Episode 111: Jan Valentic of Scotts on Killing and Growing Brands, the Energy of Poetry and Being a Corporate Subversive
Jan Valentic is a "corporate subversive" working at a chemical company and creating a platform for "natural capitalism." A fascinating Renaissance woman, she can drive a golf ball from the men's tees while spouting naturalist poetry from Mary Oliver.
Learn what Jan is doing to drive innovation and meaningful creativity into a company that has "killing brands" and "growing brands." One thing is her philanthropic endeavor, "Grow Good" which encourages gardeners to donate their harvest surplus to local foodbanks.
Jan shares her "worst fork in the career road" war story; talks about traveling to Greece a la Henry Miller in his book The Colossus of Maroussi and why she likes and has animal spirits that guide her life.
Just the kind of DishyMix you like: a little business and a lot of insight. Tune in and enjoy!
Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I’m your host Susan Bratton, and on today’s show you’re going to get to meet Jan Valentic. Jan’s the senior vice president of global marketing and growth platforms for the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company. She was introduced to me by Kelley Mooney, a recent Dishy Mix guest. When I queried Kelley about who she thought were some of the most interesting women in the world of marketing media and web 2.0, Jan came right to mind. And I can see why in getting to know her before this interview. I think you’re going to be absolutely thrilled about what she’s doing in the world of marketing and in the world of the Jan Valentic life. So Jan, as I said, is SVP of marketing for the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company, which is a big company I’ve come to find out and so will you. Prior to joining Scott’s, Jan led customer relationship marketing for four of Microsoft’s seven business units; the server and tools, gaming, MSN and Mobile in almost 30 countries around the world. We’re going to talk about that. And she also has been the VP of global marketing for Ford Motor Company and has run numerous accounts where she got her start at Leo Burnett. So here’s someone who has come agency side, client side and done a lot of amazing work in the world of marketing. Lets bring her on the show and welcome her. Welcome Jan.
Jan Valentic: Hey Susan, how are you? I just got out of my garden. I’ve harvested my second gargantuan zukini. So I’m really excited.
Susan Bratton: Jan I didn’t think we’d have this conversation, but how big is your zukini?
Jan Valentic: Well it’s tipping the scales at a pound. So my little garden is up to almost 60 pounds that I’ve donated to the local food bank now, and it’s really thrilling to be able to share the bounty of my garden with people who are in need.
Susan Bratton: It’s really good. And you’ve been donating your harvests now, is this the first year you cam up with this idea or is this gardening something that you’ve been doing for a while?
Jan Valentic: Well this was an initiative that we initiated this year and it’s called Grow Good, and we’re enabling people around the country to plant a row for the hungry in their own garden, and we facilitate the easy way of taking their harvests to their local food pantries or food banks, so that people who are not as fortunate as us can have the wonderful taste and nutritional benefits of fresh produce.
Susan Bratton: Nice. Well some lucky person is going to get to eat a pound of your fabulous zukini. I love that. It’s a great program.
Jan Valentic: Thank you.
Susan Bratton: I want to get into some of the marketing programs that you’re doing at Scott’s, but before we do I was really blown away by the number of companies that are under your corporate umbrella, many of which I’m very familiar. Give us a little bit of a rundown of some of the biggest and some of the most interesting brands, ‘cause we couldn’t list them all. It wouldn’t be possible, there’s so many.
Jan Valentic: Well Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company has what I affectionately call killing brands and growing brands. We kind of get the whole life cycle. So our growing brands are Miracle-Gro, which is a plant food, it’s a, what we call growing media, which is kind of a sexy word for dirt. And then we have Scott’s, which is the fertilizer business for lawns. And the killing brands are Ortho, which tend to be things that are nasty pests like bugs and mice and other unfavorables like weeds. And then the other killing brand is Round Up, which kills grass and weeds. So we have a very complimentary portfolio of consumer brands that really enable consumers to get the kind of yard and garden that delight them every day.
Susan Bratton: One of the things that I discovered on your website that I really like was I didn’t realize that you made bird food and bird seed. And you have a really neat part of the website for Scott’s that shows all of the different birds that are in your area by zip code and then gives you bird food and bird seed recommendations, some of them which by the way sound absolutely delicious and I think I would snack on them. I must’ve been reading it like three o’clock in the afternoon when I really typically like to eat some junk, you know. That was a great part of the site.
