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Brian Coleman: Making Happiness With Total Rewards
Episode 113rd February 2022 • Working On Wellbeing • Salary Finance
00:00:00 00:53:51

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In this episode, we hear Brian Coleman talk about growing up in a small town in Michigan, working in retail while going to university, and his journey to the vice presidency of Total Rewards, among other things.

For the full show notes, head on over to:


https://www.salaryfinance.com/us/podcast/Brian-Coleman-Making-Happiness-With-Total-Rewards

Transcripts

Anita Ward 0:00

Welcome to Working On Wellbeing, where we share stories of purpose-driven people doing good in the world. We'll meet change agents, entrepreneurs, students, teachers, and big thinkers to learn about their wow moment and how it got them to where they are today. This show is brought to you by Salary Finance. And I'm your host Anita Ward, cultural anthropologist, and Chief Development Officer at Salary Finance.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our show Working On Wellbeing. I've got to tell you, we're in for a treat today. And I mean literally, like sugar, spice, and everything nice. The very bright, compassionate, and ever so sweet Mr. Brian Coleman, will be our guest today. He works for Dawn Foods as the vice president of Total Rewards. And I'm overjoyed because I'm a major fan of both Brian's and Dawn Foods. Dawn Foods is a 100-year-old family business. Therefore, this is legacy stuff. And they've been developing wonderful baking ingredients such as a hamburger sandwiched between sourdough doughnuts which I recently learned about. It sounds fantastic. But the way I think about Dawn and even my friend Brian, is you're responsible for some of our fondest memories - cakes and cookies, and those delectable sugars and sprinkles that go on top of doughnuts. So I don't know how I can be enthusiastic about a massive sugar surge with a friend today. So, welcome to the show. I am very thrilled to speak with you today and share your story with our listeners.

Brian Coleman 1:51

Thank you for having me.

Anita Ward 1:54

Of course, it's an honor for me. And I'm pretty familiar with you. But I also know you're quite humble. So if you don't mind, I'll tell folks a little bit about you before we start the story because I know you won't do it yourself. But let me double-check this. I know you've been with Dawn for nearly 15 years. But I know your legacy at Dawn is that you've significantly boosted their perks. But, interestingly, you've been able to cut costs while also measuring everything. So, metrics are being implemented. And from what I recall, you even created a learning management system (LMS) and learning programs in different languages.

Brian Coleman 2:33

We did it for the benefit of the home, the LMS team, and the development of that other side. So, the Dawn learning staff is amazing; I offer them two thumbs up and will not accept any of the credit.

Anita Ward 2:45

ook bad here. There were also:

Brian Coleman 4:03

Okay, this is always a challenge. I grew up in a teeny-tiny village outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a one-horse town with a blinking light and a lot of blue collars. Many people were kind people, farmers. So they're gentlemen and gentleladies who worked at some job, usually for the big three, and then ran the farm at night and on weekends. Or, at times, they switched, with mom working at night and dad working during the day, and vice versa, with a lot of establishing principles. That's probably why I've been at Dawn for so long; my ideals and their principles just mesh so well when it comes to creativity, taking care of others, and leaving no one behind. I sound like a Boy Scout leader. Your strength is only as great as your weakest patrol. And it's especially amusing because I was never a member of the Boy Scouts as a child. I grew up in a family that had no idea I was a scout for a short time. So many of the principles I acquired early on came from Great Depression survivors, my grandparents, and a lot of teachings on the diamond about fair play and doing things the right way. Yes, there are occasions when you must be aggressive. But, certainly, there are moments when it is necessary to step aside and let the other person take a go at it. As a result, the background was a vibrant black. My parents were unmistakably 60s kids.

Anita Ward 5:39

I can imagine, I know, but I'm not going to force you to share any of those two, because I believe I've heard a couple of them.

Brian Coleman 5:43

Yes, you have.

Anita Ward 5:47

't they? Because think of the:

Brian Coleman 6:11

The first was a trim Democrat, while the second was an Eisenhower Republican. So even family gatherings were always fascinating, to say the least. But that's kind of what set the tone for moving forward with that entire community vibe, everyone's there together, making sure you watch out for your neighbor. All of this came from a very little community. The difficulty is that, as a famous writer once said, you can never go back. It's not the same way any longer.

Anita Ward 6:43

Yeah. Did you aspire to be something when you were a kid?

Brian Coleman 6:47

You've asked me that a few times, and I've had to give you a few off-the-cuff responses for everything from being a fighter pilot because I grew up with World War II veterans to international business, but my language abilities are mediocre at best. And it was simply, after you get through all the big ones, the biggest one for me would have been after you get through all the big ones because everyone my age wants to be an astronaut. The biggest thing going on.

