N2 Publishing – Curating Culture to Connect Communities

In a time of rapidly advancing technology and rapidly filling schedules, you may find yourself going months without visiting with your neighbors.  N2 Publishing is a company that understands and appreciates the value of community interaction due to their company culture, and they have made it their mission to keep busy neighbors connected.  You’re probably thinking “That’s what social media is for.  Get with the times.”  But N2 believes that we were created with an itch that the screen just can’t scratch.  Their website says it well: “Print engages the senses in a way digital never will. It offers the eyes a much-needed screen break. It’s a simple tool… no threat of viruses and no dependency on wifi to be kept up to date on local stories…And printed products are lasting, which means N2 publications remain on the coffee tables of residents for as long as they like.”

They must be on to something, because they have earned a spot on the Inc. 5000 (a list of the 5000 fastest-growing privately held small companies in the U.S.) for seven consecutive years.  In addition, this past year they were recognized as one of the Best Places to Work by both Outside Magazine and Glassdoor, No. 32 out of 100 Best Medium Workplaces by Fortune, Best Employers in North Carolina by Business North Carolina, and Entrepreneur’s No. 5 Top Company Culture in the large company category.  Interested yet?  Just wait until you hear how they got there.

N2 Publishing, based in Wilmington, NC, allows neighbors to go beyond the surface level and learn about one another with stories and photos submitted by residents.  Their fully customized monthly publications are designed to reflect community values and echo the unique voice of each neighborhood in a personal, relevant manner.  Currently, they publish more than 900 community magazines across the U.S.

What has made them so successful?  According to Duane Hixon, co-founder and CEO of the company, it’s their one of a kind culture.  “Our purpose is greater than making money, and that is felt and picked up over time by the people you work alongside,” Hixon says.  A document called a Culture Deck can be found on N2’s website.  It clearly defines their values, principles, and vision in a way that’s easy to read and comprehend.  It tells the world who they are and what matters to their business.  According to this Culture Deck, when it comes to N2’s team, “Cultural fit is a requirement, not an extra.  People who repeatedly breach our cultural values will not be here long term regardless of their performance.”  How do they know if a prospective employee is a culture fit?  N2 looks for not only talent, but humility, passion, and the ability to get along with others.  These qualities don’t always show up on a resume, but N2 has mastered the art of culture curating.  The process of defining and cultivating their values has helped them learn to recognize personalities that do not match their needs.

Hixon elaborates, “We seek radiators, not drains. There are two types of people.  The first drains the life from those around them with negativity.  The second radiates energy, uplifting others to another level.  We seek a workplace filled with radiators who take not only work, but life to the next level.”  He says they seek professionals who are not looking to further themselves, but to advance the cause of the company by putting others first.  “Their dispositions are more important than their positions.”  If only every CEO saw it that way.

According to the Culture Deck, the N2 team is encouraged to “inspire and motivate rather than intimidate and manipulate,” as well as “take a little greater share of the blame and little smaller share of the credit.”  Ideas such as these are counter-cultural to many workplaces, but they are the reason N2 has achieved a tight-knit family of workers eager to serve one another and their industry.  They are motivated to collaborate and push one another to be the best they can be, both professionally and personally.

Finally, N2 strives to recognize its’ team members for doing the right thing.  Whether it’s directly addressing concerns, proactively handling conflict, or simply setting a good example of maintaining their values, they believe that these actions deserve to be acknowledged.  This type of encouragement is part of the reason N2’s retention rate is higher than 90%.

N2 Publishing firmly believes that explicitly defining their culture and holding one another accountable for aligning with it is what has allowed them to be successful in their mission to keep communities connected.  Despite the continuous advancement of social media, residents still crave a more tangible way to stay up to date on local happenings with their neighbors, and N2 continues to deliver, month after month.


That’s our spark, what’s yours?