A rapidly growing organization requires its employees to stretch beyond their job descriptions, addressing countless urgent needs as quickly as possible. Often, during these early stages, you do not have the time nor budget to build the robust team that you need. In this fast-paced environment, it makes sense to hire individuals who can be trusted to wear multiple hats and put out fires as they arise.
No matter how much drive and energy you have, there are only 24 hours in a day. It can be tempting to become accustomed to controlling every move within the business. While there is reassurance in knowing you have the final say, micromanaging every process in your organization is not a sustainable solution. There comes a point when trying to do everything yourself becomes detrimental and requires you to work twice as hard to hit your target growth rate.
Plus, adding marketing specialists to your team can boost ROI. Tasks ranging from copywriting and design to SEO and PPC require experience in both strategy and execution. While you could develop an in-house team to perform many of these marketing duties, some capabilities are stronger when they are outsourced to a group of specialists who can bring more to the table than a single individual.
Once your startup achieves a certain level of growth, you can round out the team with specialists who can expertly tackle specific needs. However, seeing tangible results from marketing programs is not always instantaneous. It can take weeks or months until you see the full benefit of new marketing programs. In the meantime, you may lose valuable time if you do not have experienced specialists on your team.
And by the time you realize your strategy is not working, your business will have lost valuable momentum. Unfortunately, developing in-house talent takes time as well. In situations where an internal resource is not in place, it is a good idea to reach out to third-party to bridge gaps.
If you have several positions to fill, the time and energy required to make the right hire can be time-consuming. In these circumstances, hiring an outside agency can create momentum, accelerate learning curves, and improve the efficacy of your resources. Working with a third-party gives you a reliable and experienced team, so you are not putting all of your faith in a single in-house hire to deliver the results you need.
Turn to an advisor who does not prefer one specialization or channel more than others. This outlook will provide objectivity that takes into account your target segment and your goals.
Imagine if you are considering hiring a social media manager. An impartial consultant will advise against hiring an in-house social media manager or paying top dollar to outsource to a social media agency if your customers do not spend a lot of time on social media. However, if most of your traffic is through organic search, then you stand to benefit by outsourcing your SEO needs. If you ask a social media agency for advice on whether you should outsource, they have a powerful incentive to ensure that you solicit their services.
Generally, unbiased advice will hinge on a few key factors:
Deciding whether or not to hire can be daunting, especially when you have a limited budget. Fortunately, TBGA can help answer your most crucial hiring questions. We have helped organizations large and small grapple with the same questions, and we can put you on a curated path toward successful growth. Take the first step and reach out today for a free consultation.
Your organization quickly expanded as a result of the people you have hired, most notably the handful of employees who have worked alongside you since the beginning. Naturally, you feel a great deal of loyalty toward these employees. After all, you want to keep the people around that helped you bring the company to where it is today.
In the early stages of any business, you often have to find people who can do a little bit of everything. This is especially true for marketing. If you did not hire a person (or two, for that matter) with at least a base knowledge of how to engage consumers and build brand awareness, you could easily count yourself as one of the nine out of 10 startups that fail.
As your business grows, your marketing needs will inevitably become more and more specialized with each passing year. Every campaign must deliver greater insights, results, and returns. Otherwise, your products or services could easily fall off even the most loyal of your customers’ radars.
This is not to say that you should replace all of your generalists with specialists. When industries shift, as they often do, it will be your generalists – and their innate ability to pinpoint issues and adapt – who will enable your business to come out on top. Their broad knowledge and problem-solving can piece together the big picture for the rest of your organization, helping predict the best next move.
As a marketing leader, you must build an organization that can support a rapidly evolving landscape. You must balance developing in-house talent against partnering with external providers. With each hiring decision point, you should evaluate whether you are striking the delicate balance with your in-house team or if an external agency can fill any gaps in executing your marketing strategy.
You do not need to have all of the answers — and even if you do, team shakeups can still feel uncomfortable. Often, it can be hard as an entrepreneur to know when to bring in a new perspective. Fortunately, you can turn to a consultant to assess your marketing team, map them against your goals, and provide an unbiased recommendation for what to do and how to get everyone on board. However, you must select an advisor that brings first-hand knowledge in aligning a marketing organization with corporate strategy to get a real return on investment.
