How to Build a Strong SEO Team
Alright, alright, I’m not going to keep it any longer. Here’s the secret sauce why SEO Hacker is what it is today.
Move a little bit closer.
Are you listening?
Okay, here it is….
I have a wonderfully awesome SEO team.
I’ve always dreamed of having my own team with particular traits. Fun, rowdy, full of ideas, smart, dissatisfied with the status quo, and ultimately, people who want to change the world.
How to Have an Awesome Team
That’s what we all want to end up with at the end of the day isn’t it? An awesome team. A group you can have fun with while being rigorously productive.
If I’m going to credit my hiring strategy to one thing, it’s this: Prayer.
Sounds cheezy doesn’t it? I know.
But I’d be lying if I tell you otherwise.
I always lift it up to the Lord whether or not I’m making the right choice in hiring this guy or this girl.
And you know what? I’ve made mistakes. There has been times when I’ve put people in the team and it had a disastrous effect on morale and team chemistry.
But often times it has resulted in a positive team dynamic that even I couldn’t have predicted.
And I just couldn’t credit that to myself.
We are a team of young guns. Our ages range from 20 to 28. We’re very dynamic when we’re dishing out ideas, strategies, and yes, even jokes.
One of the immutable laws of management physics is “Packard’s Law.”
It goes like this:
No company can grow revenues consistently faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company.
If your growth rate in revenues consistently outpaces your growth rate in people, you simply will not – indeed cannot – build a great company.
And I believe that with all my heart.
That’s why I don’t settle for someone just because we need a new helping hand.
If the work is too overbearing, don’t compromise. Find a way to lift the burden at least temporarily until you find the exact right person you need to fill that role.
One of the things I don’t settle with is the age limit. I want people who will join the SEO Hacker team to be of the same age gap as the rest of the team.
That way, it’s super easy to get along with each other and because we’re all considerably young, we have a very fun time working and relating with each other.
Have a Wise Compensation System.
Compensation is important, but for very different reasons in good to great companies. The purpose of a compensation system should not be to get the right behaviors from the wrong people, but to get the right people on the bus in the first place, and to keep them there.
The problem with most companies is they negotiate. They try to make the wrong people produce “right behaviors” when a very different culture, principle and belief system it is instilled in that person. This is something that you just can’t buy – and most companies don’t understand that.
And in doing so, they keep the wrong person in their team.
Let me put it this way:
Suppose you have a basketball team and you have a point guard who dribbles the ball so well but doesn’t know how to pass it out to his teammates.
Not only is your point guard unproductive, he causes the whole team to lose.
And that would lead to a loss in team morale and respect for the coach.
You see, having the right person in the right seats in your bus is critical. As an SEO company, we are tempted to think that if you’ve got people who are skilled in the work you tasked them to do, that’s it.
You’re wrong. That’s not it. People who are skilled in their work is great – as an individual. But what happens when you put them together with the rest of the team?
They can be excellent ball handlers, but do they know how to dish it out?
Your compensation system should attract the right players, not to keep the wrong ones and change them by encouraging them to produce the ‘good stuff’.
Don’t Push your Weight Around
I may not be the best guy to say this but here goes anyway: Don’t be the boss of your team.
God knows I try my very best to be a team player – and that means not pushing my weight around whenever I’m in the office.
Now don’t get me wrong – that’ doesn’t mean that I don’t delegate, that I don’t tell people what to do, that I don’t utilize their assistance.
It means that whenever I delegate, I make sure to thank them after the work is done. It means that when I tell people what to do, I also tell them how to do it or at least where to start. It means that I utilize their assistance and make sure they feel my gratitude afterwards.
People on top today must understand that if you’re paying someone to work for you, it doesn’t mean that you own them.
They will always be people – and there’s a huge advantage to both parties if you remember that.
One of the best management strategies I have ever applied (albeit not perfectly) is to put myself in the other person’s shoes. There’s a powerful realization that can come out of being on the other side of the coin.
And this new knowledge and feeling should drive any other decisions you will make about the situation henceforth.
Let them Hit the Ground Running – with Shoes on
Often times, leaders and managers ‘feel‘ that this person is capable of doing this or doing that. The result is that they will let this person do the work immediately – without proper training or equipping.
They expect the person to learn the ropes by taking them to the forefront of the battlefield from day one.
The truth is: it’s not the way to go.
Although it may be comfortable and time-efficient for the manager or leader to do that in the short-term, it’ll be disastrous long-term.
The person who hit the ground running will have bled his feet dry in trying to get his head around how things go instead of being able to run with shoes on and go the distance.
This goes especially for SEO companies.
You can’t expect someone new to understand what should happen in the complex world of SEO without proper training. And you can’t teach everyone yourself – that would be too time consuming.
What I did with SEO Hacker was mentor a few key leaders who passed on the training to the newcomers in the team. And after they’ve been trained, they are required to train the new wave of fresh blood themselves.
As Oppenheimer often referenced,
“The best way to learn is to teach.”
And that’s something we try to utilize in our team.
Keep Up or Step Down
One of the things I notice why people lose respect for the leader is that the leader is not growing personally.
The team is doing all the work. The leader is simply cruising off.
While it’s true that the purpose of having your own team is to take the load off your back, it doesn’t mean that you could slack off – it means that you should take on other loads to carry – to push the company forward.
When I loosened my management of the SEO Services team, I pushed forward with the SEO School project. I assembled another team to help me – and we’ve been learning new things together in a skyrocketed rate.
It’s tough because SaaS is a whole new ballgame and I need to learn the ropes. And the whole SEO School team with me.
You see if the leader is not modelling growth, why would anyone else be encouraged to do so? Conscious, deliberate growth is really, really tough.
But it is also really, really rewarding.
When you grow and take on more load that push the company forward, it boosts morale, it earns you respect, and ultimately, you are giving your company direction and momentum to move forward.
Nothing could be better.
Building an A Team
I cannot stress out enough how grateful I am to have an awesome team helping me build this company from good to great. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your own A team backing you up especially when you’re a services oriented company such as ourselves.
These are some hiring and management strategies I keep close to help me make sure that we have the best company culture – and keep it that way.
How about you? What are some of your hiring and management strategies that has proven effective overtime?