Anita Ward 7:14

Astronaut Brian.

Brian Coleman 7:15

So I'd do it in a heartbeat, then big-league baseball player, but I didn't have the talents for the height. History was perhaps the most important love I had that I didn't pursue because of being a college lecturer. He approached me one day and told me he acquired his job by reading the obituaries; they had an opening. Because this lecturer died, he filled it for the semester. He then went back to work full-time. But he gave me a sidelong glance and continued, "I know your father, and your parents wanted you to go into business. And you don't want to go down in history. Make it a hobby. You can't support a family on it.”

Anita Ward 7:57

Wow, was this at Eastern Michigan?

Brian Coleman 7:59

Yes.

Anita Ward 8:00

But your degree was in HR. Right? So how did you go from there?

Brian Coleman 8:04

For a while, I was on several paths. I was a quiet child. And, let's just say, I was on academic probation for my first two semesters at university.

Anita Ward 8:17

This is the first time I've heard this part of the narrative.

Brian Coleman 8:20

So I had to come up with ways to raise my GPA. As a result, I was not expelled from school. I was always a good kid. I didn't do anything. And then, all of a sudden, I was free to roam and play. That's what normally happens. So I had English Literature, then international business. And you're probably wondering how I ended up in human resources. In a classroom. And if you were a first-year student, you had to take an HR class for the business degree, and I was the nerd in the front row who asks questions. And the professor took a liking to me and physically drafted an induction letter to the director of the University's compensation and benefits department on my behalf.

Anita Ward 9:06

Wow, do you work at the university then?

Brian Coleman 9:10

Yes, I did. So here's what happened: I was working in retail. So I'm a firm believer that working in retail teaches people how to be successful HR professionals. And I had previously worked in retail management and had become bored of performing some of those things. And we'll tell the story later because it did pay off in my interview at Dawn, but when I went, they didn't have any openings. I just assumed it was a Ford retreaded as a second career. However, we wound up chatting about pop-up campsites. I run a pop-up camper rental business. It's on pause for the time being due to COVID. But it was something my father and I did a long time ago. So he loved the Moxie, and the next day he had opened a co-op position for me, so I began working as a compensation and benefits analyst while still in school.

Anita Ward:

Wow, that's incredible. I had not heard anything about pop-up campers before. But now I feel compelled to have one. But hold just a second because you said something so insightful. And I don't want to simply avoid it. This notion that retail informs so much of human resources. Please tell me more about that. My mind immediately curled around it as soon as you mentioned it, and I imagined we could have an hour-long conversation about it. But I believe you are completely correct. And it had never occurred to me until you said those wise words.

Brian Coleman:

And I'd worked in a variety of retail settings. It was anything for a buck, and I was working two jobs and going to school at the same time. One of the things I discovered, and it has proven to be quite near to my original prediction, is that retail folks learned to understand customer needs and wants, deliver on time and budget, and learn how to truly make and comprehend the experience in the twenty-first century.

Anita Ward:

My mind went to the fact that they know how to create an experience in an environment, which isn't always the first thing that comes to mind when we think about HR.

Brian Coleman:

Because you're constantly chasing regulation, rules, and forms, especially in my areas, a lot of people can get slowed down or focus on those individuals and those things. And one of the things the Dawn founding family will tell you is that we take care of the greatest individuals in the industry, who deliver the best quality products for happy events because we are in the happy business.

Anita Ward:

That's why I mentioned my memories are all linked to you, not just as a friend, but to Dawn in some manner.

Brian Coleman:

And, on the retail side, I used to operate a Mrs. Fields store. So, this is my connection to Dawn, I used to be a baker. Well, and back when I went through since nowadays they're all pucks, frozen tubes, and tubs, the goal is to get the product out the door quickly and completely comprehend it. When I was there, you had to come in at four o’clock in the morning to prepare all of your morning items. So you had to make all of the different sorts of cookies, as well as all of the different varieties of brownies. Then I was there for their brilliant idea of bringing in tubs of muffins. You even make all of your muffin mixes before that.

Anita Ward:

Oh my gosh. So you cook at home then?

Brian Coleman:

The whole family does, yes.

Anita Ward:

That's my favorite part. Was there a point, Brian, when you looked back and thought, "Was it this conversation about history?" Was that the professor? Was it a job at Mrs. Fields? Was there a "wow" moment where you went? Your perspective has evolved. And it did lead you down a path. It's one thing to have a degree in human resources. But isn't it another thing to accept and adore it the way I know you do?

