Episode 357

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The talent we hire is often one of our greatest assets as agencies. Building our talent pool and promoting connectedness is integral to agency culture, and we spend a lot of time finding the perfect fit for our team.

On one hand, you want a team that can come together, easily collaborate on tasks, and understands one another closely. On the other hand, casting a wider net can find you more people who are good at helping get specific jobs done independently. How do we marry these two ideas together?

Noel Andrews of Jobrack has some answers for us. This week, we’re talking with him about what he does best—helping agencies hire remote talent who want to be part of a team and can do great work at a lower cost. It’s truly a win-win, and we can all have this. In this episode, he will teach us how to build a remote team, how to create a positive agency culture, and what to look for when hiring remote workers.

Noel Andrews bought Jobrack in 2018 after 10 years of building and leading large teams in the corporate tech world. Since then, he has helped businesses all over the world hire more than 1,000 remote team members from Eastern Europe.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
Agency culture

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How do you make workers physically distant from one another feel like they’re part of the team?
  • What do you need to do as an agency owner to hire remote workers successfully?
  • Why you should reconsider doing a standard interview to vet remote talent and instead assess their skills directly
  • How to take the stress out of hiring by leveraging the talent you already have in your agency
  • Changing our thoughts around remote workers as only “task-doers”
  • Why it’s essential for agency culture to make remote hires feel like they belong to the team
  • How to manage and build a remote team across multiple time zones
  • How to build agency culture and promote connectedness around remote teams
  • How to set expectations and compensate your remote teams well for their skills

“What I'm finding is that the more the team gets to know each other, the happier we are at working together. But also, they’re more willing to ask each other for help throughout the rest of the work day or the work week.” Noel Andrews Click To Tweet“What you really want is to have a successful team that's remote or hybrid. The first thing to recognize is you've done this, right? You have almost certainly done this through the pandemic. You made this work, and the business didn't die.” Noel Andrews Click To Tweet“Even for agencies that are hiring locally, far too few agencies actually test and run people through some sort of actual activity to assess whether or not they're good at their job.” Noel Andrews Click To Tweet“Often we are told that one of the top two or three things any business owner needs to do is hire great people. And then we misinterpret that and think, ‘Oh, I need to hire great people. Therefore I need to be great at hiring great people.” Noel Andrews Click To Tweet“Everything for us is about getting team members because that's what I want as a business owner and an agency owner. And I know that's what makes an agency successful.” Noel Andrews Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Noel:

Resources:

Announcer:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute Community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build to Better Agency podcast presented by White label IQ is packed with insights on how small to midsize agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back for another episode of Build a Better Agency. We are going to have a great conversation today about remote workers and how to make that work. How to find them, how to retain them, how to look at them a little differently than I think we have been doing in this new era of remote work and so, I’m looking forward to that.

Before we get into that conversation, before I tell you a little bit about our guest, I would like very much to remind you that we’ve got some amazing workshops coming up in January. So, in January, we have two back-to-back workshops. One is on a Thursday, Friday, and then the next one is the following week on a Tuesday, Wednesday. So, the Thursday, Friday is January 19th and 20th and the workshop is Build and Nurture Your Agency Sales Funnel. What I love about this workshop is it is based on the book that Stephen Woessner and I wrote, Sell With Authority.

We are going to walk you through how to and literally, walk you through and make you do the work of building out your agency’s sales and marketing plan. You are going to leave knowing exactly what you should do, when you’re going to do it, how you’re going to do it, who’s going to help from the agency if you have to hire folks to help. You’re going to have it all figured out because we know we could just teach you how to do it. But if we just taught you how to do it and then we sent you out back on your own to the office, you would never actually make the time to do it, so we’re actually going to do it in the workshop.

So, we’ve taught this for the last, I don’t know, three or four years and continues to get rave reviews and I will tell you the agencies that implement what they develop during this workshop are crushing it. They are absolutely crushing sales. They have more opportunities, more right fit clients, more profitable clients, so the ROI of this workshop is exponential. And so, we would love to invite you to join us.

