The so-called barriers to entry in the media business are more easily surmountable than ever before, and in many sectors of the industry, publishers find themselves in increasingly crowded spaces. Key to ensuring a sustainable future for any organization is the ability to identify, attract, and retain top quality talent.
Haj Carr founded Portland, Maine-based TrueLine Publishing in 2010, and has since grown the company into a portfolio of six B2B brands and a robust custom media and marketing services business that employs more than 40 people — and was recently named one of the 2016 Best Places to Work in Maine.
Carr, who will speak on a panel titled "Hiring and Retaining Media Company Talent" at the 2016 Folio: Show, recently chatted with Folio: about assembling a winning team in the modern-day media business.
Folio: What are some of the primary traits or skill sets you look for in new employees?
Haj Carr: The couple of skill sets that I look for are two things: confidence and critical thinking. If someone can think critically, they can learn. They can analyze a situation and make good decisions on the fly and can be taught to do almost anything. If they’re confident, they're going to deliver on whatever it is they’re doing, whether they're new or they’ve been here for five years.
I’d rather someone fail boldly than not do something at all. I would take a less experienced designer who was confident and could think critically before I would take someone who was amazingly talented but lacked those traits.
Folio: Why are those specific traits so important?
Carr: I hire people, not skill sets. When I think of hiring, I think of what type of person I want to bring into this organization. Yeah, they’re going to have to do a job, for sure, but that comes secondary.
It’s a philosophy on how to create a group. It’s no different than building a group of peers. You figure out the type of people that you want to be around, and then you make sure that anyone who comes into your group is that type of person. I build my business the same way; I want to be around positive, confident, smart people who can think critically about their world. When you hire those types of people, great things can happen.
Folio: What are some ways you attract potential new employees to your company?
Carr: We’re a collaborative environment where everyone has a voice. When you work at TrueLine, you’re already a part of managing TrueLine. You don’t just come to work here. The big difference is, people have a really big impact both on the work that they do, and on the workplace in general.
Folio: How do you go about fostering that spirit of collaboration?
Carr: We definitely have lots of meetings. I personally meet with all of the departments. But we also just have an open-door policy. If anyone wants to throw out an idea, they can just do that at anytime. We also have a lot of team bonding activities. We take a whitewater rafting trip. We have happy hours. There’s always a sports team going on. There’s lots of non-work time that we have scheduled where we can connect with eachother off the clock. A lot of times in those conversations, people will mention something or have an idea that they’ll throw out that’s related to the business.
Not only do we listen to everyone’s ideas, we cite them. We don’t ever just say, “We’re doing this.” We say, “We’re doing this, and it was Joe’s idea." We constantly source the actual idea and give people credit for it.
Folio: Have the traits you look for in potential employees changed at all over the years?
Carr: I don’t think so, but the biggest change is just that those core traits — confidence, critical thinking — have become harder to come by. Younger kids don’t think as much; they’re technically better in a lot of ways, but they’re not as comfortable thinking. It requires more effort to find someone who does know how to think critically, and to get them to open out of their shell. It takes longer to onboard people than it used to.
Now, people are almost expecting to be told what to do. Giving people more agency in their jobs almost comes as this weird breath of fresh air. I think it speaks to a larger issue coming from our education system, but that’s a whole other conversation.
For more information about the Folio: Show, taking place November 1 and 2 in New York, click here.