Jim O’Donnell

Jim O’Donnell

With 75 thousand shows and 30 million subscribers, Hulu has made a powerful impact on culture and the SVOD category (Subscription Video on Demand).


I sat down with Jim O’Donnell, Hulu’s VP of West Coast Advertising Sales. He gave me all the details of Hulu’s powerful culture on our Cannonball Mindset podcast.


Jim’s career may seem rather diversified: ESPN, Martha Stewart, Vogue, and even a startup, GOOD Worldwide Inc. But here’s the commonality: He’s only worked places he really loved: He’s a phenomenal home cook, loves hanging out with his wife and daughter, and enjoyed the financial infrastructure of ESPN.


But when you talk to Jim, he’s especially proud of the culture at Hulu.


That’s probably because of how much fun they have.

Fun Is No Joke At Hulu

Hulu has everything a hip California HQ should — It’s located in Santa Monica, has a video game room, foosball tables, and an open floor plan where everyone, including the CEO, has the exact same desk and chair.


There’s a cereal bar, Simpsons characters in the bathroom, beer kegs, snacks, skateboards, surfboards … you name it, they have it.


Oh, and “Huluween” is their annual Halloween celebration everyone decorates their corner of the office. (Trust me, no missed that memo.)


They take fun seriously in their HQ, and this permeates into their marketing.


Have you seen their new #BetterRuinsEverything campaign? They’re taking on Netflix and Amazon by comparing Hulu’s services to a first class flight — once you’ve done ridden in style, you can’t go back.


“You’ve got to win on service.” — Jim O’Donnell

Hulu Incorporates Passionate In Every Part of Its Culture

You can’t fake passion, and Jim doesn’t even try. He just said he’s simply only worked places where he really cares about the overarching goal. (I seriously doubt you’ve ever talked to someone so passionate about providing the world’s leading TV service.)


He showed how Hulu fared on a recent study:


They did an engagement study a few years ago called Hulu Cares, which averages 40 scores to create a unified average between 1 and 100. The gold standard is 80, which ensures you have a stable workforce who’s in love with their work culture.

Their first year they scored right around 80. Gold.


And when it comes to sales, Jim trains this into his staff: You have to know why your product is better, not why your competitor’s are struggling. And you can’t just be an expert on your company, but the entire industry. Here’s his test he gives his sales team: How many of your clients have your number? Are you their go-to when they have any question about TV?



Jim’s 4 Secrets on Successful Leadership

I love putting our guests on the spot about leadership.


Here’s what Jim had to say about his secrets to leadership:

1. Lead by Example

We all want a highly productive workforce, and your staff will mimic what they see in you. Set the tone: At the end of your 8-hour day, did you really spend time on the things that are going to offer the most payoff?

2. Respect

It’s huge. Jim considers each person on his team and how he can individually show respect toward them and their contributions. For example, younger team members often need recognition, so recently, he received an internal document a staff member, Danielle, had created about YouTube. It was superb. He shared the document with the whole staff, naming Danielle publicly and thanking her for the hard work.

3. Accountability

You have to provide constant feedback. No one should ever be surprised when they sit down at their mid-year or annual review and suddenly learn they’re a C+ student when they thought they were an A- student.


“No one should ever be surprised to learn they’re a C+ student when they thought they were an A- student.” — Jim O’Donnell

4. It Must Be Fun

Jim says flatly that his office has 0 politics. Sounds nice, right? And you can always tell the culture by what people do when they aren’t at work.


The parents in the company all hang together at the beach. Go find a Hulugan (what they call their employees) after work, and they’ll be having a beer with someone from the office. Yeah, they like each other. A lot.

Where Does Jim Hope to Be 50 Years From Now?

Here’s my favorite part. I love asking every gust on our podcast where they want to be in 50 years.


For Jim, it all came back to the legacy he’s leaving with his kids. His son Nick is an eagle scout, he volunteers, and he tutors other kids at school. Jane, his 17-year-old daughter, marches in every pro-feminism rally in California. He beams with pride when he talks about them.


(Even more than his Hulu job.)


This post is based on an interview with Jim O’Donnell from Hulu.  To hear this episode and more like it, subscribe here.


If you don’t use iTunes, you can find every episode here.

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