And then the following week, we have a brand new workshop from our friends at Mercer Island Group. They, as you know, are the agency search firms, so they see hundreds of agencies pitch and present every year and they know what we do right and what we do wrong. And so, so many of you are struggling with, and you’re frustrated because you write proposals and you don’t move on to the next step or you don’t get the client to accept your proposal. And so, we’re going to spend two days with Mercer Island Group just focused on how to get the written proposal right. Whether it’s a more informal proposal like a referral just asked you for a proposal or it’s the very formal RFI, RFP where you’re following a certain formula, because it’s how it’s been prescribed to you. We’re going to talk about case studies. We’re going to talk about cover letters. We’re going to talk about all the elements that go into a written proposal and how you can get better at it. Increase your win rate. That one is January 24th and 25th.

Both of these workshops are in Orlando, on Disney property. We’re actually the contemporary this time. We’ve never held a workshop there, so I’m excited about that. For those of you that have been to Disney World before, you know that that’s one of the hotels that’s right on the Monorail, so you literally hop on a Monorail and ride right into the magic kingdom, so there’s nothing wrong with that. But anyway, both of these workshops are on the website. Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com under the “How We Help” tab. Scroll down and you’ll find workshops and you will see both of them there. All right?

Okay, so let me tell you a little bit about our guests. So, Noel Andrews is from Great Britain and he has a company that helps agencies find remote workers, typically in other parts of the world. They do a lot of work at Eastern Europe and other places. I think because one of the reasons why Eastern Europe is such a big market for them is most of the folks that live there speak Great English. And also, because the time zones work, so that you can actually talk to each other in real time.

But we’re not going to talk about that specifically today. What we’re going to talk about is how do you build a remote workforce that is really sticky. How do you make people, whether they are halfway across the country or halfway across the world, feel like a part of the team. How do you approach that employment, even though they probably technically are not employees, but how do you approach that employment for the long term rather than the short term? One of the things I think that we do when we hire people, especially if we hire them from another part of the world is we think of them as somebody we hire to do a specific task and we think of it in the very short term.

And what Noel is going to talk about is again, whether that remote worker, which for many of you is the case today, is just four hours away by a plane ride, but they’re still in your same country or they are actually halfway across the globe. How do you create one integrated team that is effective and works well together? So, I’m super excited about this conversation because I think it’s super relevant for today’s reality that most of us are in. So, why don’t you settle in and let’s jump into it.

Noel, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining us.

Noel Andrews:

Hey, Drew. Great to be here. Thanks, man.

Drew McLellan:

So, talk to us a little bit about the work you do. Before I get into asking you all the questions, just tell everybody how you come to know all the things we’re about to talk about.

Noel Andrews:

Yeah, sure. So, first of all, I spent 15 years in the corporate world, variety of tech roles, leading, hiring, building large teams. And then always pretty entrepreneurial by nature from a childhood spent washing cars, mowing lawns, even washed a few planes as well, small ones and it was always entrepreneurial. And so, I did spent a year or so trying to build an interview coaching business, so when candidates are applying for jobs, they’ve never actually been taught how to interview. So, there was a need there, but couldn’t quite scale that. And then had an opportunity to actually buy JobRack.

JobRack is a site that I now own that’s focused on helping agency owners and online business owners hire remote, really great remote team members from Eastern Europe. And so, jumped into that in 2018 and yeah, it’s been an exciting four years. So, it’s that corporate background and then coupled with lots and lots of time with entrepreneurs, with business owners. Small to medium size business owners where giving lots of help and guidance around the challenge that is hiring because hiring’s hard, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right, especially when you’re not looking at each other, you’re not in the same city. All right, so you’ve been doing this guiding people, agency folks in remote hiring for the last four or five years. What surprises you the most about all of that?

