The Lounge Q+A: Natasha O'Banion, Process Mastery Coach Pro

Process Mastery Coach, Automated CEO

Pro tip is just keep your hiring funnel open at all times.
Natasha O'Banion

Even if you’re a beginner and you’re not hiring yet, open [your hiring funnel], make an ad and put the ad out. You can interview people slowly and casually when you don’t technically need them right now and it’s not going to force and rush the process.

Natasha O'Banion
PocketSuite Process Mastery Coach Pro

The interview

Process Mastery Coach and founder/CEO of Automated CEO Natasha O’Banion jumps back into The Lounge with CEO, Chinwe Onyeagoro. This time around, Natasha is sharing expert tips for entrepreneurs who are in or near the hiring process. She also discusses how she utilizes apps like PocketSuite to aid in the process.

Hey you. I was just telling everyone that last week we talked about how to fill your calendar and how to get clients. So now that your calendar is full, it’s time to get your next team member! What do you do? How do you scale your whole team? Let’s start by hearing your story.  At what point did you decide that you needed another team member and how did you go about finding and hiring that person. 

Oh yeah. So I hired my first team member right away. It wasn’t an employee hire. It was a contractor hire. So people always say, oh, I don’t know how to hire, well, there are multiple ways to hire. When I knew that I was going to start my business I called all my friends and family first. I used my current resources and I’m like, listen, I’m thinking about doing this business, but I just came from a burnout career. I know I can’t do all the things so tell me what you have in your pockets. Because I have a lot of bartender, yoga instructor friends, so I knew there were a bunch of pockets in my direct industry where I could work with them by day and they could continue to do their own thing at night.


Yeah. Because I’m like, I just need you to fill a little socket in the midday, maybe three hours and then you can go and do your thing or teach yoga and then come hang out with me. I positioned it to them that way. I said, how would you feel about hanging out with a couple of dogs in the midday? They were like, oh yeah, sure, whatever. So a lot of us try to offer a part-time position, four to six hours or a lot of us think they have to compete with a full-time job. But I’m like, you need to compete with the exact position that you’re looking for because you would be so surprised how many people would take exactly what you need when you’re just super duper honest with what you have.

Don’t try to say like, hey, you’re going to leave your college job and then this is going to be your last stop. They knew this was not what it was going to be. So my first hire was actually two of my really great friends, one was working in corporate America so she got off at five o’clock and she took the evening shifts. And the other was a bartender so she took the day shifts and then she went to work. So then I was still working, filling in all the holes and sockets, but I had my girls backing me up and it was great.

Natasha, at this point, were you paying yourself a full-time salary or were you essentially taking a cut of your salary and paying them to build the business?

We were all living off of 50%. So we literally just all took a 50% split, I grabbed 50% and gave the other 50% to the business. They took 50% and gave the other 50% to the business. So we were all basically people contractors at this point, everybody, as we’re building it up. So they helped me fill a lot of holes and sockets so I would market and promote heavily in the areas that I knew we needed. Then as soon as I filled it up, then I hired my first employee. I hired my first employee probably after about five months. It didn’t take a long time because we already knew where we were going. We were like, we’re going to get it up, we’ve got to scale.

We hired our first employee and we actually brought her on as a contractor to start. So she was a contractor, and then we said, listen, we want to actually switch over to the employee model, what are your thoughts on that? She said, yeah, of course. I said, you’re going to have an hourly salary, you’re going to work your set days. We worked from 10:00am to 4:00pm at that time. I need you to help me with some administrative tasks. I need you to do some marketing with me and then we’re still going to take care of the dogs. So I positioned it to her in a way that she was also going to help me on the back-end, but also on the front-end.

Natasha, can I get into a few specifics?

Oh yeah.

Were the initial team members doing it because they were your friends? Or were they doing it because they loved dogs? Or were they doing it because the money was actually pretty good at 50%?

All of the above.

All of the above. Okay. If people don’t have a network of friends that they can tap, what else do they have to supplement to make this worth someone’s while in the early days?

Well, I always say first to utilize friends and family only because those are resources who you don’t even know that you have. But if you choose not to use those resources, then you can literally put an ad out. Put out an ad. Let them know in the beginning description of the company. We are a dog walking business that is rapidly expanding and we’re looking for people to jump on our team – part-time and full-time. I’m super specific. If you guys Google my business you can see all my ads.

Oh nice.

I’m looking for a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’m looking for Tuesday and Thursday. I had a 10:00am to 1:00pm. I had a 12:00pm to 3:00pm. I had a 2:00pm to 4:00pm. So you have to get super detailed because people need to identify and say, “You know what? That’s me.” Listen, I’m looking for a stay at home mom, a veteran, someone who does part-time work in the day time. Maybe a contractor, a gig person, freelancers, all of the above. People need to say, “That’s me, oh I can do this, I can do that job.”

