Growth is amazing, but it can be very chaotic, especially for those in leadership positions. The amount of work put into reaching where you are now, also needs to double to continue that growth. Handling the growth curve, KlientBoost’s VP of Operations, Richard Uruchurtu III, joins Cameron Herold to talk about how he is focusing on the company’s internal processes and operations. He takes us across KlientBoost’s functions and culture, how they retain their clients, and promote their internal team to leadership roles. Plus, Richard also shares their hiring process and integrating the core values into it as well as having that tough conversation with employees who do not fit the company’s culture.
Richard Uruchurtu III was originally a film school grad who left film freelancing to join a small media company as an editor. During his time there, he went from editor to manager, to training director, to sales director, and the company itself grew from a small shop to a 35-plus employee, $2.2 million in revenue business that was eventually acquired. This quick growth path gave him some amazing experience in multiple disciplines such as management, sales, marketing, and above all, operations. Wanting to expand his horizons, Richard made the switch to an agency world and hasn’t looked back since.
After managing sales at multiple agencies, he finally found his true calling at KlientBoost. Since joining KlientBoost, he has used the entirety of his experience to work with the leadership team and their CEO, Johnathan Dane, to achieve some outrageous growth, growth like doubling in size every year and showing no signs of slowing down. While a rapid growth agency is a lot of fun, it can also be chaotic. To handle their growth curve, he’s been the main integrator of their operating system that KlientBoost runs on. They’ve gotten big that Richard stepped out of his sales roles entirely to focus specifically on their internal processes and operations. Richard, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
Tell us briefly what is KlientBoost. What do you guys do? What are your core product services?
KlientBoost is a digital marketing agency, which can mean a lot of different things based on the agency that you’re talking about. What our claim to fame is that we focused on the bottom of the funnel conversion metrics. We consider ourselves a performance agency. The levers that we primarily pulled on were pay-per-click advertising and then conversion rate optimization by using landing pages, ads, etc. That formula of being able to control the paid traffic along with the landing page is what propelled our clients’ success and therefore our success. Over time, we’ve expanded into more conversion and traffic focused services like email and SEO and expanding our creative capabilities. That’s a bit of where we got started and where we’re going.
You get many people these days that are all top of the funnel and it gets a little agonizing hearing about more leads. Often, we don’t need any more leads. We need to close the leads we’ve got and optimizing expenses. What kind of clients do you work with?
We work with a pretty large variety. We’re a bit special as an agency like that. Only about 9% or 10% of our clients make about 20% of our revenue. We’ve built our business on SMB. We’ve worked for large companies like Bloomberg and Airbnb. We also have several clients you’ve probably never heard of and all small companies that have different types of advertising needs. I would say where we’ve excelled a lot is with working with SaaS businesses. We find that by controlling landing pages, lead gen, and those things, we’ve been able to drive and create value for B2B businesses.
Is that because SaaS businesses understand the cost per acquisition and lifetime value of a customer that they’re prepared to spend on this? Are they savvier in the marketing space than the traditional SMB businesses are?
Operating in that digital realm, we have a great understanding of how to operate these different platforms. It’s because we are more bottom of the funnel and looking into plugging into a client CRM, and forget the cost per lead or even an MQL, we’re talking about for a cost per acquired customer. SaaS businesses tend to know their numbers and we operate in a compatible fashion. It’s been a great leverage point for us to be able to demonstrate our value and keep our earning our pay.
That’s almost one of the best-kept secrets in marketing. I was talking to a client and I said, “What’s your cost per acquisition of a client?” He goes, “We’re trying to get it as low as possible.” I said, “No. That’s backwards.” As long as you understand your cash conversion cycle and the lifetime value of a customer, you should be willing to pay close to your gross margin to get the growth trajectory going and then get all the spin-off revenue. He was operating in the exact opposite mindset. When we finished the call, he realized he could be spending $600 to acquire a client and he was trying to get it below $60. All of a sudden, he’s like, “It opened up an entirely new world.” That doesn’t mean to be wasteful. How do you work with companies around understanding those numbers? Do they already understand them when they come to you?
