Sustainably scaling your business isn’t a solo act. It takes a team to pull it off.
Now you’ve probably had some help in the marketing and sales aspect of your business. Or maybe you’ve hired help for the technological or administrative side of things. But are you still holding out on hiring a team to help you work directly with clients to deliver your offer? That’s the last place we as entrepreneurs tend to hire to help us, but it’s necessary if you want a sustainable business.
Building a team for a sustainable business ultimately boils down to one thing. And in today’s installment of our customer experience series, I’ve invited my Director of Operations (and right-hand woman) Amber Kinney onto the show to help me cover it.
Amber and I have worked together for over a decade. And she’s the owner and CEO of her own marketing agency where she works with lots of entrepreneurs behind the scenes. So she knows the dos and don’ts of working with (and within) a business team.
In this episode of the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast, you’ll learn about all the layers that go into hiring people to join your business and how to do it in a way that works for you, your team members, and your clients. We’ll teach you about transfer of trust and why it works so well to set your business up for success.
On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:
6:49 – Why can scaling your team be one of the biggest challenges you face? Here’s the most likely place where you might stumble when hiring help.
12:24 – There’s a necessary shift you need to make to get to the point where clients comfortably deal with your team members.
16:40 – How can you start transferring your clients’ trust from working with you exclusively to working with your team directly?
20:08 – Amber reveals how to approach bringing on someone new onto your team who you don’t have a previous track record with.
23:26 – What if you have no plans or desires to hire anyone (at least right now)? You’ll still want to do this to set yourself up for success.
28:14 – I reveal a red flag that’s a sign of more than just bad hiring practices to your clients.
Mentioned in How Strategically Scaling Your Business Team Sets You Up for Success
- The CEO Collective
- Amber Kinney’s agency, The AK Collective
- Racheal on Instagram and TikTok
- Rate and review on Apple Podcasts
Racheal Cook: One of the hardest things about scaling your business is learning how to scale a team. This is something we don't talk about very often. Honestly, it's one of the hardest parts about learning to scale. Because while there is a ton of conversation about scaling your marketing, scaling your sales, learning how to scale your offers themselves, if you can serve more and more clients, there's not a lot of conversation about how do you grow your team.
How do you make sure that as you grow your team, your clients are happily working with your team instead of only wanting you because you are the name and the face of the business?
Well, today I am joined by my director of operations, the Racheal wrangler, my right hand, Amber Kinney, and we're going to talk about how to grow, how to scale your team in a way that helps you to continue to scale your business without becoming the bottleneck.
Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.
Hey there, CEOs. Welcome back to this installment of our series all about customer experience and our customer experience strategy. You might be wondering, why are we talking about team when we're going through this whole series about customer experience? Well, it's because if you're going after scaling your business, rapid growth of your business, this is not a solo sport.
This is not something that one person can do. You can't scale a multiple six or seven-figure business 100% on your own, you're going to need help. You're going to need people who are going to step in and start working side by side with you to do the marketing, to do the sales, and to help you with delivery to help you work directly with your clients.
Now, marketing and sales tend to be the first areas a lot of people get support with outside of hiring maybe your first virtual assistant to help you with some administrative work or a bookkeeper to help you keep your books in order. Then we start to go, “Okay, I need to get things off of my plate and the last thing to go is working directly with our clients.”
I know you know because this is what I hear from so many of my clients is they've started to hire other support, they've started to get some marketing support. Maybe they have some people helping them with the sales aspect of their business but the last thing that we hold on to is our clients, is working directly with our clients.
There comes a point where we just need some additional help there, especially if you are truly looking at scaling your business. We need other people who are going to be able to come alongside of us and come alongside of our clients and help our clients to have an incredible experience, help them move through whatever product, program, or service that they signed up for and help them to get incredible results.
If we are trying to do it all alone, then we are not truly able to lead our business and scale it. We are going to make it a situation where our clients are constantly coming to just us and it limits the capacity of how many people you can serve. This is a pretty intense conversation here and we're going to talk about all the layers that go into hiring people in your business.
