Are you a millennial? Do you work with millennials? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, millennials are expected to make up half of the workforce by 2020 and 75% by 2030. So, it’s important to figure out ways to understand these smart and talented millennials working at your company. Are there any idiosyncrasies with this generation that may be helpful to marketers?
Today, my guest is Garrett Mehrguth. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Directive, a growing digital agency that employs several millennials. Fortunately, Garrett has found unique ways to keep them engaged and motivated.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Garrett’s Motto: Learn, Engage, Create
- Lesson Learned from First Consulting Client: Ask clients to pay you upfront
- Never use your power as a leader to manipulate anyone to make a decision
- Attract millennials by investing in social media to create a positive work culture
- Utilize recruiting tools to find the most talented millennials
- Best Defense for Bad Reviews: Demonstrate importance of sharing experiences and showing reviews to everyone involved to continue to grow and retain talent
- Millennials are the same as everyone else, but treated differently, alienated, and made to feel demotivated and devalued by others
- Directive offers a meritocracy and culture where people can grow in the company based on how they perform, not how long they’ve been with the company
- One of the simplest ways to create a structure for success and motivate millennials is to help them prioritize their tasks and goals
- 99.9% of millennial performance issues are related to time management and communication, or under-developed professional expertise
- Millennials are motivated when being a part of something larger; they want to feel like what they’re doing is contributing to something
- Directive supports career-driven millennials who want to be paid what they’re worth in an environment that accelerates their development professionally
- Offer benefits that serve your team, not ones that attract talent; Directive’s coolest benefit is mental health support
- Millennials want to learn, and Directive stresses its importance to be successful by requiring each employee to create a piece of content every quarter
- Be a leader for millennials by holding yourself accountable and taking an authentic look at and fixing everything that’s wrong in your organization
You’re listening to the Actionable Marketing Podcast, powered by CoSchedule, the leading marketing project management platform and only mission control center for the modern marketing team.
Eric: Are you a millennial? Do you work with a millennial? Look to your left. Now, look to your right. Are you sitting next to a millennial? Chances are you said yes to one of those because according to the US Bureau of Labor by 2020, half of the US workforce is expected to be made up of millennials and by 2030, that number bumps all the way up to 75%. Now, why in the world am I talking about millennials?
I work with tons of wicked smart millennials here at CoSchedule. In fact, I think I’m median age is like 28 or something crazy, tons of young, talented people. I’m like the elder here. I’m a Gen X-er so I feel like the grandpa of the office at times but I got to thinking, as a marketing contributor or as a marketing leader or the director or manager of a marketing team, I think it’s important to figure out ways to understand your talent, your resources, on your team and are there any idiosyncrasies with this generation that might be helpful.
For example, how do I build a culture that is going to attract young marketers? How do I find ways to keep them accountable, get them excited around growth? What benefits does this generation care about? And, likely, how do I keep millennial marketers motivated? I think there are some really interesting questions there. It’s a bit of a divergent from our typical focus but I think it’d be really interesting.
To talk through all of this, I brought on our guest for today’s episode on the Actionable Marketing Podcast. His name is Garrett Mehrguth. He is the CEO and co-founder of Directive. He has a growing digital agency and employs tons of smart millennials and has found a really unique way to keep them engaged and motivated. I know you will find this fascinating. I certainly did.
My name is Eric Piela. I am the Brand & Buzz manager here at CoSchedule and your host for today’s show. Buckle up. It’s going to be a goodie. It’s time to get AMP-ed.
Alright. Welcome, everybody, to another episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. This is Eric. Of course, I want to introduce our guest on the show, Garrett Mehrguth. Welcome.
Garrett: Thanks for having me here, Eric. I’m excited to be here and chat with your audience, chat with you and, yeah, just have a great show. I’m excited.
Eric: Awesome. I’m so glad you came on our show today. You’re calling in from sunny, Orange County. I’m from the north here and we always talk about the weather. If you’re an avid listener of the Actionable Marketing Podcast, I usually have been starting the last couple of episodes with, “It’s blizzard-ing outside,” or, “It’s -20° outside.” If you could share, is it sunny there, like in the 70s? What are you looking at there?
