Eric teaches us about the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), what it changed operationally for Bluleadz, and how other agencies can get implement it into their firm. He then navigates the history of his org chart and what the future holds.
In this edition of Agency Unfiltered, we have Eric Baum, the CEO and founder of Bluleadz, a Tampa, Florida based diamond HubSpot partner. Now, Bluleadz uses EOS, or the Entrepreneurial Operating System, to help unlock growth and achieve powerful results for their clients.
If you don't currently leverage EOS, or even if you've never heard of it, you're in luck. Eric breaks it down for us in the Agency Unfiltered studio. He teaches us what EOS is, what it changed operationally for Bluleadz, the results Bluleadz has seen, and the lessons learned while integrating EOS at the agency. Eric then navigates his org chart, what it looked like a few years ago, what it looks like today, and what it could like in the near future.
Bluleadz has been able to successfully scare their team in an effective way, and Eric is ready to share his learnings. Wanna embed EOS into your operations? Are you looking to scale your team? Eric's got you covered. Let's jump in.
KD: What's up, Eric?
EB: Life is good, man, no worries. I'm having a great time at INBOUND. I'm very happy to be here.
KD: Cool, well, we're happy to have you here. We were just talking. Let's just dive right in. Obviously, Bluleadz leverages the Entrepreneurial Operating System, EOS for short. And you guys have seen some success incorporating that. So I'd be interested to learn what sparked your decision to leverage it, and then how about this. Let's go back.
EB: That might be a long conversation.
KD: Explain what it is, right? Let's pretend EOS is an acronym I've never heard before. So let's just talk about exactly what it is.
EB: Sure, and this is something I go over with prospective hires of ours, right? So our agency operates on two different methodologies. The client service side operates on Scrum or Agile Marketing and most people listening to this are probably be familiar with that. The back end of our agency, or the operations, actually operates on what's called an Entrepreneurial Operating System. So we stumbled upon it five, maybe six years ago when we were about eight people. Now we're 28, and it's made a world of difference for us. It's enabled us to scale, it's enabled us to find the right people, it's enabled us to have that organization inside the company that enables us to double down on everything.
KD: So the value is there, right? It's impacted the way you guys have been able to grow the team. What exactly did it change about your back end, like your operations?
EB: Yeah, so one of the major things, honestly, that it did was enabled us to look at people at face value and take your biases out of things, right? So one of the tenets of it is okay, great, you've got a people analyzer. So when you hire somebody or look to hire somebody or review somebody or fire somebody, it's based on this people analyzer. And that really goes through a couple of different factors that get plugged into a matrix for the people analyzer. But I'd never done that. I always been like oh, well, such and such is doing a great job and I really like them, and we'll be able to turn them around. And honestly, when you're trying to scale an agency, it doesn't work that way. You've got to take that biases out and try to move forward more on an objective level.
KD: I would say anytime you incorporate a new process or methodology, hey, this is how we're gonna run this business, right? There's a ton of work that goes into that, as you know probably better than anyone at this point. You go back to day one. You're like, you know what? EOS is how we're gonna run this agency. What would you have done different or what would you tell yourself on day one of that? Is there any advice you would go back and give yourself?
EB: Yeah, this is really tough. So anybody that's familiar with Gino Wickman's books, Traction and Get a Grip and the others that followed will know that there's a couple different people inside the organization. I'm the visionary, I'm the guy that's like okay, this is where we're going. We're gonna make all these things happen. I'm following the squirrels everywhere, right? And what I should have done immediately was identify an integrator and elevate that individual into that position. So fortunately for myself, I found her along the way, Brittany Balog, who's our Client Services Manager. She's in that kind of a position right now, and she's been my backbone. And right now, to be honest with you, I've got two individuals that I've been able to leverage in that capacity, Rob Steffens, who's our Marketing Manager and Sales Manager. They both fit the bill on different sides of the agency in that regard. But I would've found that person that I could've been like, okay, here, so you're tasked with this. Because I tried to play both roles for a while, and it hampered our growth.
KD: Now those two management-level roles, Client Services and then Marketing and Sales, is that just full time or they on any accounts? Do they work on any client delivery?
EB: No, full time. And I was just sitting down with Cory, one of our salespeople who's up here at Inbound. And I'm like, look around. You can see the people that have the headaches because they're on their phone during the sessions. And I'm like, I don't have that because I've got a good team in place. I trust them. Nobody's blowing up my phone with issues or problems. I can actually sit back and take in all the information I'm trying to take in here so that I can be my, play the visionary in my company.
KD: Yeah, right, steer the ship, right?
EB: Yeah, man, it's an awesome place to be. I feel this inner sense of peace, and I'm meditating with Deepak Chopra last night. I'm like, this is great!
