The experiences and best practices from top digital agency leaders.
Fail Fast Fail Often - Jonathon Hensley - Episode #40
Jonathon Hensley is the CEO of EMERGE, a digital product agency, where he works with clients to develop valuable products and services based on business strategies, user needs, and new technologies. EMERGE has committed to a simple philosophy under Jonathon's leadership: the relationship between EMERGE and its clients should exist to create real and lasting value and to motivate people to take action. Inspire and motivate a team to focus on what is important.
What myth or bogus strategy do you want to bust? 2:45
How did you get to the point where you are now? Share some of your secret sauce with us. 5:53
Do you have any stories to tell about a project that didn't go as planned? And how you used it to learn from it and move forward. 9:20
How did you come up with a definition for failure? 14:55
How do you define the strategy? 18:20
How did you get started in business, how have you grown, and how have these strategic ideas aided your growth? 24:00
Have you always worked in the area of product development? What drew you to product development in the first place? 27:05
What did you release that was a game-changer for your company? Or What is the biggest mistake you made? 29:55
How do you keep your team motivated, and what keeps your staff from leaving you? 39:16
What initially drew you to product development? 43:15
What does the future look like for you and your agency? 46:05
I think it's really important that we understand the intentions of this idea of fail fast fail often and what it really means in an organization so it can be used effectively.
Failure is not the objective of any organization, but to learn is critical to every organization. And so we have to get failed fast and fail often as a mechanism for learning and not a methodology that use it in the wrong way, can erode that accountability.
Agile is meant to be about a continuous improvement and learning approach to more effective collaboration and delivery. And so this essence gets missed all the time.
Through the additive, experimentation, testing, and validation, we were able to verify what we knew from the client.
Once you have a learning culture in place, and you can start to really think about how you implement it, you know the insights that come from each experimentation or each failure. You need to also have a clearer way of how that knowledge is then distributed across the company to collect it, help everyone level up.
When we look at micro experiments, we're looking at how we can collect that information to that insight much faster and in smaller increments.
What does a great strategy need to encompass at its core, and these things are not very well articulated or defined for most organizations.
Strategy is not that one-time thing, but it's episodic it has to happen is a continuing practice inside the business ongoing, and depending on how fast you're trying to grow, or evolve in the market, will determine how often you have to be working through those steps of strategy.
The essence of what we do hasn't changed, but how we do it.
The passion and the core of the company was still in the roots of where we started, which was in product.
Time being spent on on staying true to our core and staying hyper focused with our core customer, and working in those being in that community, is would have been really powerful for us
Company website: https://www.emergeinteractive.com/
Company linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/emerge-interactive/
Busted Myths: Fail fast and fail often.
The ‘Connectedness’ Piece - Todd Kaufman - Episode #39
What myth or bogus strategy do you want to bust? 2:20
How did you guys get into working remotely? 3:15
How was the response and experience 10 Years ago when you started the remote culture in your office? 6:00
What process and key tools did you set up to stay successful in remote culture? 7:00
We would like to hear a little bit about the client engagement from a thought process standpoint. 17:40
What do you do to keep your employees inspired and motivated? 24:10
What does the future look like to your employees who are also part owners? 33:10
How does offshore integration process work for you? 41:00
What is the biggest mistake you made as an agency owner? 43:40
Tell us a little bit about you. How many marathons have you run? 47:50
What does the future look like to you and your agency? 49:50
Software developers prefer the flexibility, the autonomy, and really the level of focus that they get working remotely. 3:01
Remote work isn't 100% Great and 0%, like bad. There are trade offs, as with everything. But with us, we want people to work where they best operate, where they're most focused, most energized, et cetera. So we give them the choice of working wherever they like. 5:09
You have to build in the connectedness piece. Otherwise, I think it just tends to feel like a cooperative of independent consultants. 9:48
We've lost out on bigger opportunities that just didn't feel like they wanted a partner coming in, who would be remote. 10:45
In some sense, a lot of companies want you to be inside their office spaces, and then you go in there, and everyone has headphones on, no one's communicating via any other means than slack. And it feels just like, you know, working from home. 10:54
What we do is we do open ended contracts. So our clients, any one of our clients can fire us with a seven day notice, that keeps a healthy pressure on us to continue adding value. 14:08
I think what we've seen work is honestly trying to be respectful and operate in our clients best interests. So that includes the budget. So it's not that we want to ignore their budget, by any means. We want to understand what their budget is, we want to be good stewards of their funds. 15:13
We want to do some planning. We just don't want to be beholden to it when, you know, we're at the most uncertain point of a project. We want to iterate, get feedback and keep adjusting. So I think that that model works well for almost all software projects 16:18
We've partnered with some companies that are really, really good at UIUX. And as a set of specialists, we provide a pretty comprehensive, valuable solution there. 19:22
For software talent, we recognize that if we don't find projects that people want to work on, they're going to find them themselves, whether it's at Tesla or elsewhere. 23:18
We didn't become remote because we wanted to be remote. We were remote, because we wanted people to be autonomous. 25:40
Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/testdouble/
Company website: https://testdouble.com/
Myth: You have to be in an office space to be productive in the software industry.