Garrett: It is delightful. If you’re in the Midwest right now, just look out that window. I’m having a perfect blue sky so it’s great. It’s a little chilly like it’s almost 60. Yeah, it’s pretty rough out here. I wore a jacket today.
Eric: Yeah, break out the parka there. We’ll stop talking about the weather but I brought you on the show today because one of the topics that we just have uncovered on our podcast is just really talking about, I think, the marketing workforce that’s out there. We have a lot of marketing managers and marketing directors that are managing a team or they’re part of a team, and I think it’s interesting. I’d love to start to understand as marketers what do we start to value.
Obviously, we know. I think I read a stat here like the US Bureau of Labor says by 2020, 50% of the US workforce is expected to be made up of millennials. We’ve all heard discussions about millennials. By 2030, that’s 75% so I would love to take more of almost–I don’t know if it’s a human resources angle, but where does the intersection of marketing professionals and millennials cross-sect and how do we start to engage, motivate and really understand all these marketing millennials? What brings them joy? What gets them activated? And we’re going to dive into all of that.
Before I ask you to share your wisdom and all of that Garrett, I just want our listeners to get to know a little bit about you. If you could, maybe just talk about your company, Directive, and maybe talking about kind of your journey in the marketing world.
Garrett: Directive started kind of just as a hustle. I was on Fiverr. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Fiverr. I think maybe a lot of people in your audience are.
Eric: Yup, you bet.
Garrett: I was selling social media calendars on Fiverr for $5. I figured out that if you had a library card, you get access to databases and then you could build lists for people who needed lists for targeted accounts and so I was slinging $5-services on Fiverr and I kind of bet my roommate at the time–I was 17 or 18 in college–that I could start to make over $1000 a month selling $5-services so I figured out how Fiverr worked.
I figured out how their algorithm worked. I figured out how to get on the homepage of Fiverr and so that’s kind of where my very first little hustles was, is selling $5-social media calendars and building out lists from the local library, and that kind of morphed, eventually, in me wanting to do consulting and so I applied to Boston, Bain, McKinsey and I got, essentially, an auto-response.
I don’t know if you’ve applied to a lot of corporate places before, but a lot of them have hiring portals and, in those hiring portals, if you’re not from an ivy-league school, you kind of get an “other” selection. They didn’t have my school while I was applying. I was like, “Okay, that’s probably not a good sign.” From there, I just got, essentially, an auto-response. I was like, “You know what? Forget these people. I’m going to build my own consulting firm and one day love to acquiring.”
That was my hot take at 21 years old and so I was like, “Okay, if I’m going to do that, though, I needed to know something to consult on.” My favorite kind of doing is stuff on Fiverr. When you’re young and a millennial, people think you know the internet and old people essentially will pay you. They have the money. They’ll pay you, the young person, to help them with their internet marketing. I figured out, “Okay, I better learn how to do this,” and so I just went and read everything that had been written on Moss, WordStream, Distilled, Marketing Land, and Search Engine Land.
I just went through literally every blog for years. I would just read for hours upon hours, upon hours and then I had this little motto I created. The motto was called Learn, Engage, Create and so I knew that if I could learn something new every day and engage with it by leaving a comment, trying it out on a small-level client’s site that I had gotten, I could essentially create more value for myself and for my client.
I had this little motto called Learn, Engage, Create and so, every day, I was just grinding and teaching myself everything I could about search marketing and how to practice it. I had a little hookah shop. I had a plumber. When I first started, though, I had a Persian restaurant and this Persian restaurant–this was before I kind of knew I wanted to do search. I was helping him get a Facebook page up, a Yelp page up.
He was selling these chicken shawarma wraps that I loved and so I figured one day, I’d pitch him a flyer and say, “Hey, man. I could help you. You’ve got the best chicken shawarma in town,” and I believed in the product and so I did that whole thing. I worked for him for 30 days and, actually, I’m looking at the contract right now. It’s framed at my office. I showed up the next day and he said, “Okay, come back tomorrow. I got your check.”
