It's been just over a month since I transitioned from my role helping to lead up HubSpot's Agency Partner Certification and training program at HubSpot Inc and joined one of my favorite HubSpot Agency Partners here in Boston, Innovative Marketing Resources.
[ME AND SOME MEMBERS OF THE IMR CORP CREW HANGING OUT AT THE OFFICE DURING MY FIRST WEEK ON THE JOB - NOTE ONE OF THE NEW PLANTS WE ADDED TO GREEN UP THE PLACE, TOO]
Innovative Marketing Resources, or IMR Corp for short - had risen to become one of the better known Certified Platinum Providers in HubSpot's growing network of Agency Partners. As someone who spent their entire career at HubSpot supporting our partners in the marketing industry, I had known and worked with the team at IMR and we had "grown up" in the program together for years. But, times change, and if the agency was to continue to thrive in 2016, they needed new leadership. Meanwhile, I was ready for a change as well. I was looking for a chance to apply all I had learned from 4.5 years working at HubSpot - particularly the management and leadership systems that we pioneered on the HubSpot Academy Team (lead by Mark Kilens, one of the best managers I've ever worked for). And with IMR hiring a senior manager to help lead up the entire agency, an opportunity presented itself. So, with 2015 drawing to a close (and with my wife and I expecting our first child) this was a perfect point in my career to take a chance, strike out and see what I could do if I joined forces with of the leading HubSpot Agency Partners that I admired so much.
Driving fast, taking chances:
In short, it was a fast moving first month for me at IMR. I'm used to that pace from my experience starting as the 250th HubSpot employee supporting around 4,000 customers to and then riding the orange rocket ship as the company went public, grew to 15,000+ customers and 1000+ employees on 3 continents - all within a few short years. I told Kevin Jorgensen and Joe Petterossi (IMR's co-founders and my new business partners), I intended to come into the agency "like a big orange hurricane" and try to "make it rain inbound" all over the place. As their new business partner and joining in the role of agency team leader, I would have a hand in improving all aspects of the agency - client services management, marketing/sales, as well as culture and team development.
Looking back over the first 30 days as VP of Client Services at IMR, I'm greateful to realize that the IMR team met nearly every objective we set out to accomplish. There were still some areas I overreached and I hope by sharing a blog post here, we all could benefit from some of my lessons learned during my first taste of inbound agency leadership. (I would also note that I definitely overreached in the scope of this blog post so I hope you brought a big lunch - you're going to be here for a little while ;).
I'm hoping I can make reports like this into a monthly series. I think it's only inboundy to publish a monthly recap like a true web log of my notes/goals/objectives from each month. So please excuse if I use a bit of short-hand notation here, but hopefuly that will allow me to cover more ground on the page here and you can digest this post easier (maybe you'll even come back to reference it later as well). If you're working on your own inbound agency's growth, this post (and monthly series) is for you.
Laying out my Management Objectives for My First Month Leading IMR Corp:
- My first move after I accepted the new position was to have the team email me any questions they had for me prior to my start date on November 2nd. The team sent me questions that touched on all aspects of IMR's future. My solutions for solving client challenges, my answers to concerns of work/life balance, my support for a new office location and my opinion about revising team structure and promotion criteria. I answered as many questions as I could through a series of recorded video messages which I sent out to the team ahead of my start date. I wanted folks to anticipate the type of leader I aspired to be and I wanted to make my key positions known before I got there.
- My next move was to schedule a monthly team meeting with all of members of the agency team for the first thing on Monday. We didn't have time to lose! I scheduled it for the first day I was on the job and sent an email ahead to the team with an overview of the meeting.
[SCREENSHOT OF NICK'S TEAM MEETING EMAIL OVERVIEW]
Starting to Build our Team's Leadership and Management system:
At the team meeting, I told them that the most successful playbook I know is the HubSpot growth playbook - specifically the parts I experienced through the tremendous growth and success of the HubSpot Academy team. Therefore, in keeping with that playbook, I stated I wanted us to work together to establish a "leadership system" like what Mark Kilens had worked with us to create and agree upon in the early days of HubSpot Academy.
