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JobBoardGeek podcast: What is a B corp and why would a job board be one?

JobBoardGeek PodcastThis episode of JobBoardGeek features host Jeff Dickey-Chasins and co-host Steven Rothberg talking to Mac Prichard, founder of Mac’s List. This unusual job board is one of the few in the world that is a B corp. We find out what that is, plus how content has really made a difference for Mac’s List. Steven and Jeff speculate on why Facebook dropped their Jobs offering everywhere but the U.S. and Canada (not Asia as Jeff mistakenly thinks!). Steven wonders what ‘erudite’ means.

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Transcript:

[music]

0:00:01.4 Jeff Dickey-Chasins: Hello, everyone, and welcome to JobBoardGeek. It’s the podcast about the business of connecting employers and candidates. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I am the Job Board Doctor, your host for today, and with me is the erudite, Mr. Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. He’s the co-host. Hey, Steven, how are you?

0:00:21.8 Steven Rothberg: I am great. Trying to adjust to 2022. Good to be with you again, Jeff.

0:00:25.9 JD: You didn’t say anything about me calling you erudite. [chuckle]

0:00:28.8 SR: I’ve been trying to figure out what the word is and using a dictionary, but I don’t remember how to use a dictionary, so I’m struggling.

0:00:36.5 JD: Yeah, well, I’ve gotta get some mileage out of my English major somehow. So anyway, today we’ve got a great guest, someone that I’ve worked with and known for quite a while, Mac Prichard of Mac’s List coming out of Portland, Oregon. But first, I just want to chat a little bit about the kind of interesting news, and some people thought it was big news, some of them thought it was just sort of a nothing burger, the fact that Facebook is closing down Facebook jobs all around the world, except for the US and Asia. Now, it’s kind of interesting ’cause I had mentioned this in my blog, and I got some reactions online, Bill Boorman [0:01:14.1] was basically saying, Hey, you know, this is the beginning of the second phase, they’re gonna pull back and they’re gonna do this stuff, and it’s gonna be the next big thing, which I kind of feel like Facebook is been doing the next big thing for the last five or six years, so I tend to fall into the second camp, which is, They fell on their face, it was not particularly successful, they’re pulling back, and I imagine there’s some heavy assessment about whether they’re gonna stay in the US market or not, because they’ve got bigger fish to fry, as in their beloved Metaverse. I don’t know. What do you think, Steven?

0:01:44.6 SR: I think it’s the US and Canada, I think, isn’t it? That they’re continuing to allow job postings?

0:01:51.4 JD: I think it said Asia too. I may be wrong.

0:01:53.8 SR: I think I read that as of February 22nd or something like that, that they’re just gonna be taking postings for jobs that are located in the US and Canada. But in any case, boy, I had some contact with one of the founders of Facebook way back when they were just still serving individual college and university markets before they rolled out to the general public, had a partnership discussion with them back then, and they didn’t really know what to do with jobs back then, they ended up doing a deal with Career Builder, which was a “Integration,” and what that really was, was just banner ads from Career Builder. I definitely think it’s content that they know that there’s a huge benefit if they can get it right, but as those of us in the Job Board world know, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

0:02:46.2 JD: Yeah, that’s a conversation I’ve had with almost every startup client that I’ve ever dealt with, it’s a lot more complex than you think it is. I’m always happy when I work with a startup client that’s actually worked with a job board before, because then we don’t have to have that conversation, but I think… I remember eHarmony came into the market the same way that Facebook did and sort of said, Hey, you know, we’ve got the magic tool, we understand matching through our dating app, and three years later, they slunk out of the market, and I think that Facebook just doesn’t quite have a handle and/or the will to do it, and they’ve also got a lot of external factors driving them away from the market, including EU regulations and privacy concerns, and like I said, the Metaverse. So I guess we’ll see what happens. But anyway, today on the show, we’ve got a fellow that I… Like I said, I’ve known for a while, Mac Prichard. He has been in the area of job boards for quite a while, and he started out in Portland with his very focused PR agency and expanded his work into what was called Mac’s List. I think I’m gonna let him take over from there. So Mac, welcome to JobBoardGeek.

0:04:00.9 Mac Prichard: Well, thank you, Jeff. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s great to be on the show.

0:04:04.6 JD: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about how Mac’s List got started and just sort of what your thinking was when you were getting things off the ground.