I came back tomorrow. The whole place was boarded up, very first ever Directive consulting client. The chicken shawarma guy bounced on me. I’m looking at my contract. I didn’t have an amount in there. I really don’t even know how much I charged this person. That was my very first ever client at Directive and so it didn’t start with a bang but then I learned. I learned, “Okay, you should usually ask clients to pay you upfront.”
A lot of this stuff came through because this is about trying to work hard and, if you could learn, engage and create, you could always be better tomorrow. You’d be amazed if you do that for enough years. You start getting better than the general population or even your competitors because you never take your foot off the gas. That was kind of my motto.
Eric: I love it. What a cool story. You’re definitely a hustler. I love to see that and I’m glad you overcame your first hurdle there with the shawarma. Do you have nightmares of chicken shawarma now? Now, you’ve come a long way. You’ve got a successful B2B search marketing agency and, obviously, one of the things as a CEO is you’re always trying to figure out–if we start to kind of dive into maybe our topic for today–how do I get this talent? How do I recruit the best talent? How do I engage millennials? How do I understand what’s going to motivate them?
Maybe just to start, people talk a lot about, I think, culture. If you talk about yourself, you were applying to these big agencies and you didn’t find your school there. I’m not sure if Minnesota State University [00:10:02] would have been on that list either for myself and so, now, you’ve got marketers like yourself that are applying to work for you and you’re trying to talk to them about a culture that is going to attract young talent.
Let’s kick off. How do you build this bulletproof, frivolous-free culture that’s going to attract young talent?
Garrett: Culture’s like an [00:10:28] right. We can pull back all the different nuances of what makes it good but, first off, you’d have to decide that you’re never going to manipulate anyone as a leader. It’s such an important place to start. You have so much power and influence over how someone pays their rent, how someone orders their food, where they eat, how they survive, how they provide to their family that if you’re not careful, you can very easily manipulate people.
Millennials sniff that out instantly. One of the most important parts is just deciding in your moments, in those times where you know you can influence someone to decide not to and let that person choose. I think that’s the number one starting point of building a culture, is you have to decide that you’ll never manipulate someone as a leader, and I don’t think anyone ever talks about that but I think you have to start there. Does that kind of make sense?
Eric: Yeah, it absolutely does. It’s something you’re probably–understanding the power you may wield as a leader and to not have malice in terms of how you’re potentially influencing those decision processes. That’s really interesting. That’s something you don’t hear so I love some of that fresh perspective.
Do you find then, Garrett, if we’re looking at this sub-section of millennial marketers, are you finding them coming out of–are you hiring folks that are right, folks you can tell them from the Midwest [00:12:04]. When you find these graduates, are you hiring them right out of school? Are you hiring them with experience? What do you find is alluring them to your agency? What are they looking for?
Garrett: Yeah. I think one of the easiest ways to attract–there’s two core ways to attract millennials. Number one, you actually need to invest in social media, and it’s okay if it doesn’t make you a ton of money. I think there’s a disconnect. In 2019, we had this thought process that if we can’t attribute something to revenue, it’s not valuable, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Brand is very difficult to directly correlate to revenue, and I would argue that your brand dictates the type of talent you acquire or it dictates the success of your organization, whether it’s just servicing clients or developing a product or a software company, whatever that is.
For us, social’s a very important piece of our hiring process. It’s always at Glassdoor. Millennials just–by the way, same as old folk–I don’t know what we call it. Generation X, Y or Z–people do research. We live on what I call the open amazon age. No one goes down the street to buy food unless they’re looking at their reviews. No one goes online and buys a product without looking at the reviews yet we simultaneously, a lot of times as organizational leaders, think that people will think join our company just based off of our website.
They’re not actually going to do any research, like, “Whatever you say, boss. I agree,” and we forget that our reputation precedes us and that reputation is now digital. It’s very, very important when people to do their research that they find a positive environment or a positive culture, and so I think one of the most important things you can do is really master your social media, be consistent there, make it about your people, use it for recruiting and then have a really strong Glassdoor presence.