How do you train and empower your team? How do you transfer that trust so that your clients are excited that you have created an incredible powerhouse team that they cannot wait to work with? You have a team of experts, it's not just to you who they can go to because when you think about it this way, you don't need them, you don't need them being the team that you're hiring, you don't need them to be a bunch of mini yous.
I don't need a bunch of mini Racheals inside of this business like oh my gosh, poor Amber. She would go absolutely nuts if we had a team of mini Racheals, but we do need a team of experts who all bring their own experiences, who all bring their expertise, who all bring their perspectives, their backgrounds, and all that they have, all their strengths to the table that actually makes a better, richer experience for our clients and as a business, it makes the business less reliant on just me.
It means that we are more capable and have more capacity to truly serve our clients. There are more people they can turn to when they need advice, they need coaching, or they need strategy, there are multiple people who now can support them, and I as the CEO can focus on the bigger picture, scaling this business, leading this team, showing up for my clients without burning myself out. I hope you're excited about this. We have such incredible conversation for you.
Hey there, CEOs. Welcome back to this installment of our series all about exceptional world-class customer experience. Today I am joined by Amber Kinney who is not only the director of operations, my right-hand lady, the Racheal wrangler for the last over a decade, I don't even know, also CEO and owner of her own marketing agency where she works with a lot of entrepreneurs behind the scenes to make their marketing goals happen. I’m so excited to have you here, Amber.
Amber Kinney: I’m so excited to be here. It’s going to be fun.
Racheal Cook: Well, today, I brought Amber on because we have a lot of different perspectives because my business is a coaching consulting business, and Amber's business is more on the agency implementation side. One of the biggest challenges to scaling any business is scaling your experience because there comes a point where you no longer can do it all yourself, then you have to start bringing on other people to do the work for you with your clients.
This becomes a sticking point for a lot of people because we often hear things like, “Well, my clients only want to work with me. They don't want to work with my team. My clients don't show up when my team is hosting a yoga class or they're not getting on their calendar as a chiropractor, as a coach, or as a therapist.”
This is such a common problem, especially as your business is growing away from you being the central face of the brand to becoming a more established company. I wanted to talk about some of the things that we've both done in our own businesses and that we've helped our clients with as they are bringing on team members to work directly with their clients.
Let's start by, Amber, I want to hear your biggest pet peeves when it comes to what you're hearing or what you're seeing with other people in the industry. What doesn't work when you are trying to bring on other people to work with your team? What makes it not work or makes it really difficult to maintain your level of service?
Amber Kinney: I honestly think the biggest thing that we see, and again, like you said all around, is really that we want people to come in and do it 100% exactly the way we would do it. I want the experience to be amazing and great. My way or the CEO way is the way I would do it but it might not be the way everybody else does it.
That doesn't mean it diminishes the experience and the level that you're delivering but I think we don't necessarily want to copy ourselves, we want to bring people in and let them show up fully as themselves while delivering our experience at a high level and that requires them to be able to show up as them rather than having them try to show up as me as the leader. I think that's the biggest place we start to see people stumble.
Racheal Cook: I love that you brought this up because I think this is truly what it comes down to, people think what they want is you, the business owner, the personal brand, the face of the business, but the people you hire are talented. I mean, if you're hiring them, I'm assuming they're qualified, they're talented, they have a lot to bring to the table, and they have a unique perspective.
They might be able to give insight or support to your clients that you might not have even thought about because they have a different experience and different perspective. I think that's so incredibly valuable. We actually diminish it when we try to squeeze our team into attempting to be us.
But they can value so much if we are actually saying, “Hey, this person on my team actually has this experience, this background, or this skill set.” I think this is something we do really well inside of The CEO Collective because all of our mentors are entrepreneurs who are extremely successful in their own right but we all have very different personalities. We all have very different skill sets.
When we're looking at who should we send to who? Who should be this person’s mentor? Or who should they go ask the question to? We're like, “Well, if they're talking about community building and networking, Shannon is the go-to. She's the extroverted one who wants to go out there and build all the communities.”
If they're talking about mindset and being brave, they need to go talk to Shawn because she's going to lovingly kick them in the butt to make them get out of their comfort zone. Those are skills that aren't necessarily natural to me or you but our clients need access to those skills.
