I share very openly about the mistakes I’ve made in building my team, because I hope it prevents you from doing the same things. 

So, here’s a vulnerable admission to a big mistake: Until recently, I’ve been expecting my team to work basically all the time… like me. 

Maybe you can relate?

When you’re a hustling entrepreneur doing anything and everything to grow your business, it’s easy to get caught up and think, “Why can’t you work Saturdays? Why do you need time off when you have a cold?”

(I know this sounds awful. But honestly, this is what I used to think.)

We expect this kind of commitment from our team, because we expect this from ourselves. We make huge sacrifices to grow our companies (like not taking a single day off) – so why wouldn’t they?

But here’s the simple + excruciating lessons I had to learn the hard way: #1, your team is not you (they are not hustling entrepreneurs), and #2, your team will actually perform better if you honor their need for time off work.

So, this episode is an inside look at what it means to grow a team of people who love to work with you! I’m sharing the details about… 

  • How we replaced ‘sick days’ with ‘wellness days’
  • Why doubling my team’s paid vacation time actually costs less $$
  • And how my team likes the new system!

Tune in for a behind-the-scenes episode, especially if you’re growing a team or want to start. Then, hop over to Instagram (@emilyhirsh) and tell me, how do you feel about giving your team MORE time off work? Have you struggled with this, too?

Key Points:

[2:36] I used to expect my team to WANT to work all the time… like me.

[5:06] The details of our “wellness days” program + what that means

[6:58] If you DON’T give people time off, they will perform worse.

[8:06] Why 4 weeks of vacation time costs LESS $$

[9:36] Here’s why ‘wellness’ days replace ‘sick’ days

[10:33] How I’m keeping my team accountable to taking time off

[13:44] The best news? Time off work is an automatic REFRESH for your team

If you’re ready for full-suite marketing support including done-for-you Facebook + Instagram ads, head to HelpMyStrategy.com to fill out your application.

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Episode Transcripts:  

I’m Emily Hirsh, and this is The Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast. Attention innovators, influencers, creators, and game-changing entrepreneurs: your internet domination begins right here. We are the powerhouse marketers that you’ve been looking for. You’re already making waves in your industry, and we’re here to help amplify those waves of change by creating a connection that cuts through the noise.

We take everything you’ve built inside your zone of genius and find its audience. With killer strategy and laser eye for impact, we launch multimillion dollar campaigns and skyrocket your reach online. And now, we are doing the unheard of. We’re unveiling everything we’ve learned, taking you behind the scenes with the Hirsh Marketing Team, and giving away the secrets to our clients’ success. Stay tuned for top-converting strategy, ROI reports, and insider knowledge that you won’t find anywhere else. You’re changing the world, and we’re the team to help.

Hello everybody. I hope you are all having an amazing, amazing week and really making the most of the last few months of 2020… or, oh my gosh, the last few months of 2019! Wow. Most people would edit something like that out of their podcast, but I do not. I roll with it. I can’t believe it’s going to be 2020. I actually already kind of feel like I’ve been saying that, though, so I feel like I’m ready to change the dates over.

But this year just flew by, like seriously. I can’t believe we’re going into the holidays again. What a crazy year, and we’re celebrating a year since moving to Austin, Texas, which is amazing, and I can’t believe how fast it’s gone, but I am excited. I’m excited for the New Year. 2019 was okay. It was good that we moved and all that, but it was a little bit of a rough year in the business with just a lot of things going on and changes and transitions and things breaking, and I feel like we’re on the other side, and I can’t wait to just have a fresh start in the New Year.

I am so excited, and today I am sharing with you guys why I doubled my team’s paid vacation time. I wanted to do an episode about this, because I think that a lot of people follow me for team advice, too, because I have a team of 30 people, and I share very openly the mistakes I make and what I learn and how I manage and all of that, and a lot of people get a lot out of that. I wanted to share our new program that we started in Q4, so I think October 1st was the first day of it. I just wanted to see if it would inspire anyone.