0:04:12.7 MP: Well, I started Mac’s List as a way of being of service to my professional network. I had gone through two long periods of unemployment early in my career, I knew what it was like to cash the last unemployment check once, and I came within one check of doing it the second time. So my way of being of service was to share job postings, and I did that regularly starting 20 years ago this last summer and I did it without any expectation of turning it into a business, and along the way, I’d had a career in communications, I’d worked for elected officials, non-profits and state agencies. Eventually, I started my own public relations company 14 years ago now and I continue to operate it, but I found that I was paying one of my employees basically a part-time wage to send out these postings and I stopped doing it for a few weeks and people started calling me that I didn’t know and they said, Are you okay? And that drove home for me that I was providing a service, I was meeting a need, and so I got serious about it, turned it from just occasional emails into a weekly newsletter and then a website, and started charging employers for listings. And I did that 11 years ago now, though I really do date the start of the company back to December of 2001 when I would send out these job postings week after week.

0:05:33.4 JD: If I remember correctly, your site is focused geographically around the Portland, Oregon area, more or less, although I know you have listings elsewhere.

0:05:43.0 MP: It is. Yeah, we’re a regional job board, we’re based in Portland, Oregon, we serve employers and job seekers in Oregon and Washington. Our mission is to make hiring more human, we do that not only by providing job postings, but we provide a lot of free content for job seekers about how to get good at job search as a skill. We do that through articles, online courses, we have a couple of books and a weekly career advice podcast. But many of our customers, the employers who pay for the postings are small corporations and they don’t have an HR department, and the person who’s put in charge of hiring is not formally trained in how to write a posting, the importance of including salary range, nuts and bolts basics that we take for granted are new to them, and so we provide a lot of content about how to hire smarter, and I think that’s what distinguishes us from a lot of the good other job boards out there, we not only provide the positions and the audience, but we help both of our customers, job seekers and employers get good at the skills they’re gonna need to find either a great job or a great candidate.

0:06:50.4 JD: And it’s… Not to plug my other content gig, but I actually posted a blog post today that was all about What does your content say about your job board? And I think… I’ve always thought of Mac’s List as a perfect example of a site where if you go in and you start poking around and looking at, listening to the podcast, reading the different columns, the different blog posts, you get the sense of what Mac’s List is all about. There’s sort of an editorial personality, I think, to what you put out on there. Is that something that you’ve consciously cultivated?

0:07:25.2 MP: It is. And I think a number of things make us unique in our space, and we talked about the amount of content. The regional focus is a second way that we stand out. And I think the commitment to service both to employers and job seekers is something else that makes us distinctive. And candidly, it’s driven by my own personal experience. In all modesty, I’d had some cool jobs in my 20s and 30s, and thought the way you look for work was just respond to ads. And my periods of unemployment taught me that you got to get good at job search skills, particularly setting goals. And then my work at Mac’s List and getting involved in hiring has taught me that if you’re gonna find great candidates, you just can’t rely on postings alone. So I’m very proud of the value that our job board offers, both to job seekers and employers, but I would be the first to tell you, if you are a candidate and you’re relying only on job boards to find your leads and all you’re doing is applying, you’re making your search so much harder and longer than it has to be. And if you’re an employer and you’re relying on your posting alone to bring you great candidates, you’re making your search for that next great employee…

0:08:44.6 MP: Much harder and longer than it has to be. That’s why we invest in content to serve both audiences, because once you understand how hiring works, whether you’re an employer or a candidate, then you can make the system work for you. And that is central to our mission at Mac’s List, making hiring more human. Finally, another way that we stand out is we’re a certified benefit corporation, what’s called a B-Corp. We’re part of a global movement of business as a force for social good, and we think we’re the first B Corp job board out there. I know there are some others now, but we’re very proud of that. And in my career, trying to make a difference in the community where I live and work, whether it was working for non-profits, government agencies, or elected officials, or now through the job board in the PR firm has been central, and it’s a value that’s important to our five-person team at Mac’s List as well.

0:09:37.2 SR: Yeah, so just want to pick up on a couple of things that you said, Mac. One was when people were asking you if you were okay. When people ask me that question, it’s more of an accusation than it is out of concern. So glad to see that you don’t share the same sort of relationships that I share. I wanted to pick up on the B corporation…

0:10:00.3 MP: I have to say though, Steven, that like you, I share Midwestern roots. I grew up in Iowa, so I know… Fundamentally, you are okay, and you’re a good Midwestern nice guy too.

0:10:14.3 JD: Hey, you know what? It’s two Iowans to one Minnesotan on this particular episode of JobBoardGeek. I like the odds.

0:10:22.0 MP: Yeah, I’m just waiting for the Iowa jokes to follow from Steven, but to your point, Steven.