Amber Kinney: Completely. It's really great when you can allow a bigger group of people in your team to show up and really give their gifts because really, all that's doing is bringing more to your customers, more to your clients, and more to the experience of working with you and your business.
Racheal Cook: Yes. I think this goes along with we don't want them to be carbon copies of us, we want them to bring their own experience and expertise, and for congruency, we need to have clarity on what your customer journey is, on what your customer experience plan is. Because your team should fit into that and they need to understand how the system is meant to work.
I think this is where some people get in trouble is because they don't actually have—and we've talked in previous episodes in this series about how to put together this customer experience plan—but when you're hiring people, if they're not sure what the process your clients are going through and there's no structure or framework, it's really hard for everybody to stay on the same page. That's where I think often when you're hiring people to work with your clients, it will start to get muddy and confusing without that clarity.
Amber Kinney: Completely. I think one of the things that we hear a lot is that we all work virtually or we do this or we do that for the freedom piece. Everybody wants the freedom, but really, we get that and your team gets out so much more from having that clear process set in place, having those clear expectations laid out for them lets them contribute to the whole and be part of something bigger with the freedom. But those guidelines just make it easier for them to feel (a) empowered, know where and how they can show up and know what the expectation is, and that everybody can be successful.
Racheal Cook: I love that. When you have clients working with your team on the agency side, I mean, I know you have a lot of people who haven't even ever talked to you, can you talk a little bit about how you were able to get to the point where small business owners come to your team and they're able to just take over and make things happen? What was that experience like for you?
Amber Kinney: It evolved over time, but the biggest piece for me was we had to shift everywhere from working with me to working with the business. I think one of the things we've tried to do really well is set up the context for “Here's how we operate, here’s who we are, and here's what your client experience is going to be with us.” Because if you're coming to us for say, website or SEO, all I'm going to do is get in the way, and we know that. I'm going to get in the way.
I'd love to chat with you. I'd love to cap ideas. I'd love to do all these things. But really, you're probably here to get some clear things done and see results. I am going to get in the way and so the more I can explain that and set that context up for people coming in, “We would love to work with you, our expert in SEO is this person, you'll meet with them, and they'll take you through the entire client experience,” then we have obviously some stuff in place where that team member then also has resources, they know they can come to me if they need me.
But if we've set it up from the beginning that you're working with us as an agency, not me as a person, then the expectation is there and they don't even blink when it's not me that shows up. It really is all from the beginning of the context, and for me, it's a lot about empowering the team.
It's not taking away from me or diminishing my role in the business, but it really is “How do I empower others?” which then gets all of our clients results faster, and probably better, to be honest.
Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think this is one area that in an agency model, it seems very clear like you're hiring an agency, there are multiple people who are subject-matter experts in what they do. In my business, because we're coaching, consulting, this is where I see a lot of other coaches, consultants struggle, and even other service providers who have built their business on their personal brand, they didn't build it intentionally saying, “I'm building a coaching business with lots of people involved in it.” Instead, it was like, “I'm a coach,” and that was their whole model.
This is one of the reasons we rebranded into The CEO Collective and there's such a clear difference in every step of our customer journey now compared to where we were three or five years ago. For anybody who is wondering, “Why did Racheal go from everything being under Racheal Cook to The CEO Collective?” It's because four or five years ago now, Amber and I sat down and we were like, “Okay, it is time for this not to be the Racheal show.”
It was actually becoming a problem. It was making it hard for my clients to come in and realize that I have people on the team that can help them in areas that I can't. When it was all rachealcook.com, Racheal, Racheal, Racheal, they didn't see that, but now that it's The CEO Collective, what is different now is we are presenting as a unified group here of experts, of coaches, and that is very clear from the get-go.
I don't even have my headshot on the homepage of this website. The only place you're going to find the headshot is when you scroll all the way down the about page and get to the founder. Instead, we have very clearly rebranded not just under The CEO Collective but all of our graphics on the website, clients, or team, we make sure that there's a huge section for our team on the page, there's a huge section on when people enroll to work with us.
