ABOUT TODAY’S EPISODE FEATURING J. BRAD BRITTON
There’s a good chance that if you are reading this, you are among the most fortunate people anywhere. We have an opportunity — perhaps you might even say a responsibility — to spread our good fortune to others. Making acts of service a part of your organization’s culture can impact your communities, and can also build community among your own team. For many years, J. Brad Britton has set the example as a servant leader, and in this conversation, he shares examples of how a company can lead the way in impacting others around them. Our hope is that everyone who listens can implement these concepts where you work or where you live.
Q&A WITH J. BRAD BRITTON
Q: How was the seed planted in your mind for Cutco Cares many years ago?
- It happened mostly by accident like a lot of inspirational things sometimes do. Around 2002 as I was a Region Manager with Cutco, I got an invitation to the National or International Direct Selling Association Conference in Florida. I learned a lot of great things there and got a better understanding of the industry, but one of the things that they had there was an award given to a company that was doing something great out in the world. I don’t even remember what company won that year or what kind of program they had, but I just had the thought that Cutco and Vector need to win this. Nothing really manifested from this experience, but it was definitely where the seed was first planted.
Q: After that you have had a lot of key experience doing charitable deeds and projects at home and throughout the world. Can you tell us a little bit about some of your own projects?
- It started off small for me with donating some funds to different groups in my church. There are two different types of trips that we did. One was to different orphanages in Tijuana, Mexico and the other type was to Malawi in Africa, which was the third poorest country in the world when we started going there. We would send people off to these and they would come back with pictures and stories that were really compelling. I never felt I had the time for the longer trip, but I was able to squeeze in a couple Saturday trips down to Tijuana. We would deliver Christmas gifts to the children in the orphanage and it was great for the kids, but I really noticed the difference it made in those of us who were going and doing the serving. I felt that we were being served by the trips just as much as we were serving others in the trip. The conversations on the way back were much different than those on the way there. It was amazing how much closer we were as friends having shared the experience.
- I took a 9-year leave of absence from Vector and went on a few of the trips to Africa. Then I also became consistently involved in the Rotary Club International and took several trips to Tijuana with them. On the trips to Africa I witnessed things that were nothing short of miracles in my mind. The contentment of the children was just amazing. We would give them an empty water bottle and they would flatten them, get vines from the jungle, and make sandals out of them and be so proud and happy about it. These children, even though they really didn’t have anything, were just really content. Stereotypically, ten year olds there were so much happier than ten year olds here.
- What I wanted to do is to take my daughter Madison on this trip. So when she was fourteen, I took her and one of her best friends to Malawi for a couple weeks. We were visiting one of our friends who was a retired firefighter, who had moved to a remote village in Malawi. What we did was create a charity to provide clothing, blankets, soap, shoes, and things like that to the children there. Prior to this, the clothes the children would wear fourth, fifth, and six generation hand me downs that were threadbare. I would encourage anyone who is interested in this to check out the blog of our third trip at www.themalawiblog.com. During the trip, we were checking up on different projects that were being sponsored by the Rotary Club here in San Diego. One project was a bridge project for a community cut off from other civilization, the school, and medical care by a stream that turned into strong rapids during the rainy season. The impacts of this bridge were so monumental that the commemoration of the bridge drew hundreds of people, the governor of the area, and the local chiefs. Seeing this type of impact and also the impacts that these types of things make on us, the people that were doing the serving are really where it all started with me.
Q: So you had opportunities and ideas were beginning to hatch on how you could bring this into your world. Also, you stayed pretty close to your Cutco community during this time. A bunch of different groups in Cutco were doing some different things that were inspirations to you. Do you want to tell us about some of those?
- Angel’s Wings International is one that had a really big impact. Andy Jeanty started it with Cathy Christen with scads of CSP’s and managers who went to Haiti to build a medical center like we did when we went to Malawi. That was highly impactful for the people in Haiti and the people that went on that trip.
- Jon Vroman and the Front Row Foundation. An organization similar to the Make a Wish Foundation.
- Mike Abramowitz and PB&J for USA.
Q: So how did the Cutco Cares project start?
- It started almost by accident. The first thing we did was in Rome with all the Division Managers from the Western Region. We had a huge dinner and had so much food left over. My wife Paulette pointed out that it would be a waste for all this food to be thrown away when there were all these people within a few hundred yards of the building, just living on the streets. We bagged up all the food and just handed it off to the homeless people. As it turned out, this was the thing that all these people talked about regarding the trip.