Here were my objectives I laid out that we needed to accomplish to get this going:
- Draft the Innovative Marketing Resources team purpose aka our "why" (should be expressed as one sentence).
- Discuss and affirm a set of core values by which we can base our everyday decisions on (no more than seven).
- Finally, adopt a team management system - making clear who leads whom on which of the agency's core impact areas and back by a RACI chart system - both discussed later below).
In the flurry of the 30 days after the first team meeting, we did not get around to drafting our team purpose or core values. My hope is that as I get to know the team better and we start to really trust each other, we will be in a better position to really nail down our purpose and core values in the next month or so. However, I did cast a vision for growth in 2016 that the team bought into and we did start putting many elements of the management system in place (like implementing the Habitus).
Casting the Business's Vision for Growth Through the End of 2017:
So what was this vision for growth? Once I had joined the firm offcially as a partner, Kevin, Joe and I mapped out a business plan for the next two years of IMR. Below are some of the milestones that I shared with IMR on our first monthly team meeting.
- 5k net new monthly retainer revenue (MRR) added to the company per month, every month = Double the business revenue by end of 2017.
- Double the size of our client services team (inbound marketing consultants, content creation professionals / content project managers) by the end of 2017 as well. Right now it's a team of 3 consultants, two content creation professionals plus myself. By December 31st 2017,to keep on pace with our client account needs, we intend to be 6 full time consultants and 4 content creation pros / content project managers. (we'll do recruiting campaigns later but, FYI, if you want to work with me and the IMR team, NOW would be a better time to contact me)
- Have enough momentum to sponsor a "Seaport party" at INBOUND16 for our clients and colleagues in the Agency Partner community. I knew that it was important for the IMR team to continue to serve as leaders in HubSpot's Agency Partner network. We need to be seen visibly as leaders at the most important conference of the year for all of us who are HubSpot Agency Partners - INBOUND. As a member of HubSpot Academy, I have been involved in delivering programming for the last 3 INBOUND events. Therefore, it would be a serious indicator of our success and leadership in the inbound community to be be able to display such visible support at the industry's most important event in 2016.
- I also understood (from polling the staff the month before via email about their top concerns) that they wanted to open a new office in one of the "hip" business locations in either Boston's Seaport or Cambridge's Kendall Squares. Kevin, Joe, and I saw that getting a location in say, the same neighborhood as HubSpot Inc's HQ could be helpful to our recruiting and biz dev efforts, but Innovative Marketing Resources needed more growth and revenue first and formost. Therefore, I declared that if we hit our business and team growth targets, we would seek a new office by Q1 2017. Most of us on IMR's client services team commute over an hour to reach the current office location, so this goal was met with positivety and dare I say, hope.
Completing a Listening Tour with Agency Staff:
Prior to my leaving HubSpot and joining IMR, I met 1:1 with my leadership on the HubSpot Services team - Mark Kilens and Michael Redboard. I asked each of them for their advice on what they would do first when taking over a new team. They each advised going on a "listening tour" with the staff. This would allow me to find out what each felt was working, what wasn't, and basically get their own personal SWOT analysis on the firm (and themselves) before making any big changes. But a listening tour I knew would be just the beginning. I had weekly 1:1's with Mark during my entire tenure on HubSpot Academy and I found this to be an effective way to ensure my leader and I got a guarenteed 1 hour of face time. This was my time to focus 100% on my career and my goals within the company. I wanted to make sure everybody i lead got at least 1 hour of my focused time each week. This was a weekly routine I established within the first week at IMR as well:
Each member of the IMR agency team gets a 1:1 meeting with me weekly to work on whatever is most important to them. Specifically I started to help each staff member work on in various degrees the following:
- Personal brand definition, personal life goals they are seeking and
- Skills development and performance feedback as well as planning additional training/certifications to improve
- IMR client services goals, client services blockers and how to remove them
- Tracking, organizing and investing their available weekly time (based on a simple time-tracking spreadsheet system pioneered by Mark Kilens at HS Academy called the "Habitus") and making sure we are making the right investments based on the above areas. I found this to be a great system to ensure nobody is getting burnt out (or if they are, we become aware of it sooner rather than later).