What is your interview process? How do you know this person is going to be a really good fit? 

I went through rows with my process. My first process, I would get them on the phone, love them on the phone, and then meet them at Starbucks. I’m like, okay, stop meeting people at Starbucks because not every applicant will show up and you are going to be at Starbucks drinking coffee all day.

Drinking lots of coffee.

… by yourself and some are going to show and some are not going to show. So pet people specific, do not go to a coffee shop. Let them meet you out in the field, so if they don’t show you’re still moving and shaking.

You’re still moving. Never skip a beat.

If you’re not in the pet industry, interview them on the phone and then go ahead and do a virtual interview. So you’re taking them through the steps. It’s literally the same way as corporate, the longer they can hang on with you through the hiring steps, the more likely they’re going to be a successful candidate.

They say hire slow and let go fast, if it’s not working.

Yes, because people who are not serious will fall out.

Natasha, I’m surprised you didn’t say that you actually have them walk a dog with you, literally see how they work with the pets. Or in the case of massage, let’s just see how they work with one of your clients on the job to make sure they can build the rapport and so forth.

That’s what we end up doing. At first it was the coffee shop. If that was blown, tick that out. Then we started having them just meet us at the corner. Just for safety issues, we wouldn’t actually have applicants come to our clients’ homes. We would just say, hey, meet me on the corner. I’m going to have a dog with me. We’re just going to give you an idea of what this job looks like. At that point, if you like what you see, then we’ll move forward. So I make sure they know that this is an equal interview between you and me. If you’re like, hey, you know what Natasha? I think this is probably not going to be cool because there are rainy days or snowy days, sunny days…

It’s a blizzard and you’re walking the dogs, how do you like it? Is this going to work for you?

Get an idea of what this is and if you like what you see. Then we’ll move forward. I’ll officially take you through the driver’s license, the background check process. Once I get your background check, then I’ll go ahead and take you into our client’s homes. But you want to open that interview process so they know that they can back out anytime because that’s what you want, you want to allow them to back out if they see something and they’re like, you know what? I thought this would be cute, but I think probably not, and that’s going to save you a lot of headache.

I actually really enjoy hiring, it’s one of my favorite things to do because I know what that actually means for the business and my quality of life and the impact if we can serve more people. My tip on that is just being super duper honest – like, it’s going to snow, it’s going to be hot, you’re going to pick up poo, you’re going to have dogs who love you, you’re going to have dogs that you get to caress just like in the pet industry. When you’re so honest and you let them know, by the way I have your back and I’m here with you, the sun is loving itself today. You let them know that I’m here with you, they’re going to be great.

I think the problem with a lot of us not loving to hire is that we may not love people in general. We may not just love that transition process. We’re like, you know what? We have crafts in our own field, but actually allowing people to know that I’m going to walk you slowly through the training process. I’m going to give my mind to your mind. Find a person that you know. If you’re already a pro at hiring, find someone you know on your team that actually really enjoys the process and they’ll make it more enjoyable. Also, having as much detail to outline is good too because you’re literally showing them that I’m equally professional and this is a place where you’re safe and you’ll have a safe paycheck.

Natasha, in terms of skill sets, if people are thinking about the list of things that they want to see from their first hires, what are the top three things that are most important to you? Besides that they’re available at the time, how much did experience matter? That they’ve done this exact job before? How much did passion matter? They had a lot of energy? They do this in their spare time with their dog? What are some of the things that really mattered most to you for those first few team members?

In the pet industry for me it’s customer service. You do not have to have any experience with me. I almost prefer no experience because I know you don’t have any bad habits. So I was like, I’m going to show you the Renzo Ruby way from scratch where we roll out the dog etiquette and the human etiquette and I prefer almost no bad habits for those reasons. I don’t require any experience, but I do require positivity and willingness to learn, happy, go lucky and attentiveness.

I have a hiring manager and she is a stickler. If she sees somebody on their phone or not giving her the full detail, she’ll be like, they were lovely, but you know what? “They were on their phone too much so that’s not going to work.” I trust her and I said, you know what? “If you don’t like it, I don’t like it and that’s it.” I mean, you want to be serious. We want to know that our animals are going to be safe. If you’re not going to be paying attention in the hiring process in front of us, what are you going to do when we’re not there?

When it matters most, right?

Yeah, exactly. But just a positive attitude, willingness to learn. I can change anything, but you have to have that willingness to learn.

