This week, dear readers, we are joined by hiring, operations, and leadership expert Megan Keuthen. Via her agency Queen of Ops, Megan brings her unique knowledge and experience across a range of areas, including psychology and behavior, physics and biology, plus marketing and sales.
She’s here today to help us figure out how to hire and retain amazing talent in our business so we can have smooth operations.
About Megan Kuethen…
Megan started her career in the corporate world. She enjoyed various roles, from Process Writer to HR Director, working with boutique firms, Fortune 50 companies, plus everything in between. She placed over 1,500 professionals before striking out to start her own business.
In 2020, Megan launched Queen of Ops, a team and hiring consultancy known for building the teams, culture, and leadership of online-based businesses.
Megan is an expert on hiring, operations, and leadership, and applies her bespoke blend of knowledge and experience to her consulting and coaching work.
Points of Interest…
- Hiring, Retention, and Resulting Challenges 1:08
- Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Hiring 4:20
- Starting on the path to Retention 7:10
- Conversational Framework Example 10:00
- Leveraging Insight in the Hiring Process 12:11
- Honing your Hiring Intuition 16:36
Hiring, Retention, and Resulting Challenges…
To bring things down to brass tacks; Megan helps people to build their teams and lead their teams. Initially, she and her team were primarily focused on just the hiring side of things. It was always in the overall plan to bring a structured offering to how Queen of Ops helps clients to hire AND retain great talent.
Having now built that out, Megan can now deliver retention into her client’s businesses in a more structured manner – with a focus on leadership and work culture. As previously mentioned, Megan has undertaken well over 1,500 placements so she is truly an expert in the field and well versed in the challenges clients face around hiring.
“The big thing everyone is experiencing right now is retention… Small agencies can’t compete with the money big agencies can throw at their team members, which smaller outfits have worked really hard to train and retain. We’re seeing this across the board – even the monster agencies that are stealing talent are struggling with the same thing.”
So, if the size isn’t the present issue, what is the main driver of the current “Great Resignation” climate? According to Megan, it comes down to a lack of structure behind leadership and work culture to meet staff requirements. In her experience, people don’t immediately leave somewhere because they’ve been offered more money, rather they leave because they’re unhappy.
Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Hiring
Historically, the agency industry has been notorious for overworking people for this playbook. My personal POV has always been geared to avoiding my team subsidizing bad process, bad management, lack of scope, inferior positioning etc.
These are all things that hand your power to the clients and result in your team doubling the time they work. The project will get completed but at your team’s expense. While this isn’t a viable “business model” it can be hard to break the cycle. So, how does Megan broach it?
“I think that it starts with treating people like people and not like machines. In order to do that with our people, we have to do it ourselves first. That is most important; we’re not good at having grace with ourselves, that’s why we’re high performers… I’m not suggesting group yoga beach retreats, I am saying ‘Hey, have 10% of grace with yourself and see where that leads to having grace with your team.”
This brings to mind an important conversation I had with Impact‘s Bob Ruffalo, in which he said something along the lines of: “I don’t even care about growth anymore for the money side of it. I just want to keep my best people. I know I can’t do that unless I’m giving them somewhere to grow; if they can’t grow here, they’ll go grow somewhere else.”
Growth is an imperative part of retention – especially when it comes to high performers who tend to get super bored if they feel stagnated.
Starting on the path to Retention
Let’s assume you’re an agency owner who is flailing in the retention department. How can you start on the path to mitigating this?
“Anyone can start just by having different conversations with their team… You need to know their goals, where they want to go. Ask them if they feel like they have a future within the company.”
Having an open dialogue on a regular basis is imperative to moving in the right direction when it comes to retaining hired talent. Burying your head regarding their needs isn’t productive. Or, as Megan puts it…
“It’s like when we’re afraid to check our bank accounts! We’ve all experienced a time in business where you think, ‘Oh my gosh, do I have enough to pay the bills? I don’t want to check my bank account.’ Objectively, we can admit ‘that’s dumb’, but we do the same thing with our team members.”
View it as an “emotional bank account” in which you need to invest in a team member for them to stick around. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope the “balance” is high enough to retain them. Mere “hope” isn’t a strategy.
Side note: our Agency Profit Toolkit is a one stop shop for you to be able to outline some of these crucial profitability numbers to a potential buyer. Spreadsheets, templates and training videos, you name it, it’s all in the toolkit. Grab yours free at the link below:
Conversational Framework Example
OK, so you need to start having these conversations with your team, start collating those human data points. Easier said than done, right? It’s easier than you think.
