Build a Badass Business Podcast #11: Q&A – Hiring: How do you build a team?

BABAB-PODCAST-Square_Episode-11 (1)I want to touch a little bit on this concept of drive and along with that, a pace and a speed. I see this a lot, and I see it with all different types of entrepreneurs. I see it with some of the coaches I have in my sugar detox program, who are all entrepreneurs in different ways with that program. I see it with myself, I see it with my team, all of us who have this entrepreneurial spirit. We may have different levels of drive, and also a different concept of a pace or a speed at which we want to work. Something that I want to throw out there, if you’re somebody who is kind of sitting with these ideas and you just are not pushing forward, you’re just not taking steps to get them out there to execute to get things done, and you’re seeing people kind of whiz by you…

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Build a Badass Business: Episode 11 –

Coming to you straight from her basement home office in suburban New Jersey, this is Build a Badass Business with Diane Sanfilippo. Diane is a New York Times bestselling author and serial entrepreneur. She’s here to teach you how to grow and develop a successful business you love, and how to create raving fans along the way. Here she is, your host: Diane Sanfilippo.

Diane Sanfilippo: Hey guys. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Badass Business. Today I’m going to take a question. I believe I only posted the call for questions over on the Facebook group. I’ll put a link up at That’s where you can get details on this podcast, links to show notes, etc. But you also want to join us on the Facebook group for Build a Badass Business. Look for us there; I share lots of tips and ask questions and answer questions and engage with you guys there, so make sure you join us over there.

Today’s question comes from Laura, and she asks, “How do you build a team? I’m getting to the point in my business that I would love to hire someone to help me but I’m terrified of relinquishing control to someone else. Control freak, right?!” That was here words, not mine. She says, “Who did you hire first? What process did you use to build your team and find awesome, affordable help? If you have a limited budget, who are the most important people to hire?” Some background information; she says “I’m considering hiring someone to help me with some blogging, social media, and/or design work. I can’t do it all anymore.”

So I have a little bit of a unique experience, because I was a graphic designer for many, many years. So once you are a graphic designer at some point on your life you kind of always are one. So I had a really fortunate situation where I could essentially make my business look amazing and like it had been around for years within weeks or months, just because I could design everything and have it look really great, so people would take me seriously. I think that’s kind of a credit to how important design is and how important the branding and overall look and feel is.

I think I’ve talked about this on a past episode, where I don’t want that to get in the way of you guys creating content, getting your blog started. It can very, very easily become a distracter and a point of paralysis for moving forward on getting the work done if you are just kind of focusing on, oh I need a logo, I need my blog to look perfect, etc. However, it absolutely makes a difference because you guys all know what it’s like to go to a website today that just doesn’t look great. It’s no longer really acceptable, especially in a market where so much of your business is going to be done online. It’s no longer where, maybe it’s a florist and the website doesn’t look great but the place has been in town 50 years, everybody knows about it, so the website really, it’s great that they had one but it wasn’t really their main source of business or marketing.

For a lot of you, your website is that main source, so it does need to look great. You do need to have professional photos, if you’re getting headshots done or any of that, it can’t be selfies or iPhone photos. You really do need to step up the game, but you don’t need to do all of it at once.

In building a team; I have two thoughts about the first person to hire. I think inevitably hiring someone to help with design work almost has to come first. It doesn’t mean they have to be on your team full time. But I do believe that having someone that’s reliable is very important. That sounds easier than it really is, because a lot of times as graphic designers they’re freelance, I was in that situation myself, I’ve also hired free lance designers in my time. If you hire a freelance designer who does freelance design nonstop, that’s what they do all the time, then you may be ok, but if you hire someone who is simply a freelancer who maybe at one point decides to go back to a full time job, or takes on a really big freelance client who then makes it so they don’t have a ton of time for you, you might be a little bit stuck. I definitely think that finding a resource that, somebody that you can bring on, maybe as a freelancer, they’re working on contract, they’re not an employee, but they are able to commit to you a little bit more strongly.

This obviously requires that you’ll commit to them as well, and you’ll have a good amount of work for them. You need to have probably at least 5-10 hrs a week of work minimum, and make some kind of commitment to them. Tell them, I have this much work for you, and get them to commit back as well. It’s not a contract where you say, ok, you have to work for me for this much time, but it is something where you can get a little bit firmer of a commitment.

Now, one thing I did really early on when I couldn’t handle my own design work anymore is I used a service called It’s something that a marketing consultant recommended to me. They’re not graphic designers in the sense where if you need creative work done, they’re not really going to be the best for that. But if you have a designer help you get started and then you just need blog post graphics created every week or every couple of weeks, you can easily send them details on what the graphics need to be. You can send them an initial file maybe your designer created or tell them what fonts you want to use or something based on what a designer did for you, and they basically ask as admin, but admin with maybe some more skills than a typical assistant might have.

