8 years ago, Jo Haynes left a dream job in marketing for Pernod Ricard to start Blink Republic, an Experiential Marketing Company. Blink brings brands to life through real-world experiences. Jo often needs to rapidly scale her team in times of high demand.
In this interview, Jo shares her learnings on what it takes to rapidly scale a team whilst maintaining the quality of delivery.
Tell us about your business?
We are Blink Republic, a marketing agency with experience at our core.
We use experiential marketing to create a ripple effect in a brand’s engagement and growth. Working with brands including AFL, Nike, Billabong, Cricket Australia, and Woolworths, and agencies including TLA and Octagon, we bring to life innovative experiences that have fans and brands talking.
Why is building a great team so important to your business?
As a business owner (who thinks about your business 24/7!) you have a vision and an ethos, but you can’t build a business alone.
Hire the wrong people and realising the vision will always be a struggle.
But get the right team and anything is possible.
I’ve found it can be one of the hardest parts of the job for any business owner. But over the years I’ve become more and more practiced, developed some systems to make it easier and even learned a few tricks to help the process go more smoothly.
What's been your worst hiring experience?
There are two experiences that really stick out for me.
The first was hiring for an operations role.
On paper, it was a great hire. They met the vision and the job description with an immense amount of experience, so we went ahead.
Then, following extensive (and expensive!) training, we discovered that he just wasn’t right when he was client-facing. We had repeated negative feedback from our clients.
The key in this situation was to remove this person as quickly as possible, to ensure he didn’t have a negative effect on our client or our team. We “ripped the band aid off” during a campaign which put extra stress on the team, but it was the best thing to do.
This experience taught me that corporates do personality testing for a reason!
The second was a hire for a sales role.
Again, the candidate looked incredible on paper. But we later discovered they had oversold themselves by about 90%. They were good at selling themselves, but not so good at getting sales for Blink Republic!
Unfortunately, because of the nature of the role (sales), it took some time before we realised they weren’t performing.
The lessons from that experience were to spend more time upfront finding the right person, making sure they had great references, and also putting clear KPIs in place so everyone could measure success (or not).
What is the single most important thing to successfully hiring?
Attitude and Trust (I know that is 2 things!).
You can teach someone how to do something, but you can’t teach attitude. And trust is vital in any relationship.
Do you use a process/system to hire now? What are the critical steps?
Over the years, we’ve nailed down a pretty standard process.
We start by clearly identifying the position we are looking to fill and detailing exactly what we are looking for. This includes asking some critical questions like; what are the objectives for the roles? How long do we anticipate for these to be achieved? Is it a contractor or a permanent team member that we need?
From there, we develop a detailed role description.
Next, it’s about identifying where to advertise. Different environments and processes work for different role types e.g. Linkedin might work best for some roles, whereas seek.com.au, or social media, or other online hubs work better for others.
And when we post a job, we are always super clear about how the application process with work, including what you expect and when. It just makes everyone’s life easier.
Once we have shortlisted our favourites it’s on to the interview stage, and generally that means a first interview with me, followed by one to two more with members from our team. I always look for and value the input from our team; they see things I miss and it’s important they feel there is a cultural fit.
We then issue a formal offer which is typically followed by a negotiation phase.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not just about the dollars but about the opportunity. And often it’s little things that aren’t immediately obvious that make all the difference.
So if we really want someone, I’ll go the extra mile to try and find out what makes them tick. Extra holiday, technology, a travel fund, a training fund, a wardrobe budget, or even a regular wine delivery for a wine lover have all formed part of packages in the past.
Lastly, at the start of their onboarding, if it’s a full-time hire, we set a 90-day plan with them. This includes clearly laying out expectations and scheduled regular catch-ups/check in’s. This is key for both parties; they know what is expected of them, and we have a clear way to measure success (or otherwise).
Do you use third parties to help you?
For short-term projects, when we typically use contractors, we have hired through Freelancer village on Facebook, Find a Finder’s Fee (FAFF) group on Facebook. Upwork and, People By The Hour, have both been useful in the past.
For our brand ambassadors in each state, we have partnered with Event Workforce or used Promo staff groups on Facebook. Our longest serving Brand Ambassadors (some have worked for us for 6+ years) have been recommended by friends or others who have been a part of our team.
What advice would you give someone hiring for the first time?
Start by nailing down the key objectives for the role. the more clarity you have on what you want this person to deliver over the next, three, six, or twelve months, the greater your chances of success.
Then write a really detailed role description. Write down a “day in the life” for your new hire. Think about what that looks like.
I have learned that I have a lot of information in my head. When hiring you have to relay this information (and lots of it) in a simple way, so take the time to get it clear in advance.
Then think about how will you measure the success; clear concise KPI’s that you can both measure are essential.
Lastly, the more business-critical the hire, the more time you should take. It can be tempting to hire the first person that comes along. But if they aren’t 100% fit, don’t do it. you will lost more time in the long run than hanging out for that right person in the first place.
How important are contracts?
Contracts have a role for some purposes. I think an NDA (nondisclosure agreement) is key to protecting your IP and business.
Contracts for long-term hires are a good idea. This helps everyone to understand exactly where they stand.
What has been the best hiring experience?
We have been very lucky; the majority of our hires have been amazing and grown with the business, staying with us for an average of 4 years.
Hiring takes time and when you have a business with hundreds of things going on at once, taking time to hire often feels too hard, but it is definitely worth it.
The first 3 months of having a new team member can be labour intensive from a training and onboarding perspective; but when you get it right, it can take your business to the next level.
Why did you decide to engage a mentor through MentorConnex and how was the experience?
I knew I needed help and MentorConnex just make it easy. It is like a dating agency for mentors! You identify your challenges and they match you with the ideal mentor to meet your needs. The process is clear, professional, and easy to use.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about connecting with a mentor but sitting on the fence?
Do it! You won’t regret it.
If you have the right mentor, and MentorConnex ensure this is the case, hiring a mentor could be the difference for your business…. we can’t do it all!
What’s next for you and for Blink Republic?
Looking ahead confidence is growing that we will be out of COVID and events are gradually starting to come back and more and more fans can attend sporting games now.
We have innovated to offer new products to meet today’s market – which feels like it has evolved 5 years in the past 18 months!
Brands need to build a strong relationship with their consumers and experiential marketing plays a key role in this.