Jan Valentic: Well thank you. Yeah, bird food is a new business for us. We’ve been in it for a few years, and we actually have done some incredible research amongst bird lovers, as well as ornothologists, and we’ve come up with a new bird food that actually attracts more of the desirable birds to your bird feeder than the cow birds and grackles and the less desirable birds, and I actually have a lot of fun facts that I could share with you about birds if you’d like.
Susan Bratton: Well give us two.
Jan Valentic: Okay. One is birds eat with their eyes. They don’t have any taste buds, they don’t have a tongue. They look at colors and textures and that’s what helps them determine what’s right for their diet. And another interesting fact is that not all birds eat the same thing. So unlike different varieties of dogs who will probably just salivate over any kind of steak, a bluebird might not like black sunflower seed, for example… I don’t know that that’s true, but they will reject certain types of products, and they will only eat other kinds of seeds and grains and fruits and berries and the like. And so determining how to attract the types of birds that you want to your feeder or to your backyard is very much about determining that individual birds tastes. So it’s very unlike the rest of the animal population that we might view as pets.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, you have to understand the birds in your area and then the kind of food and berries and nuts and seeds that they want so you can attract those that are most in your area. I do see the Bluejays coming into my bird feeder. Tim gave me a bird feeder for Mothers Day and hung it outside my office window, and I see the big Jays coming in there and they practically roll…
Jan Valentic: Oh yeah.
Susan Bratton: they roll in the bird food. I’m like, “Guys, eat it.”
Jan Valentic: Well, you know, depending on where they are their mating cycle, they to us for products and fruits that actually help them increase the color of their plumage and…
Susan Bratton: Oh nice.
Jan Valentic: or they help them when it’s coming time for migration to increase their fat supply so that they have more energy for the big migratory patterns that many of them have. So it’s really a fascinating subject that we’re really diving into and really learning a lot and hopefully teaching people along the way.
Susan Bratton: Well I want to get into this, one part of your body said that you are responsible for driving innovation and meaningful creativity into Scott’s marketing. But before we go there and hear about some of the programs that you’ve put into place, I have to bring up, since we’re talking about bird seed, the fact that you have created two neat goodie bags for Dishy Mix fans. Tell us about them.
Jan Valentic: Well we’re going to put a lot of our great new innovative products into a gift bag for your listeners. One of the products will be our colorful bird food blend, easy for me to say. And also we’ll have our plant food products, have an awesome new organic choice that are made from fermented sugar beets. So most of the organic plant foods out there are based from a fish mulgen, and you can probably imagine not many people like to put that on their houseplants because it’s super stinky. But sugar beets have virtually no aroma whatsoever and it’s a fabulous way of getting your plants the kinds of nutrients that they need in an organic way. So that will be in the bag. We have some great publications about everything you need to know about vegetable gardening. We’ll probably put on of our insecticide products. Again we have a fabulous new indoor bug killer that’s actually made from canola oil, and so it’s no more harmful than the stuff that you might use in your food preparations. We have a little bit different formulation, we have a thing called surfactants which helps make the oil molecules larger so that when they hit a little nasty creature like a, like a roach for example, a roach has a what they call an exoskeleton, so the skeleton is on the outside of the body, and the way that the roach actually takes in water and air is through these holes in the body. And so very large molecules of fat or in this case canola oil actually stuffs up that body and basically kills te bug because it can no longer breathe and/or take in water, kind of a bad end to a life, but nobody likes roaches, right?
Susan Bratton: Yeah, I don’t think they do. Well that sounds like a lot of fun. Thank you for putting those goody bags together.
Jan Valentic: Oh and I forgot…
Susan Bratton: Yeah, the best part.
Jan Valentic: I’m also going to put my favorite poet, a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry into the goody bag. It’s not really a Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company product but Mary Oliver I think actually expresses the joys of nature through poetry in a way that’s so magical and is so… Oh, it just makes you appreciate the wonder of nature in a whole new light, and I think it’s a great compliment to the products that we make.