Brian Coleman:

Well, the fun part is I'll tell you the story first. There is an ASVAB test that you can take in high school, and it's really about how you fit into the military. And I didn't know about this test, my guidance counselor wanted to take wanted me to take it because of my history and everything else. And the funny story was, they let me know a day beforehand. And I bumped into one of the coaches. One of the coaches was retired military. And he said, “Don't do this section.” I think it was Section D, it's where lap A goes into slot B and you have to make all the pictures and he said, “Let that alone do not do well on that.” And I was like “Okay, coach. Why?”, he said that if you get really good in there, the military thinks you're going to be good for personnel and you don't want to work in personnel.

Anita Ward:

I like the concept of called personnel. I'd forgotten everything.

Brian Coleman:

So it was kind of bouncing around even back then. In that first lesson, I fell in love with human resources. I've handled every aspect of hiring and firing. I've been in some unusual situations. This aspect appeals to me. So, what do I do at Dawn? is one of the questions. So, at Dawn, the functions that report to me are benefits, compensation, payroll, and travel. So it's one of those things where you notice it's all experience. If you have a horrible payroll experience, it may truly spoil your entire week, or month, depending on how you're paid.

Anita Ward:

I recently had an extremely intriguing talk with Corestream's CEO. And he talks about how Maslow is being reinvented, and it just occurred to me that everything you described is essentially the foundation of a business Maslow model, right? The perks may include not having to travel unless you're like me. And it's an important aspect of the job, but you're talking about fundamentals and cultural fundamentals. So in many ways benefits become these cultural levers in an organization. And, in my opinion, this is the foundation of employee well-being.

Brian Coleman:

I get picked on now and then a money haul because I want to make a deal. It's really about Total Rewards. So you can't have one without the other, all three of those have to function well and be able to be marginally different depending on the different generations. On our benefit plan, we have 18-year-olds, right, but how many folks have 105 years old on their benefits plan?

Anita Ward:

Really? That is cool.

Brian Coleman:

So a 100-year-old company, and we are a family company. So my payroll manager, bless her heart, has been there. We tell everyone, we hired her at 12, just because she's been there over 30 years, and she doesn't look like she's over 40, but her grandfather worked for Dawn, her sister works for Dawn, her daughter had worked for Dawn, so multiple generations working at Dawn. So it's really not only about taking care of our team members. Now, we don't have employees. We don't have associates. We have team members. We take care of the team members. We take care of the Dawn people, their folks at home, and really kind of keep paying it forward for the next generation coming up.

Anita Ward:

How did you end up there, Brian?

Brian Coleman:

I thought I'd been consulting for a long time, but it was all a fluke. I had a business book, Fortune 50. I worked at Microsoft, Marconi, Corning, and many other organizations that I enjoyed working for, but my gorgeous spouse told me to get off the road or lose my bed. When I returned home, I worked in Catholic health care for about five years. And there were aspects of Catholic healthcare that I still adore, and I give those folks a colossal sum of money. They are my role models. But I was on the lookout for something else. Honestly, I needed to get away, as evidenced by the fact that I was three miles away from the office. I went grocery shopping, tire shopping, and everywhere else you may run into someone from the hospital, which isn't necessarily a negative thing. But once in a while, you'd like to be somewhere where no one knows your name. Plus, I had a strong desire to return to international work. Dawn was even a multinational corporation at the time. And I had actually come on simply as the benefits director, and I kept getting called in to help with different areas that required it. And, after Dawn won the Benny Award in 2015, the CEO summoned me, and the CHRO presented me with my vice presidency.

Anita Ward:

And so, when I think about all of the things that you're doing, and we bring them together like you just said Total Rewards, is that really, truly employee wellbeing, right? What does it signify to you? And I know you have a model that starts with resilience, which I find fascinating because we all think of it as an end, but you practically get it as an input. Let's speak a little bit about the well-being model you use.

Brian Coleman:

It's a part of us, and the audience needs it. I've talked about resilience and how all of who you are makes you, how you look at the world, and where you need to go ahead a million times. And we're assisting our team members with all of the issues that come with everything that's going on, as well as providing answers to five different generations in the workforce. If you look at the model, we have resilience, financial well-being, and physical well-being, all of which are represented by distinct modes and medians that will benefit different populations. We were one even in our resilience. As of 2008, we have an international EAP program. But my "Aha!" moment occurred in 2010. It blew my mind when individuals started texting for aid and services. I'd always wanted to talk to a human being instead of just texting back and forth. But we learned our lesson and began adding more, so that same firm has been cooperating with us ever since, and we have a global presence in all of the nations where we are in partnership with LifeWorks.

Anita Ward:

How many countries have you now grown into?

Brian Coleman:

I can tell you exactly how many people we serve. But I can always tell you how many of us there are. I'd have to look at it, but we serve about 100 countries.