But this is huge for me to share, because… I don’t know if anybody’s felt like this when building a team, but. I was not a good manager when I started building a team. And I had a hard time giving people time off, because I didn’t take time off in the beginning of my business. And this sounds really bad, but I’m going to be transparent with how I was. It was like, if people got sick in the past, I was like, “Oh my gosh, just work anyways. I work when I’m sick,” you know? But your team, first of all, is not you.

They’re not entrepreneurs. And second of all, I needed to take time off, but I wasn’t recognizing that, and so I was putting that same kind of thing onto my team. One thing I’ve learned in the last year to two years is the actual importance of people taking time off. We live in a time where, especially when someone has a remote job like my team, where a lot of them work from home… separating work from home, and the apps on their phone with Voxer and Slack and email, it doesn’t really shut off.

We have a [company] culture where we really push that, “You can shut off after 5:00 p.m. and you can take weekends off, you can take the holidays off!” For us, ads are always on, and so we always have that little bit of fear that, “What if something happens and I’m off? [What if] an ad is live, and it’s spending our client’s money?” So we set up an urgent email [address], and someone’s always monitoring that.

Through weekends and holidays, somebody is monitoring the urgent email, which makes it so if something urgent comes up, a client could get ahold of somebody at all hours and days of the week, but we’re not requiring that my entire team is always on. Because that will just burn people out, they will quit. Trust me, I’ve been through it. So, I’ve really worked, especially the last 6-8 months, on making sure that we create a better culture where people take time off and people refresh themselves and they don’t get burned out.

Especially my leadership team, because it’s just really easy to not take time off. One of those… I gave two weeks’ paid vacation time always, since I started having employees that was our minimum, and it was accrued, the standard PTO basically. And I heard about this program, called Wellness Day Program, that a friend of mine was doing a couple months ago, I don’t know, in September or August of this year, and I loved it so much that we implemented it in my company.

We basically replaced our PTO with our own program, and what that is is, it’s in lieu of PTO, vacation time, sick days… it’s all bundled in one, and we call it Wellness Days. If somebody’s sick, they can take a wellness day. If somebody is going on vacation, they use their wellness days. And also, if somebody, let’s say that they didn’t take any this quarter, they use wellness days, and I’m like, “I don’t care, you can just watch Netflix all day or read a book, but you’re going to take one.” That’s how we positioned it.

What we did is, we gave five a quarter to everybody. And so, they’re not accrued. You get five, day one of the quarter you get five, but you have to use it or lose it during the quarter. We are really emphasizing that you do use it, so we have it set up so that in my team’s monthly self-assessments, if they haven’t used a wellness day yet, and let’s say we’re a month into the quarter, the manager will be like, “Do you have your wellness days scheduled? When are you going to take a day off this quarter?”

We can’t force them to take time off, but we are trying to really push it, and we’re having a conversation if they haven’t taken time off in a while. The reason we also have it as, “Use it in the quarter or you lose it,” is because we want them to take five days off a quarter. We want them to take that time off, whether it’s vacation or whether they literally… I just had one of my really high up leadership team [members] who took two days off, and she’s like, “I gardened, I worked around my house, I just relaxed. I didn’t go anywhere, but I took two days off.” That’s great!

Because I learned the hard way, if you don’t give people that time, they actually perform worse. They are burnt out, they don’t like their job, and they don’t want to show up at work. So I am avoiding that at all costs by putting in stops so that doesn’t happen. We now rarely have somebody who has to work on a weekend. If a client’s launching, in live launch mode, usually those people have to do some things over the weekend, but rarely do we have that. It’s rare that somebody can’t log off at 5:00 p.m. [in] their timezone, and have an evening with their family.

And now they have enough vacation time to be able to take time off, whether it’s vacation or whether it’s sitting at their house and napping, you know? And just taking a day off and relaxing. So, five a quarter is four weeks a year, so I doubled my team’s vacation time. A lot of people… that’s a lot, four weeks. I think I actually told my dad that, because he’s an entrepreneur. But he has a construction business, so it’s different. He doesn’t understand the online space as much.