Susan Bratton: So I know you love Mary Oliver, and you’ve also told me that you like the energy of poetry for marketing and branding. I think we need to have you read a poem. Would you be willing to do it?
Jan Valentic I sure would.
Susan Bratton: Alright, lets hear it.
Jan Valentic: Okay, this is a poem by Mary Oliver and it’s called When The Roses Speak I Pay Attention: “As long as we are able to be extravagant we will be hugely and damply extravagant. Then we will drop foil by foil to the ground. This is our unalterable task and we do it joyfully. And they went on, ‘Listen, the heart shackles are not, as you think, death, illness, pain, unrequited hope, not loneliness but lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety, and selfishness.’ Their fragrance all the while rising from their blind bodies, making me spin with joy.” So that’s a little bit of roses speaking to us and telling us about how wonderful their life is, and she just has a fabulous voice and I think your readers will really enjoy her.
Susan Bratton: Well she’s, Walking With Mary Oliver is one of the things on your bucket list and another one is a trip to Greece in a certain way…
Jan Valentic: Yes.
Susan Bratton: and we’re going to save that fun little adventure for the end of the show. I want to take the next minute or two and talk about what you’re doing to drive innovation and meaningful creativity into your company.
Jan Valentic: Okay. One of the things that we know consumers are interested in doing in their backyard is finding new ways of having sustainability and almost natural ecosystems right in their home and garden. And so part of that is attracting birds and beneficial bugs like bumblebees and butterflies, and so we basically provide consumers with information about how they can create those habitats, but it’s also about what they use in their garden in terms of plant foods, what they use in and around their home to get rid of unsightly weeds and/or eliminate the unwanted pests like bugs and the like. And so one of the key areas that we’ve been focusing on is looking at natural and organic ways to enable consumers to get the results that they want without a lot of the tradeoffs that they’ve had in the past in terms of natural products not performing up to their expectations. So I mentioned a couple of them a few minutes ago, but we have a whole line of products that you can use around your home and in your garden that are based from nature, and they are by the very fact that they come from the earth and they don’t have residual value, so they don’t linger in the environment. So I give people a great piece of mind when they are using our products and getting the kinds of results that they want, that they’re actually doing something that is favorable for the environment.
Susan Bratton: One of the things that you told me, when I ask you if you could change one thing about the business world what would it be, you said to have business live in concert with nature and the environment. You’re inspired by a number of different people in this genre. Scott’s is a chemical company, as well as creating other kinds of products, so how do you resolve that whole piece?
Jan Valentic: That’s a great question Susan. We are a company that actually makes products from chemicals. Increasingly we are looking to biology as our inspiration, again, to give consumers natural and organic options for doing that. But I think I’m uniquely positioned to be able to drive a change by being in a company that is a chemicals company. And what’s very interesting to me is how the organization of Scott’s Miracle-Gro is embracing a new way of thinking about helping our consumers get the results that they want, but also being mindful of the impact of our products on the environment. I will say that in many ways in our category, finding natural alternatives is almost a little ahead of the consumer trend. We’ve done some research with consumers and really they want results more than they want anything else and they want results that last. A lot of the types of activities in the lawn and garden that people participate in are sometimes hot and sweaty and they require some work and some people think it’s a bit of a chore, and so doing it frequently is not something consumers like to do, so products like an expended control Round Up that actually lasts for six months is very appealing to consumers, as opposed to a canola oil product that they may have to use every three weeks for example. So how do we educate people on why they might want to consider using alternative products and how do we give them the choice? I mean, so that’s kind of where we are right now. But I do think that there are roles that companies can play today to take more of a leadership and stewardship position in terms of their own behavior as an organization and how they can start changing not only what they sell and how they make it and sell it, but how do they educate consumers on accepting a new way of using the products that they’ve traditionally used with a certain type of a result.
Susan Bratton: You’ve described yourself as a corporate subversive, and in this way I see you having that role where your customer insights tell you that convenience, not charmic capitalism, are the priorities of your consumer today, but in fact you can provide the thought leadership taking a page from the books of people like Janine Benyus on bio mimicry or Paul Hawkin on natural capitalism; these are the people that you’re following and you’re thinking about, and you have the ability through the marketing platform of this company to help to change the world, which I see that is a part of your charter there. It makes perfect sense. That was really I think a great answer.
