Matt Luginbuhl Interview for “30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders” [Podcast] Skip to the content

Matt Luginbuhl Interview for “30 Days – 30 Voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders” [Podcast]

Matt-Luginbuhl-30gayvoices-300x300Expert Interview with Matt Luginbuhl from the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at Aetna

Hartford, Connecticut

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AUDIO TITLE:  30 Days, 30 Voices: Matt Luginbuhl

Jenn T Grace:

Welcome to Thirty Days, Thirty Voices: Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders.

Intro:

You are listening to a special edition of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Tune in for the next thirty days as we interview one business leader per day, each day in June to celebrate LGBT Pride Month. That’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Month. You’ll learn insights around business and marketing from those who know it best. And now your host; she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven, and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Hello and welcome. Thank you for tuning into this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. Information about today’s guest, and links mentioned in the show will be available on the website at www.JennTGrace.com/30days30voices. If you like what you hear in this interview, please be sure to tell a friend. And now, without further ado, let’s dive into the interview.

Okay, let’s get started. I am pleased to be talking with Matt Luginbuhl today who is currently the Senior Diversity Business Specialist at Aetna, and he also manages the enterprise-wide diversity and inclusion communications strategy. In his previous roles at Aetna, he also managed fifteen Employee Resource Groups, with 100 chapters nationwide. Matt is also the cofounder of Out and Equal Connecticut. Matt, I have given the listeners a brief overview of who you are, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your business and what your path looked like that led you to where you are today?

Matt Luginbuhl:

Thanks very much Jenn, thanks for having me. So I work you know in a Fortune 500 healthcare benefits provider, and we’re really focused on empowering people to live healthier lives. During this time of healthcare reform, we really are at a pivotal moment in terms of how healthcare is affecting all of us, how we’re all paying for healthcare, and how we’re creating innovative solutions to solve the economic problems that are stemming from healthcare. Specifically at Aetna I work in the office of diversity and inclusion, and we’re really focused on creating a diverse and inclusive work environment at Aetna. That’s important both so that we are able to better understand our customers, it’s really important that we look like our customers, that we have the perspectives of our customers, that we have the experiences of our customers. And it’s also important that internally we have diversity in our workforce so that as we are creating those innovative ideas we have- or innovative solutions rather, we have the diverse perspectives at the table to make sure that we are creating a diverse solution. So I actually studied Industrial Organizational Psychology at Quinnipiac, the university as well as classical voice. How I got here, you know I worked at Aetna and through school I worked actually on the healthcare side of the business working with our members, and helping them manage their chronic conditions as they worked with nurses here on the telephone. And having studied Industrial Organizational Psychology, which really is the psychology of the workplace, a lot more related to HR, diversity had certainly come up and I had been involved with our Employee Resource Groups here at Aetna. And you know from there after I graduated in 2010, I got involved in the Employee Resource Groups a bit more, and actually at that point a role opened up to develop that program further and manage the day-to-day responsibilities that those groups come with. And I moved into that role, worked on that for about two years, and just most recently have gotten into working on our enterprise-wide communications strategy as we really look at how we’re talking about diversity and inclusion across the enterprise, how our senior leaders are talking about it, and really making sure that our employees, our managers, our leaders understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, but also more importantly, understand the business case for diversity and inclusion, and recognize that if we are not creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and workforce, we’re leaving money, talent, ideas on the table.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s a really interesting history that you have starting off where you started off with Aetna, and slowly moving your way through the ranks, which is really exciting. And I’m very happy that you addressed what diversity and inclusion is. A lot of the listeners of this podcast have heard this term thrown out either by myself or previous guests, but we’ve never actually dissected it, and I think you just did a really good job of that. One thing I would like to ask you because you did mention it a couple of times, is what exactly is an Employee Resource Group and how does that affect the business?

Matt Luginbuhl:

Sure, so Employee Resource Groups are a little different at every company, first to begin with. And every company asks their Employee Resource Groups to do a little different things. But essentially they’re employee-led groups that started frankly back in the eighties and nineties around for example African American professional networks, LGBT professional networks; and these were groups that came together to share their common affinity, to network, but definitely more on the social end of the spectrum. Certainly in the nineties they- with LGBT in particular began to advocate for themselves and come together as a group to make sure that they had the benefits and policies that they wanted in their company. As a lot of those more basic accomplishments happened, into the 2000’s Employee Resource Groups really began to develop themselves as a talent pool. So certainly we recognize that as an affinity, LGBT or African American, or GenY, wants to strengthen the skillset and the talent of their colleagues, so came together around professional development. More recently companies have started to call on these groups as really business resources so that for example if a business is creating a product and they need to better understand how the baby boomer generation is going to respond to that product, they can reach into their internal Employee Resource Group that’s formed around the baby boomer generation and ask for their input on designing that product. Or it could be that a consumer product company is developing a marketing campaign to reach out and sell to the LGBT community, and they can call on that internal group to provide the perspective in terms of what is most important to that community. Not only the perspective, but also on the other end to make sure that the marketing campaign is culturally competent. I mean the worst thing a company could do is attempt to market to a particular constituency and then do it really wrong because they’re not quite thinking the way that that constituency is thinking. So really they become groups that are focused on the market place, certainly promoting the brand in the community. They also focus internally on the workforce, improving and developing talent and lastly to create an inclusive workplace where folks are aware of all the differences that make us each individuals.