So the 1:1's are starting to become a tradition and I am meeting and listening to everybody in the agency at least weekly.
Getting to know our current clients on inbound retainers:
IMR has worked with over 50 different HubSpot customer accounts over their 4+ years that they have been an official Agency Partner. They had not engaged every single one of those customers in a marketing services/consulting retainer nor did the retainer clients they did engage stick every year. So, when I arrived in November, there were 10 clients who were paying some sort of retainer fee to IMR Corp plus a handful of others that we still did project work for from time to time. I've come to find out these are by and large a well chosen group of customers that include private colleges, technology companies, and health & wellness companies.
The majority of these clients on retainer have annual contracts that were coming up for renewal. Most of these were contracts that were signed late 2014/early 2015 by my predecessor, Max Traylor (a good friend and long-time employee of the firm who decided to strike out on his own - we still are in touch and wish him well). As I was saying, these accounts were up for renewal soon, so I had to work fast to get to know these accounts, and to see if I could build relationships with these clients. I also wanted to find out if we really enjoyed doing business with each of these accounts and if it made sense for the kind of firm IMR wanted to be in 2016 to have each and every one of these accounts with us. I had to do the same listening tour I did with the staff with each of the clients as well. Learn their goals, learn what they felt was working/what wasn't working from their retainer, and see if I could be of any further help on our services strategy for their account.
Kicking Off My Listening Tour with Our Current Clientele:
At IMR, while we all work on client accounts, each client gets a dedicated team member (an IMC) who leads their account and runs all their consulting calls.
- I began listening in on each IMC's client account calls starting on week 2. I listened in on weekly check-ins, monthly ROI reviews, new services proposals, and retainer renewal discussions.
- At the end of each of the client calls that I joined "as a fly on the wall" for, I scheduled 1:1 calls with the primary contact on each of the client accounts.
- I held two such client 1:1's in November, and have gotten the rest scheduled for December. By the end of December, I aim to have met with each main client point of contact 1:1 for each account that we have.
[SCREENSHOT OF A LISTENING TOUR OUTREACH EMAIL TO AN IMR CLIENT]
Our Client Services Goals for Next Month:
- Renew all accounts on retainer. These are good accounts, they all use HubSpot and our implementations are well underway in each. I think there is more work we need to do on each of these accounts to leave them on a solid foundation before either party moves on. We need to put together really detailed, solid growth plan for each of these clients and get their buy in on it before the end of December.
- Expand strategically with those that have opportunity. There are a few of our client accounts where we actually have opportunity to expand the scope of our services and provide more value. This will result in an increased investment from the client to make happen - but I think for these specific accounts, we can justify the cost based on our past performance.
So basically, I want us to keep the clients we have as well as expand our retainers we have for some of them that need it. We will need to provide a detailed, compelling inbound strategy proposal to each if we are to renew and expand these retainers in 2016. The IMCs began drafting a few of these in November and December will involve even more client strategy drafting. I need to get more involved in these proposals next month. These strategy proposals will set the tone for the type of retainer work we will do next year and it has to be a top priority for me next month to help our IMC's put together powerful, innovative proposals to base the renewal of these accounts upon.
Blocking Out 1 Hour Each Week to Work on Steadily Improving High-Impact Areas of the Agency:
A key part of building our "management system" for the agency was to take control of our team's time (especially my own) and invest it across improving key areas of the business that have the biggest impact on our growth vision. I got this idea from a book I started listening to on repeat during my commute throughout this 1st month called The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes (shout out to Remington Begg from Impulse Creative who reccomended this book during an interview I did with him a while back on HubSpot Partner webinar I hosted).