I’ll lean a little bit on my sales experience here. When I was doing sales in the digital marketing world, I found that a surprising amount of businesses didn’t have those numbers at their fingertips. They might be able to get access to them. I’m a metrics heavy person. I would not say that our sales process is built around every single sale needs to have a spreadsheet. We focus on one thing, how do we make you more money? That’s our goal focus organization where we’re talking about where are you at and where do you want to go in order to hit your financial goals? Part of that will be working with an account manager to back out that math so they can understand what they’re capable of doing.
We primarily built our business on Unbounce when it comes to CRM, but we have experimented with other platforms. We operate as a startup. We’re always willing to try different things. We’ve operated on Leadpages. We’ve operated on Optimizely. We started to utilize Google Optimize for doing on-site heavily. We don’t go out there and say we’re a web dev agency. We’re always looking for ways we can increase conversions, whether that’s on Unbounce site or on the client website.
You do the client website as well.
As far as Google Optimize goes, yeah.
That’s smart. I’ll wave to the guys at Unbounce. Their former COO was one of our founding members of the COO Alliance as well, Sascha. I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered Sascha. How do you charge? How do you go in and work with companies?
For the most part, how we’ve operated as a business, we put up a retainer amount that includes our services, and then we would set goals and say, “If we can achieve these goals or even maybe the service expansions and everything like that, how would our retainer change?” We don’t do any hourly billing. We’re not granulated. You don’t see a service list that’s long from us. It’s about you getting access to a team with this retainer and these are the goals we’re going after. We do have some cases where we do a percent of spend if it mandates it. We do have some where we do a per performance thing, like a per lead sharing cost thing. It depends on the client and their needs and making sure that their financial goals align with our financial goals.
I’ve got a client who’s a member of the COO Alliance that does SEO called Hennessey Digital. They’re in the SEO space. Do you ever partner with firms like that at all?
Johnathan wants to speak more to our strategic partnerships. Especially in our early days, we didn’t offer SEO. We offer it internally now. In the past, we worked with other strategic partners and even would bring those people into the fold as KlientBoost employees in order to be able to expand in those capabilities. Digital marketing is a big world and there’s lots of market share out there for everyone. We are about how we best service that client. If KlientBoost can do it, great. If not, we like to have that network of people that we can reach out to.
How many employees do you have?
We’re hiring so fast. Sometimes I have a hard time keeping track. The answer changes about every 3 or 4 days. We’re North of 60, maybe 62, 63.
The company starts to change a little bit when you go from the 30 to the 100 mark. You’re in the middle of that big transition. I’m going back to the core business. How do you guys keep customers? You’re like a franchise. As you train the franchisee at the beginning, they get all their value. For the next five years, you can’t do much. You already front-loaded and trained them all. They get frustrated paying fees. After you do all your work with all this optimization, how do you keep your customers at that point without churn? When you’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting, does the ROI for them change? How do you keep them engaged in working with you?
That’s something I hear a lot of. I remember running up against in sales, there’s this perception out there, specifically with pay-per-click marketing, that you come in, you optimize the heck out of it, and then it’s on cruise control and you don’t need to change anything.
Here’s a little fact about me. I started as an account manager at KlientBoost, deep in the technical weeds. To be honest, if you start asking me a lot of technical questions about PPC, I’m probably not going to be able to keep up because the platforms and the markets change all the time. The way I look at it this way is that, yes, you do generally see a big improvement in the first 3 to 6 months because we’re cleaning out a lot of the old habits, we’re implementing a lot of our best practices. The question becomes, how much does it take to maintain? It’s not a set it and forget it thing. When you hire an agency, you may get an assigned team but that assigned team is also working with several directors, VPs, and strategists whose job is to learn these platforms and their adjustments and changes because they change constantly. Having a team that you don’t have to worry about that, they’re going to either maintain or improve your results. That’s how we earn our keep.
Do you keep going back to the clients to show them the results every month?
We have weekly conversations with some of our bigger clients. In some cases, if we’re working with a VP of marketing or even a director of lead gen or demand gen, we’re having weekly to bi-weekly calls with them to talk about the tactics. We’re embedded in their marketing team. We’re helping to facilitate that stuff. For some of our clients where we’re maybe reporting up to a CMO or CEO, we have a monthly meeting to go over the metrics we’re driving. We even have workflow processes that make it to where calls aren’t even necessary sometimes.