We distribute our jobs through a tool called JazzHR. Before that, we were with a tool called Workable. With that, essentially, we are distributing applications across the entire ecosystem of job boards and then we’re centralizing where all the applicants apply to and then we can also sponsor from there. We sponsor a lot of listings on Indeed and other places to quickly fill positions.
Eric: Yeah, you’re speaking my language. I head up our Brand & Buzz department here and I think that the extension of your brand how it equates to recruiting a talent. Is this a place that has the right allure, the right feel, the right–is this going to fit what I’m looking to do? And I think that’s a big extension. Now, I have to dive into this because whether you’re–we looked at Glassdoor.
In any software review, if I look at it and I compare it to a software review place versus a workplace review place stuff like G2 Crowd. They say, “Hey, we’re using this product. It will give you a free coffee. Give us a review.” You can get some good reviews that way but, a lot of times, what I find the only time people are going on Glassdoor is if they have a negative experience because people are more apt to talk about stuff when they don’t like it than if it’s going well.
Are you actively asking if you feel like, yes, these millennials, they’re doing their research. They’re going to go on these sites and they’re going to get some feedback from other people who work there. They’re going to go online and read reviews. Are you proactively asking your employees that are enjoying their time at Directive to go on Glassdoor and provide reviews of their experience? How are you being proactive in getting ahead of that review research?
Garrett: Remember the whole part where I started about manipulation? I think one of the easiest things to do is manipulate people into leaving Glassdoor reviews so that they feel like they listen to their boss. I don’t try to ask people to leave reviews but I do preach the importance of it and that they share their experience, but I’m not specifically personally asking people to leave us reviews.
The other part, too, is if you make your culture about reviews–we had a client leave a bad review because we were also asking that client when they loved us to leave us a review. When you make your culture about reviews, yeah, you do increase your exposure to negatives but the reality is you can’t be perfect 24/7. It’s just not going to happen. Now, you need to minimize those, you need to own those mistakes and you need to learn from those mistakes.
The best defense for bad reviews on Glassdoor, G2 Crowd [Capture 00:16:48] software advice or any other platform is to proactively demonstrate the importance of them to your customers, as well as to your people, as well as to your clients. For us, it’s more about really encouraging people to know that it’s really important for us to grow and that we want them to know the best talent next to them. If anyone does want to leave a Glassdoor review, feel free to do it. It’s all anonymous. I’m not using it as a token to grow your way at Directive.
By separating the politics from everything, I think that’s the best way to manage millennials. I think the core question we ask is, “How do you inspire to, how do you grow to, how do you get millennials to perform?” and the truth is they’re just the same as everybody else. The problem is people start to think they need to treat young people differently and then they actually alienate them.
They’re their own worst enemies. They’re looking at a millennial and immediately devaluing that person, thinking they need to treat that person differently to get the best out of them, and that’s BS. Immediately, what happens from that is, now, the millennial feels belittled and, actually, instead of you motivating them by trying to be “relatable”, you’re demotivating them.
What we try to do is just create a meritocracy because what that means is if you have a culture where you have a super talented, badass millennial worker and she comes in your organization and she’s a rock star but she’s 22, she’s got a boss who’s 33 and he’s been around the game for a while but he’s been taking a couple of more vacations, he’s been reading a few less blogposts and she’s actually kind of doing most of the work these days and she tries to get a promotion, tries to get a raise or maybe she even asks to get paid based on the value she’s creating for the company and you tell her, “No, you’re still learning here. It’s not really how it works. Keep going. We’re going to issue you a normal 4% raise. Keep growing,” and then, simultaneously, Mikey, her boss buys a yacht because someone’s got to take credit for all the revenue the marketing department’s been generating.