IMR's key Impact Areas: I outlined specific areas of impact that I (along with various members of the team) would invest a minimum of 1 hour a week managing and improving through the use of "weekly workshop meetings."
[An example invite I sent out for one of our weekly workshop meetings]
Here are the names of the weekly workshops I set up for the team last month:
- Marketing - Weekly review of our visitor and lead generation
- Lead Qualification & Nurturing (what we've dubbed "inside sales") - Weekly review of our MQL >> SQL strategy and initiatives.
- CRM & sales opportunity pursuit (what we've dubbed "outside sales") - Kevin Joe and I meet weekly to review our sales qualified leads (SQL's) and plan our next steps/procedures needed to explore and strategize >> present and close.
- Client services/consulting skills - A weekly workshop where we plan and review procedures, roleplays and playbooks for client onboarding, driving adoption, reporting/analysing, project management, retainer renewal/expansion etc.
- Inbound content and client deliverables production - A weekly work session between our "Editor in Chief" and "Head Designer" to review plans and procedures to create higher performing, more delightful premium content + how to help scale out our content production machine as we grow.
- Research and development of IMR services products - A weekly meeting where Kevin Jorgensen and I review our current IMR products and review plans for updates and the roadmap for new marketing strategy products (The Content Marketer's Blueprint, the Lead Quality Report etc)
- The Weekly Delight - This was an import based on a weekly meeting we did at HubSpot Academy that everybody really enjoyed. It's an end of the week gathering of the team where we reflect back and share examples of IMR customers/subscribers as well as our own team members being delighted by our work we did that week. We then go around the table and share 1 thing we learned from our work that week. We keep a running record of what we share so we can look back over all the things we did over time. The balance of this hour is reserved to cover any culture/team delight plans we're working on (book of the month club, quarterly team outings, office improvements etc). NOTE: Look, I know this "delight" term can make some people cringe - to some it sounds cheesy. But I've thought about it over the years and delight (not please, not satisfy) is a really specific word that, like it or not, acruately captures the experience we inbound marketers are trying to create for our fellow human beings. 1 hour a week to focus on fostering that in our audience as well as ourselves.
Project Management: In addition to certain specific impact areas, I discovered that project management was an overall dicipline area where we could be much tighter as a team via the use of our instance of TeamWork PM and stronger scope/expectation control and a more deliberate stakeholder engagement strategy. HubSpot invested in my getting formal project management training during my days leading Academy training content production projects so I'm excited to transfer some of that knowledge to IMR in the next couple months and really shine in this area.
Creating a RACI matrix for all areas of the business: Both Joe and I are big fans of the RACI matrix tool. We started discussing this concept in November and need to start building out a formal matrix in December with the goal that any team member can easily reference to understand each person's role on any given IMR initiative. The term "DRI" (directly responsible individual) was something we used a lot around the halls of HubSpot (we got it from Apple Inc) and it's starting to make it's way into the weekly jargon here at IMR. Goooooood...
Setting up a "Where You At?" Calendar: One thing I noticed right away was there was no easy way to tell who was going to be in the office physically on any given day vs. who was working remotely vs. who was just running late to a meeting. One thing we did to help remedy this same challenge with the team at HubSpot Academy was setting up a shared Google Calendar where everyone posted their whereabouts/availability in real time between the week day hours of 9-5. It was a simple and effective to be able to pull up that calendar and see who was coming in and who was not for any particular day.
[NICK'S CRAZY CALENDAR WITH 'WHERE YOU AT?' CAL IN YELLOW]
So we set a calendar up like this for IMR starting in November. It's taken some gentle prodding to get everybody using it consistently (including myself on a couple days I had to come in late and forgot - Whoops!), but people like the system, they understand the value and it's catching on.