When we were doing different kinds of client work, usually we relied heavily on phone calls. We used to do weekly calls with almost all of our clients to be like, “I was in the accounts and I wrote down my notes and I sent you an email. Let’s call and talk about the email.” One of the big things that we worked on has been implementing a workflow process. We bring our clients into our project management tool. They have complete visibility into our processes and what we’re doing.
We use a project management tool called Asana that I’m a huge fan of. This workflow process has a brand name now. I used to call it the Idea Framework, which was my incredibly, nerdy, not useful term. Now we call it the Boost Flow. It’s essentially a standardized methodology that all of our account managers followed in order to ideate, execute, analyze, and then report results on the different things that they’re doing.
We put our clients directly into Asana so they can follow along with that. They don’t need to call and say, “What’s going on?” They can log into a platform, they can see the different tests that are running their status on them, and those things. It has improved our communication and client sentiment. Your audience might appreciate, as a bunch of COOs, is that we’re harvesting all of that data on the back end. Also, management has a huge amount of visibility into what our account managers are doing in the accounts on a daily basis.
Do you get some insights in terms of how often your clients are going into Asana? Do you get any reports or intel as to how engaged your clients are?
That’s a great idea of a metric to track. We do have that data. I can’t say if we’re utilizing it from a management perspective. The thing I will say that we do is we measure client sentiment a lot. We are doing things like NPS tracking, CSAT tracking, and trying to figure out what the clients are. We do have data that shows that clients are enjoying this, they approve of the method of communication, and they feel like they’ve got hands-on the account.
I’ll give you an analogy. Let’s say the client buys a gym membership, like, “How are you enjoying your gym membership?” “It’s an 8 to 10 grade.” It’s like, “We’re at a zero Net Promoter Score.” You’re like, “You don’t come to the gym, ever. Of course, you’re giving it an 8 out of 10. You’re never here. You came once in the last six months.” I played tennis at our tennis club with my son and I realized we hadn’t played tennis together in two years. I’m like, “Of course, I’m not getting the benefit out of the membership.” It would be interesting for the club to be pinging me and going, “You’re paying fees, but you’re not around much.”
We have some clients that we can tell, like, “Log into this digital platform.” Especially if you’re a CEO or something, they’re like, “I don’t have time to get in here and try to figure out a new platform and stuff like that.” One of the beauties of it is that we can assign different things that they can track and get notified about. We can ping their email inbox with our activity in Asana, so they never have to go anywhere. Sometimes there’s a little bit of a training curve with clients where they might be trying to call and write things and be like, “Put it directly in Asana, easy.” We have a little bit of onboarding process that we do with clients that we’re getting better and better at.
You’ve gone through a lot of growth and you’ve been there for years. What was the number of employees when you started there?
I was employee number thirteen.
I always say that the numbers go from the ones and threes, when you go from 10 employees to 30 and from 30 to 100, and 100 to 300. How has the company changed in that time period, from the 13 to 60?
Massively. I’ll be whimsical and nostalgic. When I first applied to KlientBoost, I thought they were a much bigger agency. The way that the branding was set up and the thought leadership that was coming out of it, I assumed it was an 80-person agency operating out of LA. When I applied, I suddenly realized, “It’s a thirteen-person company.” We were in a little office above Starbucks. It had shown that startup environment thing.
I remember Johnathan in my interview wearing shorts. He’s casual. Nerf guns around the office. It felt like a true startup and that is very informal. The way we manage things is a bunch of smart people in a room. We were sitting shoulder to shoulder and we could figure things out. Sometimes it was shoulder to shoulder because we couldn’t figure out where to put more desks because we were growing so much. COVID has made it to where we’re all pretty much operating virtually. Prior to lockdown, we had our own building with multiple stories, multiple teams, systems processes. We’ve grown up into more of a professional company but managed to maintain some of that fun stuff still. Johnathan still wear shorts in the office.
How about the leadership team? How have you had to evolve as a leadership team in terms of the day-to-day?
Johnathan oversaw everything. It was a bit siloed. Johnathan would have a meeting with 1 or 2 marketing people he’d had and then he would. We have a meeting with our director of PPC that time to go over the operations. He would have a meeting with me to talk about sales. There wasn’t a lot of cross-communication. Eventually, Johnathan decided, “I’ve got to have lieutenants for this stuff.” I’m going to be putting Richard onto the leadership team had another person on our design team. It was a group of three to start with.
