How VaynerMedia Scaled from 30 to 800 Employees
Welcome to Episode 43 of the Sales Influencer Series: the #1 podcast for modern B2B sales leaders. Enjoy the interview and take a look at our latest update to Ambition Trigger notifications - syncing live Salesforce data updates to TVs, Slack, Email and more.
Ep. 43: How VaynerMedia Scaled to 800 Employees
Introduction. 0:00 - 4:28.
Mickey Cloud joined VaynerMedia in November 2011. He was Employee No. 30 and the second person with an agency background to work at the company. At the time, VaynerMedia was very much a social media management firm - in the intervening years, it's scaled to a full-service marketing agency providing 360° services to much of the Fortune 500 as well as high-growth startups and the mid-market as well.
Background on VaynerMedia's Culture: 4:28 - 6:08.
VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk dictates culture from the top-down at the company. The number one driver for company culture is empathy - VaynerMedia actively seeks to enable employees to be themselves, feel comfortable and empowered at work, and eject unconstructive people, ego, and politics from the workplace.
Mickey's Experience in Traditional Agencies: 6:08 - 9:11.
Prior to joining VaynerMedia, Mickey spent 5 years working on Madison Avenue in New York City for blue-blood Ad Agencies. He quickly became frustrated with a few transcendent problems: the silo-ing and silencing of talent, the refusal to operate in the customer's best interest (and just giving them the television commercials they wanted), and the slowness to adopt new technology and digital marketing channels in the halcyon days of 2008-2010.
The Essential Keys to VaynerMedia's Success: 9:11 - 15:25.
Gary began VaynerMedia with no prior experience and no idea how other agencies ran. He committed from Day 1 to a long-term view, keeping the company privately-owned, and applying the Silicon Valley "Fail Fast" approach to an Agency Model.
A way they put that mindset into action was hiring ahead of need - instead of reactively. The long-term mindset into to sell VaynerMedia, but to begin acquiring other brands and begin powering them with the VaynerMedia marketing machine, a really unique vision in the marketing agency space. The long-term ambition of the company is where everything else maps to - hires, processes, and go-to-market strategies.
Ultimately, Gary took the Golden Rule of 'improve top-line revenue' and figured out how to balance that commitment with a long-term focus, versus a myopic one.
How VaynerMedia Approaches Culture and Hiring. 15:25 - 21:33.
VaynerMedia has no codified playbook for HR 'Best Practices' and has instead codified its values through top-down actions and communication. One of the mantras Gary has dictated to Mickey is that his three priorities are: 1) his team; 2) the consumers of the client's products; 3) your clients - because if you take care of the first two things, you take care of the third one as a byproduct.
Example two: In his first interview with Mickey, Gary asked Mickey where he saw himself in 5-10 years. Mickey expressed an interest to return to the South (where he's originally from). At the end of the interview, Gary told Mickey that if Mickey gave Gary four good years, he'd be able to return to the South in a role with the company. Four years later, Mickey was tabbed to open and lead VaynerMedia's Chattanooga office.
Another example: a former employee, Adam Vazquez, expressed an interest to start his own company. He gained the company's blessing and now hosts The Startup Show, with Gary as one of its first interviews. And as people's interests evolve, the company seeks to maintain an open dialogue to meet those evolving needs - an initiative owned by the company's Chief Heart Officer, Claude Silver. The company seeks to actualize Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Executing Continued Commitment to Ethos. 21:33 - 27:41.
Everything boils down to people, processes, and communication. The company constantly audits its internal processes and seeks to make adjustments quickly. They also operate with a "Stress Flows Up" mentality. That is, employees should never engage one another negatively. If there is a disagreement, an employee should go to a higher-up, share their grievance or issue from the other person, and request guidance on how to handle it.
Positivity and optimism are huge characteristics of what VaynerMedia cares about. Mickey has resting 'serious face,' and is conscious about smiling more and detaching from his work to engage with coworkers and set the tone of a passionate, upbeat workplace.
VaynerMedia also actively seeks to create diversity of perspective, background, race, and gender. They emphasize the former in the interests of maximizing creativity and independent thought in their operations, and emphasize the latter to illustrate the absence of glass ceilings and equal opportunity for people from all walks of life to reach the highest echelons within the company.
Two examples: the company's hiring of acclaimed psychologist Claude Silver as Chief Heart Officer and ingenious Reddit hustler Dawayne Kirkland for a creative role.
The Honey Culture. 27:41 - 32:15.
The term Gary has coined for this overarching philosophy at VaynerMedia is "The Honey Empire." The idea: create a path to world-domination - creating the greatest marketing agency on the planet - will be done through honey as opposed to vinegar.
Going back to internal communication - this means treating others with empathy, passing along constructive feedback as an act of care, not as a way to put people down, and seeking to win the market with kindness, both internal and external.
Gary personally loathes the idealization of Steve Jobs - a noted a**hole for lack of a better word - and how he ran Apple. At VaynerMedia, the goal is to empower the team's best talent in creative ways. For example, by creating a VaynerExperience, a new events-based division of VaynerMedia, to be led by Kim Garcia - a longtime Sr. Vice-President seeking a new internal challenge to solve for the company.
VaynerMedia is not perfect, by any means. But the company pushes Mickey and his VPs to communicate internally with the care, frequency, and commitment given to curating marketing content for their clients.
How to Contact Mickey. 32:15 - 33:09.
Major thanks to Mickey for an amazing interview - we hope you enjoyed this episode and will see you next time on the Sales Influencer Series.
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The Sales Influencer Series Library
To check out further Sales Influencer Series podcast episodes, just click on the links below.
Episode 1. John Barrows
Episode 2. Lori Richardson
Episode 3. Max Altschuler
Episode 4. Matt Heinz
Episode 5. Mark Leslie
Episode 6. Kyle Porter
Episode 7. Jon Bradford
Episode 8. Eks Anderson
Episode 9. Matt Hottle
Episode 10. Heather Morgan
Episode 11. Ilan Ferdman
Episode 12. Ryan Jenkins
Episode 13. Tamara Schenk
Episode 14. Mike Weinberg
Episode 15. Scott Britton
Episode 16. Mark Kosoglow
Episode 17. Dionne Mischler
Episode 18. Ken Barton
Episode 19. Kevin Karner
Episode 20. Jill Rowley
Episode 21. Brandon Redlinger
Episode 22. Will Wickey
Episode 23. Drew Woodcock
Episode 24. Dail Wilson
Episode 25. Nathan Sexton
Episode 26. Tucker Max
Episode 27. Bruce Tulgan
Episode 28. Dallas Hogensen
Episode 29. Morgan J. Ingram
Episode 30. J. Ryan Williams
Episode 31. Emily Mikailli
Episode 32. Lee Bartlett
Episode 33. Rex Biberston
Episode 34. Marcus Cauchi
Episode 35. Gary Vaynerchuk
Episode 36. Joe Gianni
Episode 37. Jason R. Jordan
Episode 38. Mike Kunkle
Episode 39. James Carbary
Episode 40. Skye PoVey
Episode 41. David Priemer
Episode 42. Ryan Taylor