He was like, “Wow, that’s a lot for a small business.” But here’s the thing: it actually doesn’t cost me as much money as it does having burnt out employees who quit their job… and having that is way worse than giving people four weeks of vacation time, in the company. I am super excited about this. I’m also excited, because it’s not just like we doubled people’s vacation time. We’re [also] creating a [reputation] and a conversation around it where we’re telling people, “We want you to take time off. If you don’t, we’re going to encourage you to take time off. If it’s been two months and you haven’t taken a single day off work, we’re going to have a conversation with you, because we care about you, and because we want you to be healthy, we want you to be able to show up and serve our clients and our team in the best form of yourself, and you can’t do that if you’re working too much. You can’t do that if you’re burnt out.”

I am so proud that my team, not only me, but my leadership team, took this in and created this program. We created it within a month and rolled it out, and it was kind of a big deal, because I already had existing employees, so they had to resign all of the agreements. It was a big thing to roll out, because we already had PTO in place, and we had to replace it. Obviously new people coming in, it’s easy, but we had existing [employees]. They also get holidays off.

It’s four weeks a year, and then we have six paid major holidays. And so that’s what they get. And then that way also… a lot of companies give sick days, but what if you never get sick? Then you don’t use those days off. And I don’t want to encourage my team to get sick! I would rather somebody who has a cold just work that day if they want to, like I do. (I mean, if they don’t want to, they can use a wellness day.) …and then have a day, like a wellness day, where they’re doing self-care and something fun and rejuvenating for themselves, [rather] than having to take sick days or losing their sick days, because they are getting punished for being healthy.

I loved that concept of taking away the word even, “sick day,” and just calling them “wellness days.” So, whatever it is you do, vacation, time with your family, work around your house… they have that time off, and they get to recharge and rejuvenate and show up better the next day. It’s going really well. We’re almost a month into using it. The other thing we did, [that] I’ll add is, we asked people… We’re rolling this out quarter four, which is the holidays.

And that’s the time the most people want time off, and so we’re requesting (but also a little bit flexible) that they request all their time off for the quarter at the beginning of the quarter. My thought on that was, if you’re looking at your calendar and you don’t have vacations planned, that’s fine. But look at your calendar and decide what are the days you’re going to take off for yourself? What are your wellness days going to be for the next quarter? And plan those out in your life, and put them in your calendar, submit them to us.

Because if you submit them too late and we can’t approve it, because everybody else is gone at that time… it’s the first person. My team is amazing, most people submitted their wellness days within that first week. They were so excited and grateful for them. So, we’ve got it all planned out through the holidays of who’s here and who’s not, who’s covering what and who isn’t? And it works out perfectly.

Making people also be accountable to their self-care was my goal, too, of like, “We’re going to make sure you’re taking the time off, by making sure you take those days, and even having a conversation around what you’re doing!” I want to connect with my team about what they’re doing on their wellness days… if they want to share! Most do, nobody’s like, “I don’t want to tell you what I’m doing.” Most do want to share and tell you about either their vacation or the day that they hung out with their family.

Like, one of my team members went and visited her sister for the day. Just stuff like that. We want to know, because I’m trying to always be building that connection, especially with a virtual team. We don’t see each other in person, so we have to build that connection in other ways. We’re having that conversation around what they’re doing, and then we’re also forcing them to take control of their schedule and their planning by saying, “Plan out your quarter, plan out your vacations, plan out your days that you want off, [and] submit your five, because then you’ll be almost guaranteed to get them, if you submit them ahead of time.”

My team’s been amazing with it, it’s been great for our planning. It really hasn’t impacted anything in my company in a negative way. Giving that extra time off has not made it so that any balls are dropped. It really hasn’t even cost me money, because the team covers for each other and supports it. I can’t recommend it enough. Learn from my mistake, where… I just didn’t empathize I guess, with people taking time off, because I wasn’t taking time off, and I was a hustling entrepreneur, and I didn’t understand.