I was the one that facilitated our leadership summits in a more professional beating of the drum communication patterns because I had some of that in his head. What took for us to get to this next step of business experience. Johnathan got the company to $2 million on pure hustle. The guy is unstoppable when he has an idea about 30 employees or so required him to start leaning on other people and learning from other people. That’s where the first leadership teams appeared. In order to make that next jump from about 30 to 50 or so, we introduced more of a middle management layer and a lot more processes and systems to facilitate that communication. When you’ve got things like project management tools, structured cadences of meetings, and reporting set up everywhere, it’s different than, “Let me grab the person to my right or to my left.”
In terms of building out that first leadership team, were they all internal hires and promotions? Were there any external hires?
It depends on how you define it. In my case, I joined up with the company. The funny thing is I started as an account manager because I had been doing sales and I said, “I’m not sure if sales is for me and I want to get into the operations path. I’m going to be an account manager.” Johnathan, in my first interview, was like, “Why don’t you come and do sales?” I was like, “Thanks but I want to go down this operations path. I’ve done the sales thing.” After two weeks, he was like, “Are you sure you don’t want to come to do sales for KlientBoost?” I was like, “No. I’m pretty happy doing this.” After two months, he’s like, “I’ll pay you more money. I’ll put you on the leadership team. Please come do sales.” I’ve only been there for about two months before I was put onto the leadership team. Originally, I had planned to be an account manager. We’ve hired heavy hitters for our operations team, but no one on the leadership team has come from the outside.
You’re not at that stage yet. That’s an interesting problem you have to deal with when you’re hiring that first external hire.
I do have one quick story on that. We have tried to hire once for a leadership position from outside. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well. We tried to hire for a high-level sales position and it didn’t work out. We’re still learning how to do that.
It’s a tough hurdle, but you get there. Talk about what it was like in terms of promoting some of the internal people into the leadership team and you’re leaving some of their friends behind. How do you deal internally with that communication, keeping people feeling safe and feeling loved when their buddy became their boss?
It happens at different levels of the organization and it happens all the time. I was in a conversation talking about some entry-level people that are getting promoted into the next level and how will their peers that started at the same time feel about it. Of all the places I’ve worked, KlientBoost cares tremendously about their employees and making sure to keep them motivated and feel part of it. That being said, we’ve fostered an environment of team thinking. It’s highly competitive, for sure. We hire people specifically that are competitive and want to be the best. We call it family. Sometimes we jokingly call it a cult. It can sometimes blur that line a little bit. Everyone’s pretty supportive of the success.
Kim, who’s our VP of client services, was originally one of our top account managers. She was one of the people down there in the trenches with everyone. When she was promoted in that pathway, everyone was happy for her. It becomes one of those things when you are put into a leadership position and then asked to manage people that were your peers previously. It can create an uncomfortable dynamic. Through empathy, through excellent leadership and management skills, you managed to smooth that out okay. You look to support those peers and help them achieve the same ranks you have.
It sounds like you also operate with a bit of a meritocracy where people were proud of her because she was getting good results. They got it. They understood it.
It’s a little bit different when it’s new services or new routes that we’re going out and there’s different decision making that goes into it. For the most part, we do anonymous surveys for our employees monthly and quarterly about specific directors and everything. We’ve got pretty good taps on how people feel about stuff. When someone’s upset, we do our best to get in there and solve those issues and keep us as one big happy family/cult.
It makes sense why it’s working. You’ve mentioned cult a couple of times. I’ve talked a lot about building a world-class culture.
Culture, that’s a better word.
Culture is a derivative of the word cult. You think about building a cult and building that culture. To build an amazing company, it has to be a little bit more than a business and a little bit less than a religion. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, The Vow, about these cults where the guy who is leading it is going to prison. I’ve been talking to two of the head people, one who I’ve known for years and one who is based here in Vancouver. Speaking to them both about it, you realize the indoctrination and the passion.
They were in every show of the cult. They’re in this thing. It’s crazy watching to realize they were indoctrinated, excited and passionate that they couldn’t see the problems. There’s a lot to be said for understanding how to build a cult inside of a company to keep people excited, indoctrinated and staying with us for five years instead of leaving after a year. First off, tell us what your culture is like. Secondly, what do you think you’ve done to stir that Kool-Aid to make that culture stronger?