Marketing in My First 30 Days:
I knew there were two key dates I could rally the team around to help us build up IMR's brand awareness in the inbound community (near and far). One was the next Boston HubSpot User Group (HUG) meetup and another was IMR's first marketing webinar with me as their host. The HUG was slated for November 11 and Kevin and I decided set the webinar date for November 17th.
Goals for the 11/11 Boston HUG:
- Have an excuse for the team to visit HubSpot's campus in Cambridge and work out of these offices for the day. Since the HUG would be that evening, that gave us a whole day to network and meet up with our favorite people within HubSpot sales, marketing, and customer service.
- Find out what HubSpot customers (current and prospective) were really looking for help on. What was keeping them from getting started with inbound marketing? It varies by each territory and country that HubSpot sells into, turns out. We had a chance to get up close and personal with our counterparts who worked full time at HubSpot and really understand what they were encountering with customers and prospects around the world.
- Demonstrate to my fellow HubSpot colleagues that just because I transitioned into a role leading up one of our Agency Partners, didn't mean that I was no longer a Hubspotter. I wanted to set the tone that that they would see me around the halls of HubSpot regularly in the future (I had to kindof prove this to myself as well.)
- Establish a monthly habit of visiting Hubspot Inc. Our entire business model centers around providing value-adding products and services to HubSpot customers. If we have the ability to visit HubSpot HQ (or as I like to call it, "Willy Wonka's Koolaid Factory") regularly, we damn well better take advantage of it!
Goal for My First Webinar At IMR: Everybody Contributes. Everybody Plays a Role.
I wanted this webinar to be a rallying point for the whole team. Webinars can be fairly involved productions with script writing, slide design and creation, audio/video set up, a whole marketing and promotion campaign, webinar hosting and facilitation, attendee chat support and social media follow you - it's a lot that a multi-talented team can sink it's teeth into. So I had that one objective for the production above all - Everybody contributes. Everybody plays a role.
And that's exactly what ended up happening:
- Joe arranged for us to get the liscence for GoToWebinar and get it turned on.
- Ross set up our HubSpot-GoToWebinar integration along with the Landing Page and Emails
- Kevin and I co-wrote the script for the webinar and were the on-camera hosts
- Matt helped us edit and refine the script so it flowed and made sense
- Larrry helped craft the initial slides based on the script and helped herd the other IMC's to keep moving on the prep
- Danielle helped us build the list of invitees for the webinar and get the invite email out
- Beverly helped us put the slides into a nice template and helped do all the graphic design
- Kevin helped with aquiring a web cam and lapel mics (first webinar ever using lapel mics! Yes!!)
- Ross provided real-time chat support during the webinar
- Every other IMR team member joined the webinar live to show support and took notes for feedback.
[SCREENSHOT OF THE EPIC LANDING PAGE THAT IMR IMC ROSS SIMONS HELPED WHIP UP FOR US]
So we actually all contributed to this webinar's success. It was stressful to pull the webinar off on such short notice (I knew it would be), but that's the great part about webinars - They have a due date that you MUST meet so it puts some natural pressure on to get great things done. And we did (despite some technical difficulties - what else is new?).
Check out our first webinar we produced as a complete team: Webinar Recording: Creating a Better Inbound Marketing Agency Blueprint in 2016
Selling in My First 30 Days:
Part of the role that Kevin Joe and I carved out for myself as a partner in the firm was to assist with aquiring new clients for IMR. I had never been in a role that involved sales in the traditional way you think about it. But, I had helped produce the sales training that all HubSpot Agency Partners must take in order to get officially certified. So I knew the best and brightest when it came to HubSpot's sales organization. Within my first 72 hours of starting my new role at IMR, I was staring at a list of everybody I knew who worked in HubSpot's sales team. And one name jumped right out at me - Dan Tyre. Anybody who knows this man can attest to his motivational skills and no B.S. attitude. So I cashed in on Dan's offer he made to me before I left HubSpot that if and when I needed a sales pep talk, just to give him a call.