That was really it. It was all me. I didn’t understand, “Why would you want to take time off?” is how I used to feel. I still actually feel that way. Like, when I go on vacation… I am much, much better [now]. I don’t really work, and I can take time off. It’s not necessarily easy for me. My second half in Hawaii, when I wasn’t working and I finished my book and I didn’t have anything to do, I was like, “I feel really weird, but I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to try to relax.”

It takes me two days, and then I can relax, and then the best ideas come! And that’s the other thing is, my team is able to… they come more refreshed, and so they have better ideas. You bet they process things on their time off, because our brain’s always thinking. They just can perform better, and myself included. So don’t make the mistake where, you’re not giving yourself any time or self-care or the wellness days off, whatever it is you’re doing, and then [that’s what] you reflect onto your team, and ultimately create a burned out team who can’t perform at their fullest.

I have a team full of high performers. We hire high performers. Honestly, if you’re not a high performer, you don’t last on my team, because that is our culture. You have to encourage high performers to take time off and take time for themselves and go on vacation and spend time with their families and unplug. So, our management team and myself are huge on, “If it’s your day off, do not check your email. Someone is covering for you.

If it’s 6:00 p.m., you don’t need to respond to our Voxer messages.” That is what we want, and it just creates such a… People step up when they need, but they’re never resentful of being there, and that’s what I didn’t want. That is why I doubled my team’s vacation time. If it inspires you or gives you any ideas in your own company, that’s amazing, let me know (@emilyhirsh)! If you’re just starting out where you’re building employees, think about doing a program like this.

If I would have known about it, I would have done this from day one, because I think it’s brilliant. It’s going really well, and it’s just great for the culture and the overall morale of my team as well. Learn from my mistake where you treat your employees like they’re entrepreneurs who want to work all day in your business… because I’ve watched a lot of friends also do this, a lot of other entrepreneurs, especially in the start-up space where we’re hustling. We’re small businesses, we don’t have funding, we have to just work.

I’ve watched them burn out really amazing team members, and suffer because of that. So, learn from my own mistakes and other entrepreneurs’ mistakes, don’t do that, and create this type of a culture and it will pay off so much if you do. All right, guys, I’ll see you next time.

Thanks for listening to the Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast. Go behind the scenes of multimillion dollar ad campaigns and strategies, dive deep into The Hirsh Process, and listen to our most popular episodes over at HirshMarketingUnderground.com. If you loved this episode of the podcast, do me a favor and head over to iTunes to subscribe and leave a review so we can reach more people and change more lives with this content. That’s all for now, and I’ll catch you next time.

So that’s kind of what this is inspired from. And then the other thing is, I did an IGNITE support call about a week and a half ago, and I was talking through with the student, their strategy, and we were like, “Okay, so we’re going to do the opt-in to get into your funnel, and then you’re going to get them to book a call. That’s the goal.” We were walking through it, we were walking through the retargeting ads. And at the end she’s like, “Is that all? That’s it? That’s all I have to do? There’s not more?” And she was bored of it, a little bit. And so I just find it so fascinating because I do this myself, and I recently had so much going on. I had my book launch and was launching IGNITE, and then I have stuff with the agency. We had some stuff with our sales. We had to find a new sales help, and just, I had to step in and look at our process and kind of own that, because the sales does report directly to me.

And so there was one week where I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is what it feels like to be so unfocused. Every day I feel like I could go in all these different directions, and so I’m doing nothing really productive, because I’m just overwhelmed, and this is what happens when you have too many balls in the air and too many projects and things that you’re working on, and you’re not focused.” And so I think that the number one weakness of entrepreneurs and marketers is that lack of focus, because it is so hard not to fall into it. Gosh, I could think of so many good ideas, today! …that I could go do and that would probably be successful. But if you keep following that good idea, and you keep going after that as soon as you have it, and you just react on it and you follow it, and you kind of move away from whatever it is you were working on, whether or not it was working or not, or successful or not, it’s really hard to get the really powerful traction that you want.

And I think this is a massive weakness, because we seem to do it without even realizing we’re doing it. And we have to bring this conscious awareness to basically not doing it, and to bringing it back, and maybe even bringing team members or mentors in and saying like, “Hey, if I start to do this, call me out.” I don’t know what it is, it’s like once we have an idea that works or a strategy that works just a little bit, we think the answer is to go do a bunch more things instead of just do more of that strategy.