Anita Ward:

I thought it was about 80 to 100.

Brian Coleman:

It's one of those really excellent applications where we can look at our life experiences. And it's not only about the team member; I tell everyone about our current chairman of the board, who was a co-chairman when we had our first bring your son or daughter to the workday. So I brought in my 23-year-old, who was just 11 at the time. Before we got started in the morning, the co-chair sat next to him and said, "I know whose kid you are.” And Josh didn't say anything; he was simply mystified. And he said “If you're half the guy your father is and do half the things in your future that he does for us. If you've ever considered doing this type of work for a living, we'd like to hire you.”

Anita Ward:

That's incredible to me; the fact that Dawn takes care of generations after generations tells volumes about the attention that they put into their benefits and employee well-being. And I think about the previous couple of years, we can speculate all we want, but people have taken some significant hits to their financial well-being as well, even if I know you didn't, your staff didn't. So I thought you would be interested in hearing about it. And how did you deal with the last few years, because financial well-being is a difficult problem right now?

Brian Coleman:

We were an early financial well-being innovator. And, if you ask any consultant on the street, they would tell you that we did it backward. So we began in 2008. And we began with discounts. Simply upgrade one more. And we had leakage issues; we had a lot of loans, and a lot of individuals were using their savings vehicles as pathways via accounts. So we started looking for deals, and my entire thought process was to put more money in their pockets. They would have more money to invest if they had more money in their pockets. In addition, in 2014, we implemented an employee purchase program. So we began the discount and purchase scheme. During the first three months of the purchasing program, we reduced 401k loans by 3%. So we said, "All right, we're on to something." So we're going to keep adding discounts, and they're going to be big ones. If you're looking to buy your first home or refinance, $2,000 off closing expenses is a substantial saving. So you started along that path, and we started looking into emergency savings plans. As a result, we were among the first in the water with an emergency safe savings program. We were discussing it with Prudential and 15 and intend to execute it as soon as they provide their approval. Putting those in is hilarious because the industry kept saying, "Oh, that's just a sidecar." That is just meaningless. They were preoccupied with your 401k and HSA. They never mentioned HSA savings tools, however. Since 2006, we've had a savings mechanism in our HSA. And do I have as many people saving as I'd like? No. Do we continue to move the needle year after year? Yes. Are they putting money down for the future? Yes. So we have the HSA, the 401k, and the emergency 401k plan. The next thing we did, and here is where your social conscious stuff comes in, I know you're smiling, everyone started looking at risk reduction type things around that time, but we did it with a purpose. So we performed a lot of surveying and talked to people about their experiences. And many of our single parents couldn't afford a high-deductible plan. It's the first year that worries them. What if this happens over the first two or three years? So we created an accident program, and the price tag in the accident program, which I wish I could say was mine but isn't, was around the price of the lowest-paid individual in the organization for an hour of labor. So they had one hour of work and a payout to compensate for the accident. And it would cover what they needed to, and we began to make progress. Then it was around 16 approx. At the time, my CHRO had come over from Motorola. He stated, "You needed to get this stuff on the road.” You're getting positive comments, but you need to get moving. So we did a lot of road performances in the 16th, 17th, and 18th years. In fact, I met Anita when I was out with friends and mentioned, "Hey, we've talked on the phone." The whole event was about a roadshow, which led to another meeting, and so on and so forth. But what occurred was that stories became the foundation of how we learn. And the team members, I mean, accident plan, actually heard the stories. I tell everyone about my 18-year-old son, who was around 13 or 14 at the time, who was riding his bike when he was run off the road by two old guys in a golf cart, who shattered his wrist, and who had a high deductible of only $4000. But I was going to have to pay the entire $2400 medical charge. I tell everyone that I faxed all of my documentation from the emergency room. And two weeks later, I had $2,200 in my bank account to cover the expense. So I reduced my risk from $2,400 to $200.

Anita Ward:

It's amazing. And then, when we met, you added Salary Finance to your well-being; what were your thoughts on financial well-being at the time?

Brian Coleman:

And that's how we met in the first place, in your history. And the entire premise revolved upon people's lack of understanding of credit. I could tell you horror stories about getting a credit card in college and going insane and doing terrible stuff. When we switched to the employee purchase programs, we saw that it lowered people's credit because they weren't using it; they were getting it through payroll deduction. That worked out great. So we wanted to figure out how to advance to the next level. How do we assist that done team member when they want to move into their first house but the gas provider, Gas Electric Company, is going to charge them two to $500 since they have a terrible credit score? All you have to do is turn it on. And when you move into your first residence, you eat ramen as it is, if you are eating. So it's one of those things where we can assist folks working through the repercussions of whatever horrible decision they made, and how to truly shift their life around to make a good one. And it's strange because when I first arrived at Dawn, they were really proud of their 401k program. And they were a little concerned about some of the strange things I was bringing to the table. And I had to keep telling them not to worry. These are all items that have been taken away from your 401k funds. And we've done some unusual things with our team members on communication topics to get them to understand that "Hey if you didn't buy the high Frou-Frou coffee for a month, you could put more money in your retirement fund." My favorite is if you didn't borrow out of your 401k for that bass boat that uses a bass boat, if you didn't do it, you'd have enough money for the escalator on the other side.