Jan Valentic: Yeah, well thank you very much. Yeah, I’m very passionate about it, and you know, I’m hoping that we can be a model that other companies follow. Another one of my big stars I guess would be Ray Anderson and what he’s done with Interface, which is a carpet company, that he basically set a goal for that company to become not only carbon neutral but carbon positive…
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Jan Valentic: and has been an innovator in terms of full ecosystem recycling of his product, so he likes to say that he sells color, warmth and texture, not carpet. And so when you’re tired of that color, warmth and texture he will come and take it and recycle it and give you new color, warmth and texture, which I just think is a fabulous way of thinking about kind of that business ecosystem that I think we need to get to in the future.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, he started that company from the ground up, which was nice. He had somewhat of a clean slate to work with. And I actually saw him speak at Ted. His Ted talks probably up on their site. Another person that I interviewed recently is Linda Resnick…
Jan Valentic: Yes.
Susan Bratton: She and her husband have Palm Wonderful Fiji water and they talk… You know, they own their own shipping company. They ship all that water from Fiji. But through the beauty of carbon offsets and some of their solar arrays at their ranch in California, they’re a carbon neutral company as well. So I really like the corporate citizenship that’s coming from thought leaders like these, and you.
Jan Valentic: Well thank you.
Susan Bratton: I wanted to just ask you one of these kind of quickie hindsight questions before we go to a break, and that is you run customer relationship and management marketing for Microsoft for multiple divisions and multiple companies. You had a really high level view of what’s happening with customers and the relationship to corporations. What’s your key takeaway for us, having so much change as marketers, with social influence marketing and social listening and, you know… CRM seems so old school, but it’s the foundation of what we have to work with. Tell us something really helpful that you’ve learned in hindsight from that job.
Jan Valentic: Well I think what social medias and social networks enable marketers to do in a way that they’ve never had access like this before is to be great students and listen. And you can learn so much by hearing about how people talk about your product or how people rate your product or what they say to their peers about their experiences using your product, and I think that it’s a fabulous lab for us to better understand people in their natural environment. So much of what marketers have had to count on in the past is things like focus groups and kind of like artificial ways of getting intelligence from consumers, and what I find to be very interesting is to listen how consumers actually use their own language and their own venacular to describe their experiences. And that can manifest not only in terms of new product development, but things like search words, you know, so are you using their venacular on their sites? How are they talking about and/or advocating your products? And, you know, there’s so many ways that marketers can engage consumers. I find it’s probably the most exciting period for a marketer to enjoy in my career, so I think it’s really astounding, and I hope people take advantage of the opportunities that they have just right in front of them.
Susan Bratton: I agree with you that it’s the most exciting time. There’s a little lull for me, kind of when search marketing became really huge. Although I love search marketing, I didn’t find it as interesting. I’m a bit less of a quant and a more of a customer insight lover like you are, and you know, so kind of the post broadband pre social media time was a little sad for me in digital marketing, but I’m thoroughly enthused now once again. So I want to go to a break, and when we come back you have a story about a really bad job situation. You know, as most of my listeners come from the world of marketing, media and advertising, we want to hear about that horrible situation, what happened, and maybe get some advice in the future about how it can’t happen to us. So we’re going to go to a break to thank my sponsors, of course, my beautiful sponsors who let me do this with you. You’re getting to know Jan Valentic. She’s the senior vice president of global marketing and growth platforms for the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company. I’m your host Susan Bratton. Stay tuned and we’ll be right back for some more stories and some fun stories.
Susan Bratton: We’re back with Jan Valentic of Scott’s Miracle-Gro. So Jan tell us about this worst fork in the road story. What happened and how can we keep that from happening to us?
