If I had to inspire a movement, then it would have to be about treating employees with the respect that they deserve. There are so many companies out there that treat their employees like numbers and expect them to be happy and work hard in diabolic work conditions; it’s no wonder these companies have high turnover rates! From the experience of running 2 businesses for several years, I believe that building a successful team and company is all about making sure you have happy and productive staff. How can an employee be happy and productive if they are constantly worrying about money or if their boss is going to shout at them? By focusing on improving the work conditions of your employees you’d be surprised at how much more work gets done. Encouraging breaks and offering unique benefits for staff will lead to a stronger and more competitive team who work productively. Giving them the room and space to work without constant micromanaging is also a good idea. Trusting that your employees can manage their own workload efficiently are the very foundations of a successful team. You might not believe it, but there are some employees out there that actually enjoy their job and the work that they do!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexander Winston, CEO and co-founder of PPC Protect. PPC Protect is the industry’s leading ad fraud detection platform, which is helping to tackle the growing problem of click fraud in the pay per click industry. Based in the UK, Alexander also has experience running a digital marketing agency where the idea of PPC Protect was born. Recently, his company won the business start-up of the year award at the North West’s most prestigious business awards.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Born and bred in the UK, I’ve lived in the North West of England all my life. At school, I was relatively quiet and shy but excelled in subjects such as Maths, Chemistry, and History. During my school years, I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do career wise but toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher.
After my school years, I graduated from Manchester University with a degree in Chemistry. This was around the same time I decided I didn’t want to become a teacher after all, so I started looking at other options.
I really liked the idea of being my own boss and running my own business, so in the end I set up my own digital marketing agency. Considering I had just spent the last few years studying Chemistry, changing my career path to digital marketing was very demanding and required a lot of studying. But eventually, I started to land clients and grow my digital marketing team.
It was around this time while I was managing Google AdWords campaigns that I discovered click fraud and how big of a problem it is. I quickly saw the potential of developing a solution and invested a lot of the profits from the marketing agency into the new business.
With the team I already had, we managed to quickly grow our start-up and attract a lot of interest from existing clients. We’re now receiving a lot of interest from large digital marketing agencies who work with some of the biggest brands in the world.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Yikes, I don’t even know where to start! Creating and running a start-up is such a huge part of your life that so many of my memories over the last few years are because of the company.
Our office culture is genuinely unique and to the outside world could come across as very weird. This has made so many funny moments it’s hard to rank them.
The funniest moment would probably have to be the time I signed an employee up a free trial of a tool using a fake name. Since we’re a young team, we love our office memes, so I went with the fake name Rhaysia Dongers, based on the Twitch meme Raise Your Dongers. The employee who answered it had no idea what was going on but couldn’t help laughing when the woman kept asking him if Rhaysia Dongers was available.
Along with the funny moments I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting a lot of exciting countries, some of which I’d never thought I would be visiting prior to starting the company. My favourite so far has to be Austria, but Israel comes a close second.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
Although our team here at PPC Protect isn’t necessarily large compared to other start-ups, we do have the challenge of managing various remote workers from different countries who work in different time zones.
The most important aspect of managing teams effectively is communication. That’s why we use Slack for real-time messaging and a whole bunch of its other useful features to improve our communication. In addition to this, we also put a big emphasis on project management, so we also use some software to help us manage and plan out future tasks.
In addition to excellent communication, it’s also important to create teams based on people’s skills so that there is some overlap, but all members of the team have a defined role. By doing this, you’ll find that the team learns to run itself. Making sure teams have a good relationship with each other is also key to an effective team. Their relationships towards each other are just as important as their individual ability.
Lastly, getting regular feedback from all team members is essential, not just the leader of the group. By doing this, you can identify problems quickly and make the necessary changes before it’s too late.
What is the top challenge when managing global teams in different geographical locations? Can you give an example or story?
I feel like managing remote workers is one of the most difficult challenges in modern business. With many start-ups and businesses ditching the traditional office environment, remote workers and freelancers are becoming ever more popular.
The top challenge probably has to be communication or different time zones. Since I’m in the UK, most of my American colleagues usually won’t be online until 3 pm my time. This means if I need something to be done ASAP when I get in the office at 9 am, they’ll most likely be asleep.
Luckily, it’s not the end of the world if you have other employees in the same time zone as you with the same abilities. But when it comes to managing remote workers in different countries, good communication is vital. We use a lot of voice chat here at PPC Protect when communicating with colleagues as email just won’t cut it anymore. When you need an answer, you don’t want to be sitting around waiting for an email.
Arranging to physically meet remote workers at least once a year is also a good idea. Not only can you cover a lot of work while meeting up, but it’s also just good to catch up in general and see how they are doing. It’s also a great excuse to visit other countries!
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Employees are the heart of any business and I’m often amazed at how many companies don’t value them as much as they should. In my experience happiness is vital. Happy employees work more efficiently and are less likely to make mistakes or become demotivated.
To ensure your employees are happy, regular feedback and meetings help tremendously. We encourage open feedback with all of our employees, if they think there’s an easier or more productive way to run something, then I’m all ears.
Another way to help your employees thrive is to actually treat them as people and not just numbers on a payroll. This means encouraging them to improve their skills by paying for educational courses or sending them away to seminars. Training is an ongoing thing, and if you want employees to feel like they are valued, then there’s nothing better than investing money in them.
Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on retaining talent today?
I think people quit their job for a number of reasons but having a bad boss or manager is probably one of the most common reasons So far, no one at either of my companies has ever left us, so I feel like we must be doing something right! Like I mentioned before, we invest a lot of money in employees to help them grow their skills and become better at what they do. Not every business gives employees the option to do this, so I think it really helps set you apart from other businesses.