Anita Ward:

I hadn't given it any thought in terms of bass boats. But you're correct, and there's so much of it that what do you know? And how do you make decisions? And, more importantly, are you well-informed enough to make those decisions? Is there a tool to make it happen once you feel like you can? And I believe that's where you and I began our first discussions together? How can we assist everyone in learning the language of money? If they realize that, how do you enroll them in an inexpensive loan program, a savings program, or an HSA? Does that make sense? So, how do you put all of those total benefits together, assuming that there are injustices and that people haven't been taught financial well-being or financial language?

Brian Coleman:

No one has been since the 1950s. We couldn't take practical math again since we couldn't take it again. But you're going to force me to say the “A” word.

Anita Ward:

I don't care.

Brian Coleman:

Advocacy. It's all about advocacy; no matter where you are or what condition you're in, advocacy is the great equalizer. Someone is willing to take the time to assist you in learning or doing anything. That was one of the reasons we went with salary financing in the first place: the advocacy model. And some interesting things have happened. I mean, one of your team members, Charlie, helped us a lot with a team member who had a problem in Dallas and was about to be evicted and put out on the street with their kids. And you gathered all of the resources and collaborated with everyone. And we had a plan in less than 48 hours. And those are things you wouldn't think about when it comes to salary finance because if you look at all of your stuff online, it doesn't go into all of that. And, as we've seen with our entire well-being strategy, it's always been about advocacy. The EAP system was established in place and remained in place due to advocacy, and they even played a little role in salary money. And there is a lot of overlap in a lot of these different areas. I mean, I'm a love torchlight. I work in elder care and special needs, but they didn't cover all of the places where affluent people came in and were migrating over to wealthy people right now. Do we still have to work? Right? Yes. As a result, having many options to obtain the same service confuses our team members even more.

Anita Ward:

Sometimes we hear it, but you have to hear it or perceive it differently. And I believe that how you communicate is essential. And I don't believe it's perplexing. I just think it's multiple intersection points. And we're all there to support one another and be advocates. And I think you're pretty brilliant in that approach, because you started talking a little bit about me and how I'm so driven by social purpose, especially social purpose, because I've seen so many injustices in my previous life, but also, so much when I look at systemic and justices and I often wonder, and, again, have advocated, not to borrow your word, that financial well-being, in many ways belongs on the DEI agenda, because right now there are so many different inequities, whether it's, BIPOC communities, or women or elder care. And when I think of Dawn, when you've got 18 to 105, this is going to be my new messaging. So I can't wait for you and me to dissect that outside of this call. But the idea that there are all kinds of structural concerns that you're addressing through your well-being initiatives across that broad spectrum of people. And I'm curious how you do it. Do you collaborate with your diversity team? What role does DEI play in this? And is it something where I'm just insane thinking about it, but I think Total Rewards should go hand in hand with DEI initiatives?

Brian Coleman:

You're not going to get an argument from me about that. It even dances into the talent zone, and it's the glue that holds everything together. I am fortunate. I work with a fantastic team at Dawn that is in the talent sector and is responsible for Dawn's DEI projects. One, Women in Baking, for example, is working on some pretty amazing stuff right now. So there's a large initiative with women and baking, and we've been looking into all of this. And so, even before the team was even formed, we made a bargain amongst ourselves, even before some of our DE&I individuals arrived, is that whatever that we look at in the future, be it comp, be its benefits, be it rewards focused would also take a 25-foot step back and look at it through the DE&I lens. How are we assisting how are we truly, I mean, it's team, there's no “I” in the team, it's all about genuinely helping all of us move forward. And that's one thing about Dawn that's been a lot of fun. And being that true innovator in the industry. We've even done some okay things, but if we have to go back to seasonal work, how do you not only pay the seasonal worker what they deserve? But how can you maintain that respect? Because not only are they going to be a customer down the road, but they may also be a team member down the road. As a result, we've developed seasonal benefit programs. We even established intern benefit schemes.