While advice will vary from business to business, here are four steps to set yourself up for growth:
Here is an example: With mobile phone penetration expected to hit nearly 83 percent by 2020, this channel will serve as the primary path to purchase for many customer segments. As you map the opportunity, you have to understand how consumer behavior differs across devices. This presents a golden opportunity to strengthen your team with expertise in mobile marketing. If you lack this expertise, your business likely will not see the same results for this marketing effort as competitors who are prepared. After you find skill gaps on your team, you must answer the following difficult questions: If you were to bring someone in to handle mobile marketing capabilities, would that person have enough work to fill up a 40-hour week? Or, would a better option be to hire a freelancer or agency to execute this task?
If a time comes when you need an unbiased opinion, you can rely on TBGA’s proven track record of improving marketing ROI and implementing time-tested solutions to get the most value out of your marketing spend. Get started, and reach out today for a free consultation.
You hired a strategic consultant to help make some much-needed changes in your company. Now, it is time to get the ball rolling.
While your head might be ready to make those adjustments, your heart might be throwing a bit of a tantrum. Constructive criticism can be difficult to digest when you feel protective of the teams and systems you have worked so hard to put in place. Even if the recommended changes are completely rational, some might surprise you while others insult you.
But after the initial sting, you will soon realize that being open to criticism makes you a stronger leader. Deep down, you know that you hired a consultant because your business is not reaching its full potential. In order to implement the changes that will encourage your business to grow and thrive, you need to open yourself up, listen, and really take part in tough conversations.
Let us take a look at some of the toughest pills that a strategic consultant might prescribe you and consider why (and how) you should swallow them with a smile.
But in many cases, personal attachments to team members can blind leaders from seeing the dysfunctions that are actually holding the company in a rut.
It is important to look clearly at the skills and experience of your team members. Ask yourself, “Who do I need today to take my company to the next level?” Goodbyes are always hard, but it is better to say them now than after your business has collapsed.
The saddest thing I have witnessed is when founders realize this strategy problem too late. For example, we once had a client come to us with Google-sized aspirations, but the company had been hemorrhaging cash for the past several quarters. Unfortunately, it was far too late to make the crucial changes in the product strategy.
To avoid this dreadful situation, do not delay. Instead, complete the tough work now to ensure your business model is healthy.
If your strategic consultant comes to you with this criticism, do not start backpedaling with excuses. Instead, go against your natural instincts and thank them.
While being told to focus might make you initially feel constrained and less entrepreneurial, that discomfort will soon ease once you see what a little focus does to your chosen idea. Move forward by pinning down what this focus looks like for your company, and then keep tabs on new ideas and ventures so they do not go astray.
A lack of structure in a company can be just as damaging as a bad idea. When departments are not communicating or collaborating, everyone moves forward without a clear purpose.
If this is the problem your team faces, there are many ways you can start bringing structure into your operations. From regular conversations between teammates to clear, shared documentation, adding structure helps team members stay accountable by giving them distinctly defined roles, priorities, and goals.
Know in your head — and heart — why you are inviting a strategic consultant into your company, and understand what your goals are for the process. If you really want to push your company to new heights, you need to be willing to embrace and find value in these tough conversations.
When does a company achieve the “diverse” badge of honor? Is it simply when the staff photos on its website no longer favor one gender over another? When the photos show a wide variety of races?
Too many business leaders hang their hats on this physical definition of diversity, seeing it as a checkbox that will earn them good PR; paint them as a progressive, open-minded company; and wow potential investors.
Instead of a checkbox, I encourage people to think about diversity outside the box. Besides gender and race, diversity also refers to different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. When your employees bring a variety of unique ideas and opinions to the table, you can learn so much more about your customers — and it is that intel that will help you stay ahead of the competition.
