the profit funds, what we're able to do. And I think what separates companies who have that same [00:26:00] view on air as it were, and they invest back into their people and back into the company, people know that.

Aaron Heim: Yeah, I go back to what we were talking about with giving back to the community in particular. You know, there are a lot of companies out there that do give a lot of money to organizations. There are a lot of companies who have partnerships with Ronald McDonald House or different places, you know, in Kansas City that encourage employees to, if you want to sign up and be part of a volunteer opportunity. This is the first place I've ever worked for, to where not only do they carve out five days for you to go and do that.

They back it up every step of the way because it's so important that, to your point about the, the financial security part of it. Without that, not only does it become not a good place to work, we're not living our values, but these other places that we do support don't get that support either. So I think that is, it's true.

Yeah. What, what is kind of a mission critical, yeah. Understanding for all of us is that, It just feels good all around. It's like it, it's like a [00:27:00] 360 a feelgood. The products that we create are about delivering, being there in times of comfort, love, and joy. But we as DEMDACO employees are able to benefit from that because we are encouraged and it's a. You know, I don't wanna call it an expectation, but it's a wonderful, like this is what we do here.

Yeah. Right.

Jonathan Jones:Yeah. Yeah. And it, it's, it, it is kind of an expectation, I would say. Yeah. And we want people to join in that. Right.

So, Aaron, these are great questions. I obviously love talking about this kind of thing and you know, where we're headed with the podcast, , in the next episode where we want to talk about products that helped define our mission, because that happened as well.

You know, we, we didn't on day one say, here's our purpose, here's our mission. Our owners chose the, the gift space, and it's just interesting to see how our purpose and mission evolved in that space. And, and we have some key products that really helped shine a light in, in [00:28:00] give shape to what our purpose and mission, vision and values look like today.

So thanks Aaron, and thank you for joining us. And we look forward to the next time.

Aaron Heim: Yeah. I always appreciate the conversation.

Today's podcast is sponsored by Kindness. Kindness. Give it, get it.

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