0:10:29.4 SR: Yeah. The podcast is usually only 20, 25 minutes long, to just start with the Iowa jokes would take hours. The B corporation, I had heard of that. I wasn’t familiar with it until recently. When I first heard about that, I thought it was literally a different kind of corporation. In the US, there are S corporations which are sort of like partnerships. You get corporate protection, profits flow through to the owner, so it makes it easier for tax filings. There are C corporations which are kind of the standard, and then there are a whole bunch of different non-profits, etcetera. But maybe you can talk with our listeners about what a B Corporation is, whether that’s just an American thing, whether that’s international, how you use that for marketing to the job seekers, to the employers, or is that really more of an internal only, just sort of the way you operate, or do you use that to promote your site also?

0:11:30.4 MP: Certified benefit corporations manage for the triple bottom line. So profit matters, and it is important, but we also look at community benefits and environmental benefits of our operations. And the way it works, Steven, is there’s a internationally recognized organization, it’s called B-Lab. It’s headquartered in the United States, but it works with companies all around the world. And you go through a initial certification process, and then you re-certify every two years. When you do that process, you go through a set of checklists that look at your practices and the environmental and community benefits and consequences of that as well as your profitability. It’s like any process improvement. It will… Going through it in a steady, methodical way will help you improve your business processes and make you a stronger and better company. Your goal is to promote community and environmental benefits. This is a system for doing that. To your point about the marketing benefits of being a B Corp, it does make a difference. It’s a way to stand out. It’s a logo you can display on your website and your advertising materials, and it does matter to many of our employers that we are a benefit corporation. And it helps with recruitment and retention as well. I find that people who work with us…

0:12:52.1 MP: But I think this is true for many, many people, they want their work to matter. And you don’t have to work for a B Corp to do that. I think there’s a dignity and a meaning in work that you can find anywhere with the right employer, but with a benefit corporation, it is a way of doing business that just becomes part of how you operate. And that is very appealing to both our customers and to our team.

0:13:14.9 JD: Yeah, that’s great. And it is true. After I’d worked with you, I went casting around to see what other job boards, if any, were B Corporations, and I believe I found maybe one or two, and that was it. It was not a common thing. I agree with you that there are a lot of benefits. One of the benefits that you didn’t mention, which I think would be really critical, particularly for a job board that’s growing rapidly, is I think it’s a good sales point when you’re talking to potential candidates. It’s both a plus when you talk about the way the company’s run, but it also is a qualifier, where certain types of candidates are gonna be more likely to wanna work with you. And you talk about being able to build a company culture that’s sort of focused around some good values, B Corp is a good way to go about it.

0:14:04.5 MP: We’ve had that experience, Jeff, and it does help attract candidates who care about those values, and that’s terrific.

0:14:12.5 JD: No, that’s great. Well, so I’m kind of curious. We’re talking about all the nice stuff. There have been some sort of challenging things that have happened in the industry over the past couple, three years, and I was just curious, how has the pandemic affected Mac’s List initially and sort of as an ongoing issue for you, or has it?

0:14:34.4 MP: It has. 2020 was a tough year. We started out strong, but when the pandemic hit in March, we saw our revenue drop 80% just in one week, and it didn’t bottom out until June. And our money comes from the sale of job postings, out in the form of single postings, subscriptions or custom packs. So when that happened, we made a number of big changes fast. We closed our downtown Portland office. We became 100% virtual. We re-negotiated the lease with our landlord. We re-negotiated or changed important supplier and vendor contracts. We looked for ways to reduce costs and overhead. We did have to furlough the staff, a five-person team, two days a week for six months starting in June of 2020. The goal was to avoid layoffs. And in Oregon where we’re based, there’s a state program that allows you, if you maintain healthcare and other benefits, if you’re furloughed, to collect unemployment insurance.

0:15:36.4 MP: It doesn’t make up the lost wages, but it helped. By the end of the year, we’d reduced our overhead considerably, so while revenue for the year went down about 39%, we actually had a very small operating loss that we were able to cover through the PPP loan. And when we started in 2021, we were in a much stronger place as a company, because we’d made some fundamental changes that, candidly, Jeff, I’m not sure we would have made so quickly and rapidly if we hadn’t had that dramatic drop in revenue. So we haven’t officially closed the books for 2021, but starting in February, the revenues started going up and we had a number of record months, and so we came within a few percentage points by the end of 2021, in setting a new record for revenue. Most importantly, it was our best year ever for profits in 11 years of operations. And I think a big part of that was the good work of the team, but also these fundamental changes that we made to our business model and operations that we might not have done without the pandemic.

0:16:45.1 JD: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve heard this story several times from clients, and then also we’ve heard it a few times on the podcast, where people talk about, well, the bad thing about the pandemic was getting slapped upside the head and seeing all your revenue go out the door for X amount of time, but the good part of it was that it forced you to rethink your assumptions about how you run your business. And for some… For many, actually, they’ve gone your direction of being fully remote. For many, they’ve gone and looked again hard at where their audience is, their candidate audience and their employer audience. But I think those kinds of shocks to the system, if you survive them, are very good. I’ve been around long enough that I’ve gone through several of those shocks.