Again, that applies for every industry. I say it too, passion, energy, a sense of pride of workmanship. It is so much more important than just the raw skills and experience. That you can teach that.

Yeah, I just ask them. I say, what is it that you love doing and tell me honestly what you hate doing? Because I’m only going to put you in your zone of genius and that’s where you’re going to shine. You’re going to love working with us.

Zone of genius. I love it!

When they tell me, I love working with clients, I like doing this, I’m like, perfect. We’re going to put you right there, when they’re like, you know what Natasha? I love what you guys are doing, but I would just prefer to stay with the dogs. I’m your rider with that. I say, perfect, you are going to be there. They end up being my training managers also because they know what they want when it comes to the animals. So put people where they are, don’t try to persuade someone that they should be doing this position. They’ve already told you that they’re not going to shine there. That’s what happens a lot too, if people are not in the right spaces in the company.

Yeah. It’s so funny, there is a book written by Jim Collins that talks about some of the highest performing companies of all time. He says what they do consistently well across the board, regardless of industry, is they find the right people and they put them in the right seats. You can have the right people, put them in the wrong seats, and you’ll miss the mark.

It was a beautiful person, all the skills, all the gems, but they were just in the wrong seat.

They were in the wrong role.

… and they couldn’t shine there. Yeah.

Natasha, can I get some metrics. Just so people don’t feel discouraged early on if they’re not able to find someone quickly. How long does it typically take to find someone great? What’s the funnel? For every 100 people you talk to, how many do you hire? What’s the expectation in terms of initial outreach, interview, making offers, and acceptance of offers?

Pro tip is just keep your hiring funnel open at all times. Even if you’re a beginner and you’re not hiring yet, open it, make an ad and put the ad out. You can interview people slowly and casually when you don’t technically need them right now. It’s not going to force and rush the process. That’s when you actually get your best applicants. When you’re not really looking to hire. You’re like, hey, I just got your application across my desk and I thought you’d be a great fit. I want to talk to you. We’re actually looking to hire most likely in about three weeks or so but I wanted to get the communication open so we can roll you in when we’re ready. So now you just leverage yourself for three weeks where you may not have wanted to hire, but now you have this really great person. You can actually start giving some of your personnel roles to them.

I would say, an average hiring process would typically be about two weeks. Again, I’ve found people by putting an ad out and they respond right away. It’s amazing. I call them. I don’t waste time. I don’t get applicants on my desk and just look at it. I know that they’re looking for a job, so as soon as I get someone great I call them. They’re like, wow, I just sent it. I’m like, yes, you did and I’m calling. Because I remember when I was looking for a job, it’s like whoever hits, you can’t be growing grass under your feet with the hiring process. So I would say on average it takes two weeks, get your first hire, but leave the funnel open.

I use a business app called JazzHR. If you guys want to DM me, I can hook you up with them. I’m actually a professional with them as well and they have a software where they’re going to put your hiring out on five different hiring boards. So you open the pool, you keep applicants coming in and then you can actually take them through A to Z in the funnel between looking at their application, giving them knockout questions. That’s really important, right? Asking them specific details and if they’re answering them, then they disqualify or qualify. That’s how you bring them in quickly. That’s my favorite. Hiring when you have to hire is the most stressful thing in the world. It’s like, oh my God, we just got five clients. Oh, we’ve got to hire, right? That’s just too stressful. Leave it open, always have your ad running open so you can filter as you need.

Yeah. I’ve heard that from a lot of business leaders. They’re not in the business that you think they’re in. They’re in the talent identification and recruiting business. That’s fundamentally it. If they do that well, they can do anything else well. So let’s talk just a little bit about mindset as we sort of shift into this conversation that’s really about what keeps people from actually taking this step. Because you’ve walked through the practical steps, it’s not that scary. Is it?

Everybody can do it. If I can do it you guys can do it.

There are typical objections that I hear. I would love to hear your responses. Number one: I’ve never managed anyone before. How do I do this? Are they going to respect me? Do I even know how to hire somebody like me? Should I hire someone like me or should I hire someone who’s very different than me? How do you get over the anxiety of not having been a people leader before?

For sure, so anxiety always happens when you just don’t have a process and you’re not prepared. So you’re anticipating the future that hasn’t happened. Okay, these are my steps that I’m going to take, that’s why I’m the process master. This is your process that you’re going to take to hire. Make a checklist, okay? Checklist. First, I’m going to put out my ad, check. My ad is going to be detailed. And number one, I just recommend, as this is a cheat code, get someone that’s hired before. Get a mentor that’s hired, it’s going to make you feel so much better. Literally, you’re going to know that I’m not making any mistakes or I’m not leaving anything out. The worst thing to do is to not on board a new applicant the right way. Then you’ve left holes and then the relationship is not clear from the beginning. It is kind of a really big deal.

