EP 340: Managing As An Introverted, Anxious, and Autistic Boss: Tara’s Interview On The Rebel Therapist With Annie Schuessler

Jun 8, 2021 | Mindset & Identity, Operations, Podcast

In This Episode:

  • How I decide what roles to hire for (and why understanding our team structure is key)
  • When it’s time increase capacity by hiring versus fixing messy operations
  • Why you don’t want to clone yourself to get more done
  • How product and operations can overlap to creating some really exciting opportunities

When I say I’m an introvert, I mean I’m a hardcore introvert.

People don’t believe me when I say that because I’m loud and enthusiastic—but being loud and enthusiastic is not the same thing as being extroverted.

If you spend more than an hour with me in a social situation, you’ll see the life drain from my eyes as my internal batteries release their last burst of energy.

I wish I was kidding—but I am not.

I also happen to be an introvert surrounded by extroverts.

I’m an internal processor surrounded by external processors. I’m an avoider of small talk surrounded by people who love small talk.

It’s a tricky situation.

Who are these people? They’re my team members—and among them, my husband.

Sean and I often joke about how unfortunate it is that I’ve ended up with so many extroverts in my life. Not because there’s anything wrong with extroverts but because it can be exhausting!

My friend Annie Schuessler asked if I’d be willing to talk about managing a team as an introvert and I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned so much about team-building in general over the last 5 years but I’ve also learned a bunch about how to put guardrails in place around my own energy and bandwidth as I work with my teams.

Since recording this interview, I’ve also started to talk publicly about how the way I work and relate to others is filtered through the lens of autism. So many of the things I’ve always thought of as a result of introversion and social anxiety are present because of my autism.

I am introverted, I do have social anxiety, and I’m autistic.

That’s a pretty thick soup to be wading through as a manager.

The main reason I wanted to share that before you hear this interview is because my experiences as an introverted boss may be quite different from your experiences if you’re also an introverted boss.

The other reason reason I wanted to share that is because, before I had the framework of autism to make sense of my life, I was constantly working against myself in an effort to fix things I perceived as problems & deficiencies.

While I’m still working to become a better manager and leader, I’m also looking much more objectively at how I can build structures that don’t require me to work against my nature quite so often. In so many ways, my autism is a strength for business-building, writing & podcasting, and team-building. But it takes work to embrace those strengths when they’re so different from what other people expect!

Alright, here’s what you’re going to hear in this interview—Annie and I talk about how I find team members, why you need to know what you’re really hiring for before you start looking, how I’m onboarding new hires now, and why you don’t want to clone yourself.

Tara McMullin: When I say I'm an introvert, I mean, I am a hard core introvert. People don't believe me when I say that because I'm loud, and enthusiastic. But being loud and enthusiastic is not the same thing as being extroverted. If you spend more than an hour with me in a social situation, you'll see the life drain from my eyes as my internal batteries release their last burst of energy. I wish I was kidding, but I am not. I also happen to be an introvert surrounded by extroverts, an internal processor surrounded by external processors, an avoider of smalltalk surrounded by people who love small talk. It's a tricky situation. Who are these people? They're my team members and among them my husband. Sean, and I often joke about how unfortunate it is that I've ended up with so many extroverts in my life. Not because there's anything wrong with extroverts, of course, but just because it can be exhausting to me.

My friend, Annie Schuessler asked if I'd be willing to talk about managing a team as an introvert and I jumped at the chance. I've learned so much about team building in general over the last five years, but I've also learned a bunch about how to put guardrails in place on my own energy and bandwidth as I work with my teams. Now, since recording this interview, I've also started to talk publicly about how the way I work and relate to others is filtered through the lens of autism. So many of the things I've always thought of as a result of introversion and social anxiety are present because of my autism. I'm introverted and I do have social anxiety and I'm autistic. And that's a pretty thick soup to be wading through as a manager. And the main reason I wanted to share that before you hear this interview is because my experiences as an introverted boss might be quite different from your experiences if you're an introverted boss.

The other reason I wanted to share that is because before I had the framework of autism to make sense of my life, I was constantly working against myself in an effort to fix things that I perceived of as problems and deficiencies. And while I'm still working to become a better manager and leader, I'm also looking much more objectively at how I can build structures that don't require me to work against my nature quite so often. In so many ways, my autism is a strength for business building, writing and podcasting, and team-building. But it takes work to embrace those strengths when they're so different from what other people expect. All right, here's what you're going to hear in this interview. Annie and I talk about how I find team members, why you need to know what you're really hiring for before you start looking, how I'm onboarding new hires now, and why you don't want to clone yourself. Keep listening to hear me share what works for me on The Rebel Therapist podcast with Annie Schuessler.

