Heidi Baumgart, Vice President Marketing & Team Development – Arborwear
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
- her experience in combining Marketing and Team development to create and integrate impactful core values
- how Arborwear has leveraged those core values in recruiting, interviewing, and day to day employee experience
- her advice to both college students and experienced professionals on how to seek out your next opportunity
Summary transcript of our interview below:
Ron – Welcome to Episode 15 of the Bell Falls Search Focus on Talent video series. This is the Digital Marketing edition. After meeting today’s guest on a professional level several years ago, she’s become a great friend and an advisor to me in many parts of my business. She is a proven marketer in the Northeast Ohio area with a pretty significant background in both e-commerce and content marketing. In her spare time, she is also an adjunct professor, adjunct instructor at Kent State University, teaching a copywriting course. One of the key reasons I wanted to have her on today is that she’s carved out a very unique role for herself, combining marketing, content, talent attraction and retention all into one and over lots of conversations over coffee, I’ve really become very interested and excited about what she’s done and her current role. Please welcome Heidi Baumgart, Vice President of Marketing at Arborwear. Heidi, thanks for being here!
Heidi – Thanks for having me, Ron. Glad to be here!
Ron – Yeah. I’m glad we could finally do this and really talk about all the things you’ve done over at Arborwear and share it with my listeners. So I appreciate your time. So to kick things off, to improve upon my rudimentary introduction of you and your background, can you talk about how you got started, how your career has evolved from the beginning to where you’re at today? And tell me a little bit more about Arborwear and what you guys do?
Heidi – Sure. So I reinvented my career a lot of different ways, and it kind of starts even in high school, I was involved in a lot of student organizations, and into college, I was involved in a ton of student organizations and was majoring in advertising, but had done some marketing and done some event planning and had done some leadership there. And my first opportunities in the general marketing space, I actually went by way of ad agencies. So I came in first with a direct to consumer client base, ad agency, Rosenberg Advertising on the west side, and had interned there and then went on full time and account service. To my copywriting teachers dismay, I went into account service first, and then I moved on to another agency that was very business to business. And all of our customers were businesses selling businesses, actually in the green industry, in insecticides and rodenticides and herbicides and all kinds of crazy stuff like that. So somewhere along that way, I actually got married and planned my wedding and started doing wedding coordination. So for about five years, in the middle of my marketing career, I actually was an entrepreneur and I owned my own event planning business doing about 100 weddings and mitzvahs and other events in Northeast Ohio, which was amazing experience for so many different reasons.
Heidi – But I really missed marketing. So I came back to marketing client side. I left the ad agency days and I’ve worked for three small businesses in Northeast Ohio in a row. One was an organic mattress manufacturer. And then I went to a luxury event rental company, and now I’m at Arborwear, who I had admired from a far when I worked in rodenticides and insecticides and herbicides and all that. So it’s been interesting. I’ve worked in the green industry three different ways, so I’m back in that space.
Ron – For those not familiar, can you talk a little bit more about what Arborwear does and kind of where your niche is?
Heidi – Yeah, for sure. Arborwear is an apparel manufacturer and distributor, so we source and like I said, manufacture wearables protective equipment and in uniforms. So we do a ton for the green industry, predominantly tree care and landscape companies. So if you have somebody who comes to your house and prunes a tree or cuts down a tree or works on your yard, it’s likely that they’ve worn something Arborwear. It’s very niche, but it’s amazing apparel. And I kind of describe it as Carhartt and Patagonia had a baby.
Ron – That’s a great description. Well, and clearly I know about them because they’re in our neighborhood out on the east side of Cleveland. But you can go online. Anyone can go online and buy stuff from Arborwear directly, too. Is that right?
Heidi – It is, though. It’s interesting because my neighbors are like, why does that store need a VP of Marketing? And I’m like, well, that store is a small percentage of our business. We are a national company, and we do uniforms all over the country for billion dollar tree care businesses. So, yeah, you can purchase if you just want to wear it yourself. We have a lot of the DIY yard kind of folks or just working on your house or whatever. And then we have been more the professional type. So a lot of our customers are buying from actual custom web stores that we build for them and their specific uniforms and other company approved apparel like footwear is on there. So I manage about 80 websites.
Ron – To your point about custom. You can add your logo and be very specific to the company. Awesome.
Heidi – Absolutely. Yeah. We do a lot with other customers brand standards, which are my ad agency days, kind of come in to play there. So we will help our customers figure out the best ways to put their logos on specific colored apparel to meet both their safety standards for the work, but also their brand standards for their company. So it’s a neat mix.