Number one, like most good cults, we’ve got a charismatic leader. You probably get a lot of the CEO-COO balance. I’m different than Johnathan. At the same time, I admire what he’s been able to do in regards to our culture and everything. He’s managed to balance this fun, crazy, go-getter mentality while still being financially successful. We hire people with a highly competitive drive. It took us a little while to get there. We didn’t realize we were doing it but we finally took a step back and we came up with our core values. Our core values are, Push yourself, be Accountable, be Resilient, be Transparent, and also focus on Your. Focus on yourself and your clients. If you put those two together, that’s a party. In our office, we have a gigantic PARTY written out.
The only thing I don’t like about core values is when you build them into an acronym. Five core values were good. I’m like, “You crushed it,” and then I’m like, “You lost me at the acronym.”
Here’s a funny side note. Originally, we had push, fun, accountable, resilient, and transparent.
Those don’t work because they’re single words. They’re confusing.
They did. The acronym then was PFART. We all thought it was pretty funny. We melded it into the acronym.
When we were building 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, our core values ended up spelling the word PIPE. What we didn’t understand and when we opened up in Quebec, we learned quickly that pipe is the French word for blowjob. We decided to get rid of the acronym and go with the core values that we believed in. We did believe it. We did like the core value wrap up as well. You obsess about the core values. They’re not just on the wall. How do you obsess about them? How do you live them? How do you reinforce them?
You talked about the Kool-Aid. The amazing thing about it now is that it’s self-fulfilling. Part of what we do is we are selective about hiring. We do a lot of personality testing to understand the underlining drivers to get people that are highly competitive or will fit into our goals if that makes sense. From there, you put enough people that have those same type of core values into the leadership team and that then goes to all of their subordinates.
I still feel that to this day, all the people I work with are some of the smartest, most driven people I’ve ever worked with in my career and they do it while having a ton of fun. It’s hard to describe the Kool-Aid effect that we have where everyone’s like, “This is the most incredible job I’ve ever had.” There’s stress. We’re a work hard, play hard company. We’re not perfect by any means. One of the things we talked about in our mission was, how do we be the best in the world at this while having the most fun? Agency life can already be a grind. By having that fun aspect to it has helped carry it through.
Give me a couple of examples around that. How do you do it to ensure that people are having fun? How do you reduce stress and overwhelm when people are stressed?
COVID is still a bit of a wrench in this. Pre-COVID, part of it is a lot of the perks that we do. We were doing massages, meals, and the standard agency stuff. Also, we’re pretty big on our parties. Every single time we hit an MRR milestone, we do that. The parties we did were crazy. We went to Hawaii. We rented a yacht. You feel like you’re working with your friends because there’s always lots of jokes going around the office and those things. Johnathan can be a bit of a prankster. There’s always bets going on and everything. There’s been that thing leading into all that we do.
In pandemic times, it’s a bit harder because we’re all working remotely. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Slack. Slack has been our only way of carrying that water that is our culture, the jokes, humor, GIFs and memes. It’s even in the way that we communicate. I don’t want to say that our culture is purely about fun and jokes. It also is a call to our core values, which is yourself holding you accountable. We have those tough conversations. Also, on a Friday, we’ll play trivia and giveaway prizes and have a lot of fun.
I caught that on the work hard, play hard. I used to say that our culture at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was, “Work hard, play hard but results first.” We’re going to play hard but we got to be getting the results. We were much a life-balance group. There’s a great tool that you could put in place for you and your team now remote, it’s called WorkPlayJam.com. They host and facilitate trivia nights and bingos and scavenger hunts. They’re cool. They’re in the business of running Coed intramural sports leagues for 150,000 people. This is their jam.
I am not a normal laugh out loud guy. I did one of these for all of our COO Alliance members. One of our team who’s known me for years called me afterward and he’s like, “I don’t know what you were smoking but you were laughing hard for 90 minutes. I’ve never seen you do that.” He’s a personal friend. We trained for my marathon together. He was at my 50th birthday. He knows me well. I was like, “You’re right. I was laughing my ass off for 90 minutes.” It’s a great way to get your team to connect and have fun. Maybe check that out because it blends nicely with your culture, for sure. When you have to make hiring decisions based on the core values, how do you incorporate them into your hiring?