I found that really useful; they follow up really well. It’s a big company, so if somebody is not there, the person who normally handles your account, somebody else will be there. I remember it being very affordable, probably less than $20 an hour, but probably more like $10. I think it really just depends on the kind of work you’re looking for. So I have no association with them other than I definitely use them and I recommend it, and I do think it’s a reliable place to go. I’m sure they’re going to get an influx of people now contacting them {laughs}. I know that finding someone reliable is definitely important.

That was one of the first things I did, but that was also in conjunction with just a personal assistant or a VA, a virtual assistant. I’ve never had an assistant work in person next to me. I’m personally not comfortable with somebody being in my space all the time. I think for some people it’s very helpful to have someone come to the house and help you out, but for me that’s not really an effective way of working. So for me, having someone who was able to answer emails, because that was a huge weight on my shoulders and it was taking up a bunch of my time. Someone who could handle customer service inquiries, as well, because I was also selling the 21-Day Sugar Detox as an online program, years and years ago. After maybe a year or two or handling all that on my own, I can’t remember exactly how long, but I definitely needed to train someone on that. So it really depends on where your business is at.

If you’re getting a ton of questions and inquiries and emails and you’re selling a product and you have customer service issues that need to be handled, I do think that outsourcing that to someone who can come onto your team as someone that you pay an hourly rate to and they’re a contract employee, meaning you issue them a 1099 at the end of the year, and you would need to work with an accountant on that. They fill out a W9 form and they get working for you that way. I think that’s really the best place to start in terms of building your own personal team.

That being said, beyond what the folks at longer days can do, I absolutely think that having a designer on your team, someone that you can constantly call on, somebody who can do work for you that can turn around within a couple of days; two to three days if you just need some simple graphics for something. Somebody that you want to rely on, it shouldn’t take a week for them to turn around blog graphics. That is not me being rude about how much time it should take, it’s just the type of time flexibility that they would have, you need to know that they would have that flexibility in their schedule. These graphics don’t take long to create. They wouldn’t take typically more than 15 to 30 minutes for something simple. You just need to know that person has that kind of time, because you don’t want to send them something and it takes them a week to get it back, and you were ready to post this thing to your blog, and it’s just taking forever. So that’s how I would get started.

Being terrified about relinquishing the control; it’s inevitable. Everybody who is an entrepreneur has that feeling at some point, and at some point you have to learn that there are people out there who want to help someone else and support a business, and they don’t want to be the face of the business but they’re very entrepreneurial, and they have that high level of commitment and passion. They do want to support you and they want to help you get this stuff done; and there are people who absolutely love having a task list and a certain order of things to be done, and they can just help you solve problems all the time. It’s amazing to have that person that you just know.

I know that emails are being answered. I know every week my assistant currently will send me what we call a quick list, and she came up with this strategy because I’m pretty hard to get pinned down to get answers to questions, and she figured out a good percentage of the questions that are coming in, she can answer and handle and field all of that on her own. But every week or more than once a week, depending on how many come in, she’ll send me a list of anywhere 5 to 20 questions that she needs answer to, and she’ll send it to me in a very condensed, consolidated format, not, hey can you look at this email, can you look at this email, all separately. It will just be very quick. So we call it a quick list, and she’ll send that to me, and I’ll respond as quickly as I can all at once. That really helps us, too, as far as a little system we have in place.

In terms of who I hired first, that’s really how it worked. I definitely had help with design probably very first, and then really the first person who actually came on the team was an assistant. Thereafter, definitely a designer. Longer after that probably someone to help a little bit more with content management; so helping me to get ideas and topics that I had already talked about in some places and reworking them into some blog posts. Stuff like that. But that definitely was a little bit later down the road.

I do believe that content development and anything that’s going to be a little bit closer to replacing you in the work that you’re doing. Of course, as an assistant, as a graphic designer, those folks are replacing something that you were doing, but when you start looking at the level of education and skill you have, and the type of work that you need to do that you can’t hire someone else for, for a long period of time because it would cost too much; those are the types of things you need to keep on your plate. Eventually when you are earning enough to pay someone else, because it will free you up to continue to do work that you need to do that you can’t pay someone to do, then you pay someone.