Ron – Awesome. All right, let’s dive into the fun stuff as it relates to your role. Last time we talked, you had told me how it’s begun to evolve into core values development and promoting those internally and adding the marketing spin on top of what is typically thought of as maybe an HR function only. And it was fascinating to me as a person who recruits in the space and sees companies with this challenge all the time. Can you walk me through that journey? How you’ve applied marketing to the talent area and even why? Because the context is really important.
Heidi – Yeah, for sure. Well, so it started with when I was interviewing at Arbor, where it was really evident that the culture was found, that there was a culture, and that I really hate a company that feels like a family cliche because I think it’s just been kind of a mess for some companies who brag that. But it was just really evident that Arborwear people work there, like, knew who they were and what they were all about. There was a clear mission, but it just had been written down. And so while I was interviewing, I was literally saying, you need vision, mission values. This has got to be done. And so Bill Weber our owner, and I finally got around to it, actually kind of as we were all going home two years ago for COVID, and we’re like, wow, now more than ever, we’re not going to be in this building. And the culture isn’t literal together. Let’s make sure that it’s written down and it’s a North Star, and it’s something we can all reference. And it was right when we were about to hire a ton of people, we were just about to go into a huge growth for various reasons.
Heidi – We were hiring because we changed technology. We were building processes around that. We had some core roles as far as specific people and leadership we needed. So we worked it out. And then from those mission vision values, we launched it very specifically. So the leadership team kind of gave their blessing on it, made sure we were all aligned. And then we did a surprise, kind of like, I guess launch, I would say. And we sent these hilarious boxes full of…actually, I have it. an 18 inch foam finger and a T shirt and stickers and all kinds of stuff to get all of our employees kind of around it. And then last year when we moved our facility, what I would call we skinned the facilities. So there’s places where and it’s some of the cliche things, but the vision and the mission are hanging from the ceiling. The core values, which we call our high fives, they’re all H’s. They each have their own poster, our customer service team that has their own mission statement. It’s hanging in the customer service department, all those kinds of things. But then we kind of took it to the next level where you’re referencing where our brand meets mission vision values.
Heidi – And in that I just see brand marketing has always been kind of my niche and passion. It’s like the thing that I always like to kind of like play in. I just think it’s such a scalable place for companies. And that’s where I found a lot of inspiration, but just a lot of legs, I guess, like concept legs around recruiting. So we made sure that every little detail in the building if you were experiencing it in person and in some places online. So our social media accounts, LinkedIn, our web page. They all spoke in this Core Value and Mission Vision language down to we named all the conference rooms and all of the spaces in the building a certain way and it’s all part of the tour and it all tells our story as you walk around the building in person or it’s down to in a job description. It’s very clear about Mission Vision values and what our values are. So you have a sense of what you’re getting yourself into or not. And it’s not just saying we’re like a family and so it’s just been gangbusters. Frankly, we didn’t have any trouble recruiting last year.
Heidi – We hired something like 40 people for various seasonal and full time roles. And it’s because I think we were really clear about who we are and what we expect and people appreciate that.
Ron – Well, in this market, I can attest how hard it’s been to recruit, especially over the last twelve months. So the fact that you’ve had that much success is a testament to that. So good for you. Will you share the five HS?
Heidi – Yeah, it’s helpful, happy, humble, honest and hardworking. And yeah, I said that really fast. Our tagline has always been “honest, hard working clothing.” And so those are kind of evident in what the apparel is. And everybody who works there is just like helpful and honest. And we’re all humble. Like we’re not really about titles. There’s not a lot of egos. If you have an ego, it’s evident that you’re posturing or you don’t fit in. And then we added one because we added healthy as like a sixth “H.” But that kind of encompasses everything. You can’t be the high five unless you’re healthy. So it’s technically six “H’s”, but we do a lot of hands and each and looking around at all, I have all kinds of goofy stickers. And of course we have the core value cards. So it’s one of those new things like whether you work there or you’re a customer or you’re a stakeholder or shareholder or whatever it is, it kind of encompasses everything. Not just employee brand.
Ron – Yes. So highly creative, very impactful embedded in everywhere that everywhere physically in the company and on the website and with your clients. So that’s one half of it, right. Coming up with the great core values and marketing them internally is one thing. And you talk a little bit about how you guys kind of accepted them and used them. Can you give some specific examples, maybe say in the recruiting process or even in the candidate evaluation process, how you incorporate the core values into them? To me, that’s the secret sauce.