So my student, for example, she was getting this amazing cost per lead and these people in the funnel, and they were booking calls, and she still had to set up her retargeting ads and the rest of the retargeting in her funnel, but she was like, “That’s all? I shouldn’t go also create a webinar and pitch this other product and do this?” And I’m like, “No, because we haven’t even come close to optimizing what’s working! And so if you put all of your effort into that, it will be so much more powerful than if you go down all these different pathways and all these different options.”

And so, ideas and opportunities, you’ll never have a shortage of those. You’re always going to have ideas. You’re probably a visionary. You’re probably always going to have opportunities. There’s times where I meet with somebody and they tell me about this amazing opportunity, maybe they want to include me in something that they sell or they want to promote me in some way, and I have to white label… all the time I get these opportunities that would seem like really good opportunities. But the problem is, they take away focus, and they take away focus on the projects and the direction that you’re going in, and it will impact your results and your growth.

And same with this Shark Tank girl. She made $500,000. She had a profitable business. And $500,000 is not that much, and she goes to start something new, because that [first] one felt successful. It felt like she made it, so she had to go start something new and have a new idea. And it’s just a common thing, and it’s a huge weakness, and it will hold you back. And so my suggestion is to start noticing… when you get into that place that I was in, which is where you feel like you’ve got all these things going on…

I feel this way a lot during a live launch, because I’m still doing my day-to-day things like this, like podcast recording and… not day-to-day, but week over week, my regular things that I have to do: podcast recording, checking in with team members, working on initiatives for the ads team and overseeing that at a high level… maybe there’s a fire or a problem I have to step in and support with, all of those things. And then on top of that I have a launch, and so that adds a bunch of new things, and what I really should be doing is saying, “I’m unavailable during this two weeks to do any podcast recordings, any videos, any ‘this,’ I should scale back all the team meetings,” (and now I’m saying this thinking I should do that) because I have to focus on the launch.

And so for a couple of days I felt like, “Oh, my gosh, I just have so many balls in the air.” And so it feels like you’re not doing anything very well, because you’re scattered, and you’re working on all these things. And don’t get me wrong, it might feel exciting. It might feel like you have momentum during a time period like that, because you’re getting stuff done, and you’re moving forward, and you’ve got all these ideas, and you’re excited about them. It still might feel good. It’s not that it feels bad. It’s like, “Are you actually moving the needle [forward] and doing things that will really support the company in the long-term and [growing] what’s already working? Or are you creating new variables, new things, and new projects or initiatives, or even businesses that are going to distract you and your team?”

And that’s what you have to come back to and look at, because every single time… I have never seen it work well where somebody creates a new business, or a whole new offer that targets a whole new audience, or creates a brand new funnel, a brand new strategy, because they had one that was working… and it actually worked out well, versus just scaling and really focusing and honing in on what they do have. Because once you “make it” with something and you’re successful with something, it doesn’t mean that it’s just done. You always can improve your delivery, your marketing, your outreach, your brand awareness. All of those things you can always improve. So if you’re going to start new things, you’re starting at square one, and then you start to ignore that thing that was working, and then it declines, and then you’re stressed because it’s declining and you’re like, “I don’t understand why.”

And so, it’s a huge weakness for entrepreneurs and also marketers, because I’ve done an episode on “stop always changing your strategy” [episode 103], because this is a common theme. My student who was like, “That’s all I have to do?” Good marketing doesn’t mean complicated. Good marketing can be very simple. Your strategies don’t have to be super complicated to be a good strategy. Sometimes we envision these strategies drawn out with all these different directions somebody could go and retargeted ads and emails and rules in your CRM software and all this complication… and that doesn’t always equal good. Sometimes it does. Sometimes those types of built-out strategies, over time can be a very great, positive thing. But other times it’s just complicating things for no reason. And you can get results with a really simple strategy in a really simple funnel.