Jenn T Grace:

That is such a great definition of what an ERG is, and it’s something that I’ve brought up in the past but have never really elaborated on so that’s fantastic, thank you for that. One thing I would like to also mention is that in your intro bio, we noted that you are the cofounder of Out & Equal Connecticut, and that is something that you and I are both on that leadership council of and would you like to mention just briefly what Out & Equal does, since it really ties into ERGs?

Matt Luginbuhl:

Absolutely. So Out & Equal is a national organization that focuses on empowering individuals in companies to create inclusive workplaces, inclusive of LGBT. So they really focus on developing LGBT leaders and giving them the tools and resources that they need in order to create those LGBT-inclusive work environments. So here locally in Connecticut, after having attended the national Out & Equal summit for several years, a few of us identified a need in the state to really supplement that development and learning and networking that was happening annually at the summit. So we started the Out & Equal Connecticut affiliate and really looked to supplement the learning that happens on a yearly basis at the summit. So we essentially provide educational resources, and leadership development and targeted networking that empower Employee Resource Groups, organizations, HR and diversity and inclusion professionals, and also of course individual employees to really create and maintain that LGBT-inclusive work environment and policy.

Jenn T Grace:

Excellent, thank you for bringing that all up. So typically when we’re going through our interview questions I usually try to start off with something lighthearted, and we really kind of dove right into some of the meat of the episode which is great. But I want to backtrack us just a bit and find out from you what is one really random tidbit about yourself, or fun fact that people would not expect to know?

Matt Luginbuhl:

So I mentioned that I studied classical voice music, but really choral conducting is what my strong suit is in music. And to relieve stress I can’t tell you how often I’m sitting at my desk with some banging choir playing in my ears, and my hands up, me conducting in the air to them, and people are walking by thinking, “What is this guy doing?”

Jenn T Grace:

That is awesome. That’s pretty funny. Okay so going into a little bit more of- about yourself, what was your ‘ah-ha’ moment when you realized what you’re doing right now is what you were meant to be doing?

Matt Luginbuhl:

I don’t know what I’m doing right now is really what I’m meant to be doing. I think it’s what I’m doing right now, and I see value in it. I see value- first of all, I’m working in the industry that I’m working in and I could be working in diversity and inclusion at you know, a great company like Target, and they’re doing really, you know- Target or Ernst & Young, or a company like Mass Mutual or Diageo. They’re doing great things in their industry; like Target, they’re creating an awesome shopping experience at the right price point for people who are looking for a certain level of product. Could be working in diversity and inclusion there. I’m not though, I’m working in healthcare. Healthcare is our top three economic issues in the world frankly, according to the World Economic Forum. I would argue that it’s probably number one, we’re pushing 20% of the GDP. And I believe that this is a big problem that needs to be solved. We need to figure out how we’re going to manage costs so that it doesn’t bankrupt us. So I’m here really working towards that, and I believe that we have the ability, the talent to create those innovative solutions, that along with hospitals, and doctors, and the government, and our peers are going to solve this problem. So I’m here to solve a big problem at the end of the day. Now within this organization, we have a tremendous opportunity to bring value through diversity and inclusion. I’ve seen what that value looks like, I’ve seen what the value that Employee Resource Groups bring. Consider the person that’s- you know I mean it was frankly me. I was in school, I started off during the summer working as an intern, and they asked me to stay on. Frankly the work I was doing at that point was pretty monotonous, it wasn’t that engaging. But I had this D&I Employee Resource Group work that I was doing off the side of my desk that was keeping me engaged, and it was allowing me to solve other problems and work across the enterprise with all different folks that do all different things to solve problems that are important to me because of the constituency that I’m a part of. So I see tremendous value in engaging our employees, both in solving healthcare but also in making the company a better place to work, a better place to come to every day both through Employee Resource Groups and making sure that we have that diverse talent. But it’s also about that culture of inclusion where you have diversity; diversity inherently creates conflict. I mean you have all different voices coming out of all different perspectives, people are disagreeing, that’s how innovation happens. When those ideas are colliding, that you get one idea you build on it. You know one plus one does not equal two in that case. But if you don’t have inclusion, if you don’t have the culture where people feel comfortable to voice their opinion and say, “Hey, you know that’s really good but wouldn’t it be even better if we did this?” If you don’t have that, then diversity is just conflict. So you really need that inclusive work environment to harness that conflict and then create innovation. So I saw a lot of that happening over the periods when I wasn’t really working every day on diversity and inclusion. I also see frankly within LGBT, and I do D&I across the board, but I’ve had a particular focus in frankly a lot of my downtime outside of work, both inside and outside of work, to focus on the LGBT business community. There’s tremendous value there that companies are not- well the smart companies are recognizing that value, but a lot of companies are not. So we’re talking about about $800 billion in purchasing power. I think what a lot of companies don’t realize is that it’s not just the purchasing power of the LGBT community, but it’s their allies as well. So you know, there are- the LGBT community is loyal to begin with, we know that. And if a company does something wrong, messes up, the LGBT community remembers that and they make purchasing decisions based on that information that they know. But companies don’t realize that there’s also allies that frankly will not buy from a particular company, or do business with a particular company because they know they’re not inclusive of the LGBT community. So I think it’s this tremendous value in recognizing the importance of including this community in both the products and services that create to make sure that we’re culturally competent in the healthcare products that we’re offering to also make sure that our providers are culturally competent and that LGBT folks can find a provider that they’re comfortable with. I mean that’s such an intimate relationship that you have with your doctor. If you can’t be honest with your doctor about who you really are, you’re not getting the best healthcare then because there’s things that- there’s information doctors are going to have, doctor can’t make the best decisions. So it’s about making sure that we are creating those products that are inclusive of LGBT, but it’s also recognizing the talent pool of the LGBT community and recognizing that we want those folks working for us. They’re more likely to have a degree, they’re more likely to be in management. Depending on their family situation, they may be- have a greater ability to travel. And they have really good insight and are generally tech savvy and culturally aware, and we want to make sure that the doors are open for all of those folks to come work- we don’t want to be turning away- we don’t want to be leaving anything on the table, bottom line.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. And for clarification purposes, what you were just saying about the- you were really bringing up data points of LGBT people being more tech savvy, or having a degree, or a couple of other things that you noted, and that’s actually- there is data and studies that are around that. So we’re not using that information as a broad based stereotype, because-