Jan Valentic: Well Susan I know that I should never have answered that question for you, but yeah, it… So here is a perfect example of a great opportunity presented in terms of a promotion and big title and much more responsibility, and in my gut I knew that it probably wasn’t the right thing for me. And this was when I was at Ford Motor Company. And I had joined Ford Motor Company to run all of the marketing and advertising for the Ford brand, so everything with the blue oval on it in the US, and so it was an exciting job, I was on the line being held accountable for the advertising. It was just a mile a minute kind of flurry of activity and I really loved the creative side of business and was presented with this opportunity to be promoted to a vice president of Ford Motor Company, which is an unbelievable honor. And that particular position was vice president of global marketing, and it was more of a fast position. It was about brand strategy and market research and a whole host of other more management types of responsibilities. And I kind of knew in my heart that I should probably stay where my passions are, but I was also so drawn to the potential opportunity of doing something bigger in the organization. And unfortunately this also coincided with, we had a crisis in the company around the Firestone Tire recall and, when this was happening with the Ford Explorer, and so there was a lot of things going on at the same time. And I suppose that was the beginning of kind of a spiral downward for the company, and so what seemed to be an exciting position taking on new brand strategy opportunities with multiple brands, including some really exciting ones like Land Rover and Jaguar, I quickly became more of a HR lead because I think I went from 300 people to about 150 people over the course of two years and having to have difficult people conversations and giving people packages and letting people go was kind of the antithesis of what excited me as a marketer and someone who wanted to change the world. So in hindsight, I probably should’ve listened to my heart and probably should’ve stayed where I knew my passions lied, and so it was a great lesson for me. So that was my bad fork in the road decision.
Susan Bratton: Well and laying people off is so difficult. Here’s always been my approach to it: I’ve literally laid hundreds of people off in my career. When you’re in the Silicon Valley and it’s so cyclical when you’re doing start-ups and you’re running out of money and, you know, all those things, it happens. And the thing that I’ve always focused on when I’ve had to do that hard work is that there’s no one better in the world to lay you off than me because I care and because I have a skill at it. And so I always try to look at those things, and for me hindsight on all the layoffs was at least I can do it with the most care of anybody who could do it, and also it really makes you understand how much you can do with how little. When the going gets tough and people do pitch in and they realize that they have to do so much more with less, like is happening in so many organizations today, that perspective makes you a really good manager because you can get even more done in the future. So those are my silver linings for your story.
Jan Valentic: I think that’s great insight Susan, and I think one of the things that I learned through that very difficult period was how to help people sustain their dignity…
Susan Bratton: Right.
Jan Valentic: and celebrate what they’ve accomplished…
Susan Bratton: Accomplished.
Jan Valentic: there in their role, as opposed to linger on the, you know, the sorry reality of kind of a, a divorce of sorts…
Susan Bratton: Yeah, that’s true.
Jan Valentic: you know, with a company. So, yeah.
Susan Bratton: Before we went to the break we were talking about social media, and one of the things that I’d asked you about was where social networking will evolve, what you see in the future, and I really liked your answer. Do you remember what you told me when we talked about this earlier?
Jan Valentic: Yes. I mean, I think that humans fundamentally need face to face contact, and I think that, particularly in my business where everyone from master gardeners to very much novice gardeners, really like to share their stories and to share their harvest. I think that social networking will evolve to face to face interaction, and I think the social networking will be a fabulous facilitator and a way for people to connect. But I think that human interaction is so important to our souls that I think if everything’s just virtual I think we’ll be missing a huge piece of what makes us human.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, I liked, you called them real time visual connections rather than text, and I think, you know, that got me thinking about the Tweet Ups, people now who are what I call Friendsters, not real friends but online friends, Friendsters, they want to get together, so they’re now having… I just participated in two Tweet Ups in London last week. I was on a blogger junkit sponsored by the National Endowment of the Science Technology and the Arts for England, and they brought us over and we had a Tweet Up in London and we had a Tweet Up in Cambridge, and it’s just so great to meet the people that you see, that I think you’re absolutely right, this movement back to salons and different ways that we can interact with community. It also made me think about another thing; I was, I watched Howard Rinegold, the author of many books including Smart Mobs, do a keynote at a conference there called Reboot Britain. And he talked about the five literacy skills necessary for success in the 21st century. And I’ve done a whole blog post on his keynote, but one of them was the idea of participation and cooperation. And you told me that you think social networking’s going to evolve to a new sociability and sense of helping one another. And Howard sees it the same way, that these online collaboration tools and networking connective tools will help us actually create more of a sense of helping each other ‘cause we can find each other to do the work that we want to do.
