When Should Your Business Hire People?

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When Should Your Business Hire People?

When Should Your Business Hire People? With Chris Wilson

Sean: So you have this beautiful engine of marketing for you, that’s just driving in leads, just driving in the sales for you. And the other guitar teachers didn’t have it, as you mentioned earlier. When was the time that you finally realized that, “I have so much going on and I can’t just throw these leads out the window, I got to hire people?”

Chris:  I think that was the point where I had done my own space and I was still sort of doing the networking, but I was advertising in the yellow pages. If you know what the phone book is – I know the younger people will not remember. They’re used as a book before Google, that everybody used. And once I started and I was the only guitar teacher who bought like a yellow pages ad.

So you’d go on yellow pages. It’d be like, you know, little listings of every person. And there was a big ad that said guitar lessons, all ages, all levels, expert, you know. It’s like a thing about it – I read a book on how to write a yellow pages ad, designed the ad and the phone was ringing and I was like, well, I could have a waiting list and make people wait six months.

Or I could hire a guy to come in on Saturdays and Fridays when I’m not there. And so it was just that. And so then after that was full, I said, okay, I’m going to get two offices. “Hey, the office next to me, is open enough. Okay well, I’m going to hire another guy. And at that point I had added two more guys, actually.

So it went from me to four people, almost like, “Okay, now there’s an office of fire.” And so then I you know, you need to hire a secretary, basically, someone to handle the scheduling and someone to help you keep track of the billing. And so then it just sort of kept going like that. And this was – this was then what I just compressed was like 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, like another four year period work, like it just kept growing.

Sean: Got it. And when you were hiring your first people, what were some of the challenges that came up? Because I know when I was a first-time leader. Yeah. We were both business owners, but we were solo flights back then. But being a first-time leader, what were the first difficulties that cropped up for you?

Chris: Yeah, I knew right away. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Like I knew a lot about marketing. I knew a lot about the front end of the business, like teaching guitar. And then I was very good with talking to people and I liked the client. I understand marketing. You know I was never a manager.

I had no management experience. I mean, even as a kid, the jobs I had. I delivered papers, there was nothing to manage. You know, and in the restaurant job that I had, I worked in a kitchen, I was making pizza. So I had no management experience. I didn’t know – there were no softwares. There were not, you know. We got it, at some point I had a computer and got an Excel spreadsheet and that became, you know, keeping track of the finances and I have to pay these people all the time.

Cause we all in business, anytime you need money, you write yourself a check, but these people expected like a paycheck every two weeks on a certain day. So yeah, I think the initial thing was really, I genuinely had no idea. And I read a book called “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. And that was where he talks about, you know, you have systems, and you write it operating then, you have systems that you follow.

And what I did that it got a lot easier. You know, it started like explaining stuff to people and writing like an employment agreement and then not, you know, I guess they would say, okay, so if you start at two o’clock, you need to be on time. And if you can’t make work, here’s what you can do. And just spelling out all the different things about the job, what the expectations were.

 A lot of stuff I took for granted. You know, if I had a client at 2:30, I didn’t show up at 2:45. You show up on time, things like that, or just how we teach the classes. So we started, you realize these people need some training, and then we’re looking to you to explain how to do things, and set the borders and the parameters. And it took me about a year to figure that out.

Sean: Got it. Cool. And what were some of the challenges like? So one of them was keeping time and us, you know, a lot of people miss that out today, especially when being on time, being, you know, just respecting other people’s time could be difficult with all the traffic and stuff.

And, well, what are the other things that you notice about your first people in the office, that you had to keep aligned with yourself and you had to make, build systems around?

Chris: Well, you know, one of things to – is just people, the reputation of their guitar school was built around me and so they’re, “oh, we know Chris. And so they’re calling up and they’re like, oh, you can’t have Chris, you have Gary or Steve or Dan.

And is it going to be the same experience? So then there’s this expectation that, okay, my friends are describing it like this and they’re, are they getting this? Are they not getting it? And so being able to, you know, spending more time mentoring and training the teachers and say, okay, look, this is their expectation.

This is how the clients should feel when they – not just what they learned, but how they feel when they’re in the room with you. So how should they feel when they come in? How should they feel when they leave? They should feel great. You know, they, they need to look forward to their lessons. They need to enjoy it.

You need to communicate with the parents. So setting all those expectations with the staff members so that it meets the expectations of the client. And so that was something like definitely a staff training, manual and mentoring. That was a big thing that we had to do. Because even, you know, if you, when I think about it, you know, if you work at McDonald’s, I mean, there’s training, they train them how to do everything, right.

They don’t just say, “Hey, go make hamburgers all the way over here. And they show you the process.” And so I wasn’t doing that. I wasn’t actually training the employee, even thinking about if you were knowing if you worked for an IT company and you’re going to do software, they’re going to train you on the software there.

Here’s how the software works, right? Here’s the Zoom meetings they’re going to explain to you. Here’s the training session, this is how you use Zoom. So I had to really start spelling things out for the staff, for all the things, even things like, you know, here’s how to answer the telephone, you know.