Noel Andrews:

I think it surprised me probably the most is that it doesn’t matter, like what else is going on in the world. So, in the last four or five years, we’ve gone through a pandemic. We are going through some interesting economic times. There’s all kinds of things going on in the world, but actually, a lot of the things stay the same. And that for me, especially with agency owners, is they’re always under the same pressures. Right?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Noel Andrews:

So, hiring good people, there’s always that big pressure and the surprise has been for me two things. One is how rarely agency owners have been able to get out of this cycle of having to wait until they’re at like 100% or 120% of capacity before hiring. And then the other one is what huge difference it makes when we are able to help them get out of that cycle. And just how much better it is for agency’s clients, for the teams when you can just get ahead and even to get into hiring at maybe like 80% of capacity, the difference is huge.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and for you, part of the reason, so as you know the margins and agencies are what they are. So, a lot of agencies just don’t have the financial capacity to hire someone until they desperately need them. And then by the time they start looking, they desperately need them and they start looking, it takes them a while to especially right now, takes them a while to find them. And so, by the time they find a breathing candidate, they’re all over them because they’re way past the need. But if I understand it right, one of the reasons why you can help your clients hire before they get to that point of desperation is because your candidates are less expensive.

Noel Andrews:

Exactly that. Yeah, so we’ve got a bit of a sweet spot where we can find really, really good people, so you’re not sacrificing on quality or skills, but just at dramatically lower rates. And that’s why I’ve made it a bit of a mission over certainly start at 2022 and heading into next year is I want to help hundreds and hundreds of agency owners to basically have a better life. There’s too many of us. And sometimes, I’m in that boat, very regularly in that boat, myself, working too many hours, not getting the profit margins we want. So, for me, that chance is going to help people. And yeah, one of the big things is that combination of skills and experience, but with that lower cost. That just, yeah, gives that little bit of leverage, which is so often lacking with agencies and agency owners.

Drew McLellan:

So, the pre-pandemic, certainly there were some agencies that had remote employees. Employees that had already been on the team and wanted to move because a spouse had a new job or something like that or they just wanted to hire a skillset that they couldn’t find in their local market. So, we certainly, before the pandemic, saw some remote workers, without a doubt. And obviously in the pandemic for a while, everybody was a remote worker and some agencies have decided to stay in that model and other agencies are certainly back in the office and all of that. But I think hiring remotely is a whole different ballgame. It’s very different than being able to have somebody come in your office three or four times and sit around the conference room with your team. And so, what do I need to do as an agency owner to successfully hire remotely?

Noel Andrews:

The first thing is recognize that yes, you want to hire, but what you really want is to have a successful team that’s remote or that’s maybe hybrid. And the first thing to recognize is you’ve done this. You have almost certainly done this through the pandemic. You made this work and the business didn’t die. Team members didn’t get super unhappy, not because of these reasons anyway. And you were able to keep morale going, have good team meetings, keep your clients happy. So, the thing that for many agency owners is quite scary, the idea of having remote team members, you’ve already done it and you’ve already proved that you can make it work.

So, then it’s just about, well, when you would normally hire or previously maybe higher face-to-face and you can see people’s body language a little bit better. Maybe you are having a coffee with them as part of the interview process that is less available to you. So, then it’s just about saying, “Well, okay, what can we do in the hiring process to really, how do we get to know people and how do we gain confidence that they are the one for us.”

And actually, hiring in general is hard, no matter whether you are face-to-face with people or not, because some people are really terrible at interviews, but they might be the perfect person for the job. Some people are really great at interviews, especially sales people, but they’re not the right person for the job. And so, actually it’s not that this is specific to remote or in-person. I think with remote, it’s just putting that little bit of extra effort, especially around the testing phase, for me, because that’s the thing that really lets you see how are they actually going to do the things that you want them to do.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And honestly, even for agencies that are hiring locally, I think far too few agencies actually test and run people through some actual activity to assess whether or not they’re good at their job.