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, and forgive me for not having that data off the tip of my tongue right now. But as you said the data is out there, we can certainly get those numbers.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Matt Luginbuhl:

I wasn’t necessarily that prepared to be that specific.

Jenn T Grace:

Not a problem. And one of the things that I really do a lot of talking about either on the show itself or on my blog, is really around the business etiquette piece and the cultural competency that you were bringing up before. So I do have that data available, and I will link that data in the show notes for this episode. So at the end of this episode I’ll provide you with a link of where you can access all that information.

Matt Luginbuhl:

That’s great, Jenn.

Jenn T Grace:

So I feel like I probably have a hunch of what your answer is going to be for this because it was really kind of wrapped up with the previous question. But what inspires you and keeps you motivated to keep doing this each and every day?

Matt Luginbuhl:

Some days I’m more inspired than other days. You know lately it’s been convincing the folks that don’t get it, that don’t understand the business case, that don’t understand the value, that don’t understand that they’re potentially leaving money, talent, opportunities, innovation, ideas on the table. It’s communicating to them in a way that reaches them where they are. And it’s those moments when you see their faces light up and they get it. That’s what’s pretty freakin’ awesome, frankly. So you know you could- diversity and inclusion and healthcare frankly, really get at the core of who we are. It’s about what makes us unique, what makes us different, what makes us the same, that’s the diversity and inclusion piece. And then healthcare is about frankly living or dying. And that’s very black and white, but then in the grey area, what’s your quality of life? How healthy are you? Are you able to do all the things you want to do? Very- two things that are very emotionally internal. You know you could be working in marketing say selling cars. You could be totally passionate about that newest Audi, and totally passionate about marketing. But at the end of the day, having a discussion about that or having a debate about what you’re working on, it’s not the core of who you are. It’s not about the fact that I’m gay and I’m doing this work because I’m passionate about improving the environment for my constituency. I’m GenY, I’m really passionate about making sure that we have the right GenY folks that have the right ideas, and that we’re giving them what they need; the space that they need, the flexibility that they need in order to really do their best. But my point is that it gets- it becomes very emotional. And it’s challenging sometimes frankly to do this work all day long because like frankly if it’s a day that I’m working on a lot of LGBT-related things, it’s like you do gay stuff all day at work and then you’ve got to come home and kind of want to hang out with straight people sometimes frankly. I mean it’s just- it’s a lot to do because it is who you are and at the end of the day you’re just trying to improve things for yourself and for you Jenn, and for all the folks that we work with here in the region and across the country and the world, to make sure that people can get a job and not have to worry about whether they’re sexual orientation or gender identity is being considered in that decision, or not having to be worried about being fired because of that. Or making sure that they can get the housing that they need and they’re not being discriminated for by a landlord, or then in other parts of the world making sure that they’re not being killed because of this. So that all is very emotional and I think that’s what drives it forward every day.

Jenn T Grace:

Much of what you just said I could reiterate exactly how I would say it as well.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

And it’s really just about bottom line equality and really just bringing equal access and equal rights to LGBT people across the board, period.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Not more, not less.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, we just want to be equal. We’re not asking for preferential treatment, we just want equal rights and it seems like we’re certainly at some sort of tipping point here in 2013 that-

Matt Luginbuhl:

Oh I think you’re spot on.

Jenn T Grace:

We’re heading in certainly in the right direction, so that’s- it’s excellent news, it’s excellent to see and of course having people such as yourself who are in influential roles within large companies, that’s obviously playing a factor in moving things forward. So I’m sure everybody here listening can appreciate that.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Well thanks Jenn. You know it’s a lot of it is about- I mentioned this earlier but I have to reiterate how much of this is about straight allies.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh absolutely.

Matt Luginbuhl:

You know you get me a straight guy who gets this, and who is willing to stand up publicly for us, that just does it for me. I think that is where we have tremendous opportunity to continue to drive our message. I mean frankly, here at my company, our chairman and CEO is the executive sponsor of the LGBT Employee Resource Group. He’s a straight guy, and he’s the only straight guy first and the only straight guy on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. There is tremendous power in someone who is not part of our constituency standing up and saying, “Hey look, we as a society, we as people, we’ve got to do the right thing here. This is about doing the right thing for the right reason.”

