Freddie Baird | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Freddie Baird


Founded in 1986, QuantumDigital is a targeted direct mail company based in Austin, Texas. QuantumDigital provides direct mail marketing, printing and mailing services and on-demand printing services. The company is also the creator of online storefront and QCards, a direct mail marketing iPhone app for businesses.

The Mistake:

Not respecting company culture during hiring process.

This is my 20th year with this company and we’ve seen some high-growth years and some lean years during that time. Although the past few years we’ve seen some solid growth, the high-growth years were earlier – around 2005-2007.

We were growing really fast. At that time, we were focused on direct target marketing to the residential real estate market, among other industries, and the market was hot at that time. We couldn’t keep up with orders or new customers coming in.

So we started hiring people. A lot of people. We thought we needed bodies to help keep the business going. The problems we were trying to solve were the basic problems any business such as getting phones answered and helping customers take orders.

We were hiring production managers, team leaders and a lot of IT folks. Basically, we were doing an open call and hiring very quickly. We were looking for people who could do the job and had experience. Time was pretty tight. And there weren’t a lot of options so were getting the best people we could find.

Our culture is a bit of a unique one. We’re a family-owned business. The founder started it 30 years ago and his son is the CEO. When we went through that hiring boom, I think we didn’t pay enough attention to respecting that culture.

As the good years moved to lean years when the downturn hit, we found that a lot of employees were unhappy and disappointed. When things were going great, people were happy to be here. But when times got tough, well, we had a lot of people issues.

From the beginning, our culture was built on simple things like hard work and accountability. But when we were hiring in such rapid fashion, we found that some people didn’t want to put in the work and be accountable for doing the job. It took a long while to unravel that.

Thinking back, if we’d done a bit more in respecting our culture to find the right people for the business, I think we would have been able to work through a lot of issues. We wouldn’t have needed as many people as we’d hired.

The lean years were painful. We conducted a layoff during that time and had to help a few people out the door who clearly didn’t want to be here, and didn’t fit our culture. It took a number of years to re-orient the business for growth again. We got pretty lean.

We learned that expertise is important but that a good fit with our culture is vastly more important.

The Lesson:

We learned to be very, very selective in who we hire. Even now when the market is good again, we’re still extremely selective. We choose not to hire rather than hire someone who doesn’t meet our needs, or doesn’t fit our culture.

We learned that expertise is important but that a good fit with our culture is vastly more important. We learned that people make all the difference. You can have the best intentions, best business plan, best marketing plan and the best vision for the business but all that is secondary to having the best team.

Earlier, I had to stress a lot over details. Today, I don’t have to do that because of the people I have around me who take care of those things. As we began to grow again with a lot of fewer people, we focused on people who knew how to solve problems, who were invested in the business and believed in what we were doing.

We hired people who didn’t mind the hard work of trying to re-build. We also hired an HR person to take care of hiring, rather than making decisions by committee. That has also helped tremendously in terms of hiring not just for quantity, but for the right fit. That’s made all the difference.

What I’ve done over the last five to seven years specifically is made sure the team I have around me are great people who believe in the vision of company and who really want to be here. So we’ve been much more successful as we’ve been in growth mode again, and the transition has been much easier this time.

The average tenure for our employees is 10 years. It’s important to have fun along the way. The journey is what it’s all about, and it’s more than just where you’re going – it’s who you’re going with.


Follow QuantumDigital on Twitter at @QuantumDigital.

Pictured is Freddie Baird. | Photo courtesy of QuantumDigital.

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