Is Self Care Overrated? - Michael Kelly - Episode #38
Michael Kelly is the Managing Partner at Developer Town that works with established companies to create software aimed at key business problems or opportunities.
Michael helps corporate leaders and founders craft a vision for new products by working with them to put together strategies, teams, and funding to help launch, validate, and grow those products and businesses.
What myth or bogus strategy do you want to bust? 2:27
How do you find outlets for energy on harder days: 8:00
Agencies talk about impacting society with their culture and environment. What does this mean to you? 22:25
How has the experience been working with contractors? 35:58
How does the open book concept work and how does the finance work when you work with other agencies? 45:42
What's exciting you about the future? 51:44
If you're not deeply energized by the work that you're doing, and it's not the thing that's fulfilling you, then maybe that's more of a sign of a problem than a sign that you need to take time away and recharge.
In the total human experience, this concept of leisure, that we're very focused on right now in today's world, is such a small part of the human experience. Leisure is a very, very new idea.
We're made to work, we're made to produce and we're made to take care of each other and we're made to challenge one another.
Our clients are only successful to the extent that we're successful.
What I want to be the best in the world at is helping companies build and launch new digital products.
To build a product, you need to understand a market, you need to understand your customer, you need to understand the competition, you need to understand the context in which you're building and deploying this thing.
Product launch engages every element of what we do as a business, design, marketing, software development, engineering, data, science, all the DevOps.
We want to make sure everybody in the business knows how we make money. We want to make sure they know how much we're making or how little their mate we're making, unless it's a global pandemic. And we want to make sure that they know, we win as a firm, that everybody wins through profit sharing.
So when you have an unhappy client, it's not about that client, this is a seed that has been planted, is this seed going to bear fruit? Or is this seed going to bear weeds, you do not want weeds if you're an agency owner.
From a market perspective, as an agency, we are choosing to lean into financial services and healthcare as two industries that we want to do more in, we're going through high trust certification right now, we're trying to get the regulatory house in order.
Personal LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeldkelly/
Company website: https://developertown.com/
Self Care is all about Leisure.
Sales and Marketing Go Hand in Hand - Julia Becker Collins - Episode #37
Julia Becker Collins is the Chief Operating Officer at Vision Advertising that specializes in inbound marketing programs.
Vision advertising is a woman-owned, women-run organization that aims to build an economy of equal wealth and opportunity.
What myth or bogus strategy do you want to bust? 2:28
What do sales and marketing people need to do to make them work together as a team? 4:28
What are those things that you recommend people to do as a part of the nurturing program to move the leads forward in the pipeline? 12:48
How do you keep the team motivated? How do you guys function? 18:05
Tell us more about your hiring process. 25:52
What is the biggest mistake you made as an agency owner? 30:08
Tell us a little bit about how you got into this business. 38:20
What keeps you up at night? 44:42
Sales and marketing teams need to understand that in order to succeed, they need to be holding hands.
We have two things that are superpowers. One is how we communicate. And it's both internally with the team and externally with our clients. And the other is being transparent, honest, and open.
The best way to understand working for Julia and vision advertising is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You should always say what you're thinking, but you're always gonna get feedback!
Setting employees and clients up for success is the goal and to do that you need to communicate clearly.
When you have a new hire, the biggest challenge is to make sure they know what they're supposed to do.