It’s not going to hurt her. It’s going to Mikey with the yacht and then they wonder why we can’t keep any of our young people. When you treat people poorly and you don’t make your organization and your culture about meritocracy but instead about tenure or it’s about kind of the game or politics, yeah, you’re going to start with millennials and anyone else who’s worth their salt. I think the key is creating a meritocracy and a culture where your people can grow in your company, whether they’ve been there for a week or 10 years, based on how well they perform.
Obviously, they have to earn things in life but if someone’s better than somebody, they’re better. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see it. If you want to keep your A players, whether they’re young or old, you need to be able to elevate them when they’re better and if you can’t, they’re going to go to a culture that can’t and that’s why they leave.
Eric: Yeah, I love that. I was laughing at this vision of Mikey because I didn’t think on his yacht–sorry, I’m thinking like–
Garrett: No, but it’s true, right?
Eric: Yeah, right. No, I absolutely–
Garrett: Isn’t that how this world works? And then they wonder, “Why do the young people keep leaving?” because Mikey’s buying yachts and you’re giving the young 4% raises.
Eric: Hey, I hope you’re enjoying the interview with Garrett. We’ll get back to that conversation in just a moment but while I got you, I want to announce a really exciting piece of content that we just shipped here at CoSchedule. It is called the Agile Marketing Guide: How to Get Started with Agile Marketing and Do Your Best Work. It is basically a seven-chapter eBook. It is completely free for you to look at, peruse with, download and view.
If you’ve been ever curious about agile marketing, what it can do to your team, how you can be more nimble, produce higher quality work, it’s just a fantastic place to start. You can find it coschedule.com/agile-marketing-guide. That is coschedule.com/agile-marketing-guide. Go check it out. It’s a great read. Alright, let’s get back to the show.
Eric: Let’s talk about your example. You’ve got this 22 hungry marketer millennial that’s on your team. In your opinion, Garrett, what are the core ways that you motivate the team and how can our listeners do the same?
Garrett: The very first thing I do when I start with a millennial or young person or a new employee is I have kind of a method, and I call it ideal and actual. I look at what they’re doing with their time. I have this little chart. I’ll actually share it with you after this so you can leave it for research for anybody who wants to listen to the podcast. It’s just a tiny little table and, on the left, it has your tasks in the rows, on the left column in rows as your tasks, kind of going down on a list.
On the right, it says “daily”, “weekly”, “monthly” and then we put the time. You would be amazed at what you can do because people think that marketing’s all about your output and people forget you need to manage marketers and professionals by their inputs aka what you are doing generates the results. If you are doing the wrong things, you cannot get the results and so if you don’t get down into the nitty-gritty of people’s time management, not in a micromanagement way but in a coaching way of saying, “Where are you spending your time right now? Okay, how much time in a week do you spend there? How much time of the day do you spend there? Oh my god, you’re spending four hours a day editing? Why don’t we get hire an intern, or a consultant, or freelancer to edit for us so you can get to things that drive revenue, which is your primary KPI here?”
“Yeah, I would love to do that,” so you have to be open as a leader to sit down with your team members and actually get into the weeds of what their day looks like. You can’t just magically assume that people can prioritize all the right things in their life with six months’ experience and magically get you to your goals so I spend a lot of time in just breaking up, “What does your ideal day look like for you and how do you think you’re going to get to our goal that are both in here together?”
That’s one of the simplest ways to create a structure for success, and I would say 99.9% of millennial performance issues are time management and communication or they still haven’t developed professional expertise. The talent side, the learning side, they’re incredibly sharp. They’re incredibly quick. They learn like wildfire. They’re moldable. They’re malleable. The difference is they haven’t quite learned the professional things or on communication and time management and so you’ve got to start them there.
Eric: Yeah, those are really good. I think it’s interesting. I know everything–I love the input output analogy. I think understanding–one thing that I hear generically–and, again, all those stuff, it’s always hard when you lump a giant generation into one stereotype but one of the things that I–I think I’m a Gen X-er myself, the forgotten generation, but I’m much like millennials that they’re motivated because they want to be a part of something larger.
