In any company, it’s all about the right team. Agencies succeed or fail as a result of the individuals they are comprised of. As a business owner, over the years I have discovered that having an innovative or groundbreaking idea is hard to actualize without the right team of people behind it. People are priceless. Especially when they are motivated to do their best because they are inspired by the ideas and principles of the company.
When we created Adlava, we emphasized we are not selling a widget, we are selling a service. A service which meets the needs of its clients and its employees. With this in mind, we were able to become the premier Las Vegas web design agency. When you combine the right individuals, with the right talent and drive, even the most difficult projects are completed with great results.
On the other hand, when a business has people who don’t mesh well, or who are not working towards the common good of the company, simple tasks become nightmares. Poor leadership and team cohesiveness is noticeable (not in a good way.) This type of environment can negatively impact a potential client, easily. Not to mention, the public may end up seeing the company’s culture in a poor light.
With that said, how do you go about building the right team? Well, I’m incredibly proud of the team we’ve built here at Adlava, and here’s some tips for how you can do the same:
The Hiring Process
Most business owners dread the hiring process. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it should be an exciting endeavor, because the ultimate goal is to not just hire someone for an open position, but to bring someone on board who is an investment to the business. That’s why it’s important to have a system in place for screening potential employees.
It can seem like a daunting task to sift through a stack of resumes, trying to find which person should come in for an interview. However, there is important information in these resumes which can help set certain candidates apart from others.
Now this may sound a little controversial, but just go along with me for a minute: unlike most business owners, I very seldom look at the universities applicants attended, or degrees they have received. Instead, I concentrate either on the candidate’s experience or their ability to grow and expand within the company. It is important to concentrate on the intangible aspects of a person: work ethic, communication skills, adaptability, honesty, and willingness to learn. The reason why I concentrate on these qualities is because you can’t train someone to be honest, or have work ethic, for example. These inherent character traits are incredibly important when searching for a new team member. These traits can give you a clear understanding of what type of co-worker this person could potentially become.
Education is important, yet the learning process shouldn’t just end on graduation day. Someone who is going to be successful in our company MUST be teachable and remain open to new ideas.
Decoding the Details
Trying to decode someone’s intangible characteristics and details isn’t as hard is it may seem. Many times this will happen in the interview portion of the hiring process. But, what about during the screening process?
Well, the best way to do this, when just glancing over resumes, is by looking at their previous professional experience. Did they receive a promotion at a previous job? Who is listed on their references? Do they have a long list of short-term jobs? Or, do they have very little experience at all?
First off, a long list of short-term jobs can be a red flag. A business shouldn’t be just a resume builder for someone. I don’t want to hire someone who is just looking to add another bullet-point on their CV letter; instead I want someone who is willing to grow within the company by working hard and expressing loyalty. I also make sure not to discredit someone just because they don’t have a lot of experience in advertising or web design and development. They may have the potential to be an amazing asset to the company, but no one has given them a chance.
Make the interview process personable. I can’t emphasize this enough. I ask alot of questions about their life outside of work. Learning about a potential team member’s personal goals and ambitions, can show qualities that you simply can’t convey under the “skills” section of a resume.
When going into an interview, I always have clear objectives in mind, in regards to who I want to hire. And usually the objectives are the same: hire someone whose personality fits, who adds positivity, and who will contribute to the overall success and wellbeing of our company’s culture. This is the chance I have to gain some insight into those previously mentioned personality traits.
I admit, I am more informal than most CEOs. But that’s just my style. I’d rather have a conversation with an individual, rather than a routine, dry, overly structured interview. I ask questions relating to their goals, what type of hobbies they enjoy, where are they from, and what they’re most passionate about. This helps me understand what the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses are; and it helps me gauge how well they would interact with clients.
I like to ask questions that are relevant to the candidate’s life (both socially and professionally). What hobbies do you have? Did you grow up in Las Vegas? Do you have family in Nevada? These three questions give a lot of insight into a potential new hire.
I do ask questions specific to the advertising and web design industry. Are they familiar with WordPress? Do you have a Google Analytics Certification? How would you increase a client’s SEO ranking? Those are just a few examples of industry specific questions. These questions aren’t necessarily about what they do or do not know. Instead, I want to see if they are able to sell themselves to me and/or showcase their level of honesty if they don’t know the answer.
