Hiring Spurt Signaling a Healthy 2015?

Bob Johnson

LOS ANGELES — Despite a still struggling general economy, the adult industry — one of the hardest hit by the great recession — is showing signs of decent recovery fueled largely in part to a strong pleasure products segment and continued online demand for new and unique niche content.

And although there may not be a flurry of hiring, a growing job market — always an indicator of recovery — has pulled itself out of a flat line position and is making a comeback. Add to that many companies’ renewed optimism about adult’s growing mainstream acceptance and 2015 could be the start of a healthy curve for new hires.

A sampling of industry executives from all sectors including video, pleasure products and the web weighed in on the current hiring climate in adult that’s resulted in a mixed bag of opinions and plans for 2015. Most were optimistic, already experiencing hiring growth, while some, particularly from the movie side are still treading water.

Industry executive and entrepreneur Mike Kulich, who has engineered a number of various companies, is in the position to provide a unique view across adult. In addition to video and online ventures, Kulich heads up Stunner PR, which gives him first-hand insight into a wide spectrum of the hiring game.

“Stunner PR works with a number of top video companies, pleasure product companies, as well as top membership sites so we have seen the hiring trends change throughout 2014," Kulich says. “Right now in the pleasure product arena, companies are trying to come out with more original products that haven’t been seen before so they are looking for product developers who can create new and unique products. With web-based companies, they are obviously trying to fight the tubes and free porn sites so people with SEO and traffic skills are always in demand. Lastly in video, most companies are downsizing but if you are well connected with retailers and distributors, a good salesman is always in demand.”

Another top PR pro, Brian Gross, President of BSG PR echoes Kulich’s positive stance. Gross says, "I believe, in conversations with clients and other industry professionals, there is optimism as to an increase in hiring and adding staff in 2015. Companies with strong brands and loyal customers are becoming more aggressive in their business practices, seeking opportunities to grow their businesses, and in the need to bring on the right people to achieve their goals."

Gross and Kulich are apparently on the money — especially in the pleasure products arena. California Exotic Novelties' President Susan Colvin revealed that the company has just hired a new chief marketing officer and video expert, no doubt due to strong sales and growth. And she says the company is busy evaluating even more HR plans for 2015.

And the hiring doesn’t stop at the U.S. borders. Richard Longhurst, co-owner of U.K.-based Lovehoney said it's companies like his that need to offer the career opportunities and progression in adult that employees would expect from mainstream business. “Of course, it's a lot more fun working in the adult industry than in other industries, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be professional,” he says.

Longhurst also points out that the continued acceptance of adult by the mainstream has ticked up the employment arena.

“The attitude to adult business is also changing. A few years ago we were unable to advertise opportunities at local universities but now we can — they have realized that Lovehoney is a business at the cutting edge of e-commerce and distribution so it's ridiculous to deny opportunities to young people. We have successfully recruited eight graduates this year,” Longhurst says.

The company looks for a wide range of skills from employees, whether it’s recruiting in sales, marketing, product development or web programming. Longhurst notes that what sets good candidates apart in any area is their attitude — people who are keen to succeed and who'll go the extra inch to offer customers the best service.

Adult product distributor Paradise Marketing is another company that’s bullish on hiring. CEO Dennis Paradise says his company has been experiencing some unexpected growth throughout the last quarter of 2014. “We've hired more people in our warehouse to make sure orders are filled promptly, and added another in the office to help process orders more efficiently.”

In 2015, Paradise will be focusing more on supporting its online customers' needs, and Paradise is looking to hire people with web design and graphic capabilities on a full time basis. “We will be bringing on some new products that fulfill several untapped niches, and we're working hard to keep costs from moving up next year,” he says.

The online world — perennially healthy when it comes to hiring despite most downturns because of ever-changing technology —  appears that it will hold its own as well.

Gamma Entertainment’s FameDollars' director Magalie Rheault reveals that the company is doing just fine in its human resources efforts.

''Since Gamma Entertainment is a very diversified company, from developers, marketers, editors, finance, HR, and customer support agents, we've had the chance to fill many positions internally, and in turn, opened up new spots for external candidates. Our industry is always on the move and if you can find the right applicant at the right moment, then it's the perfect fit. I feel like this fall was more fruitful than last spring and hopefully this trend will maintain throughout winter and well into 2015,” Rheault says.

Although JC Baumgartner, President of Pornstar Platinum says he runs a very streamlined operation, good people are still in demand. “Anyone we may hire needs to wear several hats. I try to find someone that specializes in one particular area, but who has also worked in several other areas, so that we have overlapping experience.”

And as is the case with the mainstream job market, whether the economic climate is good or bad, adult companies still require staff that have the needed skills to help them succeed.

Kelly and Ryan Madison of Kelly Madison Media say they’re always looking for a good programmer to shepherd the company to the cutting edge of technology. The goal with its custom sites is to push the limits on design, function and user friendliness. “Anyone with Ruby on Rails experience, give us a call,” the partners say.

And that’s not all. Apparent success has created a need for top-notch video editing. “Quality really matters with us especially when you are a small company competing with big boys. What we lack in volume we try to make up for with quality and that is why we started shooting all of our stuff in 4K a while ago. So a good editor who knows the latest and greatest could have a spot on our team, and hey, we are a lot of fun. You should see our company Christmas parties,” the Madisons explain.

But the optimism can easily be tempered with some harsh reality — especially from the DVD side that was hit hardest by the economy, pirating and an over-saturated porn Internet.

Adult veteran Howard Levine, who runs Exile Distribution unflinchingly says nothing is opening up on the DVD side — especially for someone trying to get a foot in the door.

“Back in the day, when we had nine planets, getting a job in adult was pretty easy. If you knew someone, and had the gift of gab, you could end up being a sales manager within six months making six figures,” Levine says. But he adds that today there are experienced sales people around with established relationships, and if something opens up, they will get the call first.

Levine also notes that the movie drought has crossed over into the talent pool. “Not as many people are shooting, so the demand for talent is much less.”

If there’s any bright spot to come in Levine’s mind it’s for web talent whom he believes have a much better chance of landing a job. 

The Madisons however believe there’s always room for talent in nearly every area and the current market is a lot more accepting than in recent years. “The most important skill set isn’t necessarily the amount of experience or knowledge. For us we have lucked out with basically sharp people who care about the company and the rest we teach them. Someone who cares about what they do and the future of our company is worth their weight in gold.”

Pictured: Lovehoney co-founders Neal Slateford & Richard Longhurst