Dan gave me the pep talk I needed, and reminded me that HubSpot's own sales team follows the same sales principles I helped put into our HubSpot Partner Certification training curriculum, so I already knew what to do, I just needed to do it with confidence and tenacity.
I pledged to Dan that I would block out 10 hours a week to focus specifically on prospecting for new business. So far out of this weekly effort we have 5 new qualified opportunities, one of which closed at the end of the month and two more that we are very close to signing with within the next few days. I tell you, HubSpot's inbound sales training and sales tools work. Just work the system.
- Generating referrals from other members of the inbound community: A huge boost to my initial prospecting momentum came from my good friend and HubSpot Academy alumni, Alan Perlman. Alan was transitioning out of running his own HubSpot Partner Agency so he could focus on a new venture. Him and I spoke on the phone one night as I was driving home and he told me he is still getting inquiries from Hubspot customers that he had been looking for a trusted Partner he could refer them to. I'm like, ummmm....HELLO?! Send them to me? And Alan did. Thank you Alan!
- Going the extra mile to help needy HubSpot employees solve customer challenges (current and prospective). Through our visit to HubSpot and taking folks to lunch, we managed to meet 1:1 with 3 HubSpot sales reps and 6 HubSpot account managers to talk about how we might help them with needs that their customers or prospects might have around website design, marketing automation set up, and content marketing strategy. Sometimes this meant offering to do work at rates and scope we might not usually take if we sourced the opportunity on our own, but we believe that building relationships with our fellow HubSpotters and being willing to go the extra mile to win their trust in referring business to you is something that will pay off long term.
- Using the dedicated sales support that's already available to every HubSpot Agency Partner: November also saw a visit to the firm from IMR's Channel Account Manager (sales counterpart) at HubSpot Inc, Mark Greco. Mark is another legendary HubSpotter (was employee #12 and has known Brian Halligan longer than anybody else currently working at HubSpot). Mark and I worked together for years while I was at HubSpot so both him and I are really excited to be continuing our work together in my new position. He came by the office and we talked sales strategy. "I'm basically your bitch," Mark told me. I knew he was joking, but it was heartening to know that Mark had my back and was basically standing ready to be an extention of IMR's sales team if and when we had a new customer opportunity. If we win, Mark wins. That's how the Partner program was designed.
- Setting sales activity goals each month and sticking to them: It took me a few weeks to find my rythym, but I am now prospecting regularly and we are managing the sales pipeline every day. My goal is to help put 10 more opportunities in the pipeline for December. Given our historical close rate, that will keep us on track to add 5k net new MRR each month.
- Having fun and get creative with incentives: I found out that all three of our current IMC's are craft beer buffs. So I bought a rediculously expensive bottle of craft brew called Viking Blod and offered it up to the team to chug when the next inbound inbound lead we generate closes. I mounted this bottle over our fridge where people can see it every day. They want that Viking Blod!
Culture - "Pimp my office" weekend:
Marketing and sales were definitely important priorities in my first 30 days, but I knew I had to win hearts and minds of the staff if we were going to be any sort of success with current and future accounts. We have a sign hanging over the main conference room in the agency that says, "The only way to do good work is to love what you do." I found that true at HubSpot and I believe that was a big reason why we were such a magnet for talent and customers. People wanted to share and feel that love too.
I wanted to show the staff that I was committed to going above and beyond to make Innovative Marketing Resources a truly great place to work, no matter where the office was located or what facilities we currently had to work with. I'm fond of the quote "Circumstances don't make a man, they reveal him." So, I told everybody in week 1 that I was planning a "pimp my office weekend" and that my wife Victoria and I planned to come into the office for a few hours on a Saturday and spruce the place up. Go into the office? On a SATURDAY?! Yes, folks. What if we had an office cool enough to want to hang out there for a few hours on a Saturday?? Would you donate a few extra hours to make it happen? Everybody was invited to join and I told them we could listen to music, have a few beers and just have fun while improving our work space.
Below is the actual agenda I posted in the calendar invite for the day:
- Set up Kegerator [I'm loaning mine to the office]. Start drinking.
