John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape marketing agency Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing agency.
John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape marketing agency podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Dr. Sabrina Starling. She’s the author of How to Hire the Best, and the CEO of Tap the Potential. She also goes by the moniker of the business psychologist, so that’s probably my first psychologist on the Duct Tape marketing agency podcast. Sabrina, welcome.
John Jantsch: There’s no question there. But we have to answer the burning question that I am sure you’ve been asked many times: what is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
Sabrina Starling: Well, the simple answer to that used to be that psychologists don’t prescribe. The basic difference is that psychiatrists go through medical school, years and years of medical training, and then they specialize in psychiatry at the end of medical school. Psychologists go through graduate school and don’t go to medical school. The majority of our training is focused on understanding people, and how people function in the world.
John Jantsch: Well, certainly small business owners could probably use a dose of that. I know over the years working with thousands of business owners, I’ve have at times felt like I was providing … certainly wouldn’t call it psychology, but I would provide some sort of talking them off the ledge, or …
Sabrina Starling: Yes. Yeah. I always say that people are so complex that I decided I needed to get a PhD in psychology just so I could understand people. As small business owners, we need to understand people because that’s how we grow our businesses. People are the heart of these businesses.
John Jantsch: Well, I have talked to many, many entrepreneurs and I will say that … I’ll bet universally, I know a lot of people say, “Well, gosh. marketing agency’s hard.” But I bet you universally there would be agreement on hiring and managing people is probably the hardest part of growing a business. Because most entrepreneurs, it’s just not their strength.
Sabrina Starling: No, it’s not. I think what’s interesting is once we’ve cracked marketing agency and we figured that out, then we need to know people. Because we have to add team to scale with all the new business that we’re bringing in because we’ve learned marketing agency.
John Jantsch: I sometimes find that people learn from the negative side before they’re ready to embrace the positive side. I think a lot of the hiring that people do, and where they’ve had it not out, is because they were hired a certain way and they’ve seen other people do it. They’re just kind of copying what they’ve seen done and what they think is supposed to be done. How are business owners getting it wrong in the hiring process in general?
Sabrina Starling: Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s just exactly it. We don’t really know what we’re supposed to be doing. We just kind of copy what has been done to us in the past and what we’ve experienced. The typical hiring practice, if we follow that, that sets us up to mis-hire about 75% of the time. What I mean by the typical hiring practice is we get really busy and we decide, “You know what? We could use some help around here. Let me write up a really quick job ad, and put it out there everywhere, and see which applicants come in. I’ll pick from the best of that group, and then I’ll invite some of those in for an interview. Then out of those that I interview, I’ll pick the best person.”
Sabrina Starling: Well, the reason that causes us to mis-hire is because that is out of alignment with A-player behavior. A-players are not on job boards reading job ads. They’re not sitting at home in their jammies doing that. They’re employed elsewhere right now, they’re probably very busy in their other job that they have elsewhere, and they move from one opportunity to the next. We have to use all of our good marketing agency skills to figure out how do we get in front of the right A-players for our business, and then attract them to want to work with us.
John Jantsch: Okay. Obviously now I need to say, “Okay. What should we be doing?” You kind of set up the … I think you’re absolutely right. I mean, the people that we really are after are not looking for us. How do we kind of turn the tables then and attract that person?
Sabrina Starling: Yes. It’s about being very, very intentional and setting ourselves up to really differentiate ourselves as employers in the marketplace. Again, using everything we know from good marketing agency, we have to be different and we have to stand out. We need to know what it is that the A-players we want to attract would value about us, and what are we … and rather trying to create that and just … “I’m not doing this now, so I should go out there and do that.”
Sabrina Starling: Start with what are we doing well. We can ask our current team members, who are our better team members, what is it that you appreciate most about working here? What’s different and unique about this role versus any other jobs you’ve done in the past? That is going to start cluing us in to how we as employers stand out.