For example, if you need to pay someone to help with content development; if you want to say, hey, can you help me with some recipes? Can you help me write a blog post about this; here’s what I want it to say. Here’s some links you can refer to; whatever the structure of however you set that up is. That will probably command a slightly higher pay rate, because the work level is just a little bit higher. So, that’s when you kind of wait a little bit longer, and then you can hire someone to do that.

And then eventually, I hired a project manager, because I really needed someone to help the team. Every week we have, I think there’s anywhere from 5 to 7 of us on my weekly team call, and we have too many projects that we’re juggling, I just can’t be the point person for all of them. I can’t be the person who is tracking, where is everybody in their process. So that was the point that I hired the project manager.

I also have someone to help separately with 21-Day Sugar Detox social media. I do not keep that a secret, everybody knows. April signs off on posts there. I simply can’t manage more than one set of social media accounts, because I do post and respond personally on my own accounts. So the program itself, that’s something that I’ve given a lot of ownership to April on my team for.

So I think that’s another thing to consider. If you have a program that’s within your business, but it’s separate and it needs tending to, then that could be something to outsource social media for. I don’t consider outsourcing social media as hiring a social media company. I think it needs to be somebody who is very committed to your team. It doesn’t mean that they might not be committed to a couple of other teams, as well, that’s up to you. But I personally need it to be someone who I feel has a heart connection to me. I can’t hire a company to interface with my customers and fans and followers and all that. I need it to be somebody who is part of my core team who I know knows how to interact with people the way that I would interact with people. So for me, that interaction is super important, but that doesn’t mean I can’t delegate it. It just means I’m not going to outsource it to a company who is managing that for many, many people.

I think that’s where those decisions can be made. There are things like, again graphics and things a company like longer days, they have a lot of different clients. That’s something that doesn’t have that same personal connection. So for me, if I needed to do that now, if I needed somebody to whip up graphics; now I have 2 designers on the team, but if I didn’t have that, and I needed help, I would probably turn to them for some help.

The other thing is how did I build the team and find awesome, affordable help. Most of the people on the team sort of found me. I believe, I put out the call for an assistant a long time ago, my very first assistant. I had a ton of people respond, and I kind of go with my gut. I try and go with whose skills seem to match up when I give them kind of an example of the work, and ask them to respond back with what would they do. How would they deliver this work. But I also go with my gut, and the instinct that I have around the connection. I usually like to do a Skype interview.

Same thing with the project manager that I hired, same thing with the new designer that I hired. It was really just, on the Skype interview, I have an energy that I feel from the person. And that might seem hippy-dippy, but honestly, you have to talk to that person all the time and you want to make sure that that energy is the one that feels like it clicks. I pretty much know in the first minute if I think it’s the right connection, and then over the course of the call, I might get a little bit more clarity on it, and that was that.

My designer who works more for us, Nicole, she found me. She just sent an email, and said, hey can I help you guys with something. I don’t know, this was over a year ago, and I was like actually, yeah, we really need a designer at that point in time. So there’s, again, that kind of, I don’t know a little bit of a hippy-dippy, I was saying I needed a designer and she just found us at that point in time. I think the different types of people you might hire, the level and amount of skill that they have might be relative to what you can support them in.

For example, Nicole was not a very experienced designer, but she had the right mindset and the right skill set to start out with, and I can work with her and coach her and help mold her and move her in a certain direction because I have that design skill set and I understand what she’s doing. Whereas somebody who, if I needed to bring somebody on the team perhaps to do coaching, one on one coach, it’s not my best skill set, one on one coaching, where as it might be for someone like Laura, if one on one coaching is your best skill set, then you can train that person to be better at one on one coaching and give them the tools and set them up. Hopefully, that makes sense.

Same thing might be, say someone is a new yoga teacher, and they’ve passed their certification, and you love their personality, and their teaching style just could use a little bit of support and work; it’s part of your job as their boss and as their employer to help mentor. Because inevitably you will be a mentor to them, whether or not you intended to be. I do think that part of it is setting an example and teaching, so they can learn on the job and hopefully continue to grow and evolve.

Let’s see, what else was part of this question? I think I went through, if you have a limited budget who are the most important to hire, and you’ll grow and that will evolve over time.

A couple more things I want to address are the way that I currently work with my team, and I think everybody is really different when it comes to this. Interestingly enough, I don’t work great in a team. Specifically on projects that I’m working on, and managing and working with my team, having nothing to do with the people themselves, just having to do with my personality and how I do in groups. I naturally like to be more independent and do my work on my own. I obviously can work with other people, I have collaborated with lots of projects, and that’s not an issue, it’s just I prefer to work on my own most of the time.