Jenn T Grace:

You’re spot on, and I think it’s even more powerful when you have somebody like your CEO who I have met at events in the past, where he is really passionate about this. It’s not like he’s just doing it for the sake of doing it to say he’s doing it. He’s doing it because he really believes it, and that’s a huge difference, especially for an ally.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

So a lot of the listeners of my podcast or the readers of my blog are allies, and I’m trying to reach out to them to really show them the importance of why this stuff matters, and if you want to target and market to the LGBT community, why you need to be doing it in an authentic way and being transparent and really just genuinely caring. So you just hit up so many great points.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, it’s certainly not about patronizing and companies need to be careful with that. And I think that’s the cultural competence piece as I mentioned earlier. You can have the best of intentions and really believe in supporting the LGBT community, but if you don’t use the right word, or frankly if you use the wrong word or the wrong phrase, or talk about it the wrong way, there’s also a risk there frankly of alienating this community.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Matt Luginbuhl:

And then there’s a small percentage of companies that probably don’t do it for the right reason.

Jenn T Grace:

I would agree.

Matt Luginbuhl:

But I think with this particular- because it’s a big deal to begin with, for a company to get behind this community frankly because we’re just not as far along as some of the other marginalized constituencies who have been much more marginalized in the past are now more protected. It takes- it takes quite a bit of- if you’re deciding that you’re going to support LGBT, there’s some risk there as a business, right? You risk making a lot of people angry who don’t agree with you, especially if you’re a public company or a national company, you have to worry about a lot of places in this country where it’s not an opinion whether LGBT is okay, it’s just wrong. You know, it’s a difference between right or wrong at some places in the country. And so companies I think that are- that have gotten to the place where they’re willing to be publicly supportive, they’re almost all doing it for the right reasons because it takes such a- it’s a big deal to get there to begin with.

Jenn T Grace:

Totally, and if we think of JC Penney even pretty recently just in 2012 who has even now Ellen DeGeneres as one of their spokespeople, and there was that activist group, I believe they were called One Million Moms who were trying to put their flag in the sand and basically say, “Listen we don’t support this, you need to remove Ellen.” And JC Penney stuck it out.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Could you imagine not liking Ellen? My goodness.

Jenn T Grace:

I know, right? And it’s like they stuck to their ground and were like, “Listen, we’re not changing it. You know we believe in this and we support it.” And like to your point, is a company who isn’t authentic and who doesn’t genuinely feel this is the right thing to do is not going to go through that type of trouble.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, you’re absolutely right and JC Penney is a great example of a company that definitely gets it, they’re committed to supporting this community. I’ve seen their former chairman and CEO a couple years ago speak at a conference of LGBT business professionals, and I also know that their most recent chairman and CEO is also supportive. I think that’s a perfect example of you know, frankly maybe- and I don’t say this in any- my intent is not to talk down to JC Penney and their products. Some LGBT folks may have not been thinking about going to JC Penney before their realizing how supportive they are. And you know suddenly they’re recognizing that this is a company that gets it, and they’re going in checking things out. I mean it’s just- it’s a perfect example of what supporting this community can do for your brand.

Jenn T Grace:

For the bottom line.

Matt Luginbuhl:

And for your business, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. And I actually- and again not to talk down to JC Penney, but I am a Macy’s girl through and through. I absolutely love Macy’s.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Sure, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

And I get absolutely everything from there, and when all of this controversy started coming up, and of course I love Ellen because like you said before, who doesn’t love Ellen? And it was the first time in a long time that I actually walked into JC Penney just to check things out. And not only did they transform their brand image in terms of being positive for the LGBT community, but they’ve just changed their brand image overall.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, they did.

Jenn T Grace:

And definitely for the better. So it accomplished exactly what it was supposed to be accomplishing by putting the flag in the sand saying, “Listen we are supportive of the LGBT community, please-” And it’s not like they’re saying, “Please come patronize us, please come shop here.” They just did it, and it worked because I went in there and I shopped. And I’m sure there’s plenty of others that that worked that way as well.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Right.

Jenn T Grace:

So I want to skip over to another question that is right along this topic, and for listeners who are looking to market themselves to the LGBT community, whether they be LGBT people themselves, or if they’re allies. What type of advice would you give them that would help them be successful in those marketing endeavors?

Matt Luginbuhl:

Do your research. Become intimate with the wants and needs of- and whether we’re talking about LGBT or any other. Become intimate with what that constituency is looking for, how they’re looking for you to talk to them, how they’re looking for you to market to them, what kind of products are important them, and what kind of services are important to them? I know that sounds pretty trite, but I’ve seen it over and over again where people just think they know what is important to a particular constituency, and they don’t because they’re not basing it on data at the end of the day. So that’s- I think that’s it, look at the data.

Jenn T Grace:

The Williams Institute- it’s UCLA Law School there. They provide all sorts of amazing data around LGBT and there’s also a company called Community Marketing based in San Francisco who has lots of data around this as well. So-

Matt Luginbuhl:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

The data is out there.

Matt Luginbuhl:

It’s also benchmarking, you know? Figure out which companies are doing this well and figure out how they’re doing it well. Again, sounds simple, I can tell you, you say the word benchmarking and people are either- are like, “Of course I benchmark. How am I going to be competitive if I’m not looking at what my competitors are doing?” Or other- maybe not even competitors within your industry but other companies that are doing something particularly well. And then there’s others that just don’t spend the time to do that, and they’re basing it on a hunch or you know basing it on perhaps even some stereotypes, and that might result in failure.