They want to be part of a movement. They want to feel like what they’re doing is contributing to something beyond their individual contribution. I think that goes for myself as well or maybe every generation but I think it’s interesting on how they can see the things, the individual tasks that you are doing, your inputs, are having an outcome on the greater good of this organization or this company, and I think we find that works very well here at CoSchedule in terms of motivation.
One of the things, I think, that maybe you’re seeing is the power of what we call scrums or weekly updates, even using some agile marketing in there as well to help–there’s the stuff that you get excited about which is like, “Hey, look at the things I’ve accomplished,” but then there’s the everyday grind and processes that, I think, can wear down an individual and I feel like–again, I’m not sure if it’s millennial-focused but they’re just more acute to how they want to work and how they want to be efficient and the thing and tools they want to use.
Having whether it’s weekly updates for that accountability and that growth–they want to know if there’s a level of investment in their professional development. What are some of the things–again, if I can glean off your experience there, Garrett, that you do to kind of promote that?
Garrett: First off, millennials do want to feel that their organization is a part of something bigger and that they’re a part of something bigger. In fact, everyone does but that does not mean that you can pay them less than they’re worth, and that’s the problem, is people come here to Directive a lot of times because they’re tired of being devalued as a professional.
See, people have started to think that if we just donate one shoe for every one we sell and we don’t pay our people that well but they’re involved in this bigger thing, they’re going to really like our culture, like we don’t need to pay them that well because of our culture, and it’s such a lie.
I think the number one thing is Directive supports multiple organizations that the team all votes on and we’re all a part of, but those organizations and what we’re supporting and where we’re giving our time and our money to is not why they’re here. They’re here because they’re career-driven professionals who want to get paid what they’re worth in an environment that’s going to accelerate their development professionally and give them exposure to greater opportunities, and I treat Directive as a launching path for their careers.
We celebrate when people leave. We celebrate when people grow. You have to take a different approach to this idea that millennials want to live in this wishy-washy world. If you show up three minutes late to a meeting and you’re late, I’m going to say, “Okay, cool, why are you late? Okay, well, that’s cool. Don’t ever be late again,” or be like, “You aren’t welcome in this meeting.”
If you have extreme accountability and you take everything at your organization incredibly seriously and you’re okay to get feedback and look at the flaws and pay people what they’re worth, you’re going to attract more millennials than you know what to do with. It’s not about playing this game that I think max culture has kind of created about here’s how you inspire millennials.
No, it’s about being a real organization that values their career and their development and pays them appropriately. If you do those things right, you’d be amazed at how often young people want to work with you.
Eric: I think you’re right. I was doing some research a little bit prior to this call and I think for a while there, the salary had dipped down below the top five things that people are looking for in an organization and why they leave and last year, too, salaries dipped back up into the top three, actually. It was flexibility, relationship with the manager, and you can go on and on, and culture.
The focus of this call was really about there are certain things that we’re seeing that millennials are looking for, and I’m agreeing with everything that you’re saying, Garett. Absolutely. I think, in addition to salary, people want to get paid for what you’re worth, and I completely agree with that.
Are there other benefits, Garrett, that you see that young people are truly caring about today that you’re having to use to get them to come to Directive as part of that recruitment process beyond, “Hey, we’re going to pay you competitively,” but what else are they searching for in your experience?
Garrett: I know this sounds terrible and it’s not the dream answer but they want all the same things that everyone else does. They want to have great healthcare. They want to have their 401K matched. Now, there are some additional things, though, that you can do that are really special, and the one thing that we’ve done here that I think had the coolest impact is we brought in a mental health organization.
Every day, they actually have someone who comes on site and essentially here as a care partner to help anyone, talk with anyone. It’s the only time I rolled out a benefit and there’s tears in the room. It’s the only time when I felt like we were actually getting into the core, the anxiety, the depression, the pain that people feel every day and, a lot of times, they don’t have anyone to go to and it hasn’t been normalized to get help.
That, to me, is the coolest benefit we offer and so that actually extends to anyone in their family. If someone here whose father is in a different country where they emigrated from to get here but their family’s still there, we actually have international peer partners that’ll go be with that person. If someone’s in New York in a hospital, we can have someone go on our person’s behalf, actually giving people substance.