So don’t over-complicate it. Don’t lose focus. And especially if you have a team, if you’re constantly pivoting people, it’s just really unproductive, and it’s a waste of money, as a business, owner to do that. And so, especially with marketing, I find that people have a strategy that works, it starts to work. They think, “Once it starts to work, it’s just going to always work. So I can just leave it.” And then they go create something new. They lose focus. That thing… doesn’t work. Or they create something new, and then that new thing doesn’t work, and they’re like, “What? I thought it was going to work. I had it figured out.” And so, really bring awareness to this. Don’t let this consume you, because it will, without even meaning to, it will.

I guarantee you that that girl on Shark Tank wasn’t like, “I’m choosing to lose focus and focus on a different business than my other business. My other business might go down, but I’m going to make this choice.” She genuinely thought she was doing what would get her the most results, by having multiple streams of income with two businesses. Same with my student. It’s not that she was like, “I want to overcomplicate this, because I want it to be harder, because I want it to cost me more money or because I want to lose focus.” She genuinely thought, “I have to do this to be successful.” It’s like the story that you tell yourself.

So bring awareness to it. And if it feels simple and focused and maybe even a little boring, you’re probably on the right track. But sometimes, I’ve walked through this with people, and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, it feels like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, because I thought I had to do all of these things, and I was super stressed, and I was worried about this, or I had all these things to do, and I was overwhelmed.” And as soon as you focus them in, they feel relieved.

So if you feel that when you do think about your business and your marketing plan… and we’re going into 2020 soon, so start thinking about your year and what that’s going to look like and what are you going to focus on? And don’t have too many things and directions that you’re going to not do anything very well. Really bring focus, and that will be so powerful for your business this year. Maybe it’s the last quarter of this [year]… we have two more months in this quarter. Maybe that’s what you… really try to see, “What will move the needle the most for me and my team,” (if you have one), “to focus on,” and then do that. And be strict with that and constantly bring awareness to it, and I promise it will pay off so much.

On the last episode [episode 120] I talked about, or maybe it was the episode before, I talked about what I think contributed to my success the most. I did an interview, and I talked about it [there], and there [were] two things. There was focusing on my delivery. So, always delivering something amazing for clients and getting referrals, I think [that] was what was one of them. And then my second one was focus. And I think that I’ve kind of mastered this. I still fall into the trap of losing it, but I’ve mastered saying ‘no’ and focusing and even having to say ‘no’ to my team. Because what’ll happen is your team will start to say, “I have all these ideas” and get really excited if they’re happy to work there, and just be really excited about it. And so, saying ‘no’ to my team even, to be like, “Nope, guys, we got to focus. Here’s the initiatives. I don’t even want you to think about these other things until we accomplish this,” or maybe, “We’re not even going to think about those other things.”

So, super important. I hope you guys found this helpful. I really got a lot… I get a lot out of it when I see it, especially on Shark Tank, because it’s just like this symbol of entrepreneurs… [it’s] really hard for them to focus and to feel a little bit bored, which is where we get when we feel like we don’t have enough going on.

All right, well I have to mention, if you guys want to work with Team Hirsh, there’s two more months left out of this year. We do have a couple of client spots open. Every year, November and December are very busy for us with new clients signing on to launch something during those times or to really ramp up for 2020. So if you’re thinking about it, go to HelpMyStrategy.com. Apply to work with us. Go through the application process, have that free strategy call with my team, and you’ll get something out of just that. And my promise is, we won’t take on a client that we don’t truly believe we can support and help. And that’s why I’ve put so much into that application and onboarding process, so that it’s an amazing experience for both us and the client. And I’ll see you guys next time. Thanks so much.

Thanks for listening to the Hirsh Marketing Underground Podcast. Go behind the scenes of multimillion dollar ad campaigns and strategies, dive deep into The Hirsh Process, and listen to our most popular episodes over at HirshMarketingUnderground.com. If you loved this episode of the podcast, do me a favor and head over to iTunes to subscribe and leave a review, so we can reach more people and change more lives with this content. That’s all for now, and I’ll catch you next time.