It’s rare that someone will give you sage business advice that could potentially save you from losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, but at #Inbound18 Partner Day, Tony Delmercado did just that.
Tony’s company Hawke Media was featured in the top 110 on the Inc. 500 in 2017 and doubled their revenue from 1M in 2014 each year to reach 17M in 2018. Growing from 12 employees to 150 in just 4 years, he addressed the biggest mistakes he made over that time and how he turned those life lessons into major B2B growth strategies.
Get shit done, learn quickly, be cool
The team at Hawke Media lives on 3 simple principles, and even have a bright neon light reaffirming them in their office: “get shit done, learn quickly, be cool.” This serves as the foundation of their core values, holding each team member accountable to remain confident, maintaining high standards, and working collaboratively for a team success. Developing core values for your team WITH your team can help establish a collective understanding of the motivation behind the work that you do and gives your team the standards to which they should always be striving.
In 2014, Hawke Media was just taking off. Tony described grabbing anyone and everyone near him to build a team and get the job done. “Just trying to ride the lightning we managed to catch,” he said. However, after a series of firing and rehiring, he learned to take the time and find people who match culture and vision and to move out those who don’t quickly. Building your team is just as important as developing your brand ethos, it takes time. Develop an interview strategy that best vets your new hires for your business to ensure they’re both a culture fit and can complete the task at hand.
Deciding early on who you are and why you exist as a business also makes it easier to build and grow your efforts quickly and efficiently. In 2015, Hawke Media faced what Tony referred to as “the dark days.” Money was coming in but seemed to go out just as fast to their large team, payroll was disorganized and because of a new desire to stay on top, they worked their team into the ground. As a quickly growing brand, it’s important, no matter how badly you want it as a founder, to be mindful of the upper threshold of what your team can do.
Trust your team
Subsequently, when growing a team, it’s just as important to foster an environment of self-directed learning. Tony said, “Good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment.” Develop your ideal team, understand their limitations in relation to your business growth, but also trust that they can get the job done. Hawke uses the principle that no one is going to tell you the answers, use the resources that have been provided to you. Encouraging this high standard of eager learning and curiosity will only grow your brand in the right direction in the long run. This is also a factor for developing quality management as you grow. “Good individual contributors are not inherently good managers,” Tony said. “More importantly are they rarely good leaders.” As your team grows, acknowledge the pain points and reevaluate your hiring plan to make sure employees are a fit for their new promotional roles.
Once you have your team at a strong place and you’ve established your clients' trust, it is critical to keep leaders in the same physical vicinity as their teams. Tony cautioned against walling off space for individuals, not to the level of an open bullpen, but encouraging clusters of activity. Keeping your leaders available to their teams keeps each department actively in check with one another, reduces an astringent hierarchy and encourages collaboration both within teams and company-wide. Try developing a pod structure, where your team members are actively checking in with one another on a project basis, rather than a company role basis. Each team member from each department (marketing, sales, design, etc.) should be able to understand the scope of a project, its intentions and its timelines long before the final product is due.
Encourage growth opportunities
Finally, in 2018, Tony learned a critical lesson regarding growth. As his senior leadership began getting recruited he had a choice to make: beg them to stay or encourage them to go. He chose the latter. You want someone to be with you because you’re the best option, he said, “When someone tells you they have an opportunity, tell them to go and offer what you can to help them kill it.” When you’ve grown your team to be successful, independent thinkers for your business, they’re bound to grow outside of what you can offer them. Growth can be hard at the beginning, but also just as hard at the end. If someone has an opportunity to take their next step, don’t hold them back for your benefit; instead, trust that they’ve built a strong team to step into their shoes.
As your business grows, there are bound to be mistakes. As a growing small business, Accelity believes you can turn those mistakes into some of your biggest B2B growth strategies. Set your core values to represent who you are and where you want to go, build the team to back them up, and encourage a collaborative, warm environment that makes people just want to “get shit done, learn things, and be cool.” And once you’ve built that killer team, let them go. Train people and invest in them--it doesn’t mean they’ll leave you, but when they do, they can only be a better ambassador for what your brand can do for its employees.
“Be your own person in the world,” Tony said. “If you fuck shit up authentically, you’re still in good shape.”