- The next year we went to the Czech Republic. It just so happened that my mother had done a volunteer trip to Panama with this guy and he just so happened to later be working in a school in the Czech Republic and they needed supplies. So a few weeks before the trip, Paulette and I sent an email out collecting supplies donations and then we toured the school and donated these supplies. After we got back, people kept asking about our doing this and we began to feel that the next time we did something like this, that we should make it more official.
- The next year was Costa Rica and we decided to go to this place called Cepia. That became the first official trip with. We ended up taking a few trips over there and everyone that went thought it was really terrific. It was kind of like a Boys and Girls Club, but in a really really low income area. We played with children, gave them some love and attention, and heard a lecture on how hard it is to break out of multi-generational poverty. It was so meaningful and rewarding to me and everyone that went that I knew that we needed to do this. This needed to be a thing.
- As it progressed, we went and visited a place for kids in Munich and then later did a YMCA camp in the Caymans. Now I am just excited about trying to find exciting, fun things to do on these trips we take that are going to make a difference in the lives of the local community, it’s going to make a difference for us, and just everyone involved.
- Making a difference for everyone involved is a part of my mission statement. My mission statement talks about them, us, and everyone else. ‘Them’ is the people that we help, and ‘us’ is our souls and our perspectives and just our ability to be content and happy in our own lives. ‘Everyone else’ is everyone out there that really doesn’t see the heart of Vector. I want to show them who we really are. Imagine, if and when, Cutco Cares grows to the point where we have regional Cutco Cares projects. An example of this is if we were to do something on this upcoming trip to Paris. And these wouldn’t be things that people are forced or even obligated to do, but if they want to get a feel for some local culture, they want to give back to the local community, and they understand some more about some of the world challenges that we are kind of sheltered from, then I would encourage them to do this. It would be something small maybe once or twice a year.
- Imagine if, when people googled Cutco or Vector, then the eight of the top ten results were people doing some charitable act that was generating great public relations. I don’t want to make this about the bottom line, but when you are doing things that matter and people see that, they want to stick around, work for the company, but more products, and they have good things to say.
Q: Brad, just to wrap up, how would you recommend people outside of Cutco implement these same ideas to impact the world and build a sense of community in their organization?
- I love this question for a lot of reasons. First of all, everyone is in a different spot. You have to start where you are and look for opportunities. When you look, you will find the opportunities. You can just do a google search for volunteer projects in your area and find many things there. You start there and it just grows bigger and bigger and maybe one day you will get to the level of Jeff Hoffman, who has a discretionary fund for his employees to do good things in the community with. When I am in a metropolitan area, I always make sure to have some ones and fives on me to give to the people asking for money. I know some are scamming me, but even if the money makes a big difference in the life of one out twenty people I give to, then I am ok with it. Start small and build big.
FINAL THOUGHTS (Dan)
- The giving back to global communities that Brad was mentioning throughout this episode were actually Vector Marketing, the marketing arm of the company, giving back to the community. However, our parent company, the Cutco Corporation has been quite philanthropic too. It gives back to its local community in the Western New York/Buffalo area, it has donated six-figure sums to the Alzheimer’s Association in recent years through the sale of purple Cutco, it donated a six-figure sum also to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a variety of other things.
- I’ve heard Brad, over the years, say, “If we have the ability to help, then we have the responsibility to help.” That is important, because not everyone has the ability to help given where they are and their situation in life. If you are listening to this podcast, you probably have the ability to help, so I would like to turn that responsibility to help around to you.
- Remember the ‘them, us, and everyone else’ concept that Brad talked about. We can impact others(them) in a powerful way that circles back to impact us in the inspiration we feel and the motivation we feel when doing good things. This impact also stretches beyond the ‘them’ and ‘us’ by allowing others to see the impact we make and draw inspiration from that. This is exemplified in how Brad originally drew inspiration from the DSA conference, Jon Vroman, Andy Jeanty, Mike Abramowitz, and now as many people now draw inspiration from J. Brad Britton. We all can be sources of inspiration for the rest of the world to do good things and impact people positively. It builds an amazing sense of community in our Cutco/Vector organization and it can do the same for you in whatever groups you are involved in. Let’s all resolve and commit to doing what we can to impact people positively.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Jared Moon.
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Hey Dan – Thanks for pointing out the philanthropic efforts for CUTCO Corporation. This has been a big inspiration. One of the first I remember is the partnership with “Share Our Strength”. Remember the posters, Prospectus insert and the cool mousepads? That good work made an impression!