Anita Ward:

Wow. That's really cool. I think about all of the things we're trying to do in this space, and you talk about innovation, but where do you see the future going? We in the salary finance world see this very holistic approach to wellbeing, and particularly financial well-being, so maybe we're stealing a little bit of your model around, beginning with resilience and as the assumption and moving forward, but there's some pretty cool stuff going on. You mentioned being affluent; I think being wealthy is very wonderful as well. But there's Brella insurance, and they're doing some very intriguing stuff in this market. How do you see Total Rewards evolving?

Brian Coleman:

And I don't want to go into the dark brown area and take the board and start giving you the lines and I'm sorry, because way back in 2007, I made a joke too - I was there for six weeks and had to give my State of the State and then where do we think it's going to go? And part of it is historical in nature. And you strike it in so many places that it's entirely variable based on what individuals need. Here's your pot based on what you need. It appears she's 17 and there is a lot of stuff at 17, but she'll need a lot more when she's 32. So it's all about being able to select and choose. And being a significant part of it. And when they did flex benefits in the 1980s, the problem was that he didn't have the advocacy, you didn't have the people willing to hold their hand and move forward and get information to the people we talked about last week, we're just about ready to push out into the water, private YouTube channels. So we'll create YouTube channels for our team members as well as a secret one for our leaders. And then, because we're all grappling with recruiting and retention, we'll also look on the recruiting side and see if we can deliver "Hey, here's Dawn's private YouTube channel.” So when they're recruiting, they can look it up on their cell phone, which they couldn't see on your laptop or in my world. I said, "Okay, what's the simplest way to really win the hearts and minds of the family is to be able to put on YouTube and everyone who's bought a smart TV in the previous ten years, even if they bought it from Walmart, to put on YouTube.” So being able to educate not just the team member, but also the end consumer down the line on all of these things and all of the options available. If you conducted a person-on-the-street survey of team members, the most common complaint is that we have so many things that they don't know where to start. So we introduced the videos this year; we used to do on-site education sessions every year, and you receive a half-hour session wherever you are in the United States. COVID effectively put a halt to that. So we had to figure out how to have the same Dawn flavor but go a different approach. So, instead of getting a piece of paper translated into 25 languages, the benefit modifications for this year will be as follows. You had an English video, and I believe we had one in Spanish; I'll double-check. However, you had a two-minute film to make things easy for team members.

Anita Ward:

That's fantastic. I saw something last week about someone revamping all of their communications. And I was thinking about you because we need to stop making all these enormous giant forums and big giant descriptions and just tell folks what their benefits are in the simplest form of English. In reality, I communicated what I knew you were attempting to accomplish. But, once again, it comes back to your word, advocacy, because you are advocating on behalf of your staff in various ways. So, in many ways, our business concepts are similar, right? So we advocate for financial well-being and then use technologies to help individuals get better. You're pushing for employee well-being and then using tools to help individuals become better.

Brian Coleman:

We're both in the same line of work. And you've been tremendously helpful. So one of the things we did was get into the DeLorean, rev it up to 88, and then go back to the 1980s. And everyone has left. What are you on about? Again, we started newsletters for our team members who work in a manufacturing facility, a distribution facility, or as a driver and don't have time to check their cell phones. So what we've done, and we've collaborated with your team, Prudential, and others create newsletters that are only one page, front and back, and are left by the time clock. We have all 26 partners that come and meet with us quarterly to work on our communication strategy and provide materials so that a one-pager can touch whatever thematic of the month is, which was the month before I got on this call. The newsletter was what I was working on. And it has made a significant difference. We've been able to get them to team members on the West Coast more quickly than those on the East Coast. Don't bother asking me why I don't have an answer yet. But we're also going old school and putting QR codes on everything. And your team made a big impression on Prudential and a few other companies when we performed spring cleaning; we talked about cleaning up what you have around you and thinking about salary finance and 401k and other foolish things. Consider putting who your beneficiaries are on all of your belongings. Think of it like alphabet soup; everything is in a can, and it just keeps hitting thematic over and over again. So you've got your norms. And then, if you keep looking at these things, you'll notice that we empowered my excellent HR team to spread the message. We provide them PowerPoints so that when they meet with their customers, management, or whatever, even if it's a town hall, and we have a lot of town halls, they have a PowerPoint ready to display and say, "Here we go, guys. Here's another benefit that Dawn has for you,”

Anita Ward:

Because it's basic human communication, right? People won't know unless you tell them especially if you're approaching it in so many different ways. But, Brian, I am so enthralled with Dawn Foods because, as a cultural anthropologist, their values resonate. And I just thought we could play a small game. What if I took values and said, "The first value is passion," but let's apply it to Brian Coleman? So, what is your greatest interest? What gets your creative juices flowing?