Sabrina Starling: What’s, I think, really surprising for a lot of small business owners is we don’t have to do grand things like have pool tables, and let our kids … our team members. I’ve just been talking about kids recently. We don’t want to have to our members playing pool for them to feel like, “Wow, this is a great place to work. I get to play pool on my lunch breaks.” It’s the simple things, like just being respectful, and having a respectful work environment, treating team members like family, giving them flexibility to take care of work life balance and family needs that they may have.
Sabrina Starling: We as small business owners kind of take that for granted. It’s just kind of how we do things and how we roll, and we don’t realize that that’s very different than corporate America. If we’re talking to somebody who’s had a corporate job, it could be a breath of fresh air for them to come to work in a small business.
John Jantsch: I think you’re absolutely right. A lot of the small businesses just do that because they think that’s the right way to do that … do things. That’s who they are. How do you actually communicate that in a way that then starts attracting? I mean, you can’t go out there and necessarily say, “Oh, we’re like family here.” I mean, to me that doesn’t play very well.
Sabrina Starling: Yeah. And it kind of can sound kind of empty. The best thing that we can do is getting our current team members to talk out there about us, and get the word on the street about the business going. With social media now, we have really simple tools at our disposal. First, we need to understand A-players hang together. If you have an A-player on your team … and by A-player, I mean someone who is highly motivated, who’s a get go-getter, who solves problems, and doesn’t just stop, and give up, and wait for you to tell them what to do.
Sabrina Starling: Those kinds of people know other A-players. John, look how you and I connected. You commented on Mike [inaudible 00:07:57]’s post, I commented back. I like to think I’m an A-player. I like to think you’re an A-player. I think Mike [inaudible] is an A-player. That’s how A-players work.
Sabrina Starling: Our team members are like that too. If we have some sort of … something they do that we’re really proud of, and we feature them in our social media and we say, “Joe really went out of his way for this customer this week, and look at what he did. I’m so proud of Joe,” and you tag Joe in that post. Well, Joe is going to want to share that post with all of his friends and family because he’s feeling really proud. Now all of a sudden, your business is getting in front of all of Joe’s A-players in his network.
Sabrina Starling: When you have an opening later on and you start sharing your job ad, and you ask Joe, “Would you mind sharing this with your network?” Well, now Joe’s network is like, “Oh, yeah. Joe has that boss who brags about him all the time. That’s very different than my boss who gripes at me all the time.”
John Jantsch: Yeah. And the beauty of that too is that’s … yes, that’s attractive to maybe a potential hire. But that’s also a really pretty attractive message to the market in general about what kind of company you are.
Sabrina Starling: Absolutely. That’s the beautiful thing is the things that we do to really position ourselves as a brand that our ideal clients and customers would gravitate towards. We just need to be a little bit more mindful of incorporating our best team members in that, and pulling them in whenever possible, and letting them take center stage in our marketing agency.
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John Jantsch: So, your most recent edition of How to Hire is the contractors edition. I know for one that right now in that particular industry … and I’m sure there are others like that, but it seems to me like there’s such a shortage of people that want to do that kind of work. That are going to school to get into those trades. What’s a company … I mean, I guess on one hand what we’re saying is that it’s makes us even hyper important in that industry. But what do you do when it’s not simply a matter of hiring A-players? It’s: how do I get anybody that’s interested at all?
Sabrina Starling: Absolutely. We have to understand that in any population, about 10% of the population is going to be A-players. When you have a shrinking labor pool like the construction industry is dealing with … because for years, kids were encouraged to go to college instead of go into the trades if that was their inclination. Not only have we had a lot of people leave the construction industry when the recession happened, they never came back. Now we also are missing an entire generation of workers in that industry.
Sabrina Starling: It’s a very small labor pool, and we have to really get resourceful when it comes to filling open roles in our businesses. It is not about hiring skillset. It is much more important to hire for fit with our core values or our immutable laws. The A-player personality, that resourcefulness, as well as to excel day in and day out. Skillsets can be trained, and there may be entry level positions that we’re going to have to look at in our businesses and create apprentice programs.