The worst thing that people do with their benefits is they create benefits to attract talent, not to serve their team. Benefits aren’t made to help you get better people; it’s to honor the people you currently have. If you look at it from that perspective and not like, “Okay, what do I think will look good on our job postings?” but instead, “What do I think will positively impact our team and change their life, change their attitude, or change their reality?” Now, you’re offering benefits that millennials care about because they’re real.
You’re not going to manipulate them. You see, a lot of people do those manipulation like, “Yeah, we pay 75% of your healthcare but the deductible’s $10,000 a month,” and you’re like, “Okay. Thanks a lot, bud. You don’t even pay me $10,000 in six months. How the hell am I going to get that?”
If you just honor people and you come up with things that are actually about people, you’d be amazed at how–millennials want authentic leadership and want an authentic team and an authentic culture that’s doing things for them not to attract them. When you start to change the way you’re looking at it, that’s when you get and start to build a culture that can succeed.
Eric: Honestly, that was super profound, Garrett. I think that’s one of my favorite responses you’ve had so far and I think it’s just a really great way to think about your organization, how you’re creating it and the true value you’re trying to bring to your family of coworkers there so that’s fantastic.
I think one thing that we see here is, as marketers, I’m hungry to learn more about marketing. I can sharpen my own craft. I’m in Brand & Buzz so I’m doing some influencer marketing and do a lot of things that I think where I’m growing but I’m also hungry with other things as well. Where have you seen the idea of personal development? I want to get more exposure to different types of marketing acumen. I want to go to trade shows. I want to do the learning events.
Is that something that you–we have a learning allowance that we do here. It’s like $500 for every one each year to spend however they want to, whether it’s on books, whether it’s on events, whatever it is. What have you found or what have you seen? I just really feel like–especially that I’m noticing the group that we have, they’re hungry. They’re hungry to learn and we want to reward people who have curiosity. Are there things that you do, again, at Directive or that you’ve implemented to help feed that hunger, if you will?
A2 Yeah. No, that’s a great question. I think one of the big things–we have a library here with books. Anybody can just get a book. I love to read. When you’re trying to grow an agency–we’ve been growing at about 200% to 300% for five years straight and it’s hard once you start getting up into the millions to add another 200%.
When I started to think of $20, it’s not that easy to go out there and try to find these high-growth areas and so the only way that I can keep developing myself is if I change the amount of information I’m gathering or get different sources of information, aka ideas, marketing creativity, business growth, business strategy comes from the information you’re consuming.
I try to consume a lot of information and then make that very, very clear, the culture, that this is how I’ve been successful. I’ve been self-taught and the only reason I have been successful. It’s not like I’m some genius with all these ideas; I go read on about culture from Buffer. I read about culture from 37 Signals and the guys over at Basecamp. I read about culture in all the different places. When I want to learn something, I go on Amazon, I buy all the books and I read all the books.
I don’t magically have answers; I just learn from people smarter than me and so I’ve tried to normalize that under our culture. Now, when it comes to other things, we actually just signed up with a tool called Torch.io and it helps with–and that’s going actually into our management team. We’re giving it a little try right now with one of our directors.
If he enjoys it, we’ll be rolling it out to the other directors, and that’s just a coaching tool that’s like a 360° review that allows upward and down feedback and then, essentially, you can get with a coach on a very frequent basis to develop your skills around, let’s say, empathy or communication or time management. That’s one way.
I think the other thing that we do here is every person at Directive has to create a piece of content every quarter.
Garrett: I believe that the greatest way to grow your career and to separate your resume and grow in or outside of Directive is to actually publish your thoughts. There’s this amazing thing that happens when you have to distill an idea and put it on paper, or put it on video, or hop on a podcast. You actually get to decide what you really care about. When I’m talking, you can hear when the passion goes up with my voice or when it goes down on my voice.