Brian Coleman:

It is dependent on the day. It's one of those things, but it's about helping people, being an advocate, and doing other things for people. I mean, I am a Boy Scout leader, after all. And it's all about the 40 words, which are the Boy Scout oath and rule. And it truly is a nice set of guidelines to go with everything. And even from the first time, we met. You can't describe me as unenthusiastic.

Anita Ward:

True. I don't think anyone else said anything to the two of us over our first dinner together. If I remember correctly, the next value is integrity. So Dawn Foods discuss integrity. And, of course, the Boy Scouts comparison is present. But I consider trust and integrity in tandem. And I'm curious how you believe that shows itself with you, and in terms of the value of integrity, specifically Benefits. Right?

Brian Coleman:

Much of it is because, when we discussed putting that newsletter together, it was the first time that some of these partners had ever come together and met the other partners, and they had never considered how they could influence for the greater good of everybody. So, with this communication program, we got them to look not just at an open rate, but also at an action rate, and then showed them, "Hey, that doing these things actually works together and your messaging is going to affect someone else down the line.” So it's all about being honest in your approach and knowing that it will succeed. Dawn is a 100-year-old company, and if you're in the banking business, especially in the United States today, we're just standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, who have always done a great job of delivering knowledge and service, it's not just the products, it's the service for the family, and really making those happy events happen.

Anita Ward:

That is what really speaks to the importance of connections. So I believe you just started Dawn's third value, which is centered on connections and progresses by standing on each other's shoulders. But, once again, I return to the fact that I hadn't considered it until I really came to know you, and Dawn hadn't considered an innovation in your space. What does that imply? And we started this conversation with hamburger innovation and the sourdough donut, right? But I know that progress and innovation are important to Dawn, which is also rather interesting given that it is a 100-year-old firm. And we're always eager for a discussion about startups. But what does that entail? How does that make you feel? And how do you live in an atmosphere when there is a lot of innovation? And how does that influence what you do in HR?

Brian Coleman:

Well, it flows over in a variety of ways. So you have that, and you're where you are because you're standing on the other shoulder. So, how do you improve it? For those you haven't even considered yet who will be in charge of your job? In 10-20 years? What do you do differently to go through and resonate? So there's a little bit of video on that YouTube channel; it's not the best done, but it gets the job done. From the age of zero to 29, it is an entire philosophy centered on educating children on how to be financially secure. So, yes, my 401k consultant and I got together, but the main component of this wasn't me. My 18-year-old son was a key component in putting this together. So it's the customer's voice, and it's really looking at how they would look at things and propose things. So it not only appeals to our 18-year-olds but if I can persuade our young parents to go look at it. Hell, there may be a massive sale in life, the game life, and monopoly. Monopoly was something I despised. It's those kinds of things in the passing of learnings that we usually get. So your mother warned you not to go shopping while you're hungry. Those kinds of lessons in which you discuss with your children why you chose this over that? Why didn't you buy everything you wanted? Another one that makes my kids laugh is that I'm hunting for stores that provide layaway, simply to drive them crazy. Growing up in retail, layaway was the coolest thing. However, it is not instant gratification. As a result, we put this thing together. And he did it from beginning to end. And we're going to start incorporating this sort of relationship into something I did when I first started with Dawn, which was an education for each of those groups. So, you recently graduated from college or eat ramen? Hey, did you recently get married? You're on a very limited fixed budget. Hey, do you have kids who are robbing you blind? How are you planning to save money and make ends meet? Oh, no, you're 50 years old and haven't saved enough? What should we do to try to even the score? Because your children won't let you live with them when you're 70.

Anita Ward:

Yes, Brian, we at Salary Finance would be delighted to assist you with that as well. You're talking in my language. So there are things we can do to help in that regard if you want to weigh in. And finally, there is optimism. And I'm sure everyone else who's been listening to you for the last 30 minutes. Nobody is more upbeat than me. You and I both have the "glass half full" mentality, which is why I adore you and enjoy chatting with you.

Brian Coleman:

No, I'm just happy to have a glass.

Anita Ward:

Okay, let me rephrase that. I'd like to have a glass as well. That is correct. We're both from those humble beginnings, right? So, what makes you happy now? Is it just that you don't have that glass? I believe? I mean, I know you well enough to know that you're filling that glass for someone else. But, Brian, what makes you happy?

Brian Coleman:

Again, it is dependent on the day. It may be as ridiculous as drinking my coffee while sitting on a dock and watching fish jump all over the place. It could be in the center, at a baseball game, with two hot dogs and a beer in my hand. You just never know. However, it is the end of the day. But it's probably those stories that keep you going, knowing that you did make a difference. You did assist someone. We received our first Salary Finance report for the first year and there were a couple of sound bites I wish there were more because they had me so high I can hunt ducks with a rake. One person was talking about having COVID and having no money after having COVID, doctor bills, and that Salary Finance was there to help them get their life in order. Those kinds of activities were fun. Yes, I've already read it three times. So you're not going to cry this time?

