About This Episode: 

In this episode, Clodagh Higgins, a digital agency director, consultant, coach, and the author of A Happy & Healthy Digital Agency joins us to share her knowledge and experience as an ex-Hubspotter who has worked with 500+ agencies around the world. We get into why agencies need a great culture and how to build one, useful tips and techniques for hiring A-Players, and how to retain talented employees in the long run.

About Clodagh: 

Clodagh S.Higgins is a Digital Agency Director, Consultant & Coach with the Growit Group based in Ireland and works globally. An ex-HubSpotter, she has worked with over 500+ agencies around the world, helping them in the areas of sales, marketing, services, scaling and growth in their businesses so that they can deliver exceptional results for their clients.

From working in Hubspot, she is now an agency coach and Consultant that has owned her own digital agency for 8+ years in Sydney & Dublin. She is also the author of A Happy & Healthy Digital Agency and hosts a weekly podcast, interviewing agency owners about the highs and lows of running a professional services business, Agency Life.

Clodagh believes that agency owners can have a profitable business of their dreams, with an expert team that is happy, while getting great results for their clients.

When Clodagh is not helping agencies you will find her training for Powerlifting competitions and she has a World Record in Strict Curl and a National Record in Bench Press. She lives in the West of Ireland in her retreat in progress called Isleen Cottage.

Want to See More of Clodagh? Follow her Online:

Resources:

  • Traction by Geno Wickman
  • Agency Life Podcast
  • Agency Life YouTube Channel
  • A Happy & Healthy Digital Agency by Clodagh Higgins

Time Stamps:

You can now repeat or jump to parts with ease!

 

  • Introduction    1:09
  • Who is Clodagh Higgins?    2:55
  • Challenges Agencies Face  6:24
  • Building and Scaling Company Culture   10:22
  • How to Attract High-Quality Talent    16:21
  • Hiring the Right Talent    21:31
  • Interview Techniques and Strategy    22:26
  • Onboarding New Employees the Right Way   28:17
  • How to Retain a Talent in the Long Run    32:51
  • Giving Up Control, Empowering Leaders, and Building Trust Inside Your Team    41:16
  • Conclusion/Outro    45:07

Blog: 

Running a profitable agency is no easy task. There is no shortage of challenges when it comes to managing projects, maintaining profitability, getting results for clients, closing deals and managing clients.

But one challenge shared by all agencies is the complexity of managing their team. As my friend Rob likes to say “The best part about our businesses is that they’re made up of people. The worst part about our businesses is that they’re made up of people”

Why? Because people are unpredictable. Each person has their needs, wants, and capabilities. Let’s dive in and learn about the biggest challenges agencies face. How to scale company culture, how to hire, empower and retain employees in the long run.

Entrepreneur’s Mindset vs. Their Employees’

Now, I’m not going to take sides or tell you that the other one’s better than the other. The truth is, entrepreneurs and their talents have a different way of thinking. This causes struggles for the agency. 

Entrepreneurs are risk-takers. They work day in and day out, they’re usually not concerned with having a future nor structure. When entrepreneurs see that their idea isn’t working for their favor or they lose interest in a project, they often ditch the project and move on to the next one.

The same cannot be said about employees. They often want to know details about their job. From their job description, company culture, and compensation. With that being said, employees prefer to have a structure. Why? It reassures their stability, they want to know whether they can take vacations or work from home. Employees want to start a project, work on it, and finish it. 

Entrepreneurs need employees to have a successful business. While employees do not need entrepreneurs since they can go get a job at the bank.

According to Clodagh, when an employee decides to work for you they’re eager to learn more about you and your company. They believe in your vision and mission. And they find your company’s dynamic exciting because it’s different. Without a proper business structure, policies, or training, you’ll run into scaling and retention problems over time.

This is why it’s best to communicate both you and your employees’ needs, ideas, and expectations. To be able to move forward, collaborate, and work on your common goals.