KD: Yeah, you found zen.
EB: Yeah, I did.
KD: That's awesome. Now, if I'm a smaller agency, smaller team, handful of folks, from my perspective, I don't know if I have the luxury of bringing in an infrastructure role that isn't just being put on accounts. How did you know it was time, or how did you justify that, the investment?
EB: So we just scaled organically. We didn't bring in people and be like, all right, you're in charge of this, and you don't have any other responsibilities other than management. You can't do that when you're a small agency. So we grew, and I talk to small agencies all the time. I was talking to one last night, and they're at that five-person level. I was like, you get to this five-person level, and then this eight-person or 10-person level, and then you hit the 20-person mark. And those are key benchmarks where the five-person mark, you're like, you're trying to figure out and have everybody do their own tasks, right? And when you're at that 10-person mark, you're not quite big enough to have somebody in a full-time management role. You're getting ahead of yourself a little bit in that respect. When you're in that 15 or 20-person mark, it's time to designate somebody. Be like, you're in charge of these group of people, right, because you cannot do everything yourself at that point.
KD: Yeah, that makes sense. A lot of agencies I've talked to, they always preach the idea of having a org chart of the future so you can see what your agency will look like in both the short-term and long-term.
EB: We do.
KD: Do you guys practice that?
EB: Hell yeah, we do.
KD: How far in the future do you usually look?
EB: So EOS will say you need to build that out three years in advance of five years in advance. For us, we're scaling pretty quickly, so what I do is two-year org chart. And so that's part of the hiring process as well. I'll sit down with prospective hires and say okay, here's where we're going. Here's what our filled org chart looks like right now. And so we've got these two Client Services teams, and here's all these other open positions. And that does a couple different things. Everybody wants to join an organization, say where do I fit in and where's the room for growth? Because, as you're scaling and you're trying to attract talent, the biggest concern that we found is they've hit a ceiling either financially or professionally in their growth, right? And so we try to show them visually and be like, listen, here's the opportunities that lie in the future and here's where we wanna take things. And they take away from that a couple things. They're like, oh. They put themselves in that open box and like, here's where I could fit in.
KD: Here's my career path, right?
EB: Yeah, here's my career path. And then secondly, they say these people actually have a plan for the future. So they know where they're going, I feel comfortable getting behind that guy that's throwing this up on the screen that says he's the leader of the agency. So it makes them feel good.
KD: Sure, yeah, they trust the direction of the business. If you can be like, oh this is where we're going, we know that's the plan.
EB: Yeah, and man, you get me in the room with somebody like that, I'm like, listen, this is where we're going, we're gonna make this happen, here's where we're gonna be in two years. They're like, holy crap.
KD: You sell the vision. So you build out the org chart, for you guys, two years in advance. Where would you grade yourself out on actually growing into that org chart? Does it change? Do you realize oh, we thought we would need all this, but actually, we need to reallocate over here? I'd always question how well can you actually fit into the org chart in the future.
EB: Yeah, so it changes quite a bit, as a matter of fact. And you brought up a good point because one of the roles that we didn't identify, we... Early on, at the beginning of this year, we did our org chart for 2018 2019. And we didn't have a design strategist in that role. And so in sitting first quarter of this year, we really identified some gaps, and we talked to the design team. They're like, we need somebody in this position. So we just added that in. So it's all software, right? So you just plug a spot in and you identify--
KD: Is it one in, one out? Did you have to reduce or just oh no, we just know that?
EB: No, we're like, we're gonna need to fill this gap. We need to put somebody in that spot. And then that provides value to them because they've now had an input, and they're like, maybe I could be that person, right, which is fantastic. And honestly, we're even thinking about changing that org chart right now for 2019 based on some of the things that we learned over the last couple of weeks. So it's constantly changing.
KD: Yeah, anything in particular that motivated the change or potential changes?
EB: Yeah, so one of the things is, and it's being talked about a lot, but I spent a couple of days at HubSpot a few weeks ago sitting down with some of the product teams. And it's really given me a different perspective on where we wanna go. We wanna be that Inbound growth agency. We wanna incorporate the service and even Inbound recruiting and all kinds of different aspects. So for us, we've always been focused on Inbound marketing and sales enablement services. And so when we're scaling in our org chart, we've got oh, we've got this team for Client Services on the marketing side, and I'm like, we need an Inbound recruiting team. We need an Inbound PR team, we need an SEO specialist, deep dive specialist team, video team, the whole nine yards. So each one of those pods will grow out. And so we're 28 people this year. We're looking to scale to 75 by the end of next year. So we have spots open for that.
