Topics covered included:
- If your team is not good, your agency won't survive: the hardest part in scaling is hiring and learning to delegate
- The right culture: how to attract the right employees for your culture
- Operational cadence: running meetings with the staff to keep everyone engaged
- Pricing, packaging and process: how to deliver services reliably and have margin
A little background on our speaker Nicole Pereira. Nicole has been in the industry for about a decade and has owned numerous agencies across software development, design, inbound, and RevOps. She leads a HubSpot diamond partner agency and hired remotely before remote work was cool and COVID hit.
The right team for the agency
Having the right team for your agency is imperative. The individual skillsets, personalities, backgrounds, and education will allow for scale by alleviating the workload on the owner.
What strategies can be implemented to ensure effective hiring and delegation process in order to scale a successful agency?
Deciding on the right time to hire depends on you, your workload, and when you feel ready to sacrifice some of your piece of the pie to bring on another person. Nicole described this by using numbers.
"If your income is around 10, and you are no longer finding joy in what you do and you have arrived in a place where you can no longer do it yourself, it's time to think about hiring. If you broke off 3 from that 10 to hire another person, you're gaining time back to source more work and with that extra person you have the capacity to take on more work. So you're comfortable with the 7, and you have an employee making the 3 which then allows you space to grow back to that 10 again. You'll know when it's time to hire again when you reach the same delima of more work than what can be handled and you'll feel comfortable enough to peel off 3 more to hire another employee to handle the additional workload."
It's always a leap of faith with the first employee. Always keep in mind that you're not looking to duplicate yourself. Rather, find someone who can and is willing to help.
After a few new hires, it's time to set a hiring process in place. Documentation of the process is key, and it's important that everyone in the agency understands that process. No matter how small of an agency, a misaligned or bad hire can drastically affect the agency's success. How prescriptive the documentation process is, should be defined based on a combination of the role and the person who is filling that role. Document templates and processes in detail. Also, define where there could be grey areas and individual preferences for processes can be created. Then train your team to understand where strict adherence to process is important and where they can have a little more flexibility to define their own process that works for them. As a business owner, it's important to remember there must be a tolerance zone so people have the ability to learn. In a smaller agency setting, sometimes more flexibility in the process is a reward instead of career advancement.
Nicole used her in-depth understanding and industry knowledge to leverage HubSpot and create an award-winning hiring process. She states,
"When you have a process in place, it frees you up to be brilliant in the moment. It allows you more time to look up a person's work, chat with references and understand the candidate before you interview."
She also highly recommends paying a potential hire for a test project so you can get to know the person's full capabilities.
The first role Nicole hired for was a marketing services position, specifically a Marketing Technologist. She needed someone who was open to learning, had a background in marketing and production, and had an executive assistant level intuitive. As the CEO, Nicole was a visionary, and she needed someone who could fill in the gaps she needed to be filled.
"There is a huge advantage in seeing potential in people, in allowing yourself to do this you not only help grow your company, you provide that person with the opportunity to nuture skills and grow within your company."
When it comes to any goals on the size of your team, it highly depends on your margins; there is no "goal or size" that Nicole strove for aside from having a team capable of making the margins and keeping the business healthy. She focuses on growing elegantly, remaining happy as an entrepreneur, and having a happy staff.
How do you overcome challenges in the early stages of growth?
The first few hires are subjective. You're looking for intelligent individuals who are good at what they do, are flexible, and are willing to help you. Overall you're looking to create harmony in the workspace, one where you create processes that allow you to hand off work, know it's getting done right, and free you up to focus on growing your business.
One of the biggest hurdles for any owner is learning how to delegate. Know your employees' strengths, play into them, and give them work they can complete successfully.
The right culture for the agency
How do you attract the right employees for your culture?
It starts with knowing the capabilities of the team you've built and finding individuals that fit the needs of the team. For example, Nicole needed to hire someone to step in and take over her role as a seller. She understood that she couldn't replace herself and the way that she sold for the team. Rather, she needed to find someone that sold at the same level as her servicing team.
How do you trust your employees to get the work done??
Nicole answered the question with a question, "Do you have time to watch people doing their work?" The answer is no. You do, however, have time to create and watch a mechanism to describe that the work got done. Trust is an interesting thing; with the right communication and work management tools, you see what you need to see. With the right process in place, you don't need to micromanage, just rely on the process. Inevitably you are the project manager for your company, and you don't hand off any work until the process is locked down.
How do you manage a neurodivergent employee?
Prior management experience is helpful, but it's most important to build a very human and personable approach. Try to actively reduce jargon and be flexible. Build a communication system that is equalized for everyone and understand the type of thinker, communicator, and worker your employee is.
What meetings do you run on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to keep staff in the know and engaged?
Nicole holds all of her team/company meetings on Wednesday, as she has learned that that is the best day to gather everyone together. She has a standing "social" meeting on the first Wednesday of the month, and the second Wednesday of the month is a divisional fireside meeting.
Her one-on-one happens every other week, leadership and management every week, and all manager's meetings happen once every two weeks.
There is always an ongoing stream of communications in Slack channels representative of each function. Nicole is a huge supporter of only having a meeting to discuss something; meetings are a space to socialize and stay connected. She feels that in meetings where reporting is necessary, the details be discussed, not presented.
how to pay staff
The United States team of Remotish is salary, and the team accumulates hours monthly vs. weekly. Nicole understands that individuals need the flexibility to get the job done and found that tallying hours monthly vs. hourly pulled the team away from the standard 9-5 construct. The international team of Remotish is hourly.
How do you handle a key employee leaving?
Have an open and honest conversation about where each person is at. Work with the employee who is leaving to create a plan to help them make their transition and re-distribute their work. It's also beneficial if you can look for a new hire and get them trained before the person leaves. Nicole believes that redundancy is needed everywhere, and cross-training staff is crucial to keeping the ship moving forward.
How to have a Margin
How to package and price your services?
Feedback from sales, current customers, and the market is helpful when packaging services.
Nicole selfishly packaged services based on what she wanted to do, but since releasing her sales role, she has been more open to the other opportunities that are out there.
If you are interested in offering a new service, Nicole recommends testing it with a subset of current clients that are tolerant of a "not-so-perfect" process and delivery. Ask that they provide feedback so you can make adjustments to the offering.
Packaging is easy when you know what you're selling; the difficult thing is the price. A recommendation provided via the chat of this event was reviewing The Win Without Pitching Manifesto.
Take note from the software business, you can only price what you can deliver.