We started our 7-figure digital marketing agency with just a handful of employees.
We had a designer, a developer, the lead of operations, and two founders that drove the business forward. It was a small team that was clicking extremely well.
But after our initial explosive growth we decided to reinvest a lot of our profits into growing our team (as it’s recommended to do). It’s only natural for a company to start employing more people as the business grows.
At one point this year, we had a team of 15 full-time employees – a videographer, an illustrator, a CRO expert, two copywriters, an in-house Facebook Advertiser, a Senior Facebook Ads consultant…
In theory, this would help us scale our business faster. It should make things easier and everything should run smoothly. We could do more in less time.
But in reality, it was one of the most expensive mistakes we’ve made, both in terms of time and money.
Running a company with 15 employees is very different from managing 3-4 employees that we have right now. You need to have company-wide meetings that take a few hours a week.
And are completely unnecessary most of the time.
Then, a senior member of the company needs to manage and mentor the more junior employees – taking their focus away from their work.
Which can all work well… IF the company continues to grow.
Unfortunately, ours didn’t.
One of our early employees once said to me that “it now takes us a month to do something we used to do in a few days”, and deep down, I knew he was right.
The overall productivity dropped, and the profit didn’t go up. Because we executed more slowly and spent a ton of time in unnecessary meetings, we moved slower, and our company grew slower.
Even if we had a record revenue month, we could be in the red after all the advertising spend and salaries.
In the end, we had to let go of most of our team, and ended up with a developer, an operations lead, a copywriter (which, by the way, was the single most valuable hire we’ve ever made), and a part-time customer support rep.
Everything else (design, editing work, etc.) would be outsourced from now on.
As I look back, we’re doing 3 things much differently than we used to, which is helping us scale our company faster than ever (over the past 4 months, we had our most profitable quarter in our business, by a long mile).
Today, I’d like to share my Hiring Trident with you.
Hiring Trident Part 1: You should ONLY hire A+ players
We hired a lot of young talent with a lot of potential, but in truth, most of them weren’t A+ players. They were B or A players.
The difference for me is:
A B-player is someone who does their job well, but not excellent. You need to spend a lot of time fixing their mistakes, they aren’t proactive, they only do what’s expected of them, instead of going above and beyond. They aren’t a core driver of the company, and if you have an employee like that in your team, you’ll constantly think about how they could be performing better.
An A-player is someone who does their job in line with my (high) expectations. This means they put in the hours (and extra hours). They’re driven, they finish their work on time, and generally, there are few issues with them. But on the other hand, if you have an A-player on your team, you keep thinking about how they could (and should) be doing better. When you give them a difficult challenge that’s outside of their comfort zone or ability, they often hit a wall. There’s something that they’re missing, which brings us to…
An A+ player is someone who works with the same drive and work ethic as a founder of the company. They constantly think about how to drive revenue and save time, they get better at their job every day, they take on more and more responsibilities and nothing is “too difficult” for them to do. They just get it done. They’re the people you WANT to have in your company when the times get tough, as you know they’ll work even harder to turn the boat around). As a friend of mine says, they’re like a unicorn. It’s extremely difficult to find them, but once you do, you just know it.
Unfortunately, our hires weren’t as proactive as we wanted them to be. They weren’t improving as fast as expected. They didn’t put in their 120% every week.
Instead, they coasted at 80% of their capabilities. Still, for a few months, we hoped it would get better. We thought that maybe they just needed more time…
That we could help them improve…
That things would get better…
But they didn’t – even though we invested many hours and thousands of dollars into their development. We spent countless of hours mentoring them and coaching them, we gave them access to other coaches and experts that we hoped would helped them improve, but they did so slower than we expected.
To this day, I’m yet to hear a story of someone who turned from a B player to an A+ player. It just doesn’t happen. You can teach someone all the marketing, all the tech details, all the systems we use at the company…
But you can’t teach them work ethic, drive, commitment and the fire in the belly (at least I haven’t found a way to do it, yet).
Now, when we hire someone, we have a rule: They should blow us out of the water within the first few weeks, and there should never be any doubt that they’re a great fit for our company or that they can perform on the level we want them to.
If there’s doubt, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot – as in a few months, we’ll have to let them go. It will cost us valuable time and money we could invest into our existing employees or into moving our business forward.
All of the above leads me to the second takeaway…
Hiring Trident Part 2: Your employees should pay for themselves from day 1
It’s not difficult to invest time and money into an employee if they immediately pay for themselves with their work.
As a rule, for marketing-based roles, they should generate at least 5-10x more revenue than their salary within their first 1-2 months of work. If we pay them $2k/month, they should generate at least $10k/month.
By the way, I’m not being overly harsh here. I use the exact same standard when I work with entrepreneurs who hire me for consulting – if they pay me $1000, our work together should generate at least $5-$10k for them.
With marketing roles, the revenue impact will be shown on black and white. The numbers don’t lie.
But it gets trickier when it comes to non-marketing roles as they might not have the direct impact on revenue.
From my experience, A+ employees will usually still figure out a way to increase the revenue even in a non-marketing role.
A great example is a good customer support rep.
A B-level customer support rep will struggle with getting all the tasks done.
An A-level customer support rep will get everything done on time, every time, but they won’t go the extra mile in figuring out how to drive additional revenue for the business, or save time for the company.
An A+ level customer support rep will get their work done on time, and then research customer support systems and best-practices that other rapidly growing companies use. They’ll read every book on customer support. They’ll try out all the software tools and figure out which ones would make the most sense in our business. They’ll think about how they could upsell products to our new customers as they interact with them.
Then, they’ll implement what they learned in our business and set up systems that will help us generate more revenue or drastically cut down the customer support time – and make their role pay for itself.
Hiring Trident Part 3: Let go of B-players sooner, rather than later
In a way, you can look at your team members in the same way as business ideas. When you have a D-level business idea that doesn’t get any traction, it’s easy to kill it off and move to the new idea.
It’s easy to fire a D-level employee that drastically underperforms.
When you have an A+ business idea that drives a ton of traction, it’s easy to keep working on it, as you know it will only get better in the future.
Just like that, It’s easy to keep A+ players around in your company. You know they’ll continue to drive the company’s growth forward.
The hardest to let go are the B-level business ideas.
They’re promising… but not quite best-sellers. They get some traction… But not a lot. Working on them often feels like an uphill battle, but some of the traction they do generate gives you hope. It’s the hardest to let go of them, but as with employees, it’s unlikely you’ll turn a mediocre idea into a blockbuster.
It’s more likely you’ll spend months (or even years) trying to make it perform better, until eventually, you’ll kill it off (we learned this the hard way as we spent tens of thousands of dollars that generated $2-$3k in revenue every month, but never really took off).
So if you DO unintentionally find yourself with a B-player…
Let go of them and find a new replacement sooner rather than later – no matter how hard it will be. It sucks at the moment, but once you have an A+ player, you’ll be glad you’ve done it and wonder why you haven’t done it earlier.
One final note on this topic.
Finding A+ players often feels like digging for diamonds. It takes time. It usually doesn’t happen in a few days or weeks.
For one role, we had to interview 70 candidates in order to find an A-player. So don’t be discouraged if the first few candidates (or even your first few hires) don’t turn out to be as stellar as you hoped.
Keep looking – because when you see a diamond, you’ll know it.