So for me, getting together with my team, it was something that I want to say at least a year ago, maybe more, we decided that we needed a weekly call for the whole team. So we all get on Skype once a week; it’s usually a Monday or a Tuesday morning, and we just kind of set the pace and the tone for that week, partially talking about big picture stuff, like what’s going on with our company and anything that I’ve been thinking about, just things that are on my mind. This week we talked about Orange is the New Black. Sometimes it’s just touchy feely stuff, like how is everyone doing, somebody had a baby, and sometimes it’s bigger, deeper. We’ve talked about things like love languages and how everybody on the team can feel appreciated. You don’t really talk about it as a love language when it comes to work, it’s more of an appreciation language, but things like that. Having a weekly call definitely helps us all to reconnect, and that’s one thing that we do.

The other thing that I believe I’ve talked about in a previous episode, but I’ll talk more about it in the future, perhaps, and I’m sure there are a lot of other systems that you guys might be able to find that work for you. We use a system called Basecamp; it’s an online project management system, and it’s generally used for business to business. So for example, the design firm I used to work at, we would use Basecamp to interact with our clients. So we would set up, we had our own account, we would set up accounts with clients, and then the client could login and see what’s the status of the project we’re working.

We have a lot of big and small projects constantly in the works, from things like a weekly podcast to books that are being worked on, or online programs, etc. We can’t just email about them; we definitely don’t text about them. If we text, it’s hey can you jump on Skype to have a conversation, or something like that. I definitely do not, as much as possible unless I’m in an airport and need to text someone on my team, I put my ideas and we put all of the information that we’re talking about in a place that we can refer back to it very easily, and more than one person can see it. More than 2 people can see it, even.

Even if myself and my project manager have a conversation thread on Basecamp, other people can actually see that thread if they want to. It’s not something we use to keep things secret or private, it’s really just a place that we can login at any given time. We can see what the status is with a project, we can see the previous conversation. We can see files that are being posted. It’s a really important way for us to stay connected. It does get a bit unwieldy at times; we do need to kind of, every now and then regroup and streamline and see what’s happening with the projects in there, but it really is the only way that we can manage everything and share graphics and share documents and have a conversation.

We also do use that for connecting with other companies, so like a development company that’s helping to work on a website that we’re working on now, we have them added as a client, even though they’re not a client of ours, I guess we’re a client of theirs, but we have them added as a client, so we basically can add a new company. So it’s add this design company, for example, and we can add people in that company, and then we can add a message under a certain project that connects with them. So there are messages that only my internal team can see, and there are messages that we do share with external teams and other companies. For us, that’s a system that we use. It’s definitely something you can check out for free to start, and as you get bigger you may need to grow it.

I think when I was a nutrition consultant working one on one with people, I used to add clients to it as, they would be the company. So Joe Smith, for example, I would add Joe Smith to be the company, then Joe Smith could login, see our notes about our call that we had, see any uploads. He could upload his food journals, etc., and I found it very, very useful in that way. There is no losing paperwork, there’s no losing conversations. And if you’re at all like me and you have a million things going on, you really need some kind of resource that can help you keep track of all of that.

It may also be something that you can use on your own, and it sort of helps you keep track of your own stuff, maybe before you have a personal assistant or a virtual assistant, and that might be something to get started before you hire an assistant, because then you at least have something that’s more organized once they’re in place.

Those are my thoughts on who to hire first and all of that good stuff. I think the only other thing in this note from Laura, considering someone to hire for help with social media. I gave you guys my thoughts on that; I think the one thing that would be helpful for most people is if you want to have somebody help create graphics for you that you’re going to share or help you create some kind of water mark or some kind of look and feel to help you post things that have a consistency to them, but I do think at this point in time, I think your social media should be run by you. So if that means you need to scale back, post once a day somewhere, make sure you’re not getting too sucked in, etc. I think that, if it seems like it’s you, it should be you.

If you get to a point where you’re company is too big, you have too many fans and followers to personally respond to everyone, you know, you’re Taylor Swift, you’re not responding to everyone on Facebook or Instagram. But on her Instagram, she’s posting. Or maybe her assistant, or something like that, is posting. I just thing you need to be really transparent with that stuff and not pretend like it’s you if it’s not, and that’s kind of my 2 cents about that.

That’s all I’ve got for you guys today. Don’t forget to subscribe in iTunes so you don’t miss an episode. And drop me a review to let me know what’s speaking to you from the show. If you want to get in on the conversation and you haven’t yet joined the group already on Facebook, head on over there and join the Build a Badass Business group. I share insights and tips regularly, as well as answer your questions right there on the page.

Do work that you love, and hustle to make your business grow like your life depends on it, because it does. Thanks for listening, and I’ll catch you on the next episode.

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