But anyhow, make yourself a checklist, you put your hiring ad out, make your knockout questions. Your knockout questions are going to be five basic things that you need to know. In my business it was their availability, how they could write a post-walk report because that was the love note that the client receives. So I asked them to write me a sample love note if they had a client in front of them, and I could just tell immediately. Okay, our client is not going to receive them, if they have unlimited storage in their phone. Are they driving or are they riding a bike because then I know what territories they can be in. So think of five pertinent questions in your industry that you have to know in order for them to move forward and add that to your hiring ad. Because this is the thing, you get 100 applicants looking for a job and it gets overwhelming. Those knockout questions are so powerful, so you can filter through who you’re actually going to look at.

Like online dating, right?

It’s online dating.

It’s like, knock them out, right?

If people did not fill out the questions, they do not move forward, right? They have to pass ‘go’ every single time and that’s going to save you a lot of headache. That’s your checklist. Then you’re onboarding: getting a driver’s license or social security card, having to fill out the application. So get a mentor – somebody that’s going to tell you the exact things that you need. The great thing also is a lot of the payroll companies nowadays, Gusto is my favorite, they will tell you the exact things you need to onboard an employee – literally for free. What do I need? They may not go into the ad details and the knockout questions, but as far as the legal side, they’re going to tell you the exact things and it’s going to be automated. So as scary as you think it is, you have all these resources nowadays. Between PocketSuite, Gusto and JazzHR, I’m Gucci. These are my things and I’m like, you guys are so automated. When you start using Gusto you literally just put in their email and their name and it sends it to the applicants.

We use Gusto as well at PocketSuite for employees. We’re big fans of Gusto – as well.

They fill it all in and it’s done. So don’t be afraid guys because it’s 2021 now and it is all available. If you’re not great at hiring people, it’s only something in your mind that you’re telling yourself because you’re not new. I’m not good at Spanish. I’ve never spoken Spanish before, right? It doesn’t mean that as I start doing it, as I start learning, then I’ll be a master at it. So slowly start doing it and the more you start to hire, the better you’ll feel about it because you also know what you’re missing. That’s why I say, hire a mentor. There are a lot of things that you’re like, oh, I should have asked that. Oh, I wish I would’ve known that. You probably don’t know in advance, but for someone that’s had a lot of woes, they will just give you the cheat sheet. I’m all about not going to pain island. Don’t put me on pain island, get me off of it. So if you can give me the cheat sheet, I’m with it.

Natasha, two more questions and then a wild card. One is, a lot of the business owners that we talk to, they love doing the thing, right? Delivering the service to the client. What they don’t love is going to get more clients? So they often want their first hire to be someone who can go out there and help them market. What do you say to that? How do you think about it? When is the right time to bring on another you to help you sell and get more clients? Should this be a contractor team member or should this be a coach that actually goes out to help you get clients?

I love that you guys are thinking that way because that’s how you run your business without you in the long term. Identify all the tasks that you do not like to do and those are the first tasks you hire for. So do not try to teach yourself things that you know what? I just don’t want to do that. 

If you’re not good at sales and marketing, hire somebody for sales and marketing. You stay in the background, you do the thing that you love and you get all the people that are going to fill the holes, starting with your weaknesses. I don’t like doing blogs. I do not like sending out emails. Thank God I have PocketSuite and my clients don’t even require emails because I’ll send them a quick paragraph on a text and that’s it. Then my response rate is 10 times better than an email.

People check their phones 90 times a day. They check their text messages 90 times a day, can’t beat that.

Yeah, if you’re waiting on my email list, keep waiting.

All right, here’s a wild card. So one question and this is really tough. It’s not working out, how do I let go of a team member?  How do I let go of them? I believe that I’m responsible for this person’s livelihood. How do I honor that and still do the right thing for the business?

First of all, mindset. Hiring is a huge responsibility. It takes me a lot to let go of a person, a whole lot. Not saying cancer, if you have cancer in the audience then you have to cut the cancer. I always look internally if something is going wrong with my applicants or my hires or my employees. If something is not gelling right, I look within first. It’s usually with us. I promise you, it’s usually with us. Have a conversation with your staff member. Find out what’s going on. Say, hey listen, the client has these expectations. I want to make sure that I’ve explained it clearly to you. I want to make sure I can support you in any way so you can thrive in this space. They will appreciate you knowing that you have their back.