It's super clear, you're actually getting access not just to Racheal and all of her work, but a team of coaches, a team of consultants, a team of experts, and starting at the beginning as part of this whole transfer of trust. That's the big step that I think most people don't understand is when you're ready to bring other people into your business and have other people work directly with your clients, you have to start that transfer of trust very early on in the process.
If you wait until they've already signed the contract and they're working with you and then suddenly, “Oh, here's Sally, you need to go talk to her,” and they don't know who Sally is, if you haven't established that expectation from the beginning, it causes confusion.
Let's talk about other things to do to transfer trust. I talked about this where branding it as a business, as opposed to a personal brand, does help a lot. It makes it much more clear, it sets expectations. What else do you see that helps with that transfer of trust?
Amber Kinney: I think that is like how do we start? I think remembering that it's not all or nothing. Even with The CEO Collective, it was a great example. We started with one section where we brought in extra experts to contribute to the program and then we added the next sections on. You're building on success.
You can start to see the success, you can start to see it really working for your clients. Your clients can start to see it and then you can build on it. Remembering it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing.
There is a transition and a ramp-up period in there so that not only your clients get used to hearing that talk, but you, as the business owner, get used to seeing it happen in your business because that's going to build your trust as well. That's easier to build from that foundation and build up rather than just having some switch that you flip.
Racheal Cook: Yeah, ease people into it and ease yourself into it.
Amber Kinney: I was going to say and yourself. There's a client-side of building the client trust and building that which we can do by setting the expectation and really being clear all the way through the client experience whether that's the purchase experience, the nurture experience, any of those experiences were really clear, but there's also the CEO in you that we want to gain that trust on that side, too. It's a two-sided kind of thing for sure.
Racheal Cook: It is absolutely. I think this is something that's so interesting. I think one of our unfair advantages at The CEO Collective is that everyone who is a mentor in our program, works directly with our clients, providing accountability to the 90-day planning, are all people who have worked behind the scenes with me for years.
I've had relationships with these women for such a long time, they've all gone through this process for their own businesses multiple times, and they've been supporting me in my business in different ways. But that trust was already there. I already knew them so well, that I knew I could be like, “Let's make this happen. I'd love you to come in and basically do what you've been doing with me behind the scenes.”
People don't realize how many people it takes to run a business like this. But I can't imagine not having Amber to hold me accountable. I can't imagine not having every person who's a mentor in the Collective like Shannon, Erica, Shawn, Lane, I'm constantly reaching out, connecting with them, and asking for their feedback and their thoughts, and getting their insights into things.
That transfer of trust was very easy and natural because that relationship was so established. What about when you are bringing on someone who's newer to your business, how would you approach this? You've been behind the scenes in so many different businesses with this, how would you approach hiring these people if you don't have that track record, you haven't worked with them before?
Amber Kinney: I think the biggest piece is being super clear about what role do you want that person to fill. It does come to what is the position description, and all of those things. What are the expectations? Whether it's if I’m a therapist and I'm hiring an extra therapist, what does that look like? What are the key things that are most important to me that we're consistent about?
That comes from documenting the client experience, but also a little bit of documenting the process because if they use The CEO Collective as an example, how many times have we done the CEO Retreat to get to where we are today to make it a super replicable process and really starting to document that? It's going to evolve along the way, even the CEO Retreat evolves along the way.
But as soon as you start to document it, it becomes something that is replicable. If I am a therapist or coach and these are the key things that are important to me, and this is the process I've walked through with my client, the more I can get that set, the more I can transfer that to somebody else in a really clear way and then they can (a) deliver it and (b) meet the expectations.
Racheal Cook: It all comes back to the systems. It truly does. There have been several of our clients who I'm thinking of, especially in the health and wellness field that seems to be one of the first where they want to grow, but it's like the only way to grow their therapy practice is to hire more therapists, the only way to grow a chiropractic office is to get more chiropractors.
There are certain things that are always going to be services that need a human there with expertise and this is where a lot of people get stuck. They'll be like, “I need to hire somebody else. I'm booked solid. The only way to grow and get to the next place is for me to hire somebody else.”