Heidi – Definitely. And I’m always saying things like you have to hire on brand. We have been really conscientious to evaluate people related to the values. But before I get into that, I think we also have to watch that people are value aligned but not having a bias of that whole like, oh, these people are like me and just hiring a bunch of people like us, then you have almost like an echo chamber where it’s just a bunch of people who are very similar. And then we don’t challenge the status quo, which is one of the subset of our core values, is challenging the status quo. I think some of the ways we’ve done it. One just generically. It’s in every job description. So it’s in there as far as expectation. And then whenever we’re using any kind of form for applications; so we have a cohort of interns and we hired something like 20 interns last year. So it’s always a question on there and it says, which core value do you most relate to and why?
Heidi – And so they just have to write a little short answer. And it’s always the first thing I look at in the application before I even look at the cover letter and the resume, because I think it’s just kind of interesting how they take it and if they really thought about it or they just say, oh, I’m hard working and hire me. And it’s interesting, too, as people come on to see which core values they actually emulate. And then, of course, we’re asking some of the questions in the interviews like, hey, based on our core values and our vision and mission. Again, I always say things like, what things do? What do you relate to and why? I also ask some of my favorite questions are like, tell me about a time when you had to be honest and it was hard. Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond and helped somebody. So oftentimes you can interview folks and only talk about the core values and not even talk about the job description because we always feel like it’s hard to change people. You can always train them for whatever the role is, but you can’t change if they’re hard working or humble.
Ron – Yeah, no, I agree. Now that’s fascinating. Quite often in a lot of the companies I’ve either worked in or worked with, marketing and talent don’t necessarily interact. Or when they do, it’s more about how do I get this job posting out there in a different place or a better place? How do I write it differently? But then the full integration of developing the core values and adding them into how you recruit and retain. I’m telling you, you guys are light years ahead of many other companies out there.
Heidi – I appreciate that because I don’t know, I’m kind of like in this bubble and I don’t know.
Ron – That’s why I wanted to talk about it, because I think it’s such a massive competitive advantage. And if you ever want to start a company around it, just let me know. I know you’re really happy, so that’s not going to happen. But as it relates to retention or I’ll say recognizing employees, which I think those two things are related, do you have any case study or examples there that you could share?
Heidi – Absolutely. So when we launched our high five program with these core values, we wanted to make sure that it just didn’t get launched. And, oh, that’s nice. It’s on the wall and kind of go to die. And one of the ways we did that is we also simultaneously launched a specific employee recognition program. And it’s pretty simple, but there is an actual Google form that you can just open the form and fill it out. And then we also actually have little pads of paper where you can see that barely. We have these pens of paper, and you can recognize anybody for either living the core values. So it’s just I mean, maybe it’s part of your job, but actually living the core values or, of course, all the employee recognition programs are recognized when somebody goes above and beyond whatever it is. And so people filled this format for lots of reasons. And then we have an all hands meeting, usually every Monday morning, and we will actually announce all of these. So every Monday there’s at least a couple, which is kind of nice. And it’ll be sometimes its managers getting into their direct reports.
Heidi – Sometimes it’s peer to peer. Sometimes it’s an intern giving it to the owner. Like, there’s no kind of hierarchy to any of this. But then once you get your high five, it’s a Google Slides deck that is posted in our Base Camp. We use Base Camp as, like our Internet and in our water cooler talk. And so it’s on there so you can go back and look at every single high five ever given and kind of see what’s happened. And then actually, it was kind of fun. I ran some numbers and I saw, like, which departments gave the most to whom, who gave the most within their departments, who gave the most outside of their departments, all that kind of stuff. So that was kind of neat. And then we’re hoping here in the near future, I don’t want to give anything away to any “Arborwearers”, but we’re hoping to host the “Graddy’s”. So a gratitude style employee appreciation event where anybody who’s given or received high five earns different ways to earn other things. So a little bit of a tease for the event idea. But then there’s also folks who’ve earned, like, several different high fives.
Heidi – So maybe somebody who’s earned all five of the core values and so they’ll be recognized for different reasons. We have little buttons for every time you earn one. If you get the happy high five, you’ll get the little button. I started putting my button hands, so that’s what that is so every time you earn one, you can kind of keep them. It’s been a neat program. And because we announced them every Monday, people tend to remember to give high fives. But then we also have a trigger in our Base Camp system that once a month, it’s like, have you given anyone a high five? And it gives you the forum and it’s just enough frequency to keep the program alive. And it’s really fun to hear what other people are up to or how people helped each other or who people are. It’s really helped me get to know my coworkers, and some of them are cliche. Like, I got a flat tire and my colleague helped me high five. And then some of them are we get customer reviews and so and so really helped me out. And then other ones are like, this person realized I was struggling with this software and built me a training course or whatever it is.