Jenn T Grace:

Stereotypes are bad news period. They’re not good and that’s something that I am constantly writing about when- actually I had a recent blog post about you know, just using stereotypes such as all lesbians are fat. That’s the newest one that was in the news.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Wait, they aren’t?

Jenn T Grace:

They are. All lesbians are fat, that was a- some sort of data that came out in March and it’s like, okay so how- how do we as a community stop certain things from coming out? Because that is just damaging to the community, especially if it’s a stereotype that has no data to back it up.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, no you make a good point. I think- but I think your point is also along the lines that the data is important, and I said that. But of course you have to be careful with that too.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes. Yes, you need to have- I typically say it’s common sense, but a lot of times it’s not common sense, and that’s why I write every single week twice a week to educate people so that way they don’t make those mistakes, and they don’t trip up. Especially for the allies of the community who are genuine. They genuinely want to reach out to the community for the right reasons, but it’s to them as well who get caught up in accidentally saying something that they shouldn’t, or accidentally using the phrase ‘your gay lifestyle.’

Matt Luginbuhl:

Exactly.

Jenn T Grace:

You know like that is going to do more harm than good, even though you had really good intentions when you started.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Right, and you know some of it could just be that they’re using maybe not words or phrases that are offensive or that put us off, but that they’re using antiquated words or phrases which shows that they’re- and that’s likely because they’re not paying close enough attention to- how things currently are. But even if you see a company- and this sounds so silly. But if you see a company that says ‘GLBT’ instead of ‘LGBT,’ you know, Google it and there’s a full debate. But normally these days in the last several years, you see LGBT, that’s just what is common.

Jenn T Grace:

Yup.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Ladies first, I don’t know if there’s- I’ve Googled it a bunch of times, I can’t remember the last time I did. Is there any good reason for that? Probably not. But bottom line, if you’re not aware this is how we’re talking about it right now, you’re going to look like you’re not paying attention, like you don’t get it, like you might be patronizing because you opened up your 1995 world book encyclopaedia and saw GLBT instead of LGBT.

Jenn T Grace:

That is such a great point, and I actually have a blog post that goes through all of the data and I think it was Community Marketing who did a survey of- I want to say it was like 70,000, I could be wrong but of course I’ll link this information on the show notes at the end. But it had the actual percentages broken down of what the community prefers. So do they prefer LGBT? Do they prefer GLBT? Do you prefer LGBTQ? And it goes on and on, and it highlights like the LGBTQIA because there are so many different acronyms out there.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Oh I know we could have a bunch of letters on the end.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s a total crazy alphabet soup, and the actual blog post I think is titled something to the effect of ‘Alphabet Soup.’ And I went through it and LGBT is definitely at the top of the list of what’s preferred.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Right.

Jenn T Grace:

And I think the last thing I saw, not saying it is ladies first, but I think switching it to the ‘L’ first.

Matt Luginbuhl:

I was just kidding when I said that.

Jenn T Grace:

No but I think it’s actually part of it. I think putting the ‘L’ first was some sort of signal of inclusion within the LGBT community. That the ‘G’ isn’t always first; and I don’t know where I read that, but it was something to that effect.

Matt Luginbuhl:

I feel like I’ve read that somewhere too.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Speaking of the letters you know Jenn, we haven’t talked about the transgender community. And you know we know gender identity is separate from sexual orientation, though we all are part of the same community. The transgender community is unfortunately years behind the LGB community when it comes to marginalization. If we’re talking about companies understanding, I think it’s more difficult to understand just because I think there’s just less of a cultural competence around gender identity. But companies also need to realize that if you’re not talking about that the right way, and that’s- that can be challenging itself. I met in the different words and phrases, as everything changes and morphs and moves quickly in how we talk about gender identity. But companies need to understand that if you frankly are not culturally competent about gender identity, that it all goes together around LGBT.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely.

Matt Luginbuhl:

If you anger the transgender community frankly, you anger the LGB community. And I think frankly a lot of companies are still you know, a decade behind and they talk about sexual orientation, and they talk about LGBT because they just- and they talk about sexual orientation, they’re the same thing. They don’t even say gender identity and that alone just for those of us who pay attention and pay attention to that level of detail, we know that they don’t quite get it. So I think that’s the next nuance in making sure that we really are inclusive of the entire community that we’re looking to either market to or sell to, or talent- we’re looking to attract, for example.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah you’re spot on with that, and like we were talking about earlier in terms of allies and how allies are so incredibly important to the LGBT community. If you break that down even further, and think of the L, the G, and the B as allies to the transgender community.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Exactly, you’re right, yup.

Jenn T Grace:

And as LGB- yeah as L, G, and B ourselves; like we- I personally feel like I have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of the trans community. Because it is so important and by me sticking my neck out on the line in scenarios where other people might not feel comfortable, I’m helping further the community because I’m not a trans person doing the talking. Just the same as the ally who’s going to speak on my behalf is going to get me further traction.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, for sure.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it’s an interesting dynamic and I’m really active in the trans community. So- and again, it’s just because I feel like there’s a responsibility there to make sure that we’re-

Matt Luginbuhl:

Responsibility is the right word, yeah I agree with that.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. So let’s move off the marketing area for a couple of minutes and just talk about business in general, and maybe some tips that you have. And my first question is what’s the best piece of business advice that you’ve been given?