But they've never taken the time to document “How do I enroll this person? How does this onboarding process look like? What is the first meeting, the first appointment, or their first session look like? How am I getting, if you're in health, therapy, or anything, how am I getting the data that I need, the history that I need? How am I handling all of the information that needs to come to me so I can help them?”
The more you can document those things, the easier and faster it'll be to get whoever you hire to know exactly like everybody's on board the same way, everybody's first meeting or first appointment is run exactly the same way. It brings in that level of consistency throughout your business.
I do think that's important. Otherwise, you have a hodgepodge of people working for you and everybody's doing their own thing. When everybody's doing their own thing and people aren't on the same page, that's when people get confused. It's really hard to have more predictable results. You as a CEO can't say, “Oh, this is what we need to tweak in this process,” if there's no documented process, and everybody's winging it.
Amber Kinney: Right. It's super important. One of the things there is even if you're listening or you're thinking about this and you're like, “Well, I'm never going to hire another person because I don't want to grow that big,” or whatever, any of those things, documenting actually makes it easier on you even when it's just you because then you can be consistent or you can have an assistant that can help you with that consistency.
But that way also, every time you do it, you don't have to rethink it. It is a great thing to go ahead and start to do no matter where you are in the business because we never know. But it does make it easier for you. It's worth doing earlier rather than later.
Racheal Cook: Absolutely. It can make you more consistent. When you're more consistent, this is where the more consistent you can be, the more consistent your client's experiences can be, the easier you can find and troubleshoot problems, the more you know exactly where to reach out, tweak, and make things better and improve things.
When you're ready to hire somebody, it gives you guidelines for how to train somebody. This is another huge part that we're just seeing such a gap in. We're seeing people who are getting to the point where things are growing, they've created all this demand, and now they're running around like chickens with their heads cut off because they're hiring people and they don't have a game plan to onboard those team members to fully train those team members and to do like a shadowing period.
I think this is so important, especially for a lot of our clients, I'm thinking of one of my clients, Dr. Lisa Griffith who's a chiropractor. She's bringing on two new chiropractors to her office and one of the first things we did was map out what does the first 30, 60, and 90 days of onboarding, training, and shadowing going to look like because she has very specific things that she's known for and she wants to make sure that those doctors are up to speed, that they understand how her patients are used to being taken care of, and that she feels comfortable turning those patients over to these new people into her practice.
When you have that kind of shadowing period, when you are there with your team member, your new person, and you're working together, it again leads to the transfer of trust. They can see you with this person, you're letting that person take the lead, you're there to provide support and feedback behind the scenes, not in front of your client, but that way you can make sure you're transferring that trust as well.
Amber Kinney: Transferring the trust and then they can see that you're really there, you’re supporting them. They don't feel like they're out there on their own doing things. I think that's one of the transfer of trust things that's really important is helping them get on so the bus with you so that we're all going in the same direction because then they also feel like they're part of something bigger and they understand where they fit in all of the pieces and parts of the business.
Racheal Cook: Yeah. It can be done in high-touch highly relational businesses. That's the thing. I think a lot of people feel like, “Well, I'm the only one who can do this with my clients because I'm not a McDonald's. I'm not one size fits all.” You don't have to be. You don't have to be it all. But if you're going to hire people to work with your team, you need to do everything you can to set them up for success.
That means transferring that trust early from the very first touchpoint that people meet you and your brand, making sure that you are actively talking about and communicating that this is a team, this is who's working with me, talking up the people on your team so that they know how much you trust and respect these. I think that's huge.
So many people don't do this. They don't talk up their team and talk about how so and so is an expert or so and so really loves this or is great at this. I think the more you can do that, I mean the people, once they get into The CEO Collective, they know exactly when I'm going to say, “Go talk to Amber because I don’t have the answer for that.”
Amber Kinney: Yeah, I think that's so important. I mean, that's probably the most important part, not only for building a loyal team, because this is also a point where we start to talk like, you'll start to worry about turnover or is it worth all the investment in getting somebody trained?
