Trilix has had the privilege of having one of the most patient, compassionate and dedicated human resources directors in the business. After 32 years at Trilix, Annette Halbur is retiring. As CEO Ron Maahs and President Todd Senne put it, we’ll dearly miss Annette’s welcoming smile and the assurance that any question we ask her comes with a quick, clear and correct response. At office parties, we’ll miss Annette’s loveable alter ego, Stephanie.
Annette is our longest-tenured employee, having started at advertising agency Porter and Associates in May 1988. When Trilix acquired the agency in 2004, we were happy to keep her on as part of our team.
She was so supportive and knew what we were trying to accomplish. She did all of that while being funny and keeping us from taking ourselves too seriously.
“Her work was crucial in helping Todd and I find our way, keeping things on track and keeping us from making really dumb mistakes,” Ron said. “She was so supportive and knew what we were trying to accomplish. She did all of that while being funny and keeping us from taking ourselves too seriously.”
Annette’s sense of humor was the catalyst for a prank that turned into an annual tradition. Each year, Trilix’s three owners hand out what they call the “canned meat gift” at our winter holiday party. The joke harkens back to a time when Annette still worked Trilix’s front desk.
“She’d been eating a can of tuna fish for lunch. I came up to talk to her, and I said, ‘What smells like tuna?!’” Todd recalled. “After that, she started hiding open cans of tuna fish in my mailbox or around the office to tease me. At the end of the year, we gave everyone a can of tuna fish so they were in on the joke, and we’ve carried that on each year since.
Sometimes Annette was the house mom. Sometimes she was the voice of reason. Sometimes she was the one leading the fun. No matter the day, she was the constant that kept us from spiraling while we were running around trying to grow the business.”
As Annette transitioned into a designated HR role, her priority was creating a professional environment where employees could — and wanted to — grow within the company. She was so successful in this endeavor that one of the interns she hired, Brett Adams, became one of Trilix’s owners and chief marketing officer.
“Little did I know I’d be working with Annette for this long,” Brett said. “It’s really important that someone in her role understands what we’re trying to accomplish while working with so many different personalities in a variety of situations. She’s been able to get the best out of each employee and has been instrumental in shaping the culture of the agency, especially as we’ve changed office locations multiple times and added so much staff.”
We had one final task for Annette before she enters retirement bliss. Annette estimates that she has conducted more than 1,000 job interviews in her career. We decided to let her experience what it was like in the hot seat, answering some classic interview questions.
Which three words would best describe you professionally?
Approachable, open-minded and patient.
Tell us about your previous experience.
I had worked at Porter and Associates for 16 years before Ron and Todd bought the agency. There were seven of us that came from Porter, and the first few months were spent adjusting to new, younger leaders. And I’m sure Ron and Todd were adjusting to working with more people than just the two of them. One of the great things about developing within a company is that you get so many different experiences. When I first started, I was at the front desk. I also did all the billing, estimating, media buys and proofread our work.
What made you qualified for the HR position?
HR really chose me. As Trilix grew, we kept needing more and more employees. I was in charge of benefits back then, and I was also in charge of hiring and managing five or six interns at a time. It was a natural step for me. When you’re growing within a company, you start developing other employees as well. It’s even more rewarding when you see them start developing their newest team additions.
As Trilix’s longest-tenured employee and director of human resources, how have you helped shape Trilix’s culture?
People shape the culture of a workplace, and I hired employees who would improve our culture for Trilix, our vendors and our clients. My focus has always been on maintaining those employees. If you’re not happy, you’ll move on. That's why I asked the question during interviews, “What has a previous employer done that you wish every employer would do?” That gives me insight into leadership styles, benefit options, team-building activities and more.
What is unique about working in HR at a marketing agency?
The people. Every department is different, and every personality adds something to the mix. We focused on doing great work in a professional environment, but we wanted to have fun and be creative while doing it. Gatherings as a team helped us connect. Decades ago, we had beer in our vending machine, and each employee who wanted to participate in beer hour at the end of the workweek would get a few tickets for the vending machine. We still keep that tradition alive through Beer:30 on Fridays, and our various committees help us connect throughout the office.
Describe a challenging moment you experienced at work and what you learned.
Having to learn to drive downtown was my most challenging moment, so I learned to just deal with it (somewhat).
Throughout your career, you’ve grown professionally and personally. What are you now qualified to do?
I now feel qualified to teach a driving class after spending years driving to work through rush hour traffic. I almost feel qualified to drive in the Indy 500!
What advice would you give young professionals?
When you’re applying for jobs, follow the directions in the application and make sure your resume is in a PDF format. Also, arriving on time and sending a thank you note afterward. Most importantly, know the company. Doing those things really helps set a candidate apart. Throughout your career, it’s important to develop a thick skin. It will help you be more professional and do great work in spite of any potential setbacks.
Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?
Enjoying my retirement somewhere sunny and warm! In a few years, my husband and I want to move somewhere in the Southwest where we can drive a golf cart around, even in the winter months. Until then, I’m going to improve my golf game. One of my first retirement projects is to figure out a good system to organize the hundreds of family photos we have accumulated throughout the years.
I will miss everyone at Trilix. I wish them the very best, especially the next runner to whom I’m passing the baton. I know Bridget is an excellent fit with the company and will take HR services to the next step, especially by updating the technology we use!
While we’ll miss Annette dearly, we’re excited for her to enjoy the next chapter of her life, and we’re thrilled to welcome a new addition to our team. Check back for a Trilix Journal about Human Resources Manager Bridget Raife, coming soon!