Giving people something to work on that they're proud of that they're engaged with, that's the responsibility that I'm talking about. And I think having employees is one of the best ways to tap into that for yourself. And I think that kind of responsibility is really key to building a great strong business.

Annie Schuessler: This is Rebel Therapist, a podcast for entrepreneurs who are trained as therapists and who want to level up their businesses, make a bigger impact, feel fulfilled and be very well paid. I'm your host, Annie Schuessler. We're talking about building your team today. Have you experienced a nightmare with hiring or managing a team member, or are you imagining a future nightmare because of what you've heard from your peers? Are you confused about what role you should be hiring for, or whether it's time to hire? Our guest Tara McMullin leads two successful companies and she's about to share her experiences building and managing both of those teams.

A bonus treat for me is that she's an introvert like me. So we get to lean into some particular challenges and solutions for introverted bosses. If you want to hear an earlier episode with Tara from two years ago, head to episode 102 of Rebel Therapist, which I'll link too in the show notes. A little more about Tara, Tara McMullin is a business strategist, podcaster, writer, and producer. She's the founder and host of What Works, a platform for small business owners building stronger businesses. She's also the co-founder of Yellow House Media, a podcast production agency that helps small business owners produce standout podcasts to grow their businesses. Welcome Tara, thank you so much for coming back.

Tara McMullin: Annie, I am thrilled to be back and I am thrilled to be talking about this topic.

Annie Schuessler: Yes. So let's jump right into it. When you are hiring a team member, how do you usually find them?

Tara McMullin: So I have found team members predominantly in two ways. The first way, is that I know people and they need a job and they have skills or a personality that I also need. And I say, "Hey, have you ever thought about working for me? This is the job I in mind." That's how I found our full-time community manager at What Works. I had worked with Shannon years and years ago at Borders Books and Music. We were co-managers together for a while. And when she got laid off from her previous job, I was, "Oh, this, this woman would be good at this job. She knows nothing about it, or how to do it, but I can teach her because she would be perfect." And so that's how I found that person. And then that's worked out like that a couple of other times as well.

The other way that I predominantly find a great fit folks is through my network. So I might put a job description out on social media to my audience. I might take a job description and think about the people I know who might know someone, or maybe they know a little bit more about the job than your average social media follower, and I trust that sort of insight that they have. And so I ask for referrals that way. But I have never tried to look for someone in that way and not come up with great candidates really quickly. So I haven't had to do, I don't know, does monster.com still exists? I haven't had to do like an online resume kind of situation before. It's always been through my network, through people I know, whether it's one degree of separation or three degrees of separation, I can find somebody like that, no problem. And they've been amazing.

Annie Schuessler: I mean, I've seen it. They have been amazing. So I'm so in love with your answers. And a lot of times people who I'm working with ask about what VA agencies they should get started with. And I always say don't, I always say, start with, and so I'm talking specifically in this moment about hiring a virtual assistant, which can mean, I know a million different things but is a very varied kind of job. But I always recommend that people don't go through a VA agency, they at least try doing what you just described of looking at what do I actually want this person to be doing in my business, describe that, and create a job description around this person loves doing this kind of work and that it's more about their preferences and their intelligence and their personality, more than they are super familiar with convert kit or with this or that platform. What do you think about that?

Tara McMullin: Completely 130% agree. I hear from a lot of folks who say, "I know I should hire a VA so that I can save time," but they don't entirely understand what a VA does. It's well, before you hire anybody, you have to figure out what you actually need. And I would venture to say that as much as nine times out of 10, maybe eight times out of 10 is not a virtual assistant. Sometimes it is. But most of the time I would say that it is not, and which is not to put any virtual assistants out of business, right? There is a place for that and I think it can be a solid business to be in, but most businesses have specialized needs and virtual assistants can only make that business model work by delivering some sort of standardized service.

And unless your needs meet that standardized service, and that only applies more when we're talking about a VA agency, as opposed to working with an individual VA, unless your specific needs meet that specific set of standardized services, you're not going to actually get the support that you really need. So instead, I find that a lot of folks need support with customers and scheduling or clients and scheduling. And yes, a VA can do that, and lots of other people can do that as well. And there is probably someone that you can find who will be a great fit for you, a great fit for your business, a great fit for your clients, pay them a really good wage and get out cheaper than if you were to hire a virtual assistant who is managing their time and money in a different way.

And so I just want to underscore, or one of the other things that you talked about, which was writing a job description. And I think one of the things that hiring virtual assistants has allowed people to do is get out of writing job descriptions, because a VA by design is going to tell you, "Here's what I do for you." That goes back to that standardized service package idea. And that can work, but again, unless what you need is that package, you're hiring extra, you're hiring not enough, and so you're either overpaying, or you're underpaying, underserviced, and it's just not good for anyone.

And I think that's why so often I hear the horror stories about virtual assistants. It's not a virtual assistants that are the problem most of the time, it's the business owners. And it's not because the business owners are bad people, but it's because the business owners don't understand what they need because they didn't pause and write a job description based on what's actually happening in their business, what they actually need support on, and the type of person that they're actually looking to bring onto their team.

Annie Schuessler: A lot of times I see people wanting to hire a VA when what's going on is that things are messy in their business. And I think sometimes that doesn't mean hiring a VA. I think sometimes that can mean simplifying things. I mean, I know you're all about that. We could talk about that for another hour, so I should probably keep us going with your wisdom around building teams.

Tara McMullin: I really could talk about that for a whole hour. I am planning on it when we talk about team building in June.

Annie Schuessler: Yes.

Tara McMullin: So we'll circle back on that one.

Annie Schuessler: This is a huge topic, but can you tell us about something that you found that you do now when you onboard new people that maybe you didn't do in the past and you're glad that you kind of figured this out?

Tara McMullin: Yes. Okay. As we were talking about before we hit record, I literally sent an onboarding email to someone yesterday. A new employee at Yellow House Media, a new production assistant that we're super excited about. And most of my recent hiring experiences on that side of things at What Works are the people who have been with us have been with us for years and so all of the things that I didn't do properly at What Works in terms of onboarding people, I have not had the opportunity to fix, but I have fixed them at Yellow House or I'm getting there at Yellow House. So some things that I would have loved in the past to have had a better system for is one, introducing a new team member to the business itself. So what is this business about? Why do we exist? What is our unique position in the market, and why is that important?

These are the things. I used to be a trainer back in my retail management days. And I loved training. I loved telling people about our company and about our store. It was super fun for me mostly because, it was this, I was talking in front of people and I just always loved to do that. But that was something I knew was missing from my hiring process. And so with this hire in particular, I was thinking about what is a low lift way, a low energy way, energy investment way for me to introduce this new hire to our company. She talked with Sean and I in two interviews. We had told her, but there's only so much you can get in in that time. And I think to be a really, really effective employee, she needs a little of that backstory. She needs to know why we do things the way we do them, not just the process itself, but like just the business in general.

So I realized that, thankfully, because I am a podcaster and because I like to talk about my own experiences on my podcast, I had three podcast episodes, oh no, I had two podcasts episodes of mine and then I had two podcasts episodes where I had been interviewed or where Sean had been interviewed, where we talked about the genesis of the company, why we do things the way we do things, right. So I said, "Emily, I am totally paying you to do this. This is part of your onboarding, part of your training. Go listen to at least a couple of these interviews. You're just going to have a much better idea of what we're all about." So that's thing, number one, that I was unbelievably excited to figure out just this week. So that's the first thing.

The second thing was that we need her basically to get started as quickly as possible, and we know that she can. She has the skills to get started as quickly as possible, but obviously there's still training involved. The jobs that we have at Yellow House are not jobs that exist elsewhere, or there's not many people with those particular sets of skills. And so we have training to do. Well, one of the things that we had in mind at Yellow House from the very beginning is that we wanted to be very, very process driven and we wanted to make sure that our processes were completely documented all of the time. Because we knew we were going to be doing team building. We knew that this business only worked, if we could bring additional people in to do our jobs. And so we built those things out from the get go.

What that allowed us to do was then take those processes and build them out into a customer facing product. So all of that, all of those processes, all of that training that we've done between Sean and I, between our existing employees and with our clients exists in short videos, and templates, and all this good stuff inside of our membership community called Standup Podcast Club. And so the other thing I did in this onboarding email was sent Emily an invitation to Standup Podcast Club and said, "Hey, we're going to walk you through the specific training here, but if you want to get started ahead of time, dig into any of these videos, any of these modules that look interesting to you, and you're going to learn stuff that applies to your job."

And so I realized, and I knew I was doing this at the time, but I didn't realize how sweet it was going to be. I have the kinds of training videos and training manual that I would have given someone at Borders Books and Music when they were coming on board. I have it now in my own business that I can just say to someone, "Go watch those videos and you'll learn an important piece of how to do your job."

Annie Schuessler: Because Standup Podcast Club is where you're helping people with their podcasts?

Tara McMullin: Yes. Yeah. So we have our, and it's completely our client facing systems. So the workflows that we have, the templates that they use, the development, the strategy guides that we guide them through when they're our full service production clients, the Standout Podcast Club is for people who want to do it themselves or who are working with other teams, but want to utilize sort of the strategic component of what we do or the quality component of what we do. So all of that stuff is just built out there that anyone literally can purchase access to, but here I've got an employee and it is equally applicable to her because it's literally the same stuff we do inside the company.

Annie Schuessler: That is really lucky. I mean, it's not lucky because you created all of it, but it also is I love how that all lines up.

Tara McMullin: Well, I realized that this might not apply to your audience, but it's one of the beauties of a productized service business, which basically means that we have a process that we follow for every single client, we have a standardized set of services, just like I was talking about with the virtual assistance. It makes a ton of sense for what we do and how we do it. It allows us to grow, not everyone's the right fit for us, and for that standardized service, just like with the virtual assistant, but it means that we have a standard process that I can sell to someone else and that I can share with a new employee so that they can get ready to start producing work as quickly as possible.

Annie Schuessler: 100%. And having a productized service is really what I recommend to therapists who want to move beyond private practice. That is really, I mean, I know it's not going to work for everybody, but that is the best thing to try. The best thing to try first. And it does have this huge advantage of then you're creating something that you're going to be repeating and that you can easily, much more easily explain to an employee. And I also love what you're saying about documenting absolutely everything that you're doing. And I have, for me, my whole life is in notion. And if I'm ever doing something like writing an email or anything like that, where I'm like, wait, is this in my Notion? Because if it's not I'm going to take the five minutes to put it in there and it's always worth it.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Absolutely. Yes, completely agree. I do it in Notion. I do it in Google Drive because Yellow House is moving out of Notion and into Clickup right now.

Annie Schuessler: No.

Tara McMullin: What Works is still on Notion. But we need way more robust project management.

Annie Schuessler: Wow.

Tara McMullin: As you know, podcasts are a lot of different moving pieces and we've got many different people, many different moving pieces. It does a lot. So ClickUp is a better fit. But so a lot of documentation actually happens on Google Drive. And that works out better for our clients as well. Their Notion can be a bit intimidating for them. The other thing that I use a lot for documentation though, is Loom. Oh my gosh, just mind-blowingly awesome for showing people how to do stuff. And so actually a lot of our training is done on Loom as well. So I can pull up a template and talk people through the whole template, explain what goes where, how it might apply to them, and those are the kinds of videos that are sitting in Standup Podcasts club, but they're also the kinds of videos that are just linked in our templates for our clients.

And that helps me actually deliver, or it helps our team deliver our service more efficiently too because we don't have to explain to our clients everything they need to do, it's in video. And so when we are talking to them, it's really just, "All right, what do you need right now? I don't have to explain anything that is standard to you. We're just talking about your needs." The other thing that I wanted to add here too if you don't mind, is that I think we really separate product development from operations when we think about our businesses, and we typically put like systems and process in operations, and then product is over here, and we really love tinkering with product because it gets us into our happy place and our zone of genius, and all that good stuff.

But I think there's a real opportunity to see where those two things overlap and they overlap a lot. And the more we think about operations as a product, literally, if you were to create your business as a business in a box, something that you were going to hand off to somebody else, what would you want in there? What is important to the way your business runs? What would someone need to know? That's operations and it is like building a product and the reverse applies as well. If we think about our product as the inspiration for our operations and the structure for our operations, then operations doesn't seem so disjointed from reality, it's baked into how we do what we do. And I think it doesn't just make it easier to wrap your head around it, it also makes it more fun to execute. And to your point of keeping things simple and maybe even not having a team, I think if we can make the process of doing the business, running the business, not working with clients, actually doing the business work fun, then we're more likely to actually do it ourselves. And most of these businesses, if you want, can be run by one person.

Annie Schuessler: Okay. That's really great. Rewind that and listen to that again. So you have moved from, I know now it's a long time ago that you were mostly working with contractors and you've been hiring employees for a long time. What did you notice that the impact of that change was?

Tara McMullin: Oh man, the biggest impact of that change was a feeling of I'd call it, I just felt really liberated to get work done the way I wanted to get work done, my work and their work. My contractors had always operated as they were on team Tara or team quiet power strategy, or they were never on team What Works, because What Works has always been employees. But I didn't realize how much more of their support, and their brain power, and their focus would be available just by saying you're an employee. And if you haven't experienced that shift, it probably seems how could it possibly be different? My contractors love me or they love working on my stuff or we get along really great. That's awesome. But when they're an employee, they literally are tied to the success of your business, whereas when they're a contractor, they're constantly weighing and balancing different opportunities.

And even when you're working with a part-time person, that person feels a sense of responsibility and ownership over the mission of your business in a way that a contractor just never is going to. And that has very real repercussions in how people do the work, in how your or customers interact or engage with those people, and how those people interact with your clients and customers. And I cannot overstate how wonderful it feels to have people who are working with me toward a goal, as opposed to people who are hired guns coming in, working for me toward a goal. Does that make sense?

Annie Schuessler: 100%. Yes. And some of these people were your family members too, you've said?

Tara McMullin: Yes.

Annie Schuessler: So it wasn't, I've heard you say that in public, so I'm not exposing something wild.

Tara McMullin: No.

Annie Schuessler: So it's not they weren't committed to you already, it's really it feels very much an energetic shift.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. And I think the other thing to add onto that as well is that when you have employees or at least from my experience moving people from contractor to employee, I suddenly started showing up in my own business differently. Before it was me and my work and what I need to get done, and, oh, I have these other people who kind of helped me do it. When I hired employees, I suddenly became employee number one. And that has always been true, right? But it doesn't sink in, at least it didn't for me until I started paying other people to show up at different times of the day, be available different kinds of hours. And so there were very logistical things that I started to do differently, like working 9:00 to 4:00, or 9:00 to 5:00 [inaudible 00:28:23]. But mentally it was a big shift as well in terms of what my responsibility is.

And I know one of the objections people have to hiring employees is, "Oh, I don't want to be responsible for someone else." And that's not really the kind of responsibility I'm talking about. I'm talking about the responsibility of being available for people, creating space for people, holding space for people, giving people something to work on that they're proud of and engaged with. That's the responsibility that I'm talking about. And I think having employees is one of the best ways to tap into that for yourself. And I think that kind of responsibility is really key to building a great strong business.

Annie Schuessler: In a moment, we'll get back to Tara. First, are you a therapist or a healer who wants to create an offer beyond private practice? Are you ready to create what's next? I want to invite you to apply for create your program. This is my five week process to expand beyond private practice. You go from having an idea or even a whole bunch of ideas to actually launching a pilot or a beta program. This is a small group experience where you'll get a lot of brave work done in a supportive group of driven and open hearted entrepreneurs like you. You'll also get a ton of support from me. This is for you. If you're a therapist or a healer and you want to expand your business with a clear structure and support, go to rebeltherapist.me/create to learn more about it and apply. All right, let's get back into it with Tara.

So, okay. Now you've got a whole team, you've got the responsibility, how do you handle... You're an introvert, like I'm an introvert. How do you handle meeting and being available, and keeping everybody abreast of what's going on? How do you do that without it taking up all of your time?

Tara McMullin: Well, Annie, it's taken a long time to figure this out. So I should say that the people that I work most closely with Shannon, and then my husband, Sean, are both extroverts. And they love to externally process things, whereas I'm very happy to internally process things literally all day long. That is my happy place. Or if I'm not internally processing it, I'm furiously typing it out into a Notion document to process it, right? And so I have had to figure out what is the balance of when I am available for their needs and more specifically, even their external processing, versus what is the appropriate amount that I do need focused time to do my job? Because yes, I'm a manager, but that's actually not the biggest part of my job. It's a really, really important piece of my job, but I'm also the marketing director and a lead content consultant for Yellow House. And there's all of those other aspects of my job that I have to do to keep them having their jobs, right?

And so it is not selfish of me, which is something that I struggled with for a while to say, I'm not available at this time. The office door is closed either digitally or in Sean's case, actually. This is not the time. So that's a piece of that. One thing that's helped solve that is that we have a standing Friday morning meeting. And so anything that is not legit urgent, Shannon knows we'll talk about it on Friday. And I am there for it. And those meetings can be long. We've had a good two, three hour meetings on a fairly regular basis, but for me, even though those meetings can be exhausting because they're long and I'm externally processing things with people, it is better for me to have that concentrated time than to have that meet it out throughout the week. So that's one thing.

Another thing is that just setting clear expectations. So I need them to know that my focus time is important and that even when they have a quote unquote, quick question, that quick question takes me out of my focus, it takes me out of my flow and that will actually result in a 40 minute delay.

Annie Schuessler: Yes. And there's research telling us that, right?

Tara McMullin: Yeah, exactly.

Annie Schuessler: [inaudible 00:33:28], deep work. Yes. This feels so important even for people who don't have teams, but are just looking at how they work and in interest of maybe building a team someday, it's like, I love what you said about realizing it's not selfish, that I know today, I didn't start working until relatively late in the day, and I was thinking, "Oh, some people would think this is a really late start." And once I started working, I had five different content ideas that I got to write down quickly that I'll be able to turn into things. And I was thinking, if I didn't have that spacious morning to just think there's no way I would have come up with all of that. So it's not selfish, it's part of your internal technology to need that focus.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. And I think there's a really important business structure component of this as well. One of the first things I encourage people to do when they're thinking about building a team, whether it's in the short term or the very longterm, is to create an org chart for their business, an organizational chart. And so for a lot of businesses in kind of our spaces that essentially looks like a sort of executive hub, which is the small business owner most of the time. And then I kind of divide it out into marketing and sales, product and ops and admin, which includes finance as well. So executive hub, and then those three hubs, again, marketing and sales, product and ops and admin. And then within that, what are all the different jobs that need to get done in your business?

And the reason this works really, really well is because we think of our jobs as one job, and there's a very long to-do list for that job. But that is not actually the case. We don't have one full-time job. We have 12 quarter time jobs, right? And so the more you can actually see, oh, I'm doing this job and this job and this job in this job and this job, you realize that you have to make space for that time. And so Yellow House, even though we're a team of seven, there are still multiple hats that I wear. I don't just get to be like I said manager, I don't just get to be CEO, there are other things I have to do. I'm still working with some of our clients. I still have to show up for calls. That's a hat that I wear in that business too.

And so just like I would hire someone to do a particular job or maybe a particular few jobs in that org chart, and I'd have to make sure they had the space to do those jobs and the time to do those jobs, I need to respect myself and my own jobs that way as well. And so executive time, which is that thinking time that you were talking about, that's an important job that I have. And if I don't take space and time and bandwidth for that job, then nobody else has a job either, because I can't run a business if I can't think about it. Or it's not going to go anywhere. So there's that.

There's the marketing component, I have to make sure there's time for that. Yes, there's the management component, so kind of falling under ops. I got to make time for that. And it can be a little overwhelming, it can be daunting, but it's also really helpful to see it all laid out, so you know what your responsibilities are. You know what someone you're hiring, what their responsibilities are and what their relationship is to you in different ways, and that helps you communicate expectations in terms of when you're available, why you're available at certain times, when meetings are, what meetings are about. But I think you do really need to have a clear understanding of the work that's actually being done in your organization, even if you're an organization of one.

Annie Schuessler: What are some of the things you look for where you think, oh, it's time for this person to hire someone? And when do you think, I don't think hiring is the solution for this?

Tara McMullin: Such a good question. The main thing that I am looking at anymore with a business owner is where they are maxed out on capacity, and whether they're maxed out on capacity because the number of people they have that want their product they can't serve, or they can't serve the full number of people who would like to buy, or whether they're maxed out because there are operational challenges that are making it difficult.

Annie Schuessler: Things are kind of messy?

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Things are messy. There's just too much. They're trying to offer too many things, they're trying to be on too many marketing channels, all of those things that takes up capacity. And so with someone who has more demand than they have capacity, that to me is a no-brainer, that person needs to hire. And most likely that hire needs to be a hire that is going to help you expand capacity, not just in terms of taking admin off your plate, but in terms of actually delivering some component of the service or the product. And that might be customer support and it might be scheduling. It might look kind of adminy tasks, but I think if you conceive of the role of actually helping you serve more clients, serve more customers and give them better experiences because this person is helping you deliver that offer, it makes it way easier to wrap your head around spending money on that person.

If the situation is that your capacity is limited because things are a mess or things are overcomplicated, that is not a good time to bring in a hire. It doesn't mean you might also not need to hire, you might need to hire a sometime soon, but if you bring someone in to a really messy, over complicated system, you are setting them up to fail, which sucks for them, and for you, and for your customers or clients as well, it sucks for everybody. And so when I see things that are messy or potentially messy, that's the first thing I want to understand. What's really going on here? What are all the different moving parts? How can we clean this up? What are you doing that's not actually producing results?

Because a lot of people are doing a lot of things that aren't producing results, and those are the things they think they should be delegating. It's no, no one should be doing those things. So we get rid of that stuff, we get rid of the bloat, we get rid of the extraneous to do list items, and then we say, okay, what is the work that I need to hire for to expand capacity? And does the demand on my business actually require me to expand capacity? Because let's say you're a high end coach offering retainer services at a few thousand dollars or more per month, maybe you need six clients to bring in a really nice chunk of change for your family. You don't need to hire to expand capacity, that's enough for most people. And you can run that business by yourself. But if you're trying to do all this other stuff, because you think you should, or you're kind of carrying baggage with you from other experiments, you've got to have 12 funnels, you've got to have every social media platform going on.

Annie Schuessler: Yeah. That is you don't want to hire into that and you don't need that. Look at what you actually need, that kind of been the theme here. Look at what you actually need and then either hire for that thing or realize, oh, I don't need to hire.

Tara McMullin: Yes. Oh my God.

Annie Schuessler: So brilliant. So you mentioned that the people who you work with most closely are extroverts, do you purposely marry and hire extroverts or is that something that's happened by accident?

Tara McMullin: That was a mistake. I know I don't need that, right? Okay. So the story with Sean is he introduced himself to me as an introvert. He was working in the service industry at the time and he felt that he needed lots of decompression time, lots of alone time. And so we were just two happy introverted clowns for three and a half years. Then we moved to Pennsylvania where he was not working in the service industry anymore and he was not talking to friends all the time. And the story goes that he was already, I could tell he was kind of agitated. He wasn't super happy. And we're sitting in the living room one morning and the mailman walks up onto our porch to deliver the mail and Sean bolts out of his chair to open the door just so he can say hi to someone who isn't me.

And he turned back around and he always says something like, "Just don't, I know." And I was like, "I think you're an extrovert."

Annie Schuessler: [inaudible 00:43:29].

Tara McMullin: So that was a mistake and a lie. Now, working relationship, it actually works out great because he loves being on Zoom [crosstalk 00:43:44]. It's great. And he is happy to hop on with someone in the middle of the day unexpectedly. He really appreciates focused work time as well and he does really love just doing his own thing on his own too. I don't want to throw them under the extrovert bus, but an extroverts are wonderful, I love them. I'm not hating on extroverts, they just exhaust me.

But it works around great because we have a super clienty kind of business. We have to be talking to people. And the fact that he can take on so much of that and I don't have to, it means that I get to do the things behind the scenes that are more valuable to our business, for me to be doing, and he's doing what's most valuable for him to be doing for our business. And that's awesome. With the Shannon, I didn't know that she was an extrovert when I hired her and because I was hiring her into a social role, that one was very deliberate. I knew I needed an extrovert for all the same reasons that Sean is great now with our clients, I needed someone to be available to members on a 40 hour per week basis. Someone who could take phone calls, who could answer direct messages, who could answer email from people, and do so really excitedly.

She loves talking to people. That's really important to my business and it's not my skillset. I love talking to podcast hosts such as yourself. I love getting on a live stream and talking to my webcam. I love speaking on stages, but being on call for conversations is not my jam and it's not the best use of my time, which is not to say that it's less valuable work, it's more valuable work at this point to my business, but that's why I pay someone else to do it so that I can do the things at What Works that are my most valuable use of my time.

Annie Schuessler: That makes so much sense. And depending on what that job description ends up being, it seems those of us who are introverts or those of us who were extroverts, it's looking at what does this person need to love doing, especially to see it when it's not what we love doing all day.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. I think a lot of people get into hiring thinking that wouldn't it be great if I could just clone myself? And I really want to disabuse people of that notion, it would not be great if you cloned yourself. You would have doubled the problems that you have now because you'd have double the weaknesses and you'd have double the strengths. And it just creates a really imbalanced, out of balance operation. Whereas if you hire someone for the things that are really important to your business but are not in your wheel house, that's going to be much better. So I try and write that into my job descriptions as much as possible. I don't say this is a job for an extrovert. I would never say that. I don't know where that would be on the line of legal or not.

Annie Schuessler: Right.

Tara McMullin: But it doesn't matter. I would not ask for that. But would do want to know if I'm hiring them into a social position, that you're a people person, that you love asking great questions and having great conversations, that's literally how I would put it on a job description. And that can fit a lot of introverts as well. A lot of introverts tell me they love having those one-on-one conversations. That it's not me, but it is some other people. So that's what I'm looking for because yes, I need them to do certain tasks, but one of those tasks is talk to people. And so that particular personality trait is really important if instead for this production assistant job that I just hired for, I need someone who is really good at being meticulous with the details. Let's not even say detail oriented, because that can mean a lot of different things, but really cares about making things match, and making things line up, and making things sound good, and just feels the responsibility of that in a good way.

Annie Schuessler: Yes. They're very thorough with it.

Tara McMullin: Yes. Thorough, or thorough is a good way to put that. I don't remember the word that I used in the job description. But that's the kind of thing that I'm trying to describe so that there is a personality component of the job that actually is an incredibly important tangible piece of the job. Does that make sense?

Annie Schuessler: 100% yes. And I'm just thinking about, I know he's going to hear this, but my editor, Cosmo, there've been so many times when I'm, "This particular part, it doesn't have to be as perfect as you're trying to make it." And he's just, "Actually it does. This actually, I can't put this down until I've got these levels that you don't understand the way that they need to be." And that's my kid and I hired him when he was 14. So that's just how he is.

Tara McMullin: He's just wired that way. That's awesome.

Annie Schuessler: Thank you, Tara.

Tara McMullin: Thank you.

Annie Schuessler: Now, I'm going to loop back to share some takeaways that particularly stand out to me from this conversation. Takeaway number one, the team member you're looking for is probably already in your orbit. Tara has found her team members by looking to people she already knew or who were in her network.

Tara McMullin: I haven't had to do like an online resume kind of situation before, it's always been through my network, through people I know, whether it's one degree of separation or three degrees of separation, I can find somebody like that, no problem. And they've been amazing.

Annie Schuessler: Take away number two, document everything that's repeatable that you do in your company so that you can easily share it with a team member. We talked about using platforms like Notion, ClickUp and Google Docs, and most of all, using video through a platform like Loom video.

Tara McMullin: The other thing that I use a lot for documentation though, is Loom. Oh my gosh, just mind-blowingly awesome for showing people how to do stuff.

Annie Schuessler: Takeaway number three, switching from hiring contractors to hiring employees made a big difference in Tara's experience within her companies. She noticed an unexpected level of liberation and feeling supported by her team.

Tara McMullin: But when they're an employee they literally are tied to the success of your business. Whereas when they're a contractor, they're constantly weighing and balancing different opportunities.

Annie Schuessler: Takeaway number four, even if you're a company of one now, Tara recommends making an organizational chart. That's going to help you see that you're actually doing many jobs and it'll help you organize your time, respect your energy limits, and get ready to hire your next team member.

Tara McMullin: The more you can actually see, oh, I'm doing this job and this job and this job and this job and this job, you realize that you have to make space for that time.

Annie Schuessler: Those are four of my takeaways. I want to know what stood out to you. Did this conversation help you avoid a hiring mistake? Are you thinking differently about your business and your role in it? Are you surprised by how many jobs you're actually doing? And if you go ahead and make your organizational chart, I would love to know what you discover. Send me an email info@coachingwithannie.com, or even better include a voice memo so I can share your voice on the pod. You can find out more about Tara at explorewhatworks.com. I want to thank the very detail oriented Cosmo Palms for editing this podcast. If you found this episode supportive, please share it with your favorite therapist or healer. That's how we help more people with their unique businesses. Thank you so much for listening and I will see you next time.

Host of What Works

Tara is a podcaster, small business community leader, strategist, and speaker. She’s been helping small business owners build stronger businesses for over a decade.  

Tara McMullin, What Works Weekly Newsletter

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