Core values are a hard specific judgment on new people coming in because everyone coming in has a different resume. One of the things we lean heavily on, we have a technical vetting process where people have to answer technical questions. We’re also doing video interviews where people have to record themselves on camera so we get a sense of how they communicate, which is important to us. A big thing for us has been implementing the DISC surveys, the personality index for the Dominant, Inspirational, Steadiness, and Compliance. Those tests, I’m always shocked by how accurate they are when asking a few questions. We’ve built a model of our business around doing that as a check process.
What’s Johnathan’s DISC profile?
Anyone that knows DISC will maybe get a kick out of this. His D and I are through the roof and he’s got no S or C.
I didn’t even know that there was a C in DISC. I thought and stopped at S. I’m a 98 D and a 74 I. I’m far off on the D. It’s crazy.
Johnathan is a 98 or 99 D and a 90-something I. His C is a two.
It’s like, “What the hell does compliance mean?”
Johnathan is our resident risk-taker. I’m our resident risk calculator. I’m a 60 C.
I used to say that I love rules because it keeps the idiots away from me. Rules aren’t for me. It’s to keep my path clear so I can go faster. Have you had to fire people based on core values?
How do you do that and how do you have that conversation?
We even hesitate to use the word fire. The technical term a lot is managing out. We generally will give the benefit of the doubt to people and give them quite a bit of runway. When we recognize that someone is not hitting benchmarks, not hitting results, it’s a conversation. What we try to get these people to do is to recognize where they’re going wrong, what behaviors might be bad, and then challenge them to fix it, challenge them to prove it, and show that they can make this happen. We say, “This is the expectation. If you want to do it, do it.” If we keep that expectation on them to change or they have to make the decision and they can’t do it, they eventually leave on their own.
Managing them out is okay because of the results. That one is reasonably easy. How do you manage them out because of core values? Have you done anything there at all?
That’s a trickier one. We have a few examples of this. I don’t want to name any specific names or be too specific. In those cases, those conversations tend to be a little less structured. We have to still point to the behaviors that come out and point out those behaviors that they’re doing that don’t match in with it. If they are hitting results but don’t match our core values, sometimes it catches up to them in the end. If it’s someone that’s a director, they may be getting negative responses about them and everything and they’re aware of the problem or where they’re not matching it. You can follow the pattern.
Core values, they usually know. Sometimes results, they’re a little bit more obtuse to it. Talk to me a little bit about your day-to-day. What do you focus on day-to-day as a leader?
In my case, the trinity of KlientBoost is myself, Johnathan, and Kim, who’s our VP of client services. Both myself and Kim, our titles are pretty specific but our roles are broad. Kim knows a lot of these questions about DISC and hiring. She’s a fantastic people manager and working through those types of things. I’m generally seen more as the operation systems project person. I’m generally the one that’s running our agendas for our different departmental meetings or leadership meetings, putting together the strategic things we’re focusing on in accordance with the vision that Johnathan has put together. Also, because I am in numbers and I have a background in sales, I also sit over the sales team and over finance. I’m the numbers guy. Sometimes, it can be a little bit of, “That sounds fun, Jonathan. We have a P&L we have to meet.” Sometimes that can be a source of friction. My role is working through different departments to fix an operating system so we run more efficiently and hit more of our metrics.
You mentioned that you’ve got some meetings in place and you put some of the meeting rhythms in place for the organization. How do your meeting rhythms work? What types of meetings Do you have inside the organization?
Our system has gone through several evolutions. We have a monthly strategic meeting with Johnathan to make sure that we’re online for the vision and the biggest things. That’s a metric heavy meeting where we’re going to be a little bit more like, “Where are we at? What do we ship? What do we need to do to get this right?” Johnathan is the type to lay out some high-level expectations. We make sure we’re clear on the goal and then we’re off and running. We then have bi-weekly cross-departmental meetings to avoid that silo effect. We’ll have sales, marketing, operations, finance, and HR all in the same meeting to hash out any cross-departmental issues. Sales and operations have this thing we’re trying to broker figure out. I’m usually brokering those types of cross-departmental meetings. Each department head has its own weekly cadence check-in. What are the things we were assigned? How are we working on it? Are we pushing towards our goals?
