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When To Hire And How To Hire? The Inbound Agency Owner’s Catch 22

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Oct 26, 2017 3:00:00 PM

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Hiring at the inbound marketing agencyWhen it comes questions this one is the most asked of them all. When and who do I hire? I think this is most challenging to inbound agency owners of small shops because the fear of making a mistake is petrifying. I do understand that. Hiring is a big commitment, a responsibility and one that puts someone else’s personal future on the line. No one wants to hire a new team member only to have to let them go in 30 days.

But the fear should be put aside. Fear can’t rule the day. No decisions are permanent, especially hiring decisions and yes, it would be difficult to let your new team member go, but everyone would get over it and move on—if it came to that. So, moving forward now. Let’s not “make it hurt” let’s stop this silly “boot strapping” entrepreneurial guidance we’ve all heard from experts. If you’re too busy to work ON your business it is because you’re working IN it every day, all day. You need help. You need a new team member.

Since I know that’s most of you, let’s shift now to deciding who we want to hire and when we want to hire them.

What’s Your Plan?

When it was just you, maybe a plan wasn’t so important. When it gets to be you and one, two or 10 other people, the plan is critical. It’s a requirement. It’s mandatory. What is your plan? Do you want a lifestyle business? Do you want to grow your agency? How big? Ten people? Fifty people? Do you want to focus on a vertical or a specific tactic in the marketing playbook? Do you want local clients and local team members who all come into the office every day or do you want a remote team that never comes into the office? You must ask and answer all these questions before you can move on to hiring anyone.

But there’s more. In the first cohort session of the Intro Agency Cohort program we don’t talk about finance, hiring, marketing or even sales. We talk about Culture and Core Values. That’s because these are the foundation of everything you do. You should know what kind of company culture you want and you should know what core values are going to be important to you and your company. These must be part of your plan. You have to live them every day and help your team live them too. This makes everything else much easier. Don’t skip this step. I did and regretted it.

What Will Your Company Look Like In 6 Months or 18 Months?

Planning at the inbound marketing agencyYou can consider this part of your planning exercise but it’s a little more tactical than the suggestions in the above section. Knowing what you company looks like today, what you want it to look like in six months and then in 12 more months is critical to helping you know who to hire.

My advice to you (and what I tell my cohort members) is to build our three org charts.  Build one for today, one for six months from now and one for 18 months from now (12 months from the 6-month mark). In today’s org chart don’t do it based on people, do it based on roles. If you have more than one role, you can put your name in many boxes. In the six-month org chart, you should have fewer roles, and this identifies what roles you might potentially hire for. In the 18-month org chart you should be in one or two roles ONLY and that will highlight who you want to hire during that period.

This exercise shows you who you need or want to hire but it also shows you in what order. You might see in today’s org chart that you really need a sales person to let you focus on taking care of clients. Or you might see you desperately need a finance person to pay bills, handle payroll and run the numbers. It’s an eye-opening exercise.

What Do You Love? What Do You Hate?

This is little test is going to help you identify another data point around who you should hire. I want you to ask yourself, “What do you love doing and what do you hate doing?” I typically find that most inbound marketing agency owners love selling and hate taking care of clients OR they hate selling and love taking care of clients. Sound familiar?  

Lean into what you love and look for someone to do what you hate. This might sound obvious, but it’s not. Some people think as the owner, you must handle clients. Nope. They also might think as the owner, your responsibility is bringing in new clients. Nope. You know deep down that you’re better at what you love and not as good at what you hate. You’ll be doing your company a solid by hiring someone who loves to do what you hate and letting you focus on what you love.

The more you do what you love, the happier you’ll be and the better you’ll be at that part of the business. Freeing you up to do what you love all day means you can get even better at it. We call that mastery. Focusing on less, always means you get better at it. Your agency will be better for it, your team will be better for it and your agency will grow faster.

What Are You Great At? What Are You Not So Great At?

inbound marketing agency ownersAlong some similar lines. I remember clearly when I did all the writing for our clients at Square 2. I was the head consultant and head writer. We were small. I was a pretty good writer but a very good consultant. Doing both meant I had less time to do what I was great at and had to spend half my time doing what I was just ok at. The end results? I was just ok at both.

When we hired our first writer and I stopped writing client content, the content improved, the client experience improved, I was spending more time consulting and the results improved.  The better content produced better results, we produced content more quickly and we started getting accolades on our writing. The entire agency was elevated.

I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It might seem like we can’t afford to hire, but in reality we can’t afford NOT to hire and when we did, the agency grew into, around and with our new hire. Affording them was never a question. It was more about when do we hire again. That’s a lot more fun than should we hire now.

How Is Your Pipeline? How Are Your Clients Doing?

It would be irresponsible to talk about inbound agency hiring without talking about the fundamentals of the business. Are you losing clients faster than you can sign new ones? Are most of you clients unhappy or frustrated with either service delivery or results? Are you struggling to bring on one or two new clients a month? Are you getting your fair share of leads and sales opportunities? While these might not be deal breakers, they are influencing factors to whether you hire today or tomorrow?

I can argue that if your business isn’t stable, bringing in a new team member might now make it more stable and quite the opposite could make it less stable. However, if your delivery is challenged because you’re overextended then adding a pair of hands might be exactly what it takes to get your clients happy, get them better results, and get delivery back on track.

If you hate sales but do it because no one else does, then hiring someone to handle sales might be just what to doctor ordered. My advice here is look objectively at the business and honestly at what’s working and what’s not working as well. Would more attention from you help fix it? Would additional experiences or capabilities help? Then move forward.

The answers to who do I hire and when do I hire are all buried in your answers to those questions above. If you don’t have answers or your answers are not certain then it’s going to be very difficult to make any type of hiring decision. Remember, this isn’t about finding good people. There are good people everywhere.  This is about your confidence in your own abilities as a leader, agency owner and entrepreneur. When you can clearly get through the questions above, you’ll know exactly what to do and when to do it.

Inbound Marketing Agency Growth TipsStart Today Tip – You answered the question and they point to hiring. Get on it. Start posting the right job description. Start working up salary bands for your new team member. Create the 30-60-90 day plans for their first three months so they know what’s expected from them and you know what you want them to be working on. Schedule the 30, 60 and 90-day reviews. Create a short worksheet to guide those reviews and outline what training or onboarding needs to take place and in what order. This is an afternoon of work but it’s going to position you to bring on this new team member, onboard them and set agreed on goals so you get the productivity and contribution you need to help your company take the next step. Whether this is your first team member or your 10th, this approach is going to benefit you and your company.

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Topics: Hiring, inbound agency hiring, inbound marketing agency hiring

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