Matt Luginbuhl:

Perception is everything.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s a good one.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah. Some people go like into the breakdown like 10% what you know, and you know 70% whatever. I don’t really look at it in that level of detail, I just think that people underestimate how they can change perception and create perception. So frankly if you want to be an executive in a Fortune 100 company, you should be dressing like the executives at the Fortune 100 company. That’s a basic example people say all the time, you know dress where you want to be or whatnot.

Jenn T Grace:

Mm hmm.

Matt Luginbuhl:

So many people don’t actually behave that way, and they’re missing out on an opportunity. I was at a conference last year, and I think you may have been there too, Jenn, and it was actually from Barbara Corcoran.

Jenn T Grace:

Yup.

Matt Luginbuhl:

The real estate mogul in New York, and she was actually the one that brought this piece up. And I’ve had a lot of really smart mentors and business leaders that I’ve connected with, and I’ve gotten a lot of really good advice. But the point that she made here about perception has been really what has stuck in my mind as of late. You know she who made the point that she wasn’t an expert in her industry per say, in the real estate market in New York City, but she put it out there that she was, and the New York Times started calling her.

Jenn T Grace:

And then she became it.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Exactly. So now I’m not implying that one should put out there false information about what they can do or who they are. What I’m saying is that if you’re pretty sure you can accomplish something, if you’re pretty sure that you have the right skillset, that it will take to do something or to take on that job or that project, don’t say that you’re pretty sure you can do it, say absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

Hell yeah. That’s awesome. And Barbara was absolutely hilarious in her whole keynote that she did for us.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Oh my goodness, some of the best one liners that I’ve ever heard.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, she was great. And at the end of the day she was giving solid business advice, and I think that that’s a really good one.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

Let me just ask you as an LGBT person yourself, typically my question is how are you able to leverage that status as a business owner. But how are you able to leverage your status as an LGBT person in business or in your corporate environment.

Matt Luginbuhl:

This is an interesting question because it can go both ways frankly, and I have to manage that perception. Certainly I work at a company that is supportive, that’s inclusive, you know starting at the top. Yeah and Jenn, before I forget, you know we mentioned I work for Aetna, I love working for Aetna. Great company, but I do want to really just make it clear that I’m speaking on my own behalf today and not on behalf of my company. Even though we’ll talk a little bit about what my experience has been here, this is my experience.

Jenn T Grace:

Perfect, thank you.

Matt Luginbuhl:

I don’t have to worry about being discriminated against, at least I haven’t had to, I’m sure there’s places in every company where things are not so good in perhaps other areas of the country. I’ve been able to communicate effectively the business case for LGBT inclusion and for the business value in marketing and being culturally competent toward the LGBT community. And folks have listened. So that has given me visibility to senior leaders, and I’ve become a bit of a subject matter expert, and I’m called on for opinions on such things. That hasn’t hurt my career. I will tell you though, the one thing I do worry about, and people who are most candid with me- and I appreciate their cander, people that care about me, and I’m well aware of it too. I’ve brought up the fact that don’t want to pigeonhole yourself as the person who is only doing LGBT-related things. And I think that’s with anything you’re doing, but I think because LGBT is so- it’s not that it’s flashy, but it just calls itself out as opposed to whether if I was working on improving the environment for people who are teleworkers or caregivers or whatnot. LGBT just people’s ears when they hear it, it perks up for either a good or bad reason frankly. But point is, I definitely have benefited from being able to advocate internally and externally for this community in the business community, but I also try to be very careful about the perception of the people that don’t get it. Now one could say, “Well that just creates a larger business case for you continuing what you’re doing to make sure those people eventually do get it.” And I’m not at all implying that people are- have discriminating thoughts about this. What I’m saying is that they don’t necessarily get the business value, so sometimes I think they see it as just straight activist work frankly. Social activism, which is important too but bottom line I work for a corporation, accountable to shareholders, it’s about building business value. So that’s the fine line that I’ve sort of had to walk. I could only imagine- I can’t imagine frankly what it would be like to work for a company that was not supportive and didn’t want to engage with folks like me and other colleagues in our community that- I don’t know that I could work for a company like that.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s such an interesting dichotomy that you just outlined. And I honestly hadn’t really thought of it from those two perspectives, so that’s really interesting. And to your point of not really feeling like you could be a part of a company like that, that is the exact reason why I do what I do. And it’s because I did work for an insurance company, because the fact that we’re in Hartford of course everybody’s in insurance.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Insurance, who works in insurance?

Jenn T Grace:

Right? And I worked for- to be really blunt, just a terrible company. It was terrible for LGBT people specifically, it was terrible for- it was just terrible all around. It was just a really bad environment. And I stayed there for five years, and I had to just suck up myself every day and just say, “You know what? I’m just going to keep on doing this.” And finally I was like, “You know what? It’s just not worth it. It’s not worth me having to hide who I am every day, and just feel like a piece of me is dying.” I know it sounds really dramatic but it’s just a really- it’s terrible when you have to be in the closet in your work environment. So-

Matt Luginbuhl:

Oh the energy that you’re wasting, the brain energy, that’s another part we didn’t talk about. Is that you know- and because we’ve just been under this assumption that you’re out at work, right?