Sean: For sure.

Chris: Writing things down, having Daniels, where we can keep on making sure calls are returned and things like that.

So we created a system really for everything. And a lot of that is automated now. Sort of web-based softwares that you can use now think about like a Google drive or Dropbox. I mean, none of that stuff existed.

Sean: Yeah.

Chris: Dropbox was crazy. I was like, oh my God, we can put a file here and I can go on vacation in Paris and they’re in Chicago and we can all see the same file.

I mean, it was like.

Sean: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah.

Sean: So before you would hand write things and distribute it to them?

Chris: Yeah and it would be sitting on a desk and it would be like, or you’d find a post-it note in the drawer, or we would have like a three ring binder, you know, and in the binder you would have, you know, like, like a binder, right?

Like this, and this would be where you’d have a phone call log would come in and it’d be like, you know, Kenny call at 10:30 and they would like this, you know? So you would have, you would listen to tasks that you had to do, whenever they work “please follow up the phone call or they want lessons at four o’clock.”

It was all sort of handwritten down. Hey, now there’s all sorts of things. Slack, right? Google.

Sean: Yeah.

Chris: Where you can do stuff, instant messaging people, but none of that existed you know.

Sean: For sure. Respect for that Chris. Hey, handwriting things, you know, it’s an ancient method now, but you know, respect for that.

Chris: Yeah. We figured out something that we could work on, that if someone came into the office, you got a new person, you could train them on the system. And so if you came in, you knew where everything was. The following messages here, so if someone was sick, anybody could come in and say, okay, here, you would know immediately what needed you’ve done in the office.

Sean: For sure.

And you mentioned earlier that people were asking around for you. Because the brand was you and people know you, not Gary, not Dan, not whoever else was teaching on your behalf during that day.

So how were you able to separate yourself from the brand? So that you would be able to accommodate more clients who are faithful to the brand, patronizing the brand, rather than you as the specific guitar instructor who only have, you know, 8-12 working hours a day to serve them with.

[00:07:47] Chris: So the big thing I did and people were surprised when I did this is – when I first started it, was Chris Wilson guitar studio, cause it was just me, Chris Wilson guitar school. Right. And so then when we became more of a music school, its Chris Wilson Music, and so I did what people, all my friends who are lawyers said, you did the unthinkable.

I took my name off the door. It became the Academy of Music and Art or the Academy of Music. So there was, I, my name was taken off it and people were like, “oh my gosh, you took your name now. Like, how could you do that? Like people spending their entire lives, trying to give their name up.” But I was like, “yeah, I just had to take it down.”

So I took my name down, you know? And so then there wasn’t this expectation that you were going to see me and then I just stopped taking new clients. At some point I said, okay, I’ll drop these other people.

So people did call the trader office staff and literally said, “Hey, you know, Chris, isn’t taking clients anymore, he has” – my daughter was very young at the time. “And so he has to leave the office every day, four o’clock. He can’t stay here until 10 o’clock at night. So we have these other teachers and let me describe them to you and I’ll tell them what here’s, what they’re like.” And so we would have like a little description of their personality and what they’re into and then what fits their schedule.

And then we would just funnel those students there. And over the course of the next two years, I was able to stop teaching completely if I needed to. You know, I only saw clients if I felt like it, but the business became, I was out of the front end. I didn’t see clients at all, unless I, unless it was a friend or if it was something I wanted to do.

And so at that point, that’s 2004, you know, in 14 years, I went from being the guy teaching guitar lessons to the guy who owns the business, who doesn’t do any of the services. So I wasn’t doing any product delivery. I was just kind of overseeing the operation of the business.

Sean: 14 years and -.

Chris: Yeah, from day one to just stepping back where I am now invisible, you know, I’m the man behind the curtain.

Sean: Yeah. So that’s 14 years of building the processes, the systems, the people, so that the business can run on its own. So you are building on the business rather than being in the business and took 14 years for you to be able to graduate and get out.

Chris: Yeah. You know, and initially it didn’t occur to me that I could do that.

I think there was a long period of time. I thought, well, I’m the guitar teacher, I’m in bands. It didn’t necessarily occur to me that, “oh, I can get out if I want to.” You know what I mean? If I wanted to not, if I wanted to say, take 10 years and focus on being a dad and being in the family, or just being able to travel and be out of the business, be sustainable, or do other things with the business, build other departments. You know, add a dance department, and the theater department, and the art department.

It’s hard to do that. If you’re teaching music classes 40 hours a week, because by the time the day’s over – it’s a nice job, but it’s like, you don’t have time to go do something else. You don’t have time to do the necessary things for the business. You don’t have time or the energy to do those things -and that’s the energy.

So by not doing the product delivery in this case, guitar lessons, you have the mental energy to do other things and work on other things within the business, workout the business.