Jan Valentic: I completely agree with you Susan. In fact that is one of the reasons why we initiated this Grow Good pledge, so we’re helping people connect with not only one another, but with their food agencies so that they can do something good in their community and feel great about it. We have gotten so many fabulous responses from people who are participating in doing their own gardens in their backyard about helping teach their kids not only where salad comes from, but how important it is to share with people who are less fortunate than them, and that just warms my heart.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. You know, it’s funny, my father always had a garden, fabulous garden, and we ate food right out of it all summer long, and there was nothing better than those tomatoes. And I loved, you know, he planted zineas around the border and, you know, everything was just perfect. He’s a very, very detailed man. And our lettuce came from out garden, you know, everything we ate, almost everything we ate did. My parents were school teachers, they didn’t have a lot of money and they didn’t get paid in the summer, so that was a way that they scraped by. But now that I think about it, my daughter’s never been in a garden, and I need to do something about that. You’re absolutely right that, when you say our children don’t know where our salad comes from, I found that unfathomable as you uttered it and then came to the shocking realization that you’re absolutely right.
Jan Valentic: Well and the other great thing is that it tastes so different….
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Jan Valentic: when you pick it and eat it, and one of our consumers actually tells her kids, “Go pick what you want to eat for dinner tonight.” And what a great way to get kids to not only like vegetables, but feel like they’re participating in the creation of their own meals.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great opportunity. We’re almost out of time and I can’t resist hearing your story about this. I ask you what was on your bucket list and one of the things that you mentioned was “doing Greece a la Henry Miller.” What, how did Henry Miller do Greece? Was there a book about it that we need to read?
Jan Valentic: Oh, The Colossus of Maroussi.
Susan Bratton: Alright. I didn’t know abut that, The Colossus of…
Jan Valentic: Maroussi.
Susan Bratton: Maroussi, okay.
Jan Valentic: Yes. Well, you know, everything Henry Miller is just a little edgy.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Jan Valentic: So I’m not sure if we want to talk too much about it, but Henry Miller I find to be such a sensual writer and the way that he captures the spirit of Greece in that book, you know, you almost, you can almost feel the sun on your skin and the stark white buildings kind of burning your retinas, and so I just want to experience it the way that I imagine it by reading his book.
Susan Bratton: I am going to download that to my Kindle. Done! I love it. Another thing that I wanted to ask you about was this notion that you have angel and animal spirits, because I don’t know if you know this but this just keeps coming up on Dishy Mix. It’s like Dishy Mix, the show about online marketing and animal spirits. So you have angels and animal spirits. Tell us the story of that.
Jan Valentic: Well I think everybody probably connects with certain animals and/or is maybe more aware of connections kind of with the spirit world. And for me I have a special affinity for dolphins, and you probably know that there is quite a bit that has been written about animal spirits. It’s kind of a philosophy that has come from American Indians, our Native Americans, and it’s really them appreciating, respecting, celebrating and honoring the spirit of the animal in terms of what they believe and stand for. And I think so many times we are living in a hurly burly type of environment where we kind of lose track of just some fundamental things that I think Native Americans in particular had such a great sensitivity to. I mean, everything has a soul for them. And so animal spirits for me remind me to do things like breathe. So a dolphin, as you probably know, plays so many different roles in the ocean, from nursemaid to whales who are giving birth to protect the whale and the baby from things like sharks, to how they communicate with one another, how they breathe, all of the imagery of fertility that they stand for. And I find inspiration from animal spirits and wonder how those spirits can be brought into my life to make me either more inventive, more calm, more at peace, and I also notice when animals seem to be entering my realm. So it could be everything from “Why does this bunny rabbit seem to not want to leave my presence even though I have tried to scare it away? Maybe there’s an animal spirit speaking to me.” And it sounds a little crazy, but I think there’s something very interesting about that whole history of study.
Susan Bratton: I agree with you. It’s not different than bio mimicry or any other filtaro, you know, or any other filter through which you reassess in the moment what’s happening, your direction, your perspective, etcetera. And so there’s a lot of wisdom that can be gained in considering how animals live their lives on this earth and a lot of things that we can take away as positive consideration I think. And also it’s just fun.
