Equestrians come in all ages and so, too, do the employees at RIDE TV. From the youngest—the 25-year-old marketing coordinator who was hired after a successful internship—to the oldest—the 84-year-old former CFO and current chair of the board and special adviser, the Fort Worth-based company is the definition of age diversity.
And that’s just the way CEO Michael Fletcher and president Craig Morris designed it when they launched RIDE TV four years ago to serve fans of equine sports and lifestyle.
“We have an environment that pushes people together,” Fletcher says, noting employees advance based on ability, not age or time clocked. “It’s not so much about, ‘Now you’ve been here five years so you get promoted.’ We don’t have any of that in our company,” he says. “It’s all merit-based. You come in, you work, you learn and prove yourself.”
It’s a structure that mutually benefits those on both ends of the age spectrum, a boon since the company’s current 35 employees span six generations and are split almost evenly between those under and over 40 years old. The largest percentage (46%) millennials, followed by gen Xers, baby boomers and members of generation Z.
“The younger folks enjoy working with the older folks because they learn from them, on how to advance you career and how to manage yourself. And they also enjoy teaching the older folks technology, things maybe the older employees aren’t in step with because they aren’t fresh out of school,” Fletcher says. “And the older folks enjoy working with the younger folks to mentor, to teach and to learn from.”
The environment continually busts stereotypes and encourages flexible thinking. “I really believe in working with young people, and we’ve had great success hiring interns and folks just out of college,” he says. On the other hand, “You hear one of the downsides to hiring folks who’ve been in the business 20 to 30 years is they’re set in their ways, they’re not adaptive. But we’ve found it’s really about the environment. If you have a company that has an evolving landscape, when you bring folks in who have been in the business for a while, they’re excited. They’re tired of doing things the same way and they want new opportunities.”
Fletcher cites the programming department as an example of cross-generational greatness at work. “The head of programming is in his 60s and we have a lot of production people who are in their 20s and 30s, and it’s really cool to watch them work together because they’re all creatives,” he says. “The younger people might come with ideas that are a little outside what might appeal to the core horse person. And sometimes the older ones come with something that may be yesterday’s news. When they all sit around the table and talk about it, you end up in this middle land that just seems to work.”
To keep conversations flowing across the generations, RIDE TV has a stable of internal programs and mentorships that promote team building. The employee entertainment committee, for one, comprises individuals from different levels and regularly rotates members. “There might be an SVP, there might be an entry-level person, and they decide on ideas like that, What should we do for employee appreciation day,” Fletcher says.
Additionally, employees of all ages are encouraged to get out of the office and get involved in professional learning. “Within the industry, we encourage folks to attend workshops because the better they’re equipped with new skill sets, it promotes team building and the spirit that they are all working together for the same purpose.”
As it turns out, kicking age discrimination out of the ring is also great for business. RIDE TV is undergoing significant expansion Fletcher says will see its employee ranks swell to 105 by the fall, accompanied by a move to a new HQ. “It’s all happening very quickly, and it’s been very rewarding to see how our existing employees have reacted—with a great spirit of inclusion.”
– Cathy Applefeld Olson