- Start an office wall mural
- Paint other walls a new color
- Clean out/organize food & beverage area
- Name our office spaces + rooms (name plates?)
- Print funny and/or motivational pics/photos, frame and hang
- Clear out any junk and make space for web video area/webinar filming
- Fit both IMR TVs w/Chromecast
- Take photos and put on website
- Celebrate with more beer.
- More ideas?
So we had the first IMR "Pimp my office" day on the Saturday of week 2. People actually showed up. We didn't drink a lot like I originally planned, and that was probably a good thing. Not everybody could make it, but there were enough to take care of the action items we wanted, we took a bunch of photos, and we had a good time!
[MEMBERS OF THE IMR TEAM AND SOME FAMILY VOLUNTEERS HELPING TO SPRUCE UP THE AGENCY OFFICES ON A SATURDAY]
Things I Tried To Do In My First 30 Days, But Didn't Accomplish >> Lessons Learned:
- Blocking off entire days to focus on particular parts of the business was not necessary or even effective: I thought it would help us prioritize the necessary HubSpot/marketing work we needed to do for our own IMR HubSpot account if we blocked off every Monday just to focus on IMR - the account I made clear from day 1 that was "our first and most important retainer client account." This turned out to be a mistake. The feedback I got from IMC's during our 1:1's is that is simply made people's weeks too stressful to lose all of Monday to potential client work for basically no good reason. So long as people kept our own marketing initiatives as a priority (which they did), they should be trusted to manage their own time during the week. Besides, our weekly impact workshops ensured that we would cover the bases for our own marketing and sales anyways. I needed to show the team that although I had big bold plans and ideas, I was still willing to take their feedback, to kill ideas that weren't a good fit when practiced in real life and experiment with something better.
[SCREENSHOT OF MY TEAM MEA CULPA EMAIL LIFTING THE BAN ON CLIENT WORK DURING MONDAYS AND FRIDAYS]
- Google Apps migration and calendar woes: Worth it! One of the requirements for accepting Kevin and Joe's offer to join them as a partner and help lead up their marketing agency was that the firm migrate onto Google Apps for Business. They previously were 100% on Microsoft. When I joined, they still were on Microsoft so we experienced a complete calendar and email migration to Google in the middle of the first month. I had already set up 2 dozen calendar invites via my personal gmail account because I refused to use Outlook while we waited for the migration. This was painful as many calendar invites got lost/messed up during the migration. We are still ironing out the invite snafus that resulted from this. I should have just used my IMR email account on Outlook for the first two weeks and stayed out of my personal Gmail account (although I SERIOUSLY hate Outlook and prefer google's interface). HOWEVER, I'm glad we ripped off the band-aid earlier rather than waiting for that "perfect time" to migrate.
- Movie night. I really wanted to have a "team movie night" each month where the team sticks around from 4-6pm one evening and watches a Netflix Documentary or Youtube video that covers a particular part of our industry/our professon(s). I took title nominations and set a date, but then I punted it (twice) based on other "urgent" things the team had to cover. Never rescheduled. I really want to make this a monthly team tradition so I intend to bring it back. Maybe even make it potluck?
- Book of the month club. Same situation here. It's a good idea to have the team reading educational and inspirational business books (leaders are readers). But I couldn't figure out the best way to source title nominations and vote for the book of the month without somebody on this small team feeling like their nomination got slighted. So I still need to figure out the best way to set up a book of the month club for our team and to (fairly) choose the titles each month. Ideas are welcome here!