Sean: For sure. And 99% of people want to do that, I included, me included. So what are some of the top three, top five things that you would say, “Sean, here are the top five things you got to do so that you can graduate and do whatever it is that you want and your business is going to run on its own?”

Chris: I think the more your product is specialized, the more difficult it is to find people to do it. If my school only did Spanish flamenco guitar, while I’m in Chicago, like there’s not a lot of Spanish, like how would I even find staff? Or, you know, I might go find one or two people. But could I find 25 people to work for me? Probably not.

So the more narrow your niche is, the more difficult it becomes for you to find people to replace you if you have such a specialized skill. So is there a way to broaden things or find, I guess, with the internet now, it’s probably easier to find people or, you know, work remotely, but you know, what is it that you’re doing in your business?

You know, can you replace yourself? If you need clients, can you do sales? You’re probably doing a lot of sales. Can you get someone else to do sales? It’s very difficult to get out of the sales side of things cause you probably sell better than anybody in your business. So maybe there’s another thing we can do and start mapping out the day and say, okay, I don’t take any phone calls, or I don’t answer emails, or I’m going to work if you’re doing, you said SEO or so you have some people working with you.

So you’re telling them here’s what you need to do. And you’re giving them the assignments saying, okay, now get back to me. And so. You’re not doing any of the coding or any of the website updates. You’re like the project manager. And so you can gradually step out of that role. It’s tough to get out of a sales, you know, the, the front end sales thing where you’re going out and getting clients it’s, it’s tough to get out of that role, you know, because someone has to go do it even on a big level.

When you look at a company like Apple, at the end of the day, Steve jobs was the one who got up there and said “I want to tell you about our new iPhone and I’m going to sell one.” They didn’t send somebody, he could have hired a professional actor. They could have hired anybody in billions of dollars, but he got up there and did the demonstration and walk you through the product.

When there’s a new Tesla, Elon Musk, doesn’t hire a celebrity. He gets up there and shows you this. Yeah, this is here’s everything it does. So I think that big picture of being the salesperson, it’s tough to get out of that.

Sean: Yeah, for sure. How were you able to do it, Chris? I mean, that’s genius.

Chris: Yeah, I think just, I mean, I’m sort of – as I kind of stepped away and erased my name off the door and became more selling the brand, Academy of Music and Art, I think that helped.

And then spending lots of time training people. And I think with websites and things like that, it can be a little easier because you can kind of explain things more and you can have automated email responses, but at some point you need to pick up the phone and talk to somebody or see someone face to face.

So really kind of make the deal happen. And if you can have people in your offic who you could train to do that, Sometimes that works really good.

Sean: And how often did you check back in with them? Because first few times, I’m sure they’re not going to be as good as you, right? Of course they’re not. How would you check back into them and say, Hey, this is where you can improve it. Hey, I think you could have closed this deal, but now it turned back to warm or cold. How are you making them accountable?

Chris: We have our manager. Our office manager is the person who really closes the deal and sells the clients and everything. So we always just follow up and okay, here’s the leads that are coming in.

I still see the front end leads come and say, “Okay, you know, I talked to her, what is the status of the leads?” And we talk about what the person wanted or what was working or what does not work or, you know, cause sometimes things are just like, people are going to make the deal right now. And some people, at least at our business, they’re not going to make it.

So then we might follow up with them sooner and get our emails. So it’s like, okay, if they don’t want to buy this, then maybe we could sell them this, this so they might go into like a drip campaign or some other type of funnel for that.

Yeah. With the teachers we look at is like, if they’re not retaining your students. So if I give you 10 students and people start dropping, we have a meeting and go, “Okay, well, what’s going on? You know, what’s going on with the students?” And we try to get, feel things out. Because some people, especially if you’re a music person, you need a job. Well, if I can make $30 an hour teaching guitar, this is great.

But then it’s like, well, if you don’t have that passion or fire for it, then this is just any other job. It’s $25 an hour sounds like a lot of money, especially to the music people, but it’s like, if your heart isn’t into it, you know, you might as well be flipping burgers at McDonald’s – if you don’t have that passion, that fire.

So you try to really, is there something we can do to get that fire in you? Are there things we can talk about that would improve your performance? Or is this just something you don’t really have the passion for? Or maybe you’re only good with a certain type of client? Like this person’s great with beginners and children, but they don’t connect with teens for whatever reason.

So we try to figure out everybody’s good at something. What are you good at? And I always try to be sure, as the leader of the company, to say “this isn’t a bad meeting, I’m not like firing you. You know, I’m not giving you a hard time. I want you to succeed. I can’t win unless you win. So your victory is my victory.”

So what do we do when we look at your numbers and we’re looking at the stats you seem to be doing really well with this group and with this group, like you’re not doing well, so we can focus, what are you doing with this group? And what’s not happening with this group? And so I definitely take that approach and say, okay, well you’re doing something right, but something else isn’t working. And so we’re just going to steer you to this particular group, so its a lot of that.

Sean: That that’s being a leader and manager, and that’s amazing.

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