When your perception of diversity is solely based on external characteristics, you miss out on its true power. In reality, diversity goes much deeper. Below the surface, people bring different backgrounds, values, and upbringings to the table that provide companies with unique, innovative problem-solving approaches and opinions that — when leveraged productively — make your company stronger, more creative, and more relevant.
The physical definition of diversity should be constantly in the back of your mind as you vet candidates, and your vetting process should be the same whether you are interviewing a man, a woman, a person of color, a younger person, an older person — the list goes on. But it should not necessarily be your top criterion when making hiring decisions.
Throughout the hiring process, your primary focus should be on skills, abilities, and how well the person will fit into the company culture. Hiring solely for physical diversity — checking that box — will not always give you the best person for the job. You also want to make sure that not everyone at your company is marching to the same drummer, so to speak. There should be conflicting opinions among your staff, and you want your team to collaboratively work through these conflicting opinions. It is when you have achieved this deeper level of diversity that creative solutions emerge that set companies apart.
It is like cooking a stew. If you keep adding salt and pepper as it cooks, the stew will not taste any better. But once you toss in the rosemary, thyme, basil, and paprika, the kitchen fills with glorious smells, and the stew ends up being delicious.
As you set out on your journey to foster true diversity in your company, challenge yourself when looking for the best candidates. Focus on these three characteristics to dig deep and find the perfect people for your team:
So many companies we have worked with are jam-packed with people with impressive alma maters. In some cases, the entire leadership team went to the same university. While that might look great on paper, once you walk into a room with these company leaders, they are all on the same page and agree on what needs to be done. But if you take a step back and really examine the situation, they lack external perspectives and conflicting viewpoints, so they find themselves stuck in neutral with no clue how to jumpstart their growth.
Of course, you want people with impressive educational accolades from Ivy League schools, but you also need balance. You need to also hire people who went to public schools and received a completely different (yet still valid and useful) education and overall academic experience. They will have fresh ways of looking at things, which is exactly what your company needs.
Before we dive into this characteristic, it is important to note that you should not ask job candidates about their household income when they were growing up, their current net worth, or other personal financial matters. However, you can read between the lines.
Did they work while they were in college? Did they rely on scholarships? Do they travel a lot? Or have they never been on an airplane? The ideal makeup is a mix of people who grew up bootstrapping their way to where they are today, as well as people who did not have to. Having a healthy balance of varying socioeconomic backgrounds will yield a mixed bag of opinions, work styles, and problem-solving approaches.
Again, before we dive into this one, remember that you cannot ask job candidates about their religious beliefs. However, you can analyze where they grew up and how they spend their free time. Do they volunteer? What are they passionate about? Did they grow up in a rural or urban area?
There is no question that rural and urban communities in America hold tight to vastly different beliefs and values. In order for your company to become a household name across all communities, make sure you have all communities represented on your team.
It might seem appealing to solely hire workaholics who pursue little to no passions and hobbies outside of work. However, people who have lives and passion projects outside of work will bring in a broad spectrum of interests, leading to innovative approaches, and ways of thinking.
While physical diversity is very important, it is not the end-all and be-all of company diversity. It goes far deeper below the surface. Hiring people from different backgrounds can help businesses thrive. It is time to rethink what diversity means for your business and how you can truly embrace it to your company’s advantage.
As a founder, you have spent years working long hours to make your company a reality. You know the ins and outs better than anyone else. While it is tempting to think you can gain amazing insights on your own by reading 800-word articles online, you will eventually need to turn to experts to augment knowledge gaps. Engaging a consultant with thorough knowledge of his or her expertise area can help you achieve results.
However, it can be hard to fully rely on your newly hired consultant. It is natural to feel like it will take at least several months to get him or her up to speed before you can trust any input and advice. However, a lengthy waiting period can prove to be a detrimental mistake.
Avoid these four pitfalls to get the most out of your consultant:
In one instance, a client went overboard. In the time it took the client to think over our suggestions, the competition got a ton of media coverage and made waves while our client was left in the dust. Three years later, the competitor enjoyed a phenomenal exit. In the meantime, our client was in the process of pivoting to a new market.
