Counselor Commentary: Look Out, Not In

Every Family Needs A Rebel Now And Then

Dave VagnoniThe ad specialty industry is sort of like one big family: everybody knows everybody, there’s a little bit of craziness now and again, but mostly people are happy and want the best for each other. It’s impressive how the industry has continued strong growth, especially operating in an uneven U.S. economy for the past several years. So how can this healthy family improve? By bringing in outsiders, of course.

Instead of hiring people with industry experience, I’m suggesting it’s best to be aggressive in recruiting candidates from different fields. Here, LinkedIn can be a powerful resource, connecting you with ambitious salespeople, designers, marketers and executives from other sectors. What’s the harm in identifying and then networking with star performers who have no idea what a koozie is or what EQP stands for? These people can offer a unique and fresh perspective on products, processes and services – something every company can benefit from.

It’s a good idea to involve your current employees in the search, as well. Just in the course of their lives they might come across someone who’s great at customer service or sales. Maybe they know a stay-at-home mom who’s an incredible blogger. Or a retired business owner who still loves to train people. Provide your employees incentives for finding outside talent and telling you about them.

It’s also wise for companies to build relationships with local colleges and universities. Many of the brightest students leave school fighting over agency jobs in New York or Los Angeles, spending their early careers making Starbucks runs for account execs. Wouldn’t these students be better off creating innovative campaigns and promotions for your firm? With some training and mentoring, these college grads can become your best employees. Not only are they savvy in new technology and social media, they might speak a second language or have a network of friends and contacts they can draw on for business opportunities. But you can’t count on these students stopping by your table at a career fair. You need to get in classrooms, maybe by offering to speak about the ad specialty industry and the $20 billion-a-year place it holds in marketing.

This is not to say that you should never hire someone who’s worked in the ad specialty industry before. There are talented insiders who maybe just want a change and like what your company can offer them. But, don’t give someone with industry experience an instant edge. Their book of business might add to your revenues this year, but be gone when a rival comes calling. It’s far better to invest in raw talent, help employees reach their potential and be the boss they trust and want to work for.

By the way, it’s OK if these outsiders have a few quirks. It’s great if they come in with totally-out-of-the box ideas. And it’s fine if they challenge the status quo. After all, to keep it interesting, every family needs a rebel now and again.