When leaving an interview, I want to have a sense of who that person is. Would I want to have a beer with this person after work? Will they like working with us? Are my current team members going to like them? Likability goes a long way. I want to work with great communicators, who take pride in their work and who are easily coachable.
Importance of Adaptability
Many companies get hung up on “talent.” Many times, agencies will pass up a candidate who doesn’t have the technical skills of others, but are much more coachable and know how to adapt to new situations. Talent, ultimately, doesn’t really mean whole lot to me. Just because someone has talent, doesn’t mean they have the work ethic to back it up.
Talent comes and goes with the trends of any business. Yet, hiring someone who is able to adapt, and learn new skill sets, as well as work cohesively with a team, is someone I would hire over someone who has all the accolades.
Establishing a Company Culture
When I started Adlava, I knew that I wanted to work with people I enjoyed being around, who challenged my ideas, and who sincerely take pride in the work they do. I wanted team members to truly care about the people they work with. So when building the right team for a company, a desire to create a comfortable, fun and creative work culture should be at the forefront of any entrepreneur’s mind.
It is inevitable that there will be personality conflicts between individuals. Yet, the team of people we have now, genuinely care about each other. They throw birthday parties, organize camping trips and other outings on the weekends, and they rally behind each other when one of their team members is going through a difficult time.
The two places people spend most of their time is at work or at home. So, why shouldn’t the team members act like a family, rather than strangers who happen to work in the same building?
I have learned, at home and in the workplace, transparency is key.
Many businesses have subscribed to this trend of “leave your social and family life at the door.” I don’t necessarily agree with this. When there is open communication between team members, and we know about each other’s lives, a greater sense of understanding and camaraderie is built. By being a part of the person’s highs and lows, we are able to better understand where they are coming from.
I do my best as CEO and business owner, to not micromanage. There is nothing more destructive to the creative process than micromanagement. Having someone stand over a team member’s shoulder constantly pointing out errors in their work, only boxes them in. In doing so, it suffocates the passion that individual has for their role and ability to contribute to the company. They have to know their efforts & ideas are going towards something positive. Consistently giving harsh criticism just fosters apathy.
My approach is more of a hands-off one. I allow for people to make mistakes, and learn from them. Of course I answer questions or give guidance when asked; but part of the growing process for my team is allowing them space to solve problems on their own.
Retaining Good People
One challenge facing many companies is employee retention. Offering competitive salaries, while maintaining a healthy work environment can be a challenge. Everyday when I wake up, the first thought I have is: I want my employees to make more money. If they work hard, and do whatever it takes to reach their goals, and that of the company, it needs to be reciprocated.
I don’t think of the people that work at Adlava as my employees; I think of them as co-workers, whom I deeply care about, both personally and professionally. By investing in them, I am investing in the success of our company. This investment results in us having a much lower turnover rate than industry averages.
Some companies just hand out money or have contests to boost company morale (hoping it persuades employees to work longer and harder.) Bonuses and incentives seem like a great idea. However, in my opinion, giving these incentives out but once or twice a year doesn’t improve the relationship between a business and its employees. There certainly isn’t any data showing that these brief, and infrequent gifts, help employee retention.
I like to spread out the incentives for Adlava employees throughout the whole year. As previously mentioned, we are constantly having birthday parties, having a barbecue on a Saturday night at someone’s home, having “lunch-n-learns,” as well as having team-building days. Showing more consistency when it comes to team parties, or giving out rewards for going the extra mile, is far more beneficial than a one-time bonus given around the holidays.
I also focus on fostering a culture that emphasizes camaraderie and friendship.
By not dreading going to work every day, looking forward to seeing your work family, being constantly challenged, working on what you’re passionate about, and having a few laughs in between, people are more likely to have a well-balanced, healthy work environment. Providing a healthy balance between work and life is essential. This will always help in strengthening employee retention.
Whether you are a first-time business owner, or an experienced entrepreneur, building the right team (and maintaining it) results in having a booming business. Screening potential candidates based on experience, having a personable interview process, and keeping an eye on adaptability and not just talent, has helped me in hiring the right people. Creating a work environment which allows employees to be creative, and have fun, increases the overall well-being of the company.
Having a sense of self-determination, mutual respect, and a positive work environment will only enhance employee and client experience and increase the overall success of your business.
*Article was written in portion, edited, and formatted by journalist and writer Colton Salaz.