Tyler Brûlé has a penchant for blue blazers. He was also once shot at a crowded marketplace in Afghanistan. And… the rising power in global publishing says he hires on the proviso that he’ll last nine hours straight with someone.
Here’s what the doyen of style founder of Wallpaper* and Monocle has learned along the way, as told to a packed crowd at VIVID Ideas, Sydney.
The world is one market (and get trademarks!)
I think we succeed as a media brand today because we’re not confined to one market. We’re very, very fortunate that we treat the world as a single market and there are no other editions of Monocle anywhere else in the world – except if you go to Malaysia where someone launched a hotel chain, without asking us, using our logo. It was one of those markets we decided not to register our trademark in. So if you’re looking for a nice hotel in KL, I think it’s called M Boutique Hotel with the exact same logo that we have, same font, same everything. I feel really good about it. (laughs)
Hire on potential and personality
I really believe in hiring people based on potential. I think so often we get hung up on the quality of the CV, the education, etc. But I also believe that you need to avoid hiring very talented people who also happen to be arseholes. If I’m interviewing someone I have to sit back to look at them going, ‘could I sit on a plane with you for nine hours and like you at the end of the flight?’ And if I can answer that question then people tend to get a job in our business. I think we’re so focused on, if someone is an outstanding graphic designer, are they amazing at packaging, are they really the best editor? But what’s the point if they’re not getting along with anybody, if they throw tantrums? Yeah they might do exquisite, award-winning work but I can say, time and again, you see really great people, but it has to be someone who is going to add to the social capital of our business.
And I do think that’s a huge part of our success. I always say, no offence to any of my colleagues, ‘yes, I’m sure there are better graphic designers than you but I’m not going to find a graphic designer who is also as nice as you as well’, and it’s incredibly important. I think we sort of get lost in what has been the academic rigor of someone’s upbringing through the schools and then you end up sitting beside a dick all day.
Lead from the front
I believe you need to lead in front and that sort of sounds obvious but that goes to just starting the magazine. Probably the first year 100 per cent of what you saw wasn’t flowing in through from correspondents, it was through Andrew [Tuck] and Rob [Bound] and me… that goes for everything that we do.
Start from the ground up
If there’s no job and if you’re an intern, probably the first position you’re going to have if you’re working at the Midori House in London [Monocle HQ] is going to be in reception. And so often people say, ‘but I did my degree and I can do this and I can do that’, but can you make a coffee? Can you sort out the UPS packages? Can you be nice on the phone? If you’re think you’re too good… and if you can’t organise those things, then you should just have a life of duvet days at home because it’s not going to work.
Last impressions count too
We’re always very concerned about first impressions, but I think that, also, lasting impressions are really, absolutely paramount. I think [this is] the experience that we try to deliver, of course we don’t get it right every day but I make sure that the customer service team is sitting outside of my office and that means if something does go wrong with a subscription or whatever it is, you’re able to sort that problem out incredibly fast.
Don’t respond to every technological trend
I don’t believe you need to. And this is the problem – where so many companies are today – they feel that just because some new piece of digital technology comes out to market, that they feel compelled to adapt it and then they have to figure out how it goes into the business model. They don’t want to look behind, they want to seem avant-garde but they haven’t figured out if there’s even potential for a business model for it.
I was talking to the head of a very big media company, he explained it like this he said, “Sometimes I go and I speak to the publishers in Germany, I say ‘gentlemen, this thing called the Google, the Google thing, it’s like a big mustard all over this world. It’s one huge mustard, that’s everywhere and it spreads and spreads [and] you, your business is a sausage business. This Google thing is nothing if you don’t dip your sausage in it.” That’s the value of the sausage.
Do it on your own
We don’t talk about it very much, but [we] don’t take any press trips and we shun freebies. It’s a very important part of our editorial process so yes, we might go on a trip or we might go on a press trip and we might join other journalists, but we always pay for our own flights, we’ll always pay for our own hotels because we don’t want to be beholden to a brand just because they had us go review a car or whatever it is.
Follow your gut
I just really believe in following your gut and trying to block out the chatter – I think it’s very important. If you feel passion about your creative execution, the blueprints you’ve got [are] in front of you, I think you just have to go for what’s there. I don’t think that we should be swayed by businesses which clearly have a vested interest in talking down print. That’s of no benefit; print is really of no benefit to any company in Silicon Valley and those companies are largely concerned with of course evaluations on Wall Street and that’s what, of course, terrifies so many other media companies.