For example, we had a client prepped for an opportunity to appear in The Wall Street Journal. With the opportunity in hand, the business leaders stalled and decided to pivot the direction of the story to something that they thought would be “something more interesting.” Against our advice, they refused to answer questions they considered uninteresting and demanded a “better” reporter. Following a few interactions with our client, the reporter moved on to a different story. We lost the feature article.
Consultants use their expertise to provide recommendations that best aligns with the goals of your company. Your job is not to question the value of recommended strategies; it is to determine whether they are feasible to undertake with your company’s resources. You know your company best. Ask for data and qualitative backup for their recommendations, and stay in the loop.
Afterward, we were able to use data to illustrate that the failure came from the affiliate program. The client needed to reallocate resources, and it took three months for us to regain the SEO losses. Initially, the company balked at our advice because we had not yet gained an understanding of the intricacies of their marketing programs. What the client failed to realize, though, was how to pinpoint the necessary data to make metrics-based business decisions.
Do not doubt yourself. If you are confident in your hiring decision, then the consultant will have valuable input and advice on day one. The ideal hire should come with an impressive pedigree and demonstrate the ability to spearhead marketing strategies that drive results. With your combined knowledge, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can achieve together.
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Your best employees contribute to your company in a variety of ways, and your tools for rewarding them should be just as various. Not only is it not always feasible to raise their pay, but employees often prefer other forms of compensation.
Effective employee rewards include:
Many employees find dress codes restrictive, so give them a day when they’re free to wear whatever they want. Just remember that casual does not mean unprofessional, and they cannot be rule free. Here are some things to consider when instituting casual day:
Consider making casual day goal-based. For example, employees could receive one casual day for every week that your office hits a performance goal. This will encourage employees to work together and improve productivity, and it won’t cost you a cent.
If an employee has demonstrated high productivity and a commitment to hard work, give that worker the freedom to set his or her own schedule. Many employees would be happy to work two twenty-hour days in a row and take the rest of the week off. As long as you trust them to provide quality work product in the expected timeframe, giving them the freedom to do this won’t cost you anything. It may even raise productivity. By freeing workers from the constraints of a 9 to 5 schedule, you’ll allow them to schedule meetings with clients when the time is best, use commitment when other workers aren’t around to block them, and adopt more efficient methods.
One of the greatest sources of workplace frustration is having to use outdated computers and faulty office equipment. To reduce employees’ stress and help them do their jobs more easily, consider updating your most loyal employees’ equipment. Not only will this send a positive message to those employees, but the new equipment should pay for itself through higher levels of productivity and reduced waste. Rewarding employees with new equipment is particularly effective if you allow them to set their schedules at the same time. This way, every minute they save with the new equipment is another minute they can spend as they choose.
Install exercise equipment, massage chairs, and other devices that improve health and lower stress. For the low price of adopting and powering this equipment, you’ll let employees break up the monotony of the workday, feel more energized, and counter the negative effects of sedentary office life. A chance to relieve stress will also improve productivity, more than making up for the price of the equipment. For best results, offer your best employees extra break time after you install the equipment. This will reward your staff as a group while giving individual workers an incentive to rise above the rest.
The Internet and social media offer a panoply of new possibilities for recognizing employees’ achievements. In addition to awards ceremonies and physical plaques, you can add a “virtual wall of fame” to your website and update it monthly to recognize the most productive employees. You can also make a video in honor of the employee you’re rewarding, containing a summary of his or her accomplishments and interviews with co-workers who have positive things to say. Just make sure to check with your employees before you upload anything about them to the Internet, as many workers are uncomfortable with having even positive information broadcast about them.
How do you recognize employees and colleagues that go above and beyond?
Entrepreneurs often overlook company culture during their first weeks in business. While many prioritize other aspects of their business, they risk sacrificing a potential differentiator and what should be the fundamental basis of their brand. A company’s culture is vital to securing a good reputation, encouraging employee loyalty, and fostering collaboration with other businesses. Whatever your other responsibilities, it’s essential to begin building a corporate culture from day one.
