Marketing EDGE, a nonprofit education organization formerly known as the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation, spoke recently with Dirk van de Bunt, executive vice president & chief administrative officer, Guthy | Renker, LLC, about marketing education and ways in which brands, agencies and marketing service providers can serve career development and attract the best, brightest students to careers in integrated marketing. His perspectives provide a framework for any marketing organization looking to build its entry-level bench strength and to create a culture for mentorship.
EDGE (Marketing EDGE): Guthy | Renker (G|R) is an established multi-channel marketing company leader – with a global presence and an innovator in electronic retailing having launched and grown many consumer brands. What has been your firm’s philosophy in attracting and acquiring young talent in your organization?
G|R’s philosophy is to try and embrace diversity at all levels, which includes generational diversity. We believe that a well-balanced mix of experienced and recent graduates or professionals, still early in their career, helps us develop a competitive advantage. By focusing on younger talent, it keeps our brands, ideas and future innovative and fresh. Our leadership strives to create an entrepreneurial, fun and collaborative culture to attract young talent. Our HR department recruits at the many colleges in the Los Angeles area too, where our brands (Proactiv, X-Out, Meaningful Beauty) are well known but the company is not as well known. And of course, once the talent is attracted, we need to keep the work relevant and keep our employees engaged in order to retain them at G|R.
EDGE: While any individual entry-level position may have its own skills requirement, is there any particular set of experiences or attributes Guthy | Renker seeks among aspiring young professionals to fit its professional and “social” culture?
While experience and technical excellence is important, we also place an emphasis on cultural fit. Being confident, innovative, data oriented and having a bias toward action are important attributes and traits we look for in emerging professionals.
EDGE: In what tangible ways does Guthy | Renker get involved in marketing careers education and professional development?
So that our workforce understands our unique business model and connects to our brands, we start at the beginning with a strong program that on-boards new hires to create an immediate connection with our people and our brands. We talk about our history, to set the foundation for where our entrepreneurial spirit comes from, and we offer various ways for employees to learn and grow. We have about 15 -18 informational lunch and learns programs per year, where internal experts present on their work. We are developing a more formal training and development curriculum. We bring in Manager Tools on site regularly to develop our emerging managers. We support employees attending outside educational programs, too.
EDGE: As an active participant in Marketing EDGE programs – scholarships, Next Generation Leaders program, and our Interactive Marketing Immersion eXperience for students later this year – what has Guthy | Renker gained and continue to gain from this involvement with marketing students?
One of G|R’s Ten Commandments is “Thou shalt join and lead thy trade association.” We have enjoyed participating in the Next Generation Leaders (NextGen) program when it was offered in Southern California. We’ve had great associates who brought to our work place energy and new ideas. We don’t often hire directly out of college, but the employees who came to us through the NextGen program were polished, energetic, and came ready to contribute on day one. We look forward to participating in this program when its again offered in Southern California. It’s important for G|R to participate fully in DMA and its many programs, including Marketing EDGE and the Interactive Marketing Immersion Xperience (I-MIX) because such involvement helps keep us on top of important, ever-changing trends within the direct response business.
EDGE: In your own career development, tell us about your own path to executive leadership. What advice would you give to others who seek leadership positions in an innovative marketing organization in today’s dynamic environment?
My career development was guided by good advice I got early on from a senior leader at Paramount Pictures, where I went to work as a staff attorney in 1985, after two years in private law practice in Los Angeles. He told me that careers last a long time, and not to be in a big hurry to always move to the next rung. I was fortunate to have Howard Barton, SVP Legal at Paramount as an early mentor. He told me to focus my time on gaining experience – taking on projects that others might not view as necessarily desirable or career enhancing. Those experiences would inevitably open doors in the future. And he told me to not just network, but to build enduring relationships. I stayed at Paramount for 10 years, building friendships and relationships across the studio lot and across the TV industry, and gaining increased responsibility. At about age 37, when my then boss left the company, I felt ready to step up and lead my department. However, Paramount wasn’t ready to let me do that. Based on relationships I had built, I was able to move to an independent TV production company, Carsey-Werner Productions (The Cosby Show, Roseanne, That ‘70s Show), as head of business and legal affairs. I was able to grow into executive leadership, first with a team of about 10 which grew over time to over 100. The CEO of Carsey-Werner, Stuart Glickman, was my next mentor. He encouraged and enabled me to keep trying new things and gaining new experiences. When he retired in 2000, I was able to become co-President/COO of the company. My path to leadership was really a slow evolution and I can’t point to a single event that got me here. Having mentors made a big difference. Being willing to take on any job or project proved important. Building relationships was crucial. Focusing on the job at hand and not on how it would impact my career also proved, in the end, to be sound advice.
About Marketing EDGE
Headquartered in New York City, Marketing EDGE works to Educate, Develop, Grow, and Employ college students in the field of marketing, thereby expanding and enriching the talent pool of trained, market-ready marketers. Established in 1966 by members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) who wanted to give something back to the community, Marketing EDGE continues to be an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that is supported solely by tax-deductible contributions from individuals and companies. For additional information about Marketing EDGE, its mission, and its programs, visit www.marketingEDGE.org.