KD: Going from 28 to 75 is gonna be a tall order. And then you mentioned offering a service of Inbound recruiting. Now obviously, we were just talking, I think before the cameras were rolling, that you guys made the investment and you have your own recruiter on staff. Similarly, right? How did you know it was time to bring in somebody dedicated for talent acquisition and recruitment?
EB: Yeah, so this is one of those things that you see. You go to these presentations. Everybody's like, here's the 15 mistakes I made growing. And this is one of those mistakes I made two quarters ago. We knew at the beginning of the year, we were like, recruiting is taking up too much time for us, for myself and Brittany and Rob and the management and leadership roles. We're interviewing people and screening people, and it just took up too much time. So we started interviewing people in the first quarter of this year to fill that spot. And then fear took over. We're like, oh, we brought on these clients. We need to hire an IMC instead of a recruiter. So we found the right person, Jasmine, back in Q1 of this year. And honestly, it took a conversation with a friend of mine, Zamir, who owns Jumpfactor up in Canada. And he was like, I've been in your position. You need to hire that recruiter; here's why. We were at 22. We hired a recruiter, we jumped to 30 immediately. And no shit, it was the gospel because we hired Jasmine, and we hired seven people in the last six weeks. We went from 22 people or 21 people to 28 people just in the last six weeks. It's been phenomenal.
KD: It's not even just the volume of candidates but your time back, the managers' time back, too, right?
EB: So it's time, but more importantly, if you find somebody that has experience, it's quality of candidates because anytime you're trying to scale an agency, and everybody listening to this knows, it's like I'm trying to find qualified people. I'm trying to find people without stealing from my friends that own other agencies, right? But I need to be able to plug that person in right away if we're growing, or I need to find people concurrently that I can train that'll be ready to take on client accounts over the next six months or so. And so we're doing both of those. But in order to find those qualified people that can hop in and handle that account for six or $10,000 a month, they've gotta be the right kind of people. And it's really hard to find those people, and it's really hard to find them off of job boards, and it's really time consuming to source them, which is what Jasmine's doing. She's doing a fantastic job.
KD: Yeah, that's great. How difficult, or what's the process for training a recruiter up to speed? Because obviously, I think the practices of recruitment and sourcing, but being able to align around what you deem important, what qualities and characteristics you look for. What does that whole training process look like?
EB: So I would like to say that we had a training program built out before we brought on Jasmine, but the truth is we didn't. We sat her down, was like, here's who we're going after, and she was on the phone with people that day.
KD: No kidding.
EB: Yeah. So I don't wanna go too far down the rabbit hole of recruiting, but she's been a fantastic job. We did not do her justice in the training side of things. We did a much better job training our IMCs and copywriters and designers and bringing them up to speed. But she got thrown in, and she just rolled with it. Now, that being said, she came from a company where she made 170 hires in the last 12 months, so she knows what she's doing.
KD: Right, yeah. Would you say the harder part is being able to do the job, the easier part to just have her synthesize is okay, these are the things we prioritize in candidates?
EB: Yeah, and getting our culture right, which we were lucky that she was a perfect shoo in for that, and figuring out exactly what it is, the requirements that we need, right? So she did a deep dive with Brittany and with Rob and was like, we're looking to fill these positions. Here's exactly the skill set that we need. Here's the kind of people that we're looking for. And she just dove in and made it happen.
KD: That's awesome. At the beginning here, you mentioned that, you name dropped a tenet of EOS really quickly, right? Are there any other tenets that, if somebody was looking at EOS or is open to it, what tenets do you consider the most important or most valuable as you guys run the business?
EB: Yeah, so we're like a lot of people where it's like you read a book and you're all jazzed about it and you're like, we're gonna put this in place.
KD: Business is just reading books and then copying that.
EB: Yeah, exactly, so one of the main things that we took away from that is the weekly meeting schedule, and it's called a level 10 meeting. We modified it slightly because we also do Agile Marketing and Scrum. But for us, on the leadership team, we stay true to that weekly meeting schedule and the agenda associated with it. And one of the biggest things, honestly, that changed the way we do business is what's called IDS identify and, identify, discuss, and solve an issue. So when issues come up, and they always do every single week, you identify what it is, you talk about it, and then you solve it, and then that's it, and you fix the problem. And if you can't fix the problem because you need somebody else's input, then you make that happen immediately. So you're not cycling the same problems.
KD: Yeah, analysis paralysis.
EB: Oh yeah, this person has not been doing a good job. Well, let's just let that sit for... No, bullshit. It's time to figure out what it is we need to do, we take action on that, we do it every single week, and that pushes the complacency back. So it's like, we've gotta make this happen. Every single week, we've got action items that we do. Sometimes we don't do it for the next week, but that's normal human behavior, right? So that's made a huge difference for us because it's pushed us to keep moving forward.
