By Annie Liao Jones
My full-scale growth agency in Austin isn’t for everyone.
It’s for the freaks, it’s for the curious, and it’s for the aware, and this goes for my employees AND my clients.
It’s a team of talented and responsible creatives. If you are one but not the other, you’re gone.
If you’re full of excuses without ever actually being honest (in which you’d hold yourself accountable), you’re gone.
If you’re extremely sensitive and have a lot of things that may offend you, you will want to be gone. But–you will also be given the slip because one bad egg can make a great team toxic. Our company culture is what I always go out of my way to maintain, and it’s why we do two-week working interviews.
Make no mistake, everything I do has an intent.
I don’t want people that can’t speak right to my face about their issues. I talk the same to clients as I do friends as I do employees and what you give should be what you get.
I don’t care if it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work on people without awareness, in which case you shouldn’t be in the advertising industry anyways, let alone MY top advertising agency. Change my mind and get a raise. Believe me, I want you to.
I don’t want people that beat around the bush in long emails. I don’t want grown adults afraid of confrontation in person, but can sit in the same workspace and disagree in our project management software. I just want the unfiltered truth, and ‘having my back’ is not hiding things from me. It’s disrespectful to me; moreover, it’s disrespectful to our clients. Give it to me straight; that’s how you gain my respect. (Which by the way, you have to earn. It is not something you deserve because you are hired. And it’s something you earn from your team when you respect their experience and go to them for advice.)
If your motivation for working with me is bolstering your resume, fine! Great! If you’re good, you’re hired. If you realize it’s our clients and not me that is your boss, go do your thing. But if your motivation is some bullsh*t answer of having to do with veganism, gender labeling (because I will fall asleep), or some other cause which makes you an extremist, I assure you that you will be that one toxic egg. Remember, you’ll have to change my mind about you from the start. Whether it’s ‘fair’ or not.
Throwing out industry templates
I’ve built Rock Candy Media as the Austin digital marketing agency that throws out industry templates and breaks the rules, and that applies to how we act as a team. However, we don’t ever think we know more about clients about what they do. If the client has the best idea, we don’t fight it at all. In fact, we respect it by executing fully on it. It’s mutual respect and collaboration that help us sell a company for $20 million (that and a lot of recommended pivoting we could have only gotten from the data and listening to our clients).
We are not rebellious to just be rebellious. We are rebellious in the way that we will push back, and I like that in a team. They care as much as I do to get the client out of their tunnel vision they’re naturally inclined to be in.
Don’t waste time on email formality. If you need a mental health day, tell it to me straight and I promise you’ll get the time you need. If you need a deadline extension, just let me know, don’t drop the ball, and you’ll get the extension. Always give me the why and I’ll feel respected.
I hire people that can change my mind.
Change my mind about you, change my mind about a campaign, change my mind about a client. Straight, to my face, and including cuss words. Show me passion for what you do. I hired you for having curiosity first and foremost. That’s why we don’t hire people from “tech marketing firms” or “healthcare marketing firms.” I’m sorry, but if you can work at a template agency, I know I’m signing up for a year of deprogramming you.
That’s how I function, and that’s how I’ve managed to build RCM into the growth hacking agency it is today.
It’s not like I don’t know that Glassdoor exists — that people can write whatever they want about me after I hire them for a freelance project. Or if a two-week interview goes badly. I just don’t go on anymore after I found out anyone can post anonymously, whether they worked for me or not. Moreover, the more jobs I have to post the more ‘favors’ Glassdoor can do for me. Anonymous is the enemy of truth, so taking their advice of responding to liars makes me feel like I’m being pulled down a lot of notches, and that’s not going to happen.
But no one ever succeeded by staying in line with what’s average.
Well-behaved people don’t go down in history.
So yes, some employees hate me. I’ve let go of some clients because they didn’t understand our culture, or talked abusively to my employees. But my best employees and clients–the ones that build their career with me, tell me what they want, change my mind about things, and succeed in their industries–They tell me what they hate and we move forward as a team, no secrets, no passive-aggressiveness, no bullsh*t.
No cowards allowed.
I admit, I just have no respect for cowardly behavior. You can hate me, supposedly suffer in silence, then quit and write a bad review on Glassdoor. But that just tells me one more thing about you–you didn’t listen to a word I said in your interview because I tell you exactly how you’ll get a raise, and I tell you exactly everything you’re reading now.
This isn’t some Illuminati society. In fact, it’s so transparent that by suffering in silence you never deserved a seat at the table. Mutual respect is what I look for in a team. One where the best heads at the table make each other more aware, they make each other better. I’m never more proud when I hear a perspective that teaches me something new. Without learning, I start to resent dumb people.
I take responsibility for my actions. For how I feel and how I act, how I hire and fire. Do you?