For example, I recently had a conversation with Jo Evershed of Gorilla Experiment Builder in which she shared a framework she takes with her team quarterly. This entails filling out a simple form which is then reviewed with her. As for the golden questions? They go a little something like this…
- What are you doing that feels good, that you want to do?
- What feels like a lot of work for you?
- Where do you want to go in your career?
- Is there anything you’d like to spend more time on?
- Conversely, what would you like to get off your plate?
The results provide clarity regarding where Jo’s team wants to go, while helping her triangulate roles she’ll soon need to hire for. She can create a job description around the items current team members would ideally like to offload. It also empowers her team to be more in control of their career development.
Leveraging Insight into the Hiring Process
Now we’ve got this picture of all the things that are great about the agency, how do we leverage that in the hiring process to set ourselves apart?
This is an unexpectedly challenging conversation… it’s not as easy as building an amazing sales page out of your agency’s features. When it comes to creating a hiring process that allows you to leverage those things, how do we go about doing it?
“The first thing I would say is; don’t let your hiring process look like anybody else’s. Know every step regarding why a feature is being included; is it contributing to what I like to call ‘the bottom line of hiring for this role’? Or is it a thing that you’ve read in a book?”
Incidentally, a lot of Megan’s clients have read Who: The A Method for Hiring by Randy Street and Geoff Smart. Additionally, clients may come to her with some EOS stuff thrown in, or additional tidbits from hiring agencies. This becomes something of a Frankenstein’s monster when it comes to a hiring process as it’s just been pieced together.
Does it properly convey their core values, what matters to them as a company? No. It does not. And that underlying feeling will permeate. As Megan says…
“Even if they have a great culture, maybe one in five people it’s failing. That’s still really expensive. A statistic I recently learned, and believe is backed up by a Harvard Business Review, states that a bad hire costs about 20% of your annual salary. Therefore, five bad hires a year basically costs one full person per year. I don’t think anybody feels like that’s affordable. Even if it is something they can afford, it’s not something anybody wants.”
You need to be really intentional about how your hiring process serves you. To do this, consider it an avatar; are you attracting the talent you want internally? Moreover, is your hiring process designed to put off a potential hire that isn’t a good fit for your company?
***We dive further into this light bulb moment from 15:30 minute mark***
Honing your Hiring Intuition
Anyone who’s worked with me knows I’m a HUGE fan of a test project. Most of the people that work full-time at Parakeeto started freelance – because we had a conversation three months before we needed them. We were able to bring them in fractionally, do a test project, get feedback from them on our process. See how they think. Lots of people don’t work out, but a few have stuck around and are incredible members of our team.
I’m making it sound like I knew this (I didn’t) – it was more of an intuitive feeling of “we’re going to need somebody in this position later, I should start having conversations with people that might fit.” This resonates with Megan’s methodology:
“You have to start hiring for something three to six months before you know that you need it. Not three to six months before you need someone in the seat.”
Everyone is guilty of perceiving what is most painful in the immediate, but you always need to have a strategy – a pipeline of potentials who could slot into a vacated/new role. You don’t need to be sitting there thinking, “My gosh, is this the end of the company?” A lot of people are willing to freelance to test the waters before jumping ship at their current employer. For them, It’s less risky than submitting their notice, only to find out we’re assholes to work with (we’re not, BTW).
Test projects are a great way to de-risk it for both sides – so why not start having these conversations today?
This conversation could have easily been tactical in nature regarding starting the hiring process sooner than you think you need. Instead, it became more about the importance of strategic thinking; like in sales, there is leverage to be had in hiring. Hiring is something in the business that should be considered ongoing – a process, not an event. It may start with a good hire, however, 90% of someone being the right fit happens after they start working for you.
Also, be kind to yourself and to your people. They people will grow your thing bigger than you can grow it on your own. So do be nice to them.
See more from Megan…
- Twitter @MeganKuethen
- LinkedIn @QueenofOps
- Company LinkedIn @theQueenofOps
- Company Instagram @theQueenofOps
Did you learn anything new from this episode? Let us know in the comments below! We have helpful blogs designed to bolster your agency profitability, such as How To Calculate Your Billable Employee Cost-Per-Hour.
Our next installment of #APP, on January 26th, will see us chat with Josh Lowman. Our previous blog with Marquis Murray is here…
Agency Profitability Tool Kit
If you’re looking for more resources to help you improve your agency’s profitability, check out the Agency Profitability Tool Kit. It’s full of templates and checklists used when consulting clients. This helps them improve profitability by over 100% in under 60 days.