Anita Ward:

You just started making me feel good up here.

Brian Coleman:

Yes, assisting families in crisis or assisting them in cleaning up so that they can accomplish anything. It can be as ridiculous as it was five or six years ago when we were doing roadshows. My favorite question is how much they spent on dental care in the previous year. So far, my cleaning has cost me $25. I said, "Hey, Sam, I know you've got six kids, don't you?" And I told him, "You pay $25 at home?" He responded yes, and I added if you'd just done what I told you about going to the PPO instead of this. It would have been completely free. And guess what? You could have gone to the movies and had dinner with those six youngsters while they were viewing the light. Come on, let's go.

Anita Ward:

Brian, you're an incredible leader, and I was asked a question because, even though we've known each other for years, what should I have asked you that I didn't?

Brian Coleman:

Who is buried in Grant's tomb? Sorry, I grew up watching Bugs Bunny for whatever reason. Or how do I go to Albuquerque? I believe you've covered the majority of it. This isn't difficult to construct. It's just a 50-foot step back, and most of my peers do an excellent job. I'm going to burst because the only change I made was that I said, Okay, it's not about this wonderful outsourcer, it's not about this one benefit, and everything's perfect. It is how do we make a difference in someone's life? How can we assist them in their daily lives? And it all boils down to risk and portability. And portability does not imply that they will leave me tomorrow to work for another company. But how simple is it to use? And how much does it assist them in dealing with their day-to-day risks? Car insurance, on the other hand, is a wonderful thing. For what it can do to your bank account. Any of this can be amazing, but how do you assist folks to navigate that maze? And what can they do to enhance not only their own lives today but also the lives of their children in the future? You haven't even gotten me on my soapbox yet. At home, I have two special needs children. Both of them have done one job, particularly at school, and are currently engaged in duels at a university. It's about actually looking at that problem in your life and having the fortitude to say, "It'll get better." I will proceed. I'm not alone. I'm free to ask a query. And getting consumers to feel comfortable and willing to ask questions is arguably the most difficult hurdle we face in the industry today.

Anita Ward:

Trust.

Brian Coleman:

Yes, so back to those DOME values again.

Anita Ward:

How do I feel about them? I believe that everyone should embrace them. And if we all lived with those, we'd all be better off. Hopefully. Yes, I believe so. I started by stating, like, ingredients are incredibly terrible on foods, like sugar and doughnuts. And I know that's where you began. And Dawn Foods has a special donut recipe that is now embracing a hamburger. But here we are, like, a century later. And, yes, I can only say that Dawn does so much more than make doughnuts. And, just to be clear, the ingredients are no longer sugar. Knowing you, I believe they are more about purpose, people, and passion, as well as you and your leadership team. You're like a secret recipe not only for Dawn Foods but for all of us. And I can't tell you how grateful I am to have you as a friend; I learn something new from you every time we get together. And I appreciate you sharing your experience today, especially sharing so much with all of us.

Brian Coleman:

I consider myself fortunate to work in such an environment. I'm not the only one that thinks this way. I am perfectly normal. They're all quite enthusiastic about the industry. They're all very committed to taking care of one another. We were literally put on hold because we wanted to make sure we could express it well. We're bringing in award co. and a recognition program on February 1 because it's one of my other major things with Total Rewards, honoring folks, and making sure you can share in that. It's also about memories. Even now, when the chairman emeritus walks into the building, he'll approach me and ask, "Hey, how's your mom?" Okay, and people ask you about your mother. But then he'll reply in the following phrase, "Well, is road still riding our Cushman?" As a result, he recalls my mother's name. They both enjoy blogging about vintage scooters. And so is the rest of the family. I have one of the best CEOs I've ever worked for. I mean, American Axle helped shape who I am now. But she is one of those people that always says, "Hey, don't be afraid of making mistakes; just keep pushing forward and making it better by making it a little bit better each day.”

Anita Ward:

Dawn Foods makes us all a little bit better every day. So, once again, thank you for today. I am grateful to you and all of our listeners. Thank you for joining us, and until next time, continue to focus on your well-being. Thank you so much, Brian.

Thanks for joining us for today's episode of Working on Wellbeing brought to you by Salary Finance. I'm Anita Ward. At Salary Finance, our mission is to improve the financial health of working Americans by providing access to socially responsible financial products in the workplace. You can learn more about how you can partner with us to help improve your employee's financial well-being at salaryfinance.com. Don't forget to subscribe or follow so you don't miss an episode.

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