You mentioned the strategy but then you talked about being metrics. Do you spend much time on a strategy where you’re blue-skying and brainstorming and thinking a year out?
We always have lots of ideas. We have no shortage of ideas and good ideas. It’s always a question of prioritization and which one do we want to do first. To be honest, we’re not a company that generally plans a year out. We’ll sometimes engage those in a quarterly summit. We’ll think about the five-year, ten-year plan. We’re a tactical company. It’s about, what are we shipping this month? What are we shipping this quarter? There are large vision aspects but we usually don’t detail those out to an extreme.
What about your one-on-one meetings with your direct reports or your team, do you do those? How do they work?
It depends on what’s going on. I’m a big believer in EOS models. We run on our adapted EOS. My weekly one-on-one is with overseeing finance sales. For a while, I was overseeing HR as well. Usually, we have a project list that we’re looking at together and solving problems. I’m in a servant leadership model. I’m trying to figure out, like, “What are the problems that you need help with?” They’re usually structured around specific things for that one. There’s also an accountability aspect to it, “You said you were going to give me this, this week? Is that still going to happen?”
When do you get into mentoring and growing them?
There are two different one-on-ones that I have. There’s usually the 30-minute tactical business. Let’s talk about it. Monthly we have what we call HCIBBFY, How Can I Be Better For You, meetings. Those are ones that operate as more of a casual dialogue where we can get them to talk about like, “As a manager, how am I doing? What can I do to serve you better?” It’s a time to talk more about what they’re looking to do. All of my directs, if they’re struggling with something or I feel like there’s some teachable moment, I’m quick to pick up a phone and go on a walk and chat with them for 45 minutes to an hour.
Have you ever had to have tough discussions with them? Are they pretty good at this point?
I don’t have a lot of direct, so I don’t want to be too specific. I’m impressed with all the people that I’ve directly managed. When there are issues that come up, I’m the type that I don’t tend to operate personally or emotionally. I’m not necessarily like a sage that’s been doing this for years. I’m only a couple of chapters ahead in the leadership book. I try to give them as much of the benefit of my experience as I can and coach them through the different stuff. I also get coaching because I need to develop more and more as a leader. There’s an environment of coaching and personal development that we have as a company.
Where are you getting coaching?
We use a company that probably does the personality assessments, they’re called XQ Innovation. They offer different personality assessments, things you can implement in your HR processes. They also do consulting. They do a lot of executive consulting. When myself, Jonathan, or Kim are at a point where we’re like, “We’re too inside the box to figure this problem out or broker this or work through this issue.” They’re the independent third party we can reach out to.
You mentioned EOS and Traction. Are you working with an implementer for that? Are you self-implementing?
Self-implementing to the best of my abilities.
How’s that going?
It’s a process. We had the entire company read What the Heck is EOS?, which is the light version of Traction. I was one of the few people that read Traction full way. I’m also a big fan of the book Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman and Mark Winters. I’m identified with the integrator trait. Johnathan is very much of the visionary trait. I’ve probably borrowed a lot more heavily from that book than I have from the EOS and Traction, but it is built into a lot of our processes and how we operate. We went through the book, “Here’s what we liked, here’s what we don’t.” We tried to implement it as best we can. Maybe to get to 100 people, we may have to revisit it and open all of those processes back up again.
We’re going to have to get you into the COO Alliance as well because the entire room is filled with integrators. There are no CEOs allowed.
It’s a safe place.
I started the whole thing because I used to go to all these EEO and YPO events and I didn’t fit in. I was the COO. I realized there was no place for us to sit down. As an example, if I was talking to a bunch of CEOs, they would say, “We got to get all the right people on the bus.” They’d be like, “Yeah. Good talk on recruiting.” I’m like, “That was a phrase. We didn’t talk about recruiting.” Meanwhile, with the COOs, we could spend two full days talking about recruiting, interviewing, selection, onboarding, types of questions to ask, top grading, and reference checks. The CEOs, their eyes would be glazing over. It’s a good space to get into it. How about yourself? You came into the organization in sales. You’ve grown up in the organization. How are you working on your skills as a leader?
