Win the Talent War – Dexton Deboree of Los York Studios
When you are listed by Inc. magazine as one of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the U.S., you’re bound to attract attention. Dexton Deboree is Managing Partner and co-founder of Los York Studios, and has thriving studios in Santa Monica and New York City. Late in 2012 Deboree and his business partner Seth Epstein purchased Stardust Studios, renamed it, and took it in a new direction. Something about that new advertising and marketing direction was incredibly attractive to clients because Los York experienced a three-year growth of 14,405%.
Time-Stamped Show Notes
[00:20] Introduction to Dexton Deboree and Los York Studios.
[01:15] Deboree’s background and professional life leading up to his launching of Los York Studios.
[02:55] Choosing the company name.
[04:05] Finding the right caliber of an employee for a good fit.
[06:15] A walk through the interview process and what qualities a successful interviewee will have.
[08:40] Why authenticity is crucial in all their hires.
[09:45] The biggest challenge in finding talent is finding a professional who has the skillset to be able to do the work but also is a thinker and a doer with an aptitude for learning.
[11:45] Creative brainstorming sessions include all staff members, from those on the bottom of the totem pole to the top brass. Everyone has an equal say and all contributions are considered of equal value. There is no hierarchy in these meetings.
[14:40] All issues resulting from meetings are addressed so everyone feels heard and acknowledged.
[16:15] Veterans learn from newbies and newbies learn from veterans.
[18:12] There is no formal process at Los York Studios for providing feedback to an employee over the course of time. With an open-door policy, employees feel free to address their concerns. Deboree uses a very informal and instinctual approach to feedback.
[20:45] Fun and field trips provide a little group adventure for the team, and most ideas are generated by the staff themselves, rather than management.
[22:15] A couple of exciting changes on the horizon including new equipment and production technology.
[24:45] Words of wisdom to live by, for Deboree’s personal life as well as his professional identity.
Introduction to Deboree and Los York Studios
Knowing he wanted to be a filmmaker, Dexton Deboree graduated from film school, but began his career as a freelance journalist for magazines. As well, he wrote for productions and experienced some success in writing for commercials. “I was always involved in writing, whether it be plays, or magazine articles, or marketing plans. I wrote a few features and wrote for television shows,” says Deboree. “Then about ten years ago I started to see how those two worlds might converge. Los York Studios is my way of combining my skills with my passion.”
Finding the Right Talent
A cutting-edge studio needs more than an average employee. Deboree knew he wanted to hire special people but finding out what his ideal employee looked like was a process of trial and error. It wasn’t just the skills he looked at, but “people who fit our state of mind, with a passion for thinking and doing.” They need a good skill set, “but at the same time, they should have a relentless, fearless spirit in the way they operate.”
“The advertising industry is kind of like the military in our metaphor. You have these different factions, Army, Navy, etc. When we think of Los York, we think of them as the Navy Seals. When you put it in that context you get it. Guys who join the Navy Seals are of a certain make-up…there is something different about a Navy Seal, something more intense. There is a qualification to meet that kind of standard, and that’s what we hold ourselves to, and the people that we look for.”
The Interview Process
So how do you find a “Navy Seal” in the advertising world? “We cast a wide net,” says Deboree, “we use external recruiters, word-of-mouth, we field incoming interest, résumés, introduction letters. You can get a sense of people even at this stage.”
Candidates are then chosen for interviews, which go in stages. First, they meet with other staff members who weed out those who aren’t a good fit. Next, they meet with Deboree and Epstein. “We actually do a series of interviews so we can get to know them better. Do they know where they want to go in their career and do they have what it takes to get them there? The level of authenticity is massively important to us. That is why there are multiple interviews. The feeling that you get experiencing a conversation live is a fundamental decision maker for us. We have to feel that a) we can trust them, and b) we can respect them.”
Biggest Challenge in Finding Talent
Since no one in advertising did business in the past the way that Los York does it today, it is impossible to find someone who has all the skills necessary to operate the way that they do. They look instead for people who may have a non-traditional background, but with necessary traditional skills. Equally important, they want someone who is a thinker and a doer with an aptitude for learning their way of doing business.
Once or twice a month, Deboree and Epstein get together with all the staff for a brainstorming session. There is no hierarchy in those meetings. It is a safe space where even those at the bottom of the totem pole can voice their opinion, discuss a problem, or give input on any idea. Everyone gets a say. Records are kept of the meetings and they always circle back to any items that came out of a meeting and address the issues so that everyone feels heard. These sessions are an important part of doing business and maintaining employee satisfaction. They are also a gold mine for creative ideas and solutions to problems.
Feedback for Employees
Deboree says there is no formal process for providing feedback for employees over the course of time, rather it’s “very instinctual and individual.” There is no one-size-fits-all approach. If they have a sense that someone needs to talk, they’ll open up a conversation with them. They find, though, that with their open-door policy, employees usually come to them if they want to discuss an issue, and they make the time to do so.
Words of Wisdom
When it comes to advise, Deboree says, “Every morning I wake up to a set of things I’m grateful for, all that I have today, and all that has come before.” This balances and centers him. He also advises being present, conscious, and mindful in all things. When he took over the business, he really didn’t know how it would work out. He got through this by using his next piece of advice: “Trust your intuition and your gut instincts.”
If you think you may have what Los York Studios is looking for, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.