Identify specific values that you can easily be put into practice. Generic values like equality, innovation, and employee safety are good at the start but focus on values that relate specifically to your business. If your company provides home insulation services, for example, you have the potential to reduce your customers’ household energy use and associated pollution, so environmental sustainability will be an easy value to promote in your ordinary business practices. Likewise, if you work in software or network design, information security and privacy protection are ideal values.
For example, Trailblaze Growth Advisors ties its values to helping firms of all sizes improve their appeal and increase profitability. Our values include:
Once you’ve decided on values for your business, make sure to articulate them to employees and customers alike. Write all of your values down, incorporate them into training programs, and devote a page of your company website to them. The sooner you make your values clear, the easier it is for your employees to embody them, and the quicker your business will gain a reputation for them.
Articulating company values also gives your employees a chance to become involved in the emerging corporate culture. Encourage them to read through the values, identify omissions, and make suggestions for improvement. The more involved your employees are in this process, the more motivated they will be to promote your company culture and the better that culture will reflect your employees’ attitudes and actions.
Putting your company culture into action means giving credit to every employee who promotes that culture. Any of your employees’ actions that embody your values, however small, should be met with praise. Consider holding monthly ceremonies in which you publicly recognize employees who promoted your values and reward them with raises or prizes. Keep permanent records of these achievements on your website or on plaques. You must also negatively sanction employees who fail to live up to your values, giving them an ultimatum to comply. One unfaithful employee can give the whole company a bad reputation.
As the leadership team, you must embody your company’s values in all areas of your life, and not just at work. If one of your values is sustainability, for example, consider insulating your home, installing solar panels, and biking to work. The more commitment you show to your culture, the more it will be taken seriously.
As your business grows, attracts new customers, and responds to changes in technology, your company’s culture will have to adapt. Encourage your employees to discuss your values and find new ways of promoting them in the changing market. Your company will change, but as long as it remains committed to its core values, it can continue to garner respect among employees, customers, and the business community.
Don’t overlook something as crucial as culture. Check out our sources to learn more about founding a company on strong values.
Steve Jobs is widely regarded as one of the most creative business owners in American history. Not only was he one of the “founding fathers” of the personal computer era, but he was able to take a struggling company – Apple – and set it on a trajectory to become the company with the highest valuation in the world (as of March 31, 2014).
In 1982, Jobs won the Golden Plate award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington D.C. During that speech, Jobs discussed his theory on creativity, which essentially boiled down to emphasizing the importance of unique and wide-ranging experiences. Few dispute the validity and value of that lesson; however, many have sought out a more concrete way to understand creativity – both where it comes from, and how we can generate it more reliably.
Recently, an article from the Columbia Business School addressed the very question of whether scientific principles can be applied to creativity. Can science, in fact, be at the foundation of creativity?
In the article, the author indirectly expands on the ideas that Jobs shared more than three decades earlier. However, instead of simply relying on personal experiences, the act of reading and learning from the experiences of others can be used to generate creative ideas. Creative ideas don’t simply come “out of the blue,” the author states. Instead, they are built on the great ideas that came before them. This principle is self-evident from the very fact that this author was likely influenced – whether directly or indirectly – by the speech Jobs gave in 1982, and the creative business philosophy Jobs engaged in during his life.
The article also discusses a study conducted by Professor Oded Netzer, who was able to uncover a “schematic link between the various components of an idea and its perceived creativity.” In the study, which was fairly involved (and can be read about in greater detail by clicking here), Netzer was able to make several conclusions.
The results of Netzer’s study are obviously on the cutting edge, and it will probably take some time before the ideas truly take hold in the mainstream. Nevertheless, there are a number of lessons from the study that marketers can use in their own efforts.
Most importantly, marketers who want to be innovative and creative must have a strong sense of balance between novel and familiar ideas. Too much in either direction will lead to suboptimal effectiveness.
Beyond that, everyone (marketer or otherwise) can learn from the inherent truth found in the study — namely, that many things in life (marketing and business included) require a level of “harmony and balance” if they are to be successful. While this might seem a bit too philosophical for some, those who are able to internalize these ideas will be combining the best parts of science, business, and innovation into their own lives.