Sabrina Starling: I know for a contractor looking at doing that, you’re working 90 hours a week to keep up with the demand as it is. You’re like, “What? This lady’s telling me to start an apprentice program? Who has time for this?” What I would really encourage you to consider doing is niching down. Get a very specific niche that you focus on, that you have the opportunity to be the best in the world at in that niche. Because the projects that you do will be very similar over time, it makes it much easier for you to train somebody … because they’re doing a lot of repetitive work, and that makes an apprentice program much more doable.
John Jantsch: Well, I actually have a client in Kansas City, Missouri that did just that. They were a pretty good size remodeling contractor. They actually partnered with a couple local schools, and are running six or eight apprentices through a semester, and a couple have turned into really great hires.
Sabrina Starling: Absolutely. I really think that’s going to be what a lot of contractors are looking at doing. In my book How to Hire the Best, I include sample job ads. One that I included this time around that I didn’t include in the previous edition of How to Hire the Best is a job ad that is positioned for hiring for growth. That would specifically target someone who has come out of a trade school program … even at, like, a six to eight week program, and now you’re bringing them in the business. Here’s what you expect them to be able to do right away, and here’s what you expect them to be able to grow into doing.
John Jantsch: I mean, one of the ways you get A-players is you take them from somebody else. I mean, let’s face it. That happens, right? How do you kind of skirt that potential sort of community scar?
Sabrina Starling: Oh, yeah. Here’s the thing. Poach is a bad word, so we don’t say poach, we say ‘attract.’ If we are going to become employers of choice and really be that leader that is respectful of our team members, that creates a good work environment, that’s going to be attractive. When you’re out on job sites, and you’re dealing with the other trades, and they see how you conduct business and how your team feels … and really thinking about what is the word on the street about your business?
Sabrina Starling: Like, when your team members are at a barbecue on Friday evening, are they the ones saying, “You won’t believe what my boss had me do this week. He had me work all this overtime, and then this happened, and then he yelled at me.” Is that going to be the word on the street? Or is it going to be that your team member says, “Oh my gosh, my boss is so nice. He told me thank you for doing this simple thing the other day. It was really no big deal, but he actually stopped told me thank you.” Is that going to be the word on the street? Because if that’s the positive interaction with team members is the word on the street, you are going to be in a much better position to attract great team members to your business.
Sabrina Starling: In the book, one of the resources that I share is a very simple method of having a business card, and it says on there, “I see you doing a good job. I want to acknowledge you for that.” On the other side of that business card is: if you’re ever looking for an opportunity, come talk to me. You can just hand that whenever you’re out in public, or you’re on a job site, and you see someone doing a good job. You’re just simply acknowledging them for doing good work. They’ll hang on to that.
John Jantsch: One of the things that happens amongst businesses when things get competitive is they start lowering prices. The flip side of that, I suppose, in hiring is at what point is sort of offering the highest salary play a role, or is that just like lowering your prices? Is that a bad practice?
Sabrina Starling: It’s a bad practice. I advise against it, and I think all small business owners everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief on that one. When we think about it, money only goes so far as a motivator. Once our base level needs are met … and depending on where you are in the country, it’s about $75,000 is the annual income that someone needs to just feel covered and taken care of. Once our base level needs are met, money quits being a motivator. What is motivating is how we are treated, how we feel a part of something, and having a larger purpose that we’re taking part in.
Sabrina Starling: That’s really what we want to be building in our businesses is the story of the business, and what is it that we do that has an impact, and the work we’re doing as a team member with us. How were you the hero in that story? And the piece about what to pay to attract great employees is you want to be above the 50th percentile. The Bureau of Labor statistics has this data on their website for pretty much any role that you can think of in a small business.
Sabrina Starling: You can see what the 50th percentile is, the 75th percentile, and the 90th percentile. I suggest … I like starting at the 65th percentile. And saying, “You start out here, and if you do really well and you hit these results with us, then at three months time we’re going to bump you up here, and that’s going to put you in about the 75th percentile of pay.” And then gradually bumping them up over about two years time, and showing them how if they deliver the results you’re looking for, you’ll have them at the 90th percentile.