I’m always looking to push the boundaries in terms of my ability to coach and manage. I’ve looked to push my data skillsets. I do not have the time anymore with my position to be able to get into the nitty-gritty of stuff like I used to. I’m trying to teach others to operate in the same way I do. I’m still on the hunt for a true protégé that I can teach all these skills to. You mentioned something, a skill you’re looking to work on. I’ve massively improved on one. One thing that I had to work on a lot was empathy and leadership.
In my case, early in my operations role, there was a situation where Johnathan said, “We’re going to roll out this new comp plan. I did the math and everything.” “Richard, you came up with the comp plan. Go explain it to people and get them to sign on to this new comp plan.” I approached that exercise too much as a math guy and being like, “Here it is. Here are the numbers. Here’s your comp plan.” I stepped on some toes. I didn’t handle that conversation. I was thinking too much about the numbers, the business and not enough about the people that I was talking to. We got a lot of taps in. When the survey came out about me, I knew the rumblings but I didn’t realize the statistical math picture of how bad I had messed up.
Part of my training that I did with XQ was working on empathy and being a better communicator with people and their feelings, understanding them, listening, and everything. You worship guys like Spock and Data. You’re like, “Logic is all you need. Emotions are illogical.” I worked on improving my EQ quite a bit. My 360 survey came out. I’ve smoothed over that bump. I’ve got a lot more people that now comment on my excellent communication skills with it. It’s something I’m always aware of. It’s something I need to balance.
The bump keeps coming, too. When you get to 100, you got to hit the next level of EQ too. It’s art and science. Have you ever come across the name Walter O’Brien?
No, I haven’t.
He had the fourth highest IQ in history. He hacked into the NASA computer system when he was twelve years old to steal the blueprints for the space station and got arrested. The TV show Scorpion is based on his life. I talked with him years ago. We did a call for about an hour together, just he and I. I’d been hacked and I reached out and somebody said, “Talk to Walter.” I’m like, “That’s a little overkill.” When I was talking to him, he said that he has no EQ. He has no emotional intelligence. He operates like a computer. He doesn’t recognize innuendo or humor. His brain doesn’t track that way. While you could learn it, he has an inability even to understand that it should exist. He understands logically but it doesn’t make sense because it’s 1s and 0s coming in. It’s data. He’s a freaking human computer.
At one point, we were talking and I said something and I was like, “It was a joke.” He goes, “I was thinking it might have been a joke and I wasn’t sure.” I’m like, “You don’t even get it. That’s extraordinary.” I would die working with him because I’m always sarcastic. He would completely miss the sarcasm. If we were going to go back to the 21-year-old Richard and give him some advice, what advice would you give the 21-year-old you that now you know to be true?
Besides the obvious stuff like read more books and find a mentor. In my early twenties, I made a career change. I originally went to film school, so then I joined up with that other company. In that other company, I always felt as long as I was learning it was good. I want to tell the earlier me, like, “Get out on the road. Try things. Be riskier.” I learned a lot in the past positions that I had but I may have stayed at them too long. My advice to my younger self is to be more of a risk-taker.
It’s awesome. I love it. Richard Uruchurtu, the COO for KlientBoost, thanks for sharing with us on the show. I appreciate your time.
- XQ Innovation
- What the Heck is EOS?
- Rocket Fuel
About Richard Uruchurtu
Richard Uruchurtu III was originally a film school grad, who left film freelancing to join a small media company as an editor. During his time there, he went from editor to manager, to training director, to sales director. And the company itself grew from a small shop to a 35+ employee, $2.2 million in revenue business that was eventually acquired. This quick growth path gave him some amazing experience in multiple disciples such as management, sales, marketing, and – above all – operations.
Wanting to expand his horizons, Richard made the switch to the agency world and hasn’t looked back since. After managing sales at multiple agencies, he finally found his true calling at KlientBoost.
Since joining KlientBoost he has used the entirety of his experience to work with the leadership team and their CEO, Johnathan Dane, to achieve some outrageous growth. Growth like doubling in size every year (and showing no signs of slowing down).
While a rapid growth agency is a lot of fun, it can also be chaotic. To handle their growth curve he’s been the main “Integrator” of their operating system that KlientBoost now runs on. They’ve gotten so big now that Richard stepped out of his sales roles entirely to focus specifically on their internal processes and operations.