 

How to Avoid Idea Fatigue

Idea fatigue? Is that even a thing? Well, yes. I’m looking at you, Mr./Mrs. CEO! As entrepreneurs, we’re often ready to move on to the next big idea before the last one has been fully implemented. Often, our team has a lot more trouble reconciling enthusiasm for new ideas against the need to tie up loose ends and complete the last big initiative we put on their plate.

Avoiding this scenario can be easy, and if you’re suffering from it, act on it, ASAP! First, talk to your employees about the changes which you want to implement in your business. If you have new ideas and want to start new projects, collaborate with your employees to figure out what to prioritize and keep expectations clear and simple. they’ll be more than happy to help to make sure what’s truly important gets done, and more importantly; gets completed.

This will not only help your company’s profitability. But it will be a great foundation to build a good relationship with your employees as they can feel a sense of accomplishment in being a part of successful initiatives that drive the business forward.

How to Build a Strong Company Culture

Company culture starts with the agency’s owner. Clodagh advises business owners to grab and read the book written by Geno Wickman called Traction. The book will help you implement the fundamental systems in your business to build high performing teams and retain great talent.

1. Determine your core values

Clodagh says the foundation of your culture is the values to set within the company. Values act as both guiding principles for the trajectory of your company, as well as a filter for the employees and clients that come along for the ride.

Clodagh recommends going through an exercise to determine your company values and to make them a central part of your hiring process to ensure the right people “get on the bus.”

2. Organize your company’s culture committee

Organizing a small culture committee in your company will be a great start to not only make your team feel valued and welcomed. This will also help them to push their limits and be better team members. 

From knowing all your employees’ birthdays, organizing the end of the month celebration, company outings, Friendsgiving, Halloween/Christmas parties, to set aside a budget to decorate the office, will make a huge difference in boosting your employees’ morale. 

These company perks, will not only boost your employees’ morale but it’s also a way for them to take responsibility. And that, they will be merited for all the good things they do for the company from hitting the sales target or helping the team produce awesome content.

3. Do not punish your employees

However, never punish your employees as well. Even if your team did not hit the month’s targeted sale. You should still acknowledge their hard work by ordering free lunch or snacks for everyone. As a business owner, you must always show your employees that you care and appreciate them.

4. Send care packages to your remote team members

Distance will never be a problem and it will be nice to send your remote team members gift cards, company merch, books/ebooks, Netflix/Hulu/HBO/Spotify/Amazon Prime subscriptions, and even give them free paid training to show them that you care. 

5. Hire People who are Hungry To Grow

One important interview question Clodagh highlights are about extracurriculars. What are you doing outside of work? What kind of thought leaders are you following? Figuring out if people have the initiative to grow themselves and their skills on their own time is an important factor in building a team of superstars that can grow with your business.

How To Attract High-Quality Talents

Now that we’ve got a great culture. And we’re selling lots of stuff. We’re making loads of money. And we’ve got to attract more talents. We’ve got to attract amazing people to come work at our agency. Which is something that I hear lots of people struggling with all the time! Here are some useful tips and strategies which you can try when hiring talents, as told by Clodagh.

  • Always have a hiring approach. Dedicate a page on your website where people can send their résumé, contact details, and portfolio. Do not let any opportunity slip when it comes to finding the right person for your company.
  • Create an “about” page on your website which includes a brief history of your company. This includes your vision, mission, reviews, and core values. It’s important to have information accessible by end-users. For them have a good grasp of what your company is.
  • Be social. We’re living in the digital age. Maximize social media platforms to boost brand awareness. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are awesome platforms to market the products and services your company offers.
  • Do not rush the hiring process, it’s unfair to hire somebody at the last minute. Not to mention, you’re setting yourself and the employee up for failure. Don’t be afraid to work with a talent as contractors, or run top applicants through a test project before committing for the long haul.
  • Give your employees access to training portals before their start date. It’s essential to let your soon-to-be employees learn more about your company’s culture and dynamics, strategies, and tools. And, by the time you hire them, it won’t be as difficult for you, your team, and for the newly hired employee to adjust.
  • Statistics show that 63% of newly hired employees tend to quit their job within the first 90 days. That’s why Clodagh likes to create 90-day onboarding calendars to optimize the process and make sure the experience is consistent. According to Clodagh, the first 90 days are crucial, ensuring you and the team have a clear plan on how to make that first experience successful is the key to hanging on to great hires. 

