How do you keep tabs on an agency that is hiring employees at breakneck pace as it spreads its wings globally, with 13 offices from Toronto to Tokyo? If you are Tom Telesco, the U.S. president of Interpublic Group of Cos.' media-bartering unit Orion Trading, it all starts with breakfast.
For one morning every month, he gathers a group of employees picked at random to simply sit around and chat. "I literally say, "Guys, there's no agenda for the breakfast, we're just here to talk about anything,'" he said. "And when people feel that , they are comfortable coming in with ideas." It's a simple concept, for sure, and hardly a new one. But at Orion, leaders make such efforts a habit rather than veering from one good intention to the next.
Media bartering is the art of finding a buyer willing to purchase a marketer's impaired assets, such as meat or an old airplane, and then trading those assets for media credits the marketer uses to make media buys. The business, once stigmatized, is going mainstream. And New York-based Orion is at the forefront, growing to more than 300 employees and now operating in 12 countries.
The deals are complicated, so communication is key. Orion fosters constant collaboration, counting among its tools a slick software system in which employees document almost every client interaction. "If I need to understand what's going on with client X in the U.K., I can find that out in about 15 seconds, connect with somebody in Tokyo and help them understand what's going on if they've got a meeting with that client," Mr. Telesco said. Also, Orion regularly uses video conferencing for worldwide staff meetings because "there's nothing that replaces seeing someone," he said.
"Orionites," as they call themselves, don't like to stay in one place. The company encourages employees to try different jobs from time to time, moving in and out of marketing, sales, client services or media investment. The goal is to grow employee skills, which Orion has found increases everyone's output. The company finds its talent everywhere, and is not afraid to look beyond the marketing and ad industry for recruits. One recent hire had been teaching students in Costa Rica. "We are looking for people who are smart and passionate," Mr. Telesco said. And at this rate, Orion will be looking for plenty more of them.