We also ensure that all of our employee’s pay increases every year in line with inflation and reward their loyalty with pay reviews. A wage increase usually costs less than having to re-hire and re-train people. But with that in mind, I think money isn’t always the answer to retaining talent.
Sometimes it’s about creating a friendly work environment where people are excited to work. Maybe this includes fun office perks like a TV and chill out area, or free food and drinks. As long as it doesn’t replicate a work environment from the 70s or 80s, that what you’re aiming for.
Here at PPC Protect, we offer all our employees free drinks and snacks throughout the day to keep them hydrated and energized. A lot of other companies expect employees to pay for their own, but I’ve found that offering them for free definitely helps improve the work environment, and cuts down the amount of unnecessary time staff spend going out of the office to get snacks.
Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
1. An understanding of an employee’s role and a basic knowledge of their tasks.
By having a simple understanding of what an employee is meant to be doing, you can always give them feedback on their performance and help to increase their productivity. In the past, I’ve done almost every role within the business, so I have an excellent understanding of what all my employees do on a daily basis.
I’ve also helped train and teach some of them in 1 to 1 sessions to show them how I tackle a specific task. Sometimes I even go out of my way to learn a particular skill which I can then teach to other employees which will improve their productivity. An example of this would be when I learned the statistical programming language R so I could teach and help our in-house statistician advance their knowledge of the language. By understanding and having experience of employee job roles, employees really value your opinion and input more.
2. Don’t micromanage, learn to trust.
I believe micromanaging is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to managing a team. Not only does it waste a lot of unnecessary time, but it also breaks the trust relationship between employees. At PPC Protect I never micromanage staff, which leaves me with a lot of free time to focus on the crucial parts of running the business.
In addition to this, not micromanaging makes employees feel more valued in that I am trusting them to manage their own time and workload. From my experience, I’ve found this works really well in both terms of increasing productivity and work relationships. If you trust your staff enough not to be breathing down their necks every second, then you definitely have the right team and work environment.
3. Don’t neglect training.
I’ve already mentioned this time and time again, but I still think it’s a very important point. If you want to create a successful team, then they need to be continually learning new things. You can’t expect someone to go into a job role and instantly know everything about it. Becoming good at the job role takes time and training.
If you want your workforce to be “future proof” then making sure they keep up to date with the latest developments in their roles is so important. At PPC Protect we give employees allocated personal development time in which they spend time learning new skills. Usually, this takes place on a Friday every 2 weeks and so far it’s been very successful. We’ve had developers learn new frameworks and marketers learn new marketing techniques, all of which have benefited our business.
4. Get to know your staff, understand their strengths and weakness.
Understanding your staff is not just about getting to know them as a person, but also understanding their strengths and weaknesses. By having a good understanding of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, you can easily determine which job role they will excel in and which they will struggle in. For productivity sake, don’t be afraid to switch employees around until you find their suited role. Sometimes an employee is destined for a different job role even if you or they don’t know it.
Interacting with staff on a regular basis also helps you build a relationship in the office. I know some bosses like to hide in their offices and think they’re above everyone else. From my past experience, this only makes all of your employees hate you, even if you’re just super busy!
Finding the time to interact around the office with employees is crucial if you want people to respect you. Mark Zuckerberg is known for sitting amongst his staff just like everyone else, and I think he sets a great example of how leaders should interact with their employees. No fancy office or managers only area, he’s right in the heart of his team working with them every day.
In the early days of PPC Protect, we had a lot of people switching job roles as I believed they could perform better in different positions. Some people where switched just once and we saw a significant improvement, while others had to be changed a few times before we found their true calling.
5. Knowing what approach to use and when.
There are always multiple ways to approach a situation; if an employee has undelivered or made a mistake, then you don’t always have to result to punishment. Sometimes encouraging them instead can do a lot more good.
Just remember the fact that everyone is only human, and nobody gets through their career without making a mistake. Instead of punishing employees, maybe look at additional training rather than demotivating them and making them feel guilty.
I’ve had instances where I could have easily lost my temper at an employee’s mistakes, but looking back I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I opted for the other approach which was to make sure they learned from their mistakes and never did it again. In one case, this meant working alongside an employee for a week to make sure they were doing everything correctly and giving them tips and advice on how to improve their workflow.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I had to inspire a movement, then it would have to be about treating employees with the respect that they deserve. There are so many companies out there that treat their employees like numbers and expect them to be happy and work hard in diabolic work conditions; it’s no wonder these companies have high turnover rates!
From the experience of running 2 businesses for several years, I believe that building a successful team and company is all about making sure you have happy and productive staff. How can an employee be happy and productive if they are constantly worrying about money or if their boss is going to shout at them? By focusing on improving the work conditions of your employees you’d be surprised at how much more work gets done.
Encouraging breaks and offering unique benefits for staff will lead to a stronger and more competitive team who work productively. Giving them the room and space to work without constant micromanaging is also a good idea. Trusting that your employees can manage their own workload efficiently are the very foundations of a successful team. You might not believe it, but there are some employees out there that actually enjoy their job and the work that they do!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Horatio Nelson once said “No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.”
I feel this quote is apt because an employer should work within their employees “on the front line” so to speak. Nelson was a very respected figure amongst his sailors because he worked through the ranks, and entrusted his officers with little micromanagement.
By working alongside your staff and throwing yourself into the heat of battle you share their challenges, boost their morale and make yourself more likable. If you go the extra mile for your staff, they will go the extra mile for you.
Originally published at medium.com