Noel Andrews:

Yeah, absolutely. Interviews, it’s really, it’s frankly weird. Interviews are the standard way that we assess whether someone is right for the job, yet, talking about what they did in their past or what they would do in a hypothetical future situation, that’s not part of the job. And it’s still a little bit weird, frankly, that that is the universal way that we try and assess people and choose people. And so, this is where we can take like some tips from the likes of Google or Facebook or Apple who are renowned for 7-, 8-, even 9-stage interview and recruitment processes. Now, I’m not advocating that because I think that’s overkill, but as part of that, they include testing. And it’s just really simple ways that agency owners can build this into their recruitment process without causing themselves lots of extra time or energy or effort, but getting much better results and confidence that they’re making that right decision.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think that’s a golden rule, whether you’re hiring locally or remote.

Noel Andrews:

Agreed. So, two golden rules for me is number one is test and number two is reference. Please, please, please, anyone listening, do not skip either of those steps. They are just the two key things like never hire someone without that referencing or that testing stage.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think referencing is a great example of why hiring remotely is intimidating for a lot of agency owners, especially hiring remotely for someone from another country, because it’s like, okay, I wouldn’t even know how to get a hold of these people who are Bob’s references because they are in the Ukraine or wherever they are. So, I think that adds a challenge for most agency owners who are trying to do this by themselves.

Noel Andrews:

Yeah and it can do. And certainly, I’ve heard that a lot and one of the things that we help with that, it’s part of what we do, but also, the world has got a lot smaller. And so, we find that English is generally very, very good, especially with all the people that we are hiring and that often extends therefore to their references. And we actually mandate that. All of our clients near enough are English speaking, so we say, “Hey, so the candidates, you need to provide English speaking references.”

And we find that actually people are previous bosses or previous colleagues, things like that, are always really, really keen to actually jump on a call and have a quick 5-, 10-minute call. And just, you can ask them specific questions and they tend to be what makes the world go round. They never know in the future when they might need a reference from someone, so we find people do that. And the one to resume these days or teams, there’s so many really quick and simple ways to do that, so you don’t need to think about, “Oh, how much is it going to cost me to call them or how am I going to get a hold of them?” And actually a lot of the times, we actually get the candidates to arrange that call, so they take on the onus of the diary management bit of it.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So, it seems to me that in most cases, if somebody’s hiring remotely, meaning outside of their country of origin, they’re hiring for probably a specific skillset. When I think about agencies hiring somebody from another country, it’s almost always somebody who is good in some aspect of digital that they cannot find here in the states or wherever they are. How important is it to be able to really articulate? So, I think there are a lot of agency owners, for example, who want to hire a developer. They’re not a developer. They don’t know how to assess a developer’s skill. So, how important is it that I, as the owner understand exactly what I’m hiring for and can recognize good versus bad?

Noel Andrews:

So, it’s ideal if you can, but these scenarios happen. So, especially for, let’s say, you are a marketing agency owner and you’ve been doing social media marketing, email marketing, maybe, and then someone comes to you and says, “Hey, can you do a website for me or can you do an app for me?” And actually, there might be a ton of good reasons why you want to say yes, you want to say yes to that. And maybe you don’t want to work with an agency. You want to bring in your first developer and you might not be technical and that happens a lot and that’s where it’s crucial to then get help, frankly.

I’m not a hugely technical person, I can talk to developers, I can read a little bit of code, but I couldn’t assess one. I have people in my team that can do that, including we have our own developers and so, we actually involve them in client recruitment processes where exactly that scenario. We had a business owner here in the UK and he was hiring his first internal developer. He was moving away from an agency and bringing it in-house. We’ve similarly, we’ve got some agencies out in the US that have gone into development or moved away from like white label type operations. And again, that’s where we can help them and that’s where there’