Jan Valentic: Exactly. Yeah, in fact I have a book that describes all the different animal spirits, and occasionally I will have folks come into my office and we’ll talk about what animal they connect with and then we’ll read about their animal spirit, and they just have a certain buoyancy that they leave my office with and it’s almost as though they have opened up a new door for them to explore and understand themselves in a different way, which is just a delight for me.
Susan Bratton: Well you could take some heat by being this kooky, the kooky CMO who, you know, has an animal spirit, and obviously I don’t think that’s true, I like the fact that you’re willing to be so open about your personal beliefs and the things that you find pleasant and pleasing in your life, but one of the things that you told me is that you like to help people accept and appreciate their true selves. Obviously you’ve learned to accept and appreciate your true self and it hasn’t held you back because you’re a CMO of a publicly traded and fabulous company. So when you see someone that you don’t think is fully expressing their true self or their authentic humanity, well what do you do to let them know it’s alright? How do you bring them out? How do you create that safe place for them to be who they are or just show them who they are that you see? I know that sounds a little trippy, but you know what I’m trying to get to. How are you making that happen in the world?
Jan Valentic: Yeah, I don’t know that it’s necessarily that I see some blockage. It’s more I try to put them into a situation where something blossoms within them, and that feeds something that takes them to the next level, and, you know, so many of us have so many hang-ups about our self, and how do you start to kind of accept that but then not let that get in the way of your ability to express yourself. And so it could be anything from helping… For example, I adopt folks on my team who want to basically get healthier physically, and so I will work out with them and we will be buddies in terms of training and it gives them a whole new outlook on how they can redefine their body image for example and, and/or just feel good about themselves. And so that kind of has nothing to do with their creative expression, but it has everything to do with how good they feel about themselves and their confidence and their ability to kind of feel like they can do something exceptional for themselves. But it’s so personal individual by individual. I don’t know if I have a formula; in many ways it’s just being aware and being perceptive and trying to what they are telling me sometimes verbally, sometimes nonverbally, and how do I put them into a situation where their natural capabilities can be seen and that they get I guess accolades for contributing in their own unique way so that it feeds on itself and it becomes kind of a momentum builder and confidence builder at the same time.
Susan Bratton: I think that’s the perfect place to end the show Jan. And I think I would encourage everyone of us to try to find somebody today where we can create a really nice scenario for them to have success in the thing they do really well.
Jan Valentic: I think that would be a fabulous thing for all of us to live with the intention to help someone be all that they can be.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, right. Bring others to completion. I interviewed Dacher Keltner on his book The Science of a Meaningful Life, and he said if you want to create meaning in your life bring others to completion. So it keeps coming back to that for me.
Jan Valentic: What a great, what a great line. That’s fantastic.
Susan Bratton: It is. You’ll have to listen to that interview. It’s actually a two parter. He was so good, I had to keep going.
Jan Valentic: Excellent!
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’s a great book, so… Well I’ve really enjoyed having you on the show. I’m so impressed with your website, I had so much fun on it. All of the brands that are under your umbrella, they way you’re approaching business as conscious, as a conscious capitalist, and the way that you’re living your life as a model for the rest of us who want to be who we are too. Thank you for doing that.
Jan Valentic: Well thank you very much, and I got to get back out to the garden so that I can enjoy some tomatoes soon.
Susan Bratton: Oh my gosh, they sound so good.
Jan Valentic: You know Susan, all you need is a container and we can get you going.
Susan Bratton: Oh I know. Well actually all I need is the time. It’s…
Jan Valentic: Alright.
Susan Bratton: It’s not the container. Jan thank you so much, and for Dishy Mix listeners I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Jan Valentic, senior vice president of global marketing and growth platforms for the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company. Don’t forget, if you’d like to get one of those two delicious fund goodie bags that Jan is creating especially for you, you need to go to dishymixfan.com and join our fanclub for Dishy Mix and post your desire and why you should be one of the lucky recipients, and Jan and I will pick our two favorites and bestow those fabulous gifts on you. So I’m your host Susan Bratton. Thanks so much for tuning in, and I hope you’ll find your animal spirit and have a great day.