ian lurie CEO Portent

Our Philosophy

By Ian Lurie, CEO

Writing about a company's philosophy is risky business. I could come off as a thesaurus-obsessed fuddy-duddy. Or, I might leave you assuming I'm a dewy-eyed visionary who's spent his career waving his hands around, instead of using them to do cool digital marketing. I think I've found a safe route: I'm going to tell you about how we hire our people. We look for six attributes that, as luck would have it, are also the core of Portent's philosophy.

Superior Communication Skills

It doesn’t matter whether we’re hiring a developer, a designer or a copywriter – they have to be competent communicators. That’s more than writing skills (although that’s a good place to start).

Our entire team works under one roof: Developers, designers, search marketers, social media specialists, strategists – everyone. It costs more than outsourcing, but it also means a designer can walk over to a social media analyst and ask “Where should this button go?” It’s a huge advantage, if everyone on the team can effectively express themselves.

Great communications skills are a must.

High EQ

We like folks who have a high Emotional Quotient. The best marketers are self-aware and aware of those around them. They form a fantastic team. They are also really, really good about sussing out what it is that a client or customer needs.

EQ may be a clichéd term at this point. But it’s an essential trait in a marketing communicator and any member of a team.

Intellectual Curiosity

Portent started in 1995. We’ve gone from AOL as a marketing environment to the mobile web. An agency can only do that if every team member is a relentless learner.

When we hire, we look first and foremost for people who are extremely motivated to learn. They also learn to take information (which is free) and turn it into applicable knowledge.

Portent does a weekly “Portent University” – an internal all-hands training session where one department at the company presents a case study, a tool, or a new skill.

Intellectual curiosity also makes for somewhat quirky folks. I can’t say we actively seek out, er, unique people. But we do tend to find them. It makes our work more fun.

That’s how Portent stays ahead of trends.

Fearless Accountability

At some point, there’s work to do. Telling a client a wonderful idea and then letting it die on the vine is pointless. We prize people who can have a great idea, and then bring it to life. We also prize people who enjoy doing that. We need accountability. We need a sense of joy in the work that we do, as well. And, we need to know we can take risks and try things without risking our careers.


Execute well, of course. But always be teaching: Your fellow employees, your client and the industry.

Teaching fellow employees means silos break down.

Teaching the industry makes us significant.

Teaching clients means a whole bunch of good things happen: Clients love it, and they learn to see the value in what we do; we get to do cooler and cooler stuff as the client takes over the areas they learn.


We owe a lot to each other, our community and the industry. We give back by teaching, advising and helping out any way we can. Portent’s team speaks at conferences around the world, bringing our vision and advice to anyone who asks. We mentor other marketers. We offer an incredible amount of knowledge on our own blog and in webinars. This isn’t totally selfless, of course. We sell by teaching. We’re extremely lucky that we can do both at the same time.

And, I work with my team keenly aware that Portent is probably one stop on a long career. I want to help them develop as marketers, and work towards that at all times.

A codicil: Believe in the Power of Communications

I believe that great communications can save the world. The right message, at the right time, can completely change the course of events (I’m biased, since I have a History degree). Ask me about it sometime. I’ll go on for an hour, describing historical examples. You’ve been warned.

Marketing is a form of communications. It’s actually the form of communications. It’s everywhere.

I don’t expect every Portent employee to be part of my little cult of marketing. I do expect them all to take their craft seriously. And they do.

What it All Means

If you want to try something difficult, build a successful, services-based company. The first lesson you’ll learn: You can’t do it alone. You need a great, great team. The traits you look for in that team will define you as it’s defined us.

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