KD: Sure, who are invited to those meetings?
EB: So right now it's the leadership team, myself and Brittany and Rob, so it's pretty simple. We had it larger for a while, and then when we implemented Scrum and Agile Marketing, we scaled it back because those individuals that were on the leadership team at that point really fit better into their individual teams 'cause they also have weekly meetings. And some of those same tenets apply to their weekly meetings as well.
KD: How does EOS trickle down to the front lines, your account managers? The tenets of EOS, is it synonymous with Bluleadz culture? How does it trickle down just all across the entire organization?
EB: Yeah, it does. The problem-solving aspect really helps with account management, too, because you bring that into your weekly client meetings. When they're talking about, oh we've got this issue, okay great, well, let's identify exactly what it is, let's talk about what our solutions would be, and then let's take action on that. So that's kind of nice. One of the other things, too, is knowing that we're constantly focused. Our agency is focused around core values, which is a huge tenet of the EOS. Finding the right people, making sure they, defining your mission, defining your core values, hiring people, reviewing them, and firing them based on your core values and sticking to those helps out a lot because it gives the team that latitude in decision making that it's like, hey, this is not doing the right thing or this isn't taking ownership. I need to take ownership and be responsible for this. And so it gives them those guiding principles that affect their daily lives at the agency.
KD: What would you say, and let me know if this is secret sauce, but what's the number one core value?
EB: Do the right thing. It's literally the biggest in our core values in our visual.
KD: Painted on the wall.
EB: Yeah, so that, by far, is it's our entire HR manual. And I tell this to prospective hires. I was like, look, you should have that moral compass. You should know what the right thing to do is. You should never come to me and be like, oh man, we made this huge mistake, and I didn't tell the client about it because I was worried I was gonna get fired. No, that should never happen. You know what the right thing is, you should be doing that on a continuous basis. We will always back you up. If you ask the team, they'll be like what's your number one core value, they'd be like, do the right thing!
KD: They got it, yeah.
EB: They know because I say it all the time. And we reward based on that, too. And we acknowledge people based on our core values.
KD: Reward, what would that look like?
EB: Yeah, so just like simple spiffs here and there. The biggest thing is we're in a big office complex like a lot of people are in. And so we've got private parking spots, and we've got one dedicated to, most of the team doesn't have a private parking spot, right? But we've got one dedicated just for core values. So somebody gets it for the month. In Florida, that's a big deal because it rains a lot. Everyday it's raining constantly. So the person who has it for that month has to determine who they're going to give it to the next month based on one of the core values.
KD: Oh, that's cool. So whoever has it gets to pass it on.
EB: Yup, and they send an email out. They're like, I chose Jackie because of XYZ, and she exhibited whatever. She did the right thing in this particular incident. And so the whole team gets excited about that. It's pretty cool.
KD: Just one or two questions left for you. Is there anything from a process standpoint, is there anything that's keeping you up at night right now?
EB: So we're at that stage right now where all systems are go. Our Client Service processes are intact, our team is fantastic, Jasmine's ready to go, she's got an enormous pipeline of talent. Our sales team now, we've got three people on our sales team and they are cranking. So now it's just a question of controlling the monster as it starts to get us to that next level.
KD: Machine is humming, right?
EB: Yeah, man. So that is probably my biggest concern and thrill and excitement at the same time, right?
KD: Awesome, final question: I tend to ask this to everybody. Is there anything you would say, or what is the strangest part or weirdest part of agency life or being an agency leader?
EB: Boy, I didn't see that one coming. I think for, the oddest part for us is how passionate we are about our ping pong games. We get real, and we trash talk.
KD: Where are you on the power rankings?
EB: So I'm probably fourth down from the rest of the team. There's quite a few people that are much better than me. I think they stay late at night to practice.
KD: To practice, yeah.
EB: Yeah, and I got a wife and kids, so I gotta get home like a normal person. But I think that's probably what is the weirdest thing for me. I didn't think everybody would take it, even the people that just started. They're like, get in, and they're like, get out of my way, I'm gonna crush you!
KD: You're like: I just wanted to put the table in and just have it there.
EB: So the caveat here is at the ping pong table, core values do not apply. You don't have to be considerate to the next person. You can trash talk and do whatever you want. So you can't lie, cheat, or steal or anything.
KD: Yeah, of course, right, right.
EB: But, so I think that's probably the weirdest part. All the rest of it I love, man, I really do.
KD: That's awesome, cool, man. Well, that's all I have for you.
KD: All right, thanks for joining us, man. We'll catch you next time.
EB: Pleasure to be here.
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