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.

Matt Luginbuhl:

And to get to the core of why we actually do this work, to make sure that people can be out at work. If you are not out at work, you are not giving me your 110% because there is 40% or 50% of your brain energy that is being spent on hiding the things that you don’t want people to see. It’s hiding the mannerisms, it’s hiding- it’s just having to think about the lie you’re going to tell about what you did for the weekend because you were with your partner who’s of the same sex, and you weren’t with your wife. Or you know, that is frankly not good for business. People need to be able to be authentic, they need to not have to worry about hiding at work. And you know if there’s any business case for supporting LGBT workplace equality, it’s that. It’s that you don’t want people wasting time and energy on things that are not related to driving your business first, bottom line.

Jenn T Grace:

You’re so right, and the thing is, is that there’s actually data and studies that back this up.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Sure.

Jenn T Grace:

So it’s not just us making assumptions and saying, “Oh.” No, no there’s data that actually shows that the productivity that’s lost from people having to hide who they are at work is detrimental to the bottom line.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

And one of the things that you were mentioning before, I’m not entirely sure what particular piece of your last response got me thinking was you are a leader in your organization, you’re that subject matter expert if you will for LGBT at Aetna.

Matt Luginbuhl:

I’m not the only one there, there are others for sure.

Jenn T Grace:

Of course. And at the end of the day, we are trying- like we were talking about earlier, we’re trying to promote equality and really just get LGBT equality. But what I find that people tend to be resistant to as I’m having conversations, is they feel like just because you’re one person, you can’t make a difference. And when I was trying to figure out what I was going to name this podcast for example, I wanted to name it ‘LGBT Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast.’ And I started talking to people I know, and I started talking to allies that are really active in the community, and the common thing that just kept coming up over and over again was, “Well who knows what LGBT stands for?” And I had to suck it up and deal with the fact that I’m going to name it the ‘Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast.’

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, tell me.

Jenn T Grace:

And I named it that because gay is that word that everybody knows. Whether they agree with it, whether they disagree with it, they know the word gay. But they don’t know what LGBT stands for, especially the people that I’m trying to reach, which are the people who aren’t really yet fully knowledgeable in the community who want to know more but they don’t know. So they’re the people who are saying LGBT, but they’re saying GLTB, or you know- I’m sure you know exactly who  I’m talking about.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, I do. And you make a good point, and frankly I’ve been- I’ve gone against how I usually operate around this. I try to make a point like you would in writing for sure, to spell out the acronym, towards the beginning I didn’t do that here. But I think it’s important for us as a community, especially when we have allies who are in the audience whether we’re out speaking or whether we’re in a business meeting, to make sure that we say the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Because I think you’re right, it’s really easy to put that label on it and forget what we’re really talking about, and that’s because if we’re talking about it we may be in a group that we already think gets it. But we need to be ever conscious of the fact that folks are some- many- probably the majority of folks are still at the awareness stage if you will, and are still learning, and the worst we could possibly do is alienate them with our initialisms.

Jenn T Grace:

Yes.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Make them feel like they don’t know, and then they become scared to be involved because they don’t want to say the wrong thing, we’re kind of sensitive if you haven’t noticed. So I think it’s we have that responsibility as well to make them feel really comfortable with the words, the phrases, the initialisms. And also you know if they say something wrong, I think it’s our responsibility to don’t embarrass them, don’t call them out publicly, take them aside quick and say, “Just want you to know, I love that you’re supportive but just so you know this is how you should talk about this.” And in almost all cases they’re really thankful that you gave them that little bit of education because they just didn’t know.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah that is so, so dead on with the premise of my entire business. Is that you don’t want to make people feel upset that they just said something wrong, you want to use that as a teaching moment.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

And one- I have two examples. So I was meeting with my Mastermind group when I was talking about trying to figure out the name of the podcast and one of the members of the group.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Mastermind group, I love that.

Jenn T Grace:

I love them, they’re so amazing and they’re such good voices of reason half the time. And I was- when I was saying, “LGBT,” it was one in particular who said to me, “You have to speak my language to change my language.”

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

And I thought that that was absolutely beautiful. I’m like, “You are so brilliant right now,” because if I want to get mainstream society using the term LGBT very fluidly without it feeling forced, then I have to speak their language first and get them to understand that it’s not just gay, it is LGBT.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah and it’s about meeting people where they are.

Jenn T Grace:

Mm hmm.

Matt Luginbuhl:

And you know as I said, sometimes we in the heat of the moment don’t do that well. So even though it seems simple we should constantly remind ourselves that we’re each responsible to this community as members of it, of this constituency and we have to have those constant reminders that that means that you do talk to the folks that don’t quite get it, and give them the knowledge so that they can better understand.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. I had a conversation with- actually my business coach which is pretty hilarious. And she was telling me something about this gentleman that she keeps encountering who’s not the friendliest of people, and her reasoning for why she thinks I would get along with him is because he’s homosexual. And-

Matt Luginbuhl:

Well you get along with all gay people Jenn, don’t you?

