Ran Craycraft is an industry veteran with more than 20-years of experience in interactive production. Before co-founding Wildebeest, Ran was Managing Director at the North Kingdom, GM of Entertainment at AOL, and Producer at NBC Universal. Ran holds degrees from Syracuse University/Newhouse and the University of Cincinnati/DAAP.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to Valiant CEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Ran Craycraft: Thanks so much for having me! I’m Ran Craycraft, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Wildebeest, a digital studio in Los Angeles for creative brands. Before Wildebeest, I was GM of AOL Entertainment and a producer at NBC Universal.
Who has been the most influential person(s) in your life and how did they impact you? How did that lead to where you are today?
Ran Craycraft: I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of great role models in my life. I grew up with very supportive parents and an uncle that opened my eyes to the world. Like most men, I’m still out here trying to impress my dad. The most influential person in making me who I am today is probably mom. She was a caring and creative single parent who put herself through college with two young kids and did whatever it took to set us up for a better life. I got to learn from her as she won and as she lost, but each time, there was a lesson.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us, particularly for businesses. How did the pandemic impact your business? Please list some of the problems that you faced, and how you handled them.
Ran Craycraft: I wish I could say that our agency seamlessly handled going remote during the pandemic, but that simply wasn’t the case. It was hard. We struggled mightily in finding our stride as our team dispersed to their homes around the world. After a lot of reflection and even more trial and error, we realized we needed to level up the seniority on our team to be able to operate more independently and efficiently. California is a tricky state for small businesses and we’ve had to tread very lightly and intentionally to follow all of the new employment laws and still find ways to organically grow our business.
The pandemic led to a myriad of cultural side effects, including one that was quite unexpected that is informally known as “The Great Resignation”. Did this widespread trend affect you in any way?
Ran Craycraft: Absolutely. It’s two-fold though. Just as people in big, corporate jobs have had enough of feeling like a number and performing mundane tasks, small business employees are looking for more stability and in some cases, LESS excitement in their day-to-day. For our team, in particular, it’s been a wash. We’ve lost some great people who got poached by big companies we can’t compete with, but we’ve also landed some great talent who want to have a seat at the table. Maybe instead of The Great Resignation, we should be calling it The Great Exchange.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. How do you feel about this trend? Explain.
Ran Craycraft: I get it. I’ve been in jobs before where I don’t feel leadership has my best interests in mind or some cases, they may not even have their company’s. When you’re working at a company that doesn’t feel like a team, where you feel like you’re on your own, it’s tough to have any kind of allegiance. When a better opportunity comes along, and there are a lot of them, it’s hard not to consider it. As a business leader, I make it a point to be conscious of this and make sure my team understands how much I value their unique experiences as well as their day-to-day saw and unseen contributions.
In addition to this, as an entrepreneur, I can’t ignore the data and have to be prepared for churn. I don’t want anyone on my team to leave, but they’re going to at some point and I need to have a plan for how to quickly react. That plan doesn’t live on paper awaiting a resignation, that plan needs to be implemented yesterday and be a part of our core business operation.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. That can be quite an alarming rate. What advice would you share to increase employee retention?
Ran Craycraft: There wasn’t a memo that went out saying “alright, if you were born between 1980 and 1990, now’s the time to screw over our bosses. On the count of three, let’s all quit.” Instead, this is the manifestation of a lot of crazy shit happening at once just as a new generation is coming into global control. Whether someone in this age group is a VP or an individual contributor, it’s impossible not to reflect on our accomplishments and life goals. Now that we’re in control, it’s up to us to fix this, whatever this is. For a lot of folks my age, that means stepping down from their cushy job and taking a bigger swing.
For employers worried their team is on monster.com and getting poached by bigger (and smaller) companies on LinkedIn, you should be worried–because it’s happening right now. But in the meantime, the three things you can do to try to increase retention are:
– Make sure your team understands and buys into your team’s larger mission.
– Make sure they legitimately feel valued both as a person and as a teammate.
– Don’t get hung up on keeping everyone. Instead, focus your energy on making it a great place to work for those who want to stay or join you anew.
According to a Nature Human behavior study, In 2020, 80% of US workers reported feeling that they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them – a phenomenon known as “time poverty”. What is your take on the work-life balance? Explain.
Ran Craycraft: I believe it. Have you ever in your life heard so many people tell you how busy they are? This isn’t just a work problem, this is a society problem. Some of the most productive people I know are the ones with the most already on their plates. I encounter this now on a scale unlike I’ve ever seen before. But I don’t believe this is a busy issue, this is a time-management issue–or maybe even an anxiety issue when someone is feeling overwhelmed and isn’t quite sure how to get out of the cycle.
A more recent survey by Joblist asked about 3,000 respondents if they’re actively thinking about leaving their job. That survey found that 73% of 2,099 respondents who answered this question on their employment plans are considering quitting. How are you preparing for the future to counter this potentially persistent problem?
Ran Craycraft: The trend of careers becoming jobs has been evolving for decades. There are no gold retirement watches or pensions anymore. We’re in the world of independent contractors and 401Ks. Anyone trying to bring back the old way of working is wasting their time. Instead, we need to be focused on how to evolve our businesses to scale up, scale down, and scale sideways when we need them to. This is a complex challenge for business leaders, but we’ve been on notice.
Thank you for all that, our readers are grateful for your insightful comments! Now, if the Great Resignation isn’t your greatest concern, what is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Ran Craycraft: The biggest challenge I’m facing for my small business is trying to predict the role recruiting and recruiters will play in my operation. Retention isn’t what it used to be and it’s not coming back. What does my business need to do to constantly have leads on new talent able to perform at the level my business requires. What documentation and processes do I need to have in place to ensure when the next talented person joins my team that they’re set up for success? And even more importantly, how do we prepare for churn while also ensuring each contributor feels valued and the security they desire?
Before we finish things off, we do have one last question. If you had 10 Million Dollars to spend in one day, what would you spend it on?
Ran Craycraft: I would spread it out as far as I could. That would probably mean finding small, hands-on organizations around the world already fighting for causes I align with and letting them distribute where they see it’s needed most.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ran Craycraft for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ran Craycraft or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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