[THE FIRST AND ONLY "WEEKLY LEADERSHIP UPDATE" EMAIL I SENT IN NOVEMBER. ANOTHER WEEKLY HABIT I NEED TO NAIL DOWN BETTER FOR DECEMBER]
- Quarterly Team Events (Team outings, Team Project Hack days, Field Trips to other Boston area start-ups and marketing agencies). Basically, I want to do these. We didn't set up any specific dates for these in November and I just don't want to drop the ball as things get busier in the months ahead. Owning up to the fact that these types of team events are important, but they weren't ever "urgent enough" in November to set a date for. Quarterly team events like this may never qualify as "urgent enough", but that doesn't mean they aren't "important enough." I intend to book a team social outing, a team hackathon (on a project of their choice) and a field trip to an interesting/inspiring local company in Q1 2016....or else!
- Being myself when it came to my wardrobe: I wore a tie into work a few times last month. I was not expecting the impulse to do that. Wearing a tie felt kindof taboo when I was working at HubSpot. I had all these great ties but if you ever wore one in you were a magnet for inquirey ("What's the occasion? Customer coming in for a visit? You going to a wedding later?") I'm down with wearing a tie every once in a while without a bunch of fuss. Especially if others fear it as a sign of corporate oppression - because it isn't. No dress code means no dress code. I have a couple other fellow tie wearers at IMR as well so I'm in good company.
Looking ahead to next month. The following are some of my top priorities for the team in this last month of 2015:
- Inbound, HubSpot & Partner Certification Goals & Planning. I did an audit and found out that, like so many of the leading HubSpot Agency Partners I had worked with, most of the staff's recent HubSpot Academy Certifications had expired. Many HubSpot Agency Partner staffers just don't realize how fast those 13 months can go since their last inbound/HubSpot/Partner/Designer Certification. The team needs to get current on all relevant certifications ASAP. Top priority. Besides, this will give them a clear, quick win to boost their own confidence and credibility when dealing with prospects and clients in 2016.
- Interviewing HubSpot services thought leaders (within HubSpot and within Agency Partners): I think this is a priority because the team wants to grow (who doesn't?!) and they know they can't find all the inspiration and role models within our own small team of 8. I want to match our hungry client services team up with the best thoughtleaders I can find in my network. Therefore, in December's team meeting I'm going to say, "Let's pick a couple you want to learn most from and set topics and dates."
- Preparing annual skills specialization tracks and market value growth plans with each of the staff: Something I really enjoyed doing on the HubSpot Services Team was setting an annual skills development plan for myself. I targeted certain skills areas I wanted to focus on (communication skills, inbound knowledge, technical ability, driving customer success, project management etc) and would plan out a series of initiatives/projects to get me there by the end of the year. This was my guiding light for planning how I was going to increase my skills and thus my market value (to HubSpot and anybody else). I can't think of a better way to ensure the rest of the team members at IMR grow and can earn a increase in pay year after year than constantly, deliberately honing desirable skills.
The Bottom Line - Show Steady, Deliberate Improvements Every Week. Build hope and anticipation for the future.
Basically, for the first few weeks on the job, I just wanted the team to know I intended to bring positive change, and I wanted that to be showing on all fronts. We only have one life to live and I want to make sure that whereever I choose to spend the next year of my life working, that it's going to bring excitement, achievement, learning, fun, and growth. That type of environment will attract and retain bright team members, and the team is everything. That's the spirit that was instilled in me at HubSpot and I saw it happen for real there every day. I needed the team to see that I was serious about fostering that same type of culture and work environment at IMR (and hopefully other Agency Partners we will network with). I wanted to help make us all into mini HubSpots. As a Certified Platinum HubSpot Agency Partner, I consider ourselves a vital part of HubSpot. When I refer to things happening at HubSpot, I still say "we", because I still feel very much a part of what makes HubSpot, well, HubSpot. I want our team members to feel the same way and say "we" like I do. Well, at least like the "we" you use when referring to the home town team. That's we. That us. That's HubSpot. Oh wait, that's Innovative Marketing Resources too.
Your turn to share:
Thanks for reading. Now I want to hear from you.
What do you think of how I spent my first month leading up this HubSpot Agency Partner? Do you have any advice for what to focus on for next month? How does my experience here leading up a new team compare with your own experience either leading new teams or as an agency team member being lead yourself?
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