The better we do at the very beginning with that transfer of trust, because I mean, we talked earlier about client trust and then CEO trust with the new team member, but that trust comes back from the new team member to give us a CEO as well. The more we do all of this from the beginning, really set them up for success, talk about them, and really let them bring their strengths, it also improves the length of time that they will be with you in most instances because they feel that trust and they feel that part of it.
Racheal Cook: I love that you brought this up because this is another key thing. It's a red flag to me when I see businesses who have a team that's churning constantly, huge red flag, because if people are joining and leaving very quickly, it tells me it's not just bad hiring, people are going to leave, we all make hiring mistakes, people end up not being fit, that's fine, but if people are turning really quickly, it's such a red flag and it tells me that this business does not lead very well, the roles aren't very clear, these people don't feel taken care of, trusted, or respected.
I think this is something we all want to do better because the women on my team have been with me for years. I mean, Shawn is the most recent addition to the team, but I've known her for over a decade.
Amber Kinney: And she has been on the team for over a year.
Racheal Cook: She’s been on the team for over a year. I think when you have people who stick around so long, like you and I have, clearly we're doing something right here. I think a huge part of it is the trust. We're taking the time with each person. We really know each person, we know each other's strengths, and we respect each other.
If somebody on the team comes to me and says, “I'm struggling with this,” or whatever, they have feedback about something, we're always open and receptive to that. We're never shutting people down or telling them their ideas are bad.
Amber Kinney: No, definitely. It's a very open environment and I think that also the other piece in there is because of the team and how we brought everybody together, it's really also allowed team members to evolve. Because even for you and I, 10 years ago, we didn't work together in the same way we work together now.
Or Lane, when she started with you, she didn't work with you in the same way she's worked out but it also does allow room for people to grow with you and grow within the business as the business grows. It's a win all the way around for everybody to continue to grow as people and as the skills they have and to be able to have a great place to share them and then pass those on to the clients in the Collective.
Racheal Cook: I love that. Anybody who's listening to this, if you're considering bringing people on to work directly with your clients or work on things for your clients, it really just comes down to this transfer of trust. If you get nothing else from our conversation today, the success with having team work for your clients is that they trust you, your team trusts you, that your clients trust your team, and that there's just a mutual respect all around for what everybody has to bring to the table.
We have frameworks, we have structures, we have clarity on what is being offered, and we're giving the team members the freedom to show up in their zone of genius and we're respecting it. We're honoring it. We're shouting from the rooftops like, “I have somebody who's amazing at that. That's why you should come work with us.” I love it.
Thank you so much, Amber, this is such a good conversation and I cannot wait for more people to really start thinking differently about how they can empower their team and set their team up for success.
Amber Kinney: Me too. Thank you so much.
Racheal Cook: There you have it. I hope you enjoyed this conversation. I hope you took away a lot of insights and clarity around what is possible when you start to think about bringing in a team to work with your clients or to work on the same projects you're working on for your clients, whether you have a business more similar to mine, a coaching, consulting expert-based business, where it's more about the higher-level strategy and frameworks that you have working alongside of your clients, or you have a business like Amber where you’re done-for-you-services type of business and agency style business, bringing on team, and really amplifying what they're capable of, what their talents are, what their expertise is, it's really the only way that you can sustainably scale.
I hope this got you thinking. There's a lot more to go into with this. This is the type of work we do with our clients inside of The CEO Collective. But I feel like now that you've started to hear more about what it looks like, that it is possible to have other people on your team working with your clients, I want to hear from you. What's possible now for your business that maybe you hadn't thought about before?
Head over to Instagram @racheal.cook. Let me know, I want to hear from you. Of course, we have one more episode headed your way in this series. If you've been loving this brand new series all about customer experience, I want you to do me a favor. Go leave a review of Promote Yourself to CEO, leave a review on the podcast on Apple Podcasts. It helps us to get the word out to more small business owners.
I truly think this is one of those advantages that many people don't implement into their business, having an incredible customer experience, really thinking about how they can infuse the experience through everything that they're working on, and making sure that their team is helping them make it happen. I cannot wait to share the next episode with you. Talk to you soon.