That’s how you could tell, “Hey, this guy is actually passionate about this.” When someone writes something, you can see what they’re passionate about so you want to get a job somewhere and, now, in the last month, we’ve had–just now, one of our women, Sarah Drake, was published on G2 Crowd. It’s on our Celebrate the Wins Channel on Slack. Last week, one of our women, Athena, was published on PBC Hero.
The week before that, one of our women, Hannah, was published on Marketo. Everyone here, I’ve had the blessing of building relationships along with every editor of every major publication in search marketing, and we’re now allowing every one of our people to publish and build their resumes and build their careers. If you want to get that job that maybe Directive doesn’t have for you today that you need today for you or your family, the best way to stand out is to be published on [00:34:41] websites and show the projects you’ve worked on at directive.
At 22, you ran Allstate SEO. At 25, you did the Global SEO for Cisco. Who can say that? We’re trying to create an opportunity for people to [00:34:54] for the rest of their life and part of that is definitely publishing so that’s one of the biggest things we do here, is try to get people published and get their work out there, get their thoughts. You can’t be a consultant and not have opinions and you don’t really have opinions if you can’t write them down. If you can put all that together, it creates a launching pad for these people.
Eric: Yeah, that’s awesome. I can hear the passion in your voice, Garrett. I think that’s a fantastic advice. I love that, one that I may personally explore myself. I think it’s just really good to exercise those thoughts by getting them down and, yeah, publishing that, I think, is a great fruition of those ideas and, like you said, go through the practice of taking that idea and that thought and synthesizing it into a body of work that you’re able to put out there and say, “Hey, what do you think of this?” I think is a fantastic experience so thanks for sharing that.
I think, with time in mind, Garrett, if you could, for all those people that are listening, the marketing managers, the directors leading the team, maybe the entrepreneurs who are in the process of starting to build a team, if you can–and this is going to be a difficult question, but if you can maybe boil down your best recommendation for really engaging millennials, engaging those marketers that you want to have, and to connect with, and to grow with, and to provide a good opportunity with?
What do you recommend is, again–for time’s sake, sound bite-worthy, is there something that you can encourage them to do to start providing a place where millennials will enjoy their work, be fulfilled with their work and be excited to come to work each day?
Garrett: Yeah. I think the number one thing to do as a leader when trying to lead a team of millennials is you have to hold yourself supremely accountable and you have to be able to take a really humble and authentic look at all the things that are wrong about your organization, publicly own it and then actually aggressively and quickly solve it.
If you can go out there and do performance reviews of the whole company and let everyone crap on your baby–because sometimes your baby’s crapped–and hear it in a loving and honorable way, validate it, not belittle it but actually hear some feedback from younger than you and value it, not belittle it, and then publicly communicate the value of it to everyone and then talk about your next steps, you’d be amazed at what it’s like when you’re holding yourself supremely accountable, you’re loving others, you’re honoring others and you’re doing it in a public and honest way.
When you do that and have transparency in an authentic way, not in a “let me write another blog post about how my agency got to 3 million” kind of way, that’s not an actual, humble transparency. Those “How We Grew” posts are not humble transparency. When you actually hear your team’s feedback react to them and grow and honor that, that’s the best way to manage anyone, including millennials.
Eric: Awesome. Powerful, candid advice, Garett. I love it. This has been a delightful conversation. I just want to thank you again for coming onto the show. Garrett, if they want to learn more about Directive or more about some of your thoughts on marketing or millennials in management in general, where might they head on the web for that?
Garrett: Yeah, just go to directiveconsulting.com. Blake Emal, one of our awesome account managers here, is actually starting a podcast. I might be on it sometimes called [00:38:30 Yours] in Marketing so if you’re in a podcast and you need another one for when you can’t get the actual podcast doesn’t have an episode that day or you’ve already listened to it, feel free to check this out. We’d love to have you as a part of our community. Feel free to shoot me an email. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org. But any way you want to get in touch with us, great. You can always fill out our form and, yeah, we’d love to work with you or have you work with us.
Eric: That’s great. Beautifully transparent. I appreciate it, Garrett, and, again, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Garrett: Awesome. Thanks so much for having me here.