Sabrina Starling: That in and of itself … if you put that on paper, that really differentiates you. Because most large organizations and small businesses will say, “We offer opportunities for advancement.” And it’s lip service. They don’t do anything to back it up. But if you document it, now you’re different. And if on the other side of that piece of paper you put team member comments about why they appreciate working for you, and their pictures, now you’re standing out again. If you really want to stand out, I recommend bright orange paper and scratch and sniff. When they leave the interview with you, they have this big, bright orange piece of paper. It shows their opportunities for advancement, how they’re going to get to the 90th percentile. Translate that into dollars for them so they really … don’t just say 90th percentile, because that means nothing to a candidate.
Sabrina Starling: Then on the back of that, they see team members who currently work for you. They look like they’re having fun, which that’s kind of different too. Maybe this maybe this is really an opportunity I want to pursue. That’s what it’s going to take to get an A-player who’s employed elsewhere, who may be is having a few bad days at work. Maybe I’ll stay because it’s always easier to stay where we are than make a move. We have to show them that making the move is really going to be something good for them. That is going to be enough to convince them. This is a real opportunity.
John Jantsch: Just like all things today, there’s so much information out there and transparency. You know who’s good and who’s bad. But what do you think about sites like Glassdoor? I know a lot of small businesses … they don’t have a lot of employees and like a lot of things in life, the employee that that was disgruntled for some reason leaves a terrible thing on glass door. Now I’ve got to deal with that. What do you think about … not necessarily what you think about the sites, because you know they are reality. It doesn’t matter what you think of it. But how should a small business address sites like that can maybe damage the story that’s real?
Sabrina Starling: It is really about doing the work on the front end, and showing up, and being authentic. By that, I mean if you’re having regular one-to-one conversations with your team members, then you’re going to ward off a lot of what would be put on Glassdoor as a negative review about you. If you are doing good things, team building activities, and dinners with your team, and pizza parties, and fun things … that is going to ward off a bad review. If you get a bad review and you have plenty of positive PR going on about the company, it actually can be … kind of like what they say to us, John, about book reviews. If somebody leaves that one bad review, it’s more authentic. Because now it doesn’t look like all your friends went on and left you a good review. It gives some context, and I think most team members that we would want in our have an understanding that not everybody is going to be a great fit for our businesses.
John Jantsch: I know you do a lot of coaching on businesses, so that they can get free of having to be there all the time. You talk about the four week vacation, things like that. What are the hardest roles to fill and the ones that … if you’re going to get that four weeks vacation you must?
Sabrina Starling: Yeah. Yeah. It is that it … the construction business project manager really seems to be a hard role to fill, or the person who will do the sales in the owner’s absence. Actually, the sales in the owner’s absence is not as hard to fill. It’s getting the owner to let go of doing the sales. That makes it harder. But project manager overall is a harder one to fill.
Sabrina Starling: The critical roles in the business that pertain to serving the top clients around the most profitable product or offering need to be filled. It’s not just a business owner themselves who needs to be able to take a four week vacation for that business to be healthy. But every single team member deserves the opportunity to be able to leave, and go on vacation, and not have their work pile up while we’re gone. If the work is piling up for a team member and they feel like, “I can’t leave. I have too much of a critical role here.” That is a sign that work needs to be spread out and there needs to be additional training for other team members, so that things can be handled in that team member’s absence.
John Jantsch: Great point. Sabrina, where can people find out more about you, and your work in How to Hire the Best?
Sabrina Starling: Thank you, John. My business is tapthepotential.com. If you want to get How to Hire the Best, you can go to tapthepotential.com/book. If you want to know how you’re doing with getting your business lined up to be a highly profitable, great place to work that lets you take a four week vacation, you can take our assessment at tapthepotential.com/assessment.
John Jantsch: Awesome. We’ll have a as always a those links in the show notes. Sabrina, it was great having a chat. Hopefully we’ll catch up with you soon out there on the road.
Sabrina Starling: Thank you, John.
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