I don't like being the smartest person in the room. I don't want to know everything. I want to hire people that know more than I do. So I might know the most about leadership, but somebody on my team is gonna know way more than me about graphic design, SEO or presenting a live webinar for that matter.
If you are a marketing agency, and you're not doing your own marketing, create a marketing plan like we did for our own agency, and start marketing yourself and prioritizing yourself as a client.
Company LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/vision-advertising/
The relationship between sales and marketing should be siloed.
The best decisions are ones that can always be reassessed - Brett Snyder - Episode #36
Brett Snyder is the founder and CEO of Knucklepuck. Brett built Knucklepuck with a holistic digital philosophy, assembling a team of experts in SEO, Paid Media, Content Marketing, and Web Development that is uniquely positioned to adapt to clients’ evolving business needs.
What myth or bogus strategy do you want to bust? 1:53
How did you get into this business? 5:56
Tell us more about your experience with customers. 11:48
How do you keep the team motivated? 18:38
Tell us more about your hiring process. 25:18
What's your favorite interview question? 41:40
What is your understanding of success? 48:07
What is Brettgammon? 52:40
A lot of people, in the startup world, or running a company, spend so much time putting agreements in place because we want to adhere to those agreements forever and forever.
If you're in a leadership position you have to make the best decision, given the circumstances that you have. And then as those circumstances change, you have to be willing to reassess your decisions.
Every decision is the right decision when you make it - Jessie
There's always an option! Nobody is here in a prison state that has to continue working for a client that abuses them or their team.
Everybody tries to accumulate leverage, I would argue, but it's kind of like playing a video game and stashing a whole bunch of inventory and then getting to the final boss and not using any of it! And so if you're going to collect this leverage, you have to apply it.
“And I think that's where leverage really comes into play, where you just have to be willing and able to go out there and say, This is what I need for me and for my team. And I think that's the big part about leadership and a CEO role in particular”. - Brett
“And I think it's one thing to say we don't require a college degree, it's another to look at the majority of the people on the team stating a college degree in their bio. Um, but we really want to be able to look at our roles as a digital company and say, does a college degree help here? I'm not sure it helps for most roles or as required for most roles. But can we at least give people the opportunity to apply, knowing that their lack of a college degree is not going to be something that will hold them back?”- Brett
Success is a very individualized metric. It's defined very differently for every individual. And I think I'm no exception to that.
Company Website: https://www.knucklepuckmedia.com/
You don’t have to honor your agreements.
Why Marketing Is Still Underrated?- JC Grubbs - Episode #35
JC Grubbs founder and CEO of Tandem, formerly known as DevMynd. Tandem is an end-to-end product development and innovation firm with services including business strategy, user research, UX/UI design, product management, software development, hardware design, and managed services.
What myth or bogus strategy do you want to bust? 2:42
How do you generate the leads? 9:20
What are some of the marketing tactics that you guys have found? 12:05
What percentage of time do you usually spend on building networks and connections? 16:53
Give us a little rundown on your hiring model. 28:55
Do you have any tricks and tips for cultural building within an agency? 35:19
What is the best part of running a business? 43:52
How did you get into this business? 46:40
Can you tell us the story of where you started to get into the agency world? 52:00
What keeps you up at night? 57:42
We choose to compete against the client as opposed to competing against a competitor. In fact, we're choosing to compete against the client's understanding of how we would solve their problem. And that's the challenge for us in the process of closing a deal.
You can get a lot of bang for your buck, if you're just giving people a little bit of attention, here and there.
My goal always was, Can I meet one new person a week? Yeah, you know, one new person a week and one person I haven't talked to for a while and re-engage with them - Jessie
It might sound harsh, but if somebody really isn't valuable, don't just move on. There are people out there that end up really just being time thieves. And you spend a lot of time that is just not valid.
There are people out there that end up really just being time thieves. And you spend a lot of time that is just not valid. And as you progress through your career, you build this sixth sense of like, Oh, I've met this person and they're a nice human being, but in the context of business, they're not going to be helpful but they're going to keep wanting to take. And you need to move on to another relationship where there's both give and take.
If somebody is at the company, and isn't the right fit for our clients, for our values, for the way that we want to work, we're both doing each other a disservice by not disengaging from that relationship.
The kindest thing to do sometimes is to disengage.
Company website: https://madeintandem.com/
Sales is Overrated and Marketing is underrated