Nine times out of 10 you can fix that employee. What you can’t fix is a disgruntled employee that just wants to say, you guys are terrible, it’s a scam, everything sucks. Just like anything in the world, right? You can’t change that personality. You can’t change the mood of someone. At that point, you just have to let them go. But, if you don’t have a disgruntled employee, your process is going to make a better employee. So 9 times out of 10 when I audit businesses, I’m like, I would not even know what to do if you hired me. I’m a terrible employee because I don’t even know what to do here. I don’t even know what to measure or my expectations or if I’m even doing a good job.

But to answer your question directly, if you had to fire someone, you literally have to go through the three strike system and document the process. You talk to them one on one with a first warning. Okay, they’re clear, a second warning, a third warning. And you have this written out. They sign it to acknowledge that you guys have talked about the actions and steps. At the third strike, you say, listen, Chinwe, I’ve talked to you about this three times. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to part ways because I think you’d be better served in a different company. And then that’s it, it’s almost like a non-fire.

Natasha, I want to say something about this. You’re stressing documentation and I totally agree with it. And we often hear document, document, document, but I think we hear it from a compliance lens. You don’t want to be sued, you don’t want this and that. But you really should see it from a different lens, which is, what if you were on the other side of the table and something you were excited about just didn’t work out? You’d want to know. You wouldn’t want that conversation to be the first time that you were hearing that you weren’t hitting the mark.

That documentation creates an opportunity for you to ensure you have checkpoints to make sure expectations are clear, right? So by the time that you have that final conversation it should not be news to this individual that, we’ve tried everything we could, this is just not a love connection. Nothing about them personally, but this journey that you’re on together can’t continue. If you do it well and you do it in a dignified way, people actually walk away feeling grateful for the experience and grateful for the way you treated them throughout the process.

It’s so important because at that point, you’re not firing anybody, it almost becomes a mutual understanding.

It’s a mutual understanding.

Listen, I talked to you at the first round, we had an action plan. Unfortunately, we went on a second round and the action plan didn’t go through. My clients know and my staff know that when they work with me, I want to make sure that they feel so great about waking up and coming into work. So they know that if they’re leading to the third strike, they’re like, you know what Natasha? I know, I kind of think the same thing. I think where we are not in a good space. I’ve tried to let go of a few people before but I’ve actually kept the relationship to work with them in other areas.

Exactly. It’s about preserving the relationship long term, it’s not about continuing to push a rock up a hill that is just too big, right? It doesn’t work. In terms of the technical steps involved in removing a team member from your accounts, how difficult is it in Gusto, in PocketSuite, what do you do to terminate in the actual systems that you’re using?

Not difficult at all. So I actually use PocketSuite for my employee warning notices. So they get a ping and they know it’s the employee warning notice. It’s very clear in detail, it has each infraction. They sign it and they know at round three, we just decide that it is a termination. It says it right in the app, so they also have a digital paper trail as well and you just remove them. If someone is calling out or not coming in, I sometimes will ask for a termination letter. I say, hey listen, thank you, go ahead and send me a termination letter and I’ll issue your last paycheck. So if they decide to quit on their own, they can go ahead and send you a termination letter so you can start the process and it’s very, very easy. Literally a few seconds.

So some of it is done by phone and talking to folks and making sure folks are clear. Then the documentation can happen within the systems. Final questions, what do you loathe most about people management? And what do you love most about it? So we keep it real for the folks listening in. 

You guys know I’ll tell you. I loathe, obviously, the surprises. If somebody is sick or they have an emergency that popped up in the morning the day of and we all have to go and find our backups, that’s the part I loathe. But we do have a process to over hire so we always have way more staff than we actually really need. So if somebody calls you, we have somebody that can cover them. So that’s a pro tip, hire more than you actually need. That’s what I loathe, I’m like, oh my God, okay, because I like to disappear in my business. I don’t want to have to watch the phones and watch the emails, so we try to handle all that in the morning.

Then what I love is just the camaraderie. I love offering job opportunities to my community. I love telling them my vision and the mission and them being like, you know what Natasha? We’re on it, we love it, we’re doing it too, and they get so excited.  Then I love being able to offer them expansion growth opportunities with us. Hey listen, I’m looking at opening up another territory. You’ve been with me for X, Y, Z. You know the mission, you know the process, let’s put you in a territory. That’s my favorite – being able to really expand the vision to its full potential.

Natasha, we love talking to you, you spread so much knowledge. Folks joining in listening across so many different industries because you’re just preaching. We’re going to be back here next Wednesday with automation station. All the things that you can do to fulfill your dreams, scale your company and spread joy to clients around the globe. Tune in again. Thank you Natasha for joining us in the Lounge.

My pleasure. See you guys next week.

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