0:17:30.5 JD: I remember the first tech bubble back in 2000, and that was very painful. Of course, we all remember the recession. But out of each one of those, I personally experienced a lot of growth, and I’ve seen the companies that I’ve worked for and with do well as well. So I think it’s not fun, I guess, while it’s happening, and I think Brad from Local Eyesight was saying it’s still not quite fun, but it’s getting more fun than it was. [laughter] So I guess you have to have a sense of humor and sort of a philosophical outlook to things, and I know you certainly do, so… [chuckle]

0:18:08.2 SR: That which doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger.

0:18:10.7 MP: Agreed, and it was not especially… Not fun to furlough the team, but again we tried to do… The goal was to avoid layoffs, and I’m grateful that they stuck with me. ‘Cause that’s hard, the uncertainty that followed those six months. You’re not quite sure when it’s gonna end, if ever.

0:18:27.5 JD: Well, so, we’re almost out of time here, but I wanted to ask you one last question, Mac. And this is just sort of curiosity, because we’ve talked to a lot of different job boards and even a supplier job sink thus far, and we’re sort of looking at all these different aspects of what’s going on in the industry, and so something that’s been sort of omnipresent since at least 2014, has been programmatic. Another one that I thought was going to be beat into the ground until I would not be able to sleep was AI. And, of course, it’s still not dead, it’s still out there pumping away. But these are things that a lot of the thought leaders in the industry are saying, Well, you know, if you’re not doing programmatic, if you’re not doing AI-driven recruiting, if you’re not doing this, if you’re not doing that, you won’t survive. I guess my question to you is, what do you think about that? Do you think those technologies are a threat to your survival or do you think that maybe they don’t matter to your employer audience?

0:19:24.6 MP: Well, I think you can build a business without using those technologies, and it can thrive and grow. That’s been my experience. Candidly, I am an inadvertent job board operator. Again, my career was in political communications. I became a job board operator because I was an inveterate networker. What I have had to do since starting the business is learn how job boards work, and I had to take the same approach with… When I started my public relations company, I had not come up through the agency world, I had come up through non-profits and politics and government. So, I would go to these agency conferences, and I found going to job board conferences can be just as helpful, and there’s a learning curve. And it may be, Jeff, that if we talk again in five years, I will have embraced those technologies, but I feel like on my job board journey, I’ve got to master the fundamentals first, and my experience has shown me that you can build a thriving, prosperous business, focusing just on the old-fashioned nuts and bolts job board, and make a positive difference in the lives of the people that you serve, both employers and job seekers. I’m intrigued by these other technologies and hope to get to them one day, but right now, I’m focusing on the basics, and it’s going well.

0:20:49.6 JD: For me, the acid test on what you’re doing is, do the customers come back? And if they come back, then you’re doing something worthwhile for them, and obviously that’s happening for you this year so… Well, listen, Mac, I really appreciate you coming on the show today, and if our listeners want to get in touch with you and chat, which they should since, as you said, you’re an inveterate networker. How do they get in touch with you?

0:21:14.5 MP: Please connect with me on LinkedIn and include a note and say that you heard me on your show, and I also can be reached by email, it’s my first name, Mac, M-A-C@macslist.org. Visit our website, macslist.org and I host a weekly podcast now in its sixth year of production. Every week, I talk to a different career expert about the nuts and bolts of job search. It’s called Find Your Dream Job, and you can find it wherever you download your podcasts. I hope you’ll check that out as well.

0:21:43.9 JD: Great, well, thanks Mac, and good luck on your podcast. We’re still infants in the cradle compared to you as far as this goes, but… Steven, I was just wondering how people would get in touch with you if they want to probe your brain.

0:22:00.8 SR: Yeah, feel free to reach out to me via email: Steven, S-T-E-V-E-N@collegerecruiter.com. And Mac, it’s been awesome learning from you how you can find ways of creating winning situations, not just for you as an owner, but for your employees and most importantly, your community and how it just circles back. We all do better when we all do better.

0:22:28.1 JD: Yeah, I’ll second that. So, okay, folks, that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. Please be sure to subscribe to us via RSS, Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, or any of the many other ways that you can subscribe. My name’s Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the Job Board doctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all for now. We’ll see you next time.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. good podcast!

    It’s great to see employers paying a regional job board to bring in suitable candidates.

    Also, creating original content and fostering education on how jobseekers should search and apply for work is needed now more than ever.

    The big job portals promise a lot but they can’t beat a local operator like Mac’s list with the right stuff!

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