Heidi – There’s all these different ways that people have helped each other, and it’s kind of neat. It’s been really rewarding as far as obviously, as far as employee recognition. But one of the things I learned, too, is that people have preferred methods of appreciation. And in that I have some folks on our team who do not want to be given a high five. Like, they don’t want to be put on the spotlight kind of thing, or they’re afraid to give high fives because they don’t want to. Like, they’re a little afraid of public speaking, so they don’t want to have to announce it. They don’t want to have to read their own. So we’ve worked on that a little bit in our morning meetings. We’ve made it so you can ask the high five committee to read it for you. So that’s been one of those nice things. But then we’ve also been working with managers on finding out what people’s preferred method of appreciation is, and maybe it’s just acts of service or quality time. And please do not announce my name and give me a high five. So it’s been kind of a neat way to explore how people like to be appreciated.
Heidi – And it’s all part of our retention strategy.
Ron – And core to the humble part of the five H’s as well.
Ron – Okay, I’m going to switch gears into the third part here. Let’s talk about talent a little bit. I know that you do a lot of coaching and mentoring of interns, especially built a phenomenal intern program, again, one that I think could be a model for lots of companies in town. And again, with your instructing at Kent, you probably interact with a lot of college students, obviously. What advice would you give to somebody about to complete college and enter into the workforce around how to put themselves in the best position to look for a role or interview or have the right skill set?
Heidi – Well, I would say that we’ve had a lot of success with our internship program because we’ve gone to Career Services and said, how can you post this job posting? Who are your best students? And they know exactly who they are. And the recommendations we’ve received from Career Services are people who have been excellent interviewers or we did hire or not only did we hire for the internship program, we kept them on full time, and now they’re full time staff. And so I would tell students, get to know your Career Services people, because a lot of these universities are fighting like their main mission essentially, is to make sure that students get jobs after graduation. That’s a university’s job these days. It’s not just to enlighten us for Liberal Arts education, it’s to make sure we get jobs and to be competitive. And because of that, I’ve seen a lot of universities really build their Career Services Department. And I know when I was at Kent State, I knew there were some advisor types and maybe there was career services to help you write a resume, but it was not as much of a resource and as invested in as I see it now.
Heidi – And so I would say those students who go out of their way to have career services help them get really they’re put in front of we hiring folks who are hiring students or recent grads and getting into your professors and your teachers, too, just like the career services folks, some of my favorite professors and adjunct instructors who I had in college years and years ago, I keep in touch with them or I see them on LinkedIn, and they’re still those same people making sure that their students have opportunities, whether we graduated decades ago or more recently. And so I think that network of people who know you can start in the university space and continue for years. So make some friends.
Ron – Yeah, no, I agree. Okay, cool. What about experienced people, candidates? What have you seen anything unique or interesting or that you’d suggest to applicants to try to differentiate themselves from other people?
Heidi – Absolutely. I think a really unique way I’m seeing some peers getting you opportunities has actually been the cliche. Connect with people who you just like to know or work with in the future on a platform like LinkedIn. Get to know them, follow their content, or post your own related content. And then the LinkedIn algorithm does its job. But then if you see somebody, maybe it’s at a company that you’re interested in working at and they don’t have a role posted. Or maybe it’s somebody working in a job that you maybe potentially want to work in, reach out to them and just ask to have, like a 15 minutes Zoom or something like that, have a virtual coffee, that kind of thing. My friend Thomas is always preaching this. He’s like, oh, my gosh, I got this job because I did a 15 minutes Zoom and then two months later this role opened up and then I was the first person on this person’s mind. So I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done proactively than, oh, it’s time for me to leave my job or whatever it is.
Ron – I preach that a lot. You shouldn’t only be looking for a role when you need to or when you’re out of a role. You can be doing it even if it’s indirectly the conversations you’re having could be setting up your next thing. You don’t even know it right. So I appreciate that insight.
Heidi – One other side part of that is doing some of the work related and I don’t mean necessarily like you have to actually do the job, but read the books in that space, listen to the podcasts in that space, write your own opinion pieces on LinkedIn. There’s all these easy ways to do it and sometimes that’s in the length of personal brand for whatever that is. But if you can kind of point to your expertise before you’re even doing something, I think that just it takes some of the risk out for the hiring managers that they know you get it.
Ron – I understand. Well, Heidi, I appreciate you spending time with us today and sharing your story. I look forward to hearing more and watching it continue to evolve. Thank you very much.
Heidi – Thank you so much. This is great.
Ron – Talk to you soon.
April 14, 2022