How to hire people better than you that can take your agency to the next level - Smart Agency Masterclass: Podcast for Digital Marketing Agencies

How to Hire People Better Than You That Can Take Your Agency to the Next Level

By Jason Swenk on December 16, 2014

In today’s session of The Smart Agency Master Class I talk with Rich Brooks, president of Flyte New Media, a web design and marketing company.  This episode is all about how to manage your team. You need to be hiring people better than you, and we’re going to help you find those people, as well as get over being afraid of their skills. Plus, you’ll hear about how to avoid some common mistakes.

When should you hire someone else?

The right time is different for everyone. For Rich, he was prompted to hire someone by a client. They wanted to give him more business, but felt he wouldn’t have been able to handle it on his own. For most of us, the right time is when we realize we can’t handle it on our own.

But maybe you’re feeling like you can handle most of it on your own. In that case, think about bringing someone in on a part-time basis. Rich started with a part-time person and has since grown to a staff of seven; five of which are full-time.

Take your time finding someone. Remember: hire slowly, and fire quickly. (More on that in a second.)

Four of the biggest hiring mistakes.

  1. Hiring too quickly! If you need someone ASAP for a project, or you’re just going to hire so-and-so because you like them, then you are probably hiring too quickly. Cool your jets a little and really think about what kind of fit that person will be. And if you find yourself employing the wrong person, get rid of them!
  2. Not casting a wide enough net. If you’re advertising for potential employees in a place where the kind of people you want to hire aren’t looking, then you’re making a mistake. Perhaps you should think about ditching the free neighborhood circular and paying for an ad on the hottest industry job board.
  3. Hiring without a plan. You hired them for a specific project, but what happens after that project ends? Have you made a job description for them? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself before you bring someone onboard.
  4. Hiring someone because you liked them. If you’re only requirement be that you like the person, you are going about hiring all wrong. Great people are great, but you don’t have to hire people you want to spend holidays with. Sometimes the best people aren’t your best friends.

You’re looking for people that will be a good compliment to you. That means you need to stay away from hiring someone just like you. You’ll never get anything done that way. Instead, look for people you can work well with, but who will challenge you and fill in the gaps that you can’t.

Measuring employee performance.

Everyone hates reviews. So let’s ditch that term and start calling them Coaching Sessions. It can still be a painful process to go through, but it’s a lot easier if we go ahead and reframe it as a conversation rather than a scolding.

Secondly, you do not need to be everyone’s best friend. Repeat it with me: I do not need to be everyone’s best friend. What you need to be is your company’s best friend, and your company needs you to toughen up and be the bad guy sometimes.

At Flyte, Rich does his reviews quarterly. That way it’s a more continuous conversation with the employee rather than an annual lambasting.

I also do quarterly coaching, but instead of talking about what my goals are for the company, I let the employees set their 90-day goals that will help us reach the company’s goals. Then we can sit down and see what goals were met, which weren’t and why, and how to improve going forward in the next 90 days. This way everyone knows exactly what is expected and exactly what will be measured.

Pro tip: deliver bad news last, or at least, in the middle. That whole bad news before good news idea is backwards. Instead give the employee some positives before delivering any bad news. Then end on a high note for bonus points.

How to say ‘You’re Fired.’

Firing people sucks. It just plain does. But as the business owner, it is your job. You need to keep reminding yourself that it’s not what you want as the agency owner, but what the company needs. Unfortunately, what you personally want and what the company needs don’t always line up.

Of course, firing the awful employees are easy. It’s those middle of the road ones that are tricky. They’re not really doing a good job, but they’re not necessarily doing a bad job either. According to Rich, the so-so employees are actually the worse. They’re doing nothing to improve and grow your company. In fact, they’re just slowly dragging it down.

As the owner, you need to tell the employee that it’s time to rise to the occasion or get out. You aren’t personally responsible for their well-being. If you’ve given them the opportunity to succeed, and they still can’t, then you need to let go.

Be zen about it: perhaps the reason they aren’t succeeding with you is because they should be succeeding elsewhere.

Hire dwarfs or giants.

Do not be afraid to hire people better than you. If you have any fear that they’re going to come in and take your business, you need to let go of that immediately. You want people better than you! This is how your business will grow. You’re still going to be needed, but your position will evolve, and that’s okay.

Think of it this way (courtesy of Rich’s old business coach): if you hire people smaller than you, you’ll have a company of dwarfs, but if you hire people bigger than you, you’ll have a company of giants.

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