1. Your employees shouldn’t care about your business as much as you do.
I get a lot of questions from business owners and founders asking me how to motivate their employees to care as much as they do about the business.
I tell them, “Give them half the company.”
Truth is, if your employees were like you, they wouldn’t work for you.
To motivate them, you’ve got to get to a place of understanding that they don’t work for you. You work for them. It’s about understanding what every single person in your company wants, and doing your best to deliver.
The biggest reason we have so much continuity at VaynerMedia is because of that culture.
For example, one of my employees might want higher pay when he’s 24. But maybe he falls in love at 28 and decides he wants to spend more time with his family. Another might be more interested in a fancy title. Someone else might want to get access to me and build a relationship. Maybe someone wants to go to one of our international offices and work there.
There are a million different variables, and it’s on you as a leader to adjust to reality as it changes.
2. When you have to fire someone, make it feel like a liberation, not a punishment
I hate firing employees. It’s the toughest thing to do when running a business.
So when I have to do it, I do my best to make it feel like a liberation rather than a punishment. Because the truth is, that’s what it is most of the time.
If someone gets let go at VaynerMedia, it could be for a variety of reasons. They might not be fast enough to keep up with the pace of execution. They might not be good at managing people and that’s what they were hired to do.
It could just be that we made a mistake and put them in the wrong position. They might just hate their boss, and it shows in performance.
I’m super willing to help my employees transition out of my company into another role where they could be successful for one main reason:
I’m more interested in how I feel about myself and what those who know me say about me as a man than the profitability of my company.
It’s why I try really hard to keep strong relationships with my employees, even after they leave or get let go. It’s why I aim to deliver 51% of the value of that relationship.
People always talk about why employees shouldn’t burn bridges with employers, but not many people talk about the reverse of that. Not many people talk about employers keeping relationships with employees even after they let them go.
It’s also just practical when running a business.
I don’t want to name names or put people on blast, but there have been situations where an employee left or got let go from VaynerMedia, ended up going to work in-house at another brand and recommended working with VaynerMedia to that company.
Keeping those relationships has led to actual business. It’s something that most companies don’t think about.
3. Whoever pays for the music gets to pick the song
This is a Russian saying that I really love.
In other words… when someone is paying you for something, you’ve got to do what they say. It doesn’t mean you can’t express your authentic point of view and steer them in a different direction. But it does mean that not every client will do what you want them to do.
And that’s okay. At VaynerMedia, not one client does every single thing I want them to do. Not one.
Sometimes, we’ll just tell them to go with a different agency. Other times, we’ll do what they want, depending on what feels right.
4. Die on your own sword
A while ago, I got a question on LinkedIn from Mike, who asked this:
He asked, “What is your best piece of advice from the perspective of a new employee learning the culture and building relationships at a new job, to earn the trust of leaders within an organization? What’s the #1 thing to do in month 1?”
It’s actually the same advice I give to people who try to build expectations with clients when running a business.
Ultimately, there are two ways to go about it: either pander to what the client says, or stick to your own truth.
For example, as someone who runs an agency, a common problem I see is executives and leaders spending a bunch of money on things like billboards and TV commercials. A lot of companies will go out of business in the next decade because of this.
If I disagree with a client, I might still do what they say, but I’ll make it clear what my honest POVs are.
If you express your authentic opinions, you’ll put yourself in a position to be historically correct, and that’ll help you a lot in the long run.
5. Hire somebody. That is the fundamental answer to everything you’re not good at in business.
I’m a huge, huge fan of betting on your strengths and not caring about your weaknesses.
The key is to know something well enough to know whether someone is doing a good job, but let them do their thing at the same time.
When deciding who to hire, it often comes down to the decision of jack-of-all-trades or specialist. I believe there is one that will help your business far more, and that’s jack-of-all-trades.
Of course, it’s important to balance the different types of people who work there. You need to have specialists but you also need the jack-of-all-trades. When you strike a balance within the company, it’s beneficial for the task at hand. Both personality types work. I’m not denying that.
But I never think that you should focus on one particular skill. Never limit yourself to that.
So really, what I’m saying is: If that person is a specialist, do they possess the ability to see beyond their one skill? Are they curious to learn? Can they take their strengths, and turn them into more and more skills?
6. Tell your customers to not buy from you
This was a very counterintuitive thing I did when I was filming videos for Wine Library TV.
I was filming videos tasting wine and telling people how they tasted on camera. But when the camera turned on (right before my first video), I realized something:
Everything I said would be on the “record.”
I didn’t want to say I liked a brand of wine when I really didn’t just to get more sales. I knew that at some point, someone would confront me about it, and I wouldn’t know what to say.
That manifested in me telling the truth on video and building a strong relationship with my audience. It ended up being a great marketing strategy.
This is what I recommend for a lot of companies today. For example, if you’re a mechanic, put out a show every day about how not to buy your services. Teach people how to change the spark plug or other basic stuff they can do at home without a mechanic.
You’ll be blown away at the amount of trust you build and the amount of business you’ll get on the back end of that.
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Check out this video for an hour and a half long business consultation where I talk more about these concepts: