The #1 Digital Agency Podcast for Social Media, SEO, PPC & Creative Agencies

After deciding to leave the mean streets of LA, where he worked as a police officer for 13 years, Jason Smith started working at the leading Facebook and Instagram advertising agency Tier 11. He eventually moved to create his own company Spotlight Social Media Consulting in 2016. Today, he joins us to talk about the key factors that have helped him grow his team and making the decision to bring a VP of Operations.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Having a good foundation to grow your agency. For Jason, an integral part of growing an agency is having a great team that have your back and know what they’re doing and are team players. People you can trust with the tasks that you’re delegating and also, why not, people that you like.
  2. On hiring a VP of Operations. Many people are afraid of this step because of the cost it entails. But Jason has seen his agency really evolve since hiring his VP of Ops. Now his agency has SOPs, there are clear steps to bringing new employees and clients onboard, and a new project management system. Definitely worth it.
  3. The right Facebook ads agency will be a great partner. Make sure you ask the right questions when looking for a Facebook ads company because the right one will help you triple and quadruple your business and become a great asset to your brand.

Sponsors and Resources

Oribi: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Oribi. Check out Oribi.io/smartagency for a free trial. Plus when you sign up for Oribi get 20% off the first three months with promo code: Smart Agency

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How Hiring a VP of Operations can be the Best Call to Grow Your Agency

Jason Swenk: [00:00:00] On this show. I talk with an agency owner who talks about how he has grown his team, how he's grown his agency. And when is the right time to bring in a VP of Operations and how did he do it? So let's sit back and check out the episode.

Hey, Jason. Welcome to the show.

Jason Smith: [00:00:24] Hey, how are you doing? Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Jason Swenk: [00:00:27] Yeah, man, I'm excited to have you on, I've gotten to know you over the past couple of years, but for the people that have not heard of you yet tell us who you are and what do you do?

Jason Smith: [00:00:35] Yeah, my name is Jason Smith, owner and CEO of Spotlight Social Media Consulting. We're a, uh, Facebook and Instagram only, I say only because we're not an all-in-one, we're Facebook and Instagram only ad agency. So we do paid media for Facebook and Instagram.

Jason Swenk: [00:00:52] Awesome. Now you have a quite interesting story of how you became an agency or really even what you were doing beforehand. So, yeah, I think it's interesting just to tell people kind of where you came from.

Jason Smith: [00:01:05] Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Crazy story, actually. When I tell it, people take a 360-degree turn and they're like, wait, what? So I was a, a policeman for the Los Angeles Police Department for, gosh, just about 14 years before I became an agency owner. And the reason why it's kind of crazy is because I went from getting shot at, chasing gang members, getting into shootings, all this stuff, and the mean streets of LA.

And literally, I mean that literally, I mean, we're talking about 250 homicides in six square miles in a year, and very violent places in, in Los Angeles. And, uh, went from that to, you know, the thing that kinda drove me to look for something else was number one, I was never home, was in court all the time. My days off were filled with court and overtime and it was just, you know, I never get to spend time with my family and I just, it was getting old, real fast.

And it sounds cool when you're up on the stand testifying as a gang expert or weapons expert and all this stuff. But in hindsight, personally, it's not that fun. So, and you know, I've been involved in tons of, and literally tons of stressful situations. I've been in shootings and been shot at and all that stuff.

And, man, for making $80,000 a year doing that. I just wanted to start looking for something else. And I stumbled across an opportunity where, you know, running Facebook ads was a core part of one of my friend's businesses originally, like with a supplement company. And he just kind of asked me buddy to buddy, like, hey dude, do you want to help me do these Facebook ads?

I'm like, yeah, I don't, I'm a dumb policeman. I don't know how to do this, but let's try it out, you know. So I ended up getting some good results and then I did a little bit more research and ended up finding a certification course. And gosh, the rest is history. And next thing you know, I have, I had 10 clients, not even a year later and making, you know, 30,000 a month, which I never thought possible from home. And yeah, it was pretty cool.

Jason Swenk: [00:03:05] So which is more stressful running an agency or getting shot at?

Jason Smith: [00:03:09] Man, I don't know. I’m just kidding. Well, it's funny because people will. You know how clients are sometimes. They'll try to intimidate you or something or say something to you. I'm like, dude, relax. Okay. It's not that doesn't work on me, okay.

So, and when I, when I shoot back stuff to them, they're like, Oh wow. This guy is not going to take my usual agency fluff here, right. You know, so it's pretty funny.

Jason Swenk: [00:03:33] I interviewed an ex-Navy Seal and he was basically was like, look, we just went over so much of training when we get in situations. Like, we weren't stressed.

And I was like, that's a great principle to apply, like in your agency, like go over this scenarios is over and over again. And it shouldn't be that stressful.

Jason Smith: [00:03:52] Right. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don't get stressed too much. Even my wife tells me like, man, you don't stress over anything. And I'm like, well, you know, after being shot at and being all these stressful situations, not, not much more in life is going to stress me out, you know?

So. Pretty funny. Even the guys on my team, stress out about stuff. I'm like, guys don't, don't stress out about that stuff. Just everything will work out, so.

Jason Swenk: [00:04:16] How has your agency grown in the past couple years? Like, what are some things that have worked for you that you wish you knew back when you were just getting started messing around with Facebook?

Jason Smith: [00:04:29] Yeah. Well, I mean, number one, I think having great people behind you and supporting you. That's probably the number one thing. I mean, you know, I'll never forget how I found you was through Ralph at Tier 11, but it was funny because the first time I applied to work with you, you denied me because I wasn't big enough, right?

But that was great motivation. No, no. And Hey, I mean, that's, and that's why you have an elite mastermind that you do because you get to pick and choose the people in it. And that's very important. And, um, I mean, I think number one, support and people behind you, I mean, Ralph and Deacon, those guys at Tier 11 have, you know, and still helped me today.

I mean, those guys have been an integral part of why I've grown and there's no, like, even though we're the same, we do the same thing. There's plenty of business to go around. They're just cool guys. They've helped me a ton. Um, I could call Ralph right now and say, hey, you know, what do you think about this? And he would, you know, he would tell me and we could talk about it.

So, that's I think probably the number one thing that's helped me the most and then being a part of, you know, probably your mastermind and the group and the support there. I can go to you or anybody else. And I mean, gosh, I just went to you recently, right? About some stuff and was, and you helped me out.

So that probably for me is the number one thing. And number two is having a great team, you know, having a great team of people who you can, you know, like, and trust. And not get bogged down with people you can't trust or waste your time or whatever. Those are probably the two things that helped me the most grow the agency and where I'm at today.

And I mean, I literally started from nothing. Like I had no clients, you know, and I tell the story on my podcast and Deacon from Tier 11 is the one that gave me, like my first two clients. And then it just kind of went from there. So, having that support structure and those people in your life. And I say your life, because it's not just all about business and you know, you and I could go out and have a drink or something.

And we're good friends. I think outside of the business world, you know, we also like the same things, right. You used to ride motocross, you're a big Jeep guy. So that's very important, so.

Jason Swenk: [00:06:34] Yeah, we'll party this summer.

Jason Smith: [00:06:37] Can't wait.

Jason Swenk: [00:06:38] I know. Talk about your team because a lot of people listening, they may be trying to scale their team, trying to grow their team. Where did you find them? How did you find them? How'd you evaluate them? You know, because, you know, that's an integral part.

Jason Smith: [00:06:53] Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I mean, most of my team came from recommendations from the mastermind, um, your mastermind and, um, Ralph actually helped me out. Ralph and Deacon over there at Tier 11 helped me on how to kind of screen people, give them a little bit of a test, have them record a loom video. You know, you can tell a lot about a person when they record a quick video. And of course, they're going to be nervous and I think I'm a pretty fair guy. Like I can kind of read through the bs and the nervousness and stuff like that.

But when it comes down to the core values of who they are as a person, you can tell a lot by just a five-minute video and it's, we send them basically a little test and say, hey, I want, give me a five-minute overview of this test. And it's not so much of a test. It's really just like an aptitude test of how much they know about Facebook because I. We all do it on resumes.

We all overcompensate for all this stuff, right. And, um, for them going through this competency test just shows me how much they know. And then what I do is send them over to my VP of operations. And actually my VP of operations came from a referral from a friend of mine. He used to be a professional skateboarder was, was in the upper ups of Ogio. You know, the company, Ogio, big company.

He used to work for them because he was a pro skateboarder. And then when he hurt himself, he went to work for Ogio and loved the operation side. So I got to know him. And just a cool dude, you know, and that's really what comes down to it in my opinion. And yes, they have to have a good work ethic, but if they're going to be part of your team, like, you gotta like them, right?

You really do, you know, and people say, oh, well, keep your personal side out of it. Well, I mean, I tend to think there has to be a personal side in it to make a team really solid, a good culture and a team that you can trust. So that's kind of how we evaluate stuff and really it's me talking to them or interviewing them. I have a pretty good, from my background and experience as a policeman, I have a pretty good idea of a person, right. When I talk to them.

Jason Swenk: [00:08:50] When they're lying or not.

Jason Smith: [00:08:52] Yeah. Just slap them around a little bit, you know?

Jason Swenk: [00:08:55] So, are you the good guy or the bad cop or good cop? Who would you play?

Jason Smith: [00:09:00] You know, it's funny. A couple of people that I've met, like clients have said, oh man, you're, you're such a nice guy, but then when I saw you in person, I was like, oh man, like this dude, could do some damage.

I mean, I'm not the tallest guy, but I, you know, whatever it is, what it is, I'm all tatted down. And I don't, I definitely don't look like the normal marketer. And I do talk about that in my podcast, how I went into this Facebook ad agency world and I don't look like your normal agency owner, and it's pretty funny. But I try to be the good guy, unless the bad guy has to come rear its ugly head. And if it does, you better watch out cause you may get pistol-whipped or something, you know.

Jason Swenk: [00:09:36] I love what you said about, yeah, you have to like them. I think it's… and you have to have that similar belief in the values that you share as an individual, because I used to hire the wrong way where I would try to hire my identical twin because I'm hiring someone to pick up the clack for the stuff I suck at.

And then if I hire my twin. Well, now we're going to have two people that suck at this one thing. It makes it a really big challenge. So a lot of times you have to figure out what do we personally believe in. Like, do we believe in resourcefulness, do we believe in failure and success and all this kind of stuff. And then, and it's not just about quizzing them and saying.

Jason Smith: [00:10:23] Right, right. Yeah, exactly.

Jason Swenk: [00:10:25] Coming up with scenarios that you can have them describe that a little bit with that.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Jason Smith: [00:10:32] Well, and too, I actually made the mistake one time of hiring somebody who is too entrepreneurial. If you know what I mean? Like when you're an owner of a company and you're trying to hire like exactly what you said, you can't hire your identical twin because that twin is then going to want to take over and be too entrepreneurial and almost do his own thing, you know. Which, you got to follow the systems, you got to follow the policies we have, right.

And an entrepreneur will not follow that. They need to be out doing their own thing. Um, and so I look for that as well. Like especially being a team player. And that's one of the, my biggest red flags is they say anything about me, me, me, then I'm like, then I kind of, have to side-eye them a little bit and say, I don't think this is going to be the right fit. So.

Jason Swenk: [00:11:19] If you're like many agency owners, it's very hard to show results and show value to your clients for the hard work that you've done. And up until now, you've probably been using Google Analytics, which is really kind of clunky and hard to use and just been around a long time. And there really hasn't been an alternative until now.

And I want to tell you a little bit about Oribi. Now I've checked out this tool and it's really pretty cool. It doesn't require any code for you to track interactions and conversions. There's no more jumping from different platforms. You can track your social and paid media really all in one place. And it really allows you to build smart funnels and get tons of insights. I mean, literally, I've even set it up where I could say I want this visitor to get to this particular page and it will tell me what's the likely chance that they're actually get to this page and what pages are actually coming from.

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Let's talk about your VP of Ops of when you were looking to bring them on. Like, walk me through that scenario because a lot of times people don't know when to bring on that person. So what was the scenario of like, what was lifelike like in the agency and then we'll talk about the next.

Jason Smith: [00:12:58] Yeah, well, actually I had come to you about that probably what a year and a half ago, and was like, hey, I had a couple account managers that were managing accounts. And what I noticed really quickly was that there was all this information in my head and things that I was trying to disseminate to them and balls were being dropped. You know, client communication wasn't the best. And they were coming back to me often saying, hey, Jason, I don't really know what to do here.

And I'm like, what do you mean you don't know what to do? But it was in my head. It wasn't on paper, in an SOP, in any operations was not in the agency. And that's what I needed at the time. And you're like, Jason, you're just going to have to drop the money because I was worried about, do we make enough as an agency?

Like how much does one of these guys costs? I mean, all the things you don't really know about. And then when I finally found Eric and it was almost, it was a referral, I didn't really know he was good at operations. I kind of hired him to be a video editor because he's a high level video guy. And then he's like, oh, by the way, I'm also really good at operations. And I'm like, oh shoot, really? Awesome.

And then he's like, hey, I've been looking at all this stuff at the company. And I could really come in and help out with SLPs. And, you know, we didn't have a project management system at the time. Like we didn't have Trello or. Uh, I mean, we had Slack, but Slack is not a project management system. It's a communication tool, right?

And we kind of talked about it and he came in and all of a sudden, next thing, you know, six months later, we actually have things documented and hey, this is what you do to like reach out to Facebook and, and appealing an ad account that's been disabled and everything started coming down in writing, and it was really cool to see that process evolve.

And it's still evolving today. But it makes it easier for when we bring on somebody new. Hey, okay, review these videos. This is the kind of first step here. And, uh, yeah, we've evolved a lot as an agency since then. It's been pretty cool.

Jason Swenk: [00:14:50] And walk me through when you actually started onboarding him or when he started, did you just kind of give him like, here's what we need to do, go do, and then he'd just go execute. Or did he start coming up with all the, you know, hey, getting off Slack as a project management tool and that kind of stuff.

Jason Smith: [00:15:05] Yeah, no, he was great. I mean, he, he had the experience from Ogio to be able to come in and say, okay, these are the top-level things that we need to integrate, which is SOPs and what happens in this scenario and, you know, Facebook's pretty complicated.

So there was a lot of things and we kind of sat down one day for half the day and he just went through and picked my brain on everything and just kind of wrote it down. What are the most important things when we onboard a client, like we need to have a system for this stuff. So, you know, the account managers, when they onboard somebody, they can just check the boxes, which is really cool.

And I mean, honestly, he's been probably one of my biggest assets in the, in the company and the growth right now. And he went in and went in lucid chart and like mapped out, okay, you guys, we're going to have 10 account managers by this date and we're going to be doing these things. And. It's really cool, you know, to have somebody like that. And, um, at first I thought, man, I gotta pay him all this money, but look how much money we're making now. It's pretty awesome.

Jason Swenk: [00:16:03] Yeah. I mean a lot of people, they go, well, I don't know if I can fill up this person full time, because I think the holdup in their mind or their, their mindset is I need to come up with everything that they need to go do.

Which I think is a mistake, and a lot of people don't really.

Jason Smith: [00:16:18] Right. Well, not really, but yeah.

Jason Swenk: [00:16:20] Yeah. It's just like, I have to detail everything I want you to go do, rather than just saying here's where the agency's going. Now you're the how person. I'm the where and why you're the how, right. And you just go execute it. And like you said, you hired the right person. It's going to be amazing.

Jason Smith: [00:16:38] Yeah. And you may not hire the right person the first time, you know, I mean, and don't get me wrong. We've had our ups and downs and we've had our disagreements and, but that's just, I mean, that's life in general, you know, and you just gotta get through it.

He's a great guy, great person, very organized. He's an operations dude. That's exactly what I needed. You know, cause I am not an operations guy and I do not know how to go into Trello and build boards and cards and all that. Like, I hate doing that stuff. So I'd rather be talking to somebody about our agency and how good we are at Facebook ads and, and running high-quality Facebook ads. That's what I'm good at.

Jason Swenk: [00:17:14] Awesome. Well, this has all been amazing. Jason, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the listeners?

Jason Smith: [00:17:20] No, I just, uh, the only thing I do want to add is, is when you're ready to hire an agency for your Facebook ads, make sure you interview them. You have some great questions for them.

If you have a resource that you can reach out to, to ask if, hey, if this agency is good or whatever, don't blame the current agency coming in for all the stuff that happened before, because chances are, you know, if you hire the right agency, they can be a good partner.

And I want to stress the word partner because a lot of times. Business owners don't think a Facebook agency is necessarily a partner, but we're helping you grow your business triple and quadruple your business. And that's what we've done for companies. And that's why they'll never leave us is because we've grown them so much. And we're such an asset to their brand. They'll never, they'll never leave. So it's pretty cool.

Jason Swenk: [00:18:06] That’s awesome. And where can people reach out to you if they want to chat more about Facebook and I highly recommend they do an amazing job. So where can they go and check it out?

Jason Smith: [00:18:15] Yeah, they can go to, um, spotlightsocialadvertising.com or reach out to me. Jason at spotlightsocialllc.com.

Jason Swenk: [00:18:23] Awesome. Everyone, go check them out. Reach out to Jason. They do an amazing job. And if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners, like Jason and many others, and just really be able to have that sounding board, that board of advisors to show you or see the things you might not be able to see and just have a lot of fun doing it.

Make sure you guys go to digitalagencyelite.com. That's digitalagencyelite.com apply and maybe we'll have a conversation and then maybe you get to hang out with Jason and I and a bunch of other really cool people. All right. Till next time, have a Swenk day.