Trueline Spotlight: Appreciating Cultural Diversity, Whether Near or Far
Zachary Brann remembers his fateful post-graduate trip to Portland in 2015. The University of Maine Orono graduate rolled into town, his pockets empty, having laid all his money down on an apartment. He was banking on the prospect of landing a job with a guy named Haj.
With a kiss for good luck from his girlfriend Katie—now his wife—he returned from the interview with a job offer. Five years later he’s now a managing content coordinator for Toggle, Blueprint and Vanguard magazines.
In many ways, it was an unexpected path for this native of Oakland, a central Maine town. Throughout his growing up Brann experienced the unique and differing cultures of region, often which many have described as “the two Maines.” For some rural Maine means the great outdoors, an interesting contrast to southern Maine which experiences more diversity and the arts. Brann was able to appreciate both.
But whether Brann’s back home knocking back brews in his neighbor’s garage, or in the Old Port sampling craft beers like Bissell Brothers with college buddies, he’s comfortable with Maine’s cultural dichotomy—as comfy to him as a well-worn flannel shirt from L.L. Bean. As he says, he can appreciate both experiences, something he’s carried over into his work.
“I’m at home in most environments,” Brann says. “I can pick and choose when and where to express an opinion, when it counts.”
Young and Growing
Perhaps there was no better place for Brann to land than with a group of competitive people at Trueline. Expanding on owner Haj Carr’s full-service marketing agency business model, the mantra was work hard and have fun—which the group did with wild abandon.
“There was less breakdown of formal positions and less-defined roles when I started. It was an interesting and competitive time that was sink or swim,” Brann recalls.
The years since Brann arrived in 2015 proved to be a transformative time at Trueline, and in some ways the company matured. Trueline was honing its craft and elevating its brand with product offerings beyond its earlier publications of U.S. Business Executive and U.S. Builder’s Review. New cutting-edge magazines with upgraded content included Vanguard, Trueline’s legal magazine, and Blueprint, a construction magazine. There was also Toggle, the new IT magazine where Brann was the first person to feature technology executives in a book that was developed in collaboration with Carr and his coworkers.
“We were building up content and had a world of opportunity,” says Brann. “It was the beginning of the transition to what Trueline is now.”
Throughout the process, Brann says every team member had the opportunity to share ideas and express opinions about where the company was going. Often the discussion could be lively, given the group’s individuality, but there was always respect and the realization everyone wanted the same thing: to contribute fresh ideas for the betterment of the company.
“I happen to thrive in this environment. You have to have conviction to back up what you want to see in the company,” he says.
That process was certainly put to the test during COVID-19, which produced a breakthrough. With employees given greater freedom and trust to work from home, Brann says they found an enviable work-life balance and greater productivity. For him that meant more time with baby Charlotte and his wife.
“Katie and I depend on each other and lean into the challenges,” Brann says. “I think we will look back at this time and laugh. It hasn’t been easy and we’re exhausted, but I feel very lucky.”
What can be said of his family experience also holds true for his team. “I know wherever we go next Trueline will have a solid foundation,” Brann says. “Because as a team we recognize that no idea is wrong and no question is stupid. That process has gotten us where we are today.”
The Basics on Brann:
What he’s discovered: Trips to Hawaii and New Zealand only whetted his appetite for travel. After COVID-19, Peru’s next.
Dream meal: A burger with a local beer.
COVID-19 coping mechanism: Home improvement projects and running on his treadmill (sparingly). He prefers both to changing 4-month-old daughter Charlotte’s diapers.
What’s on his playlist?: Anything from hip-hop to classic rock—no country!