Jenn T Grace:

Well of course because that’s- you know, we all get along.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

So just another horrible stereotype.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

But it’s the fact that she said ‘homosexual,’ and it’s like that’s one of those words that you know and I know you don’t say. Like especially when you’re talking about just a casual- like in a business setting. Just using that phrase has such a negative tone to it. But the everyday person who’s just trying to learn more, they don’t necessarily know that they shouldn’t be saying that. So it’s our job to not embarrass them, but just pull them aside and say, “Hey, I know that you meant well here, but this is what you could have said.” Or you know, “This is what you should avoid.” And again, it’s just- it comes back to a responsibility and I think that’s been a key topic of what we’ve been talking about today.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

So we have quite a jam packed episode filled with some great tidbits and information. And I would like to just ask you two more questions and the one being is there a particular- a book, a program or some kind of tool that you use in your business that’s really just transformed the way you do things?

Matt Luginbuhl:

No.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s hilarious. I had somebody tell me the Internet once.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah, so that’s the direction I’m going in. I read the news every day, I listen to NPR, I stay current, I’m on the Internet constantly. And I don’t want one book or one philosophy to guide how I’m operating or how I’m doing business. I’m- that wouldn’t be very diverse frankly.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s a good point.

Matt Luginbuhl:

I’m pulling- I’m pulling ideas from Twitter, I’m on Facebook seeing what people are saying; it’s the GenY in me probably.

Jenn T Grace:

I’m right there with you.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Yeah I don’t have- I don’t have an answer for that. There’s no one book, there’s no one tool.

Jenn T Grace:

Well that’s a really good answer in itself. So to end this, what is one thing that you’re just really excited about right now in business?

Matt Luginbuhl:

The power of the consumer I think. I mean gosh it’s all so real time. You know if you have a problem with a company, you don’t call them. If you have a real problem, you don’t call them, you Tweet to them and you’ll get a response-

Jenn T Grace:

Pretty quick.

Matt Luginbuhl:

From their executive response team within the hour. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be doing business with them because they’re not paying attention. I think that’s what’s most exciting that we are in this time right now- and I’m not saying it’s a good thing; there’s good pieces to it, there’s bad aspects. But this time where everybody’s voice is out there and if you want to find out if something is good or bad, a business is good or bad or their products or services are good or bad, you go out and see what people said about it this morning. You don’t even read a Consumer Reports anymore, you know that were written last year.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah it’s real time now.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Real time. And that also creates a tremendous challenge, especially for the Fortune 100 who in some cases are not as quick and nimble, or historically have not been, around this real time engagement and it’s at a point now where they don’t have a choice. I mean our chairman and CEO is on Twitter, and is fielding questions and complaints frankly from customers and they’re being resolved. But people are finding him on Twitter, I mean that’s-

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome in itself.

Matt Luginbuhl:

A year ago, a year and a half ago, two years ago, that’s how quickly this has just changed everything. It’s all about meeting the folks where they are, it’s all about tailoring their products and services to their really individualized needs. That is really challenging to do and to do well. But that just gets back to our piece around diversity and inclusion, and the importance of innovation. I mean if you need to tailor the product to the GenY or the African American or the LGBT community, you had better have the folks at your table who know what they want. And know it now, because if you don’t have it your competitor does. So it’s- things are moving quickly.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s so, so powerful and so important, and just the rapidness of everything moving forward. It’s pretty crazy when you think about how it was even just two years ago.

Matt Luginbuhl:

It is totally crazy.

Jenn T Grace:

Which is so- it’s awesome at the same time because being able to have access to somebody like the CEO of Aetna when you have a problem, that is something that you know- especially because we’re both GenY, you know generations before us would have absolutely no concept of being able to have that type of access. And now it’s almost like we expect that level of access which is interesting and I’m sure will present its own challenges as we move forward.

Matt Luginbuhl:

That point you make that we expect it, doing that now, being live, responsive, is no longer going above and beyond to your point.

Jenn T Grace:

No, absolutely yeah.

Matt Luginbuhl:

It’s what people expect and like I said, if you’re not seeing a company who gets that, they’re behind and you can find a better company to do business with.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah and there’s going to be a competitor; if not one, multiple who are doing it already.

Matt Luginbuhl:

You got it, absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s excellent. Well thank you so much for this interview today, I think this has been fantastic. We’ve covered so many points that are so important and so valuable and I really think that the listeners are going to get some great value out of this.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Oh Jenn, it’s been my pleasure, thanks for having me. For sure I’d love to do this again sometime and thanks for putting together this project, I’m so excited to listen to all the episodes that you put together.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it’s pretty exciting having thirty different voices in thirty days. It was definitely quite a project to put together and I think that it will be valuable to everybody. So I’m glad you’re involved, and before I let you go why don’t you just give yourself one last plug or let people know how they can find you if you want them to find you, or you know just throw it out there.

Matt Luginbuhl:

You can email me at MattLug@gmail.com. Or @MattLug on Twitter.

Jenn T Grace:

Perfect. Okay thank you so much again, I appreciate it and we’ll talk to you soon.

Matt Luginbuhl:

Thank you Jenn, great work.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you again for listening to this special Pride Month episode of the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast. To see a full lineup of the thirty guests featured throughout this series, visit www.JennTGrace.com/30days30voices. And if you liked what you heard here, consider leaving a review in iTunes or telling a friend or colleague. You can do both of these easily by visiting www.JennTGrace.com/iTunes. Thanks again, and stay tuned for the next interview by another amazing LGBT business leader.

Want to see who else is being interviewed for this Pride month project? Check it out here – 30 days – 30 voices – Stories from America’s LGBT Business Leaders

 

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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