How to Choose the Right Person for the Job

Let’s assume now that you’ve got lots of great people that are willing to be a part of your team or work with your team. And now the question is how do we figure out who is the best fit? How do we make sure that they’re successful in our organization?

Interview Techniques and Strategy

  • Check out their résumé and portfolio. Through this, you will be able to learn more about the applicant’s skill set and expertise while being able to verify them.
  • Ask the applicant to send a video of themselves explaining why they are a great fit for this job. This will give you great leverage when assessing the applicant’s creativity and personality.
  • Ask them about their goals and values. It is best to hire people with the same goals and values.
  • Listen to your gut feeling, which in most instances is a misalignment of values between the employer and applicant.
  • Ask about their hobbies, interest, which personalities do they follow, and what activities do they usually do in their free time. By asking these questions, you can determine whether this person is dedicated to their craft or not. 
  • Organize a group interview and project with your five best applicants. This allows you to see and assess their emotional intelligence and to see which of them is a team player. This is also a great way to unravel their hidden skills and see where they excel in.

Onboarding Process

In 2019, It’s an employee market out there. A talent that doesn’t feel excited in the first 3 months of starting a new job will almost certainly continue looking elsewhere. Planning their onboarding with your team is important. There’s nothing worse than showing up on your first day of work and feeling like the team forgot you were starting today.

Clodagh recommends clearly communicating to everyone on your team about new hires and making sure that their workstation is set up with a care package to make that first experience a memorable one. With your 90-day onboarding plan, you’ll have meetings and activities to introduce them to the team planned weeks ahead of time, so nobody is caught off guard.

Prepare a list of FAQs about the company and its tasks. To help her navigate the company with ease. Instruct their team leaders and set up a mentorship cadence to help them feel supported.

Get them to create a Google document with the list of questions that they want to ask you. Which you or their team lead can answer at the end of each day. 

These tips will help you pre-plan your employee’s onboarding process and make sure their transition to your company is successful.

How to Retain Your Employees

As agencies, we’re often talent creators (not consumers) and we invest a lot into growing our teams and building their skillsets. So how do you make sure that your team isn’t constantly turning over?

  • Have a meeting with your team and discuss what are your current plans/goals for your company.
  • Don’t be afraid to give them constructive criticism to make them a better employee.
  • Allow them to get promoted at least every six months if they hit goals set out on a predetermined ascension plan.
  • Ask about their needs, personal goals, and not just their professional goals.
  • Make them feel appreciated by giving them bonuses and other additional perks for outstanding work.
  • Empower them to become fierce leaders while giving them your trust and support.
  • Help them understand what they want based on their career goals. This will align incentives and career paths around those things.
  • Understand that most of the time, it is NOT all about the money.
  • Making your employees feel truly heard and valued will build loyalty for the long run.

Giving Up Control, Empowering Leaders, and Building Trust Inside Your Team

How do you as an agency owner, get better at giving up control and empowering leaders and building that trust inside your team?

Clodagh recommends reading Traction and looking at the Entrepreneurial Operating System for guidance on building out a structure, meeting cadence and metrics to build a foundation for scale in your agency. 

Having systems in place to ensure the right people are doing the right things, and metrics in place to hold them accountable to performance will give you the confidence to start letting go of responsibilities and empowering your team with them instead.

She recommends meeting with your team once a month to implement accountability tasks to the entrepreneurial operating system and determine the right business structure and initiatives to fit your goals.

Then, decide on what you want to do, whether you want to work and go to the office five or two days a week. Write about the assets and liabilities to understand the ins and outs of your business even if you are not as hands-on as you used to be. 

Designate tasks in accordance to your team’s expertise. Empower and motivate leaders and top performers to push their limits.

Now that you are armed with knowledge and techniques on how to manage and build your agency’s culture. And you’ve learned how to nurture a long-lasting relationship with your employees, you’re all set to start and build your empire.