Do NOT “Get Stuff Off Your Plate”

Hey, this is Clay. Welcome to this episode of the Marketing Show.

Okay, so I was browsing around the web and I saw this picture… okay, I don’t know if you can see it. But it’s basically a picture of kids playing in a little, you know, house fort that they’ve made for themselves. I don’t know if you did this as a kid but my brother and I used to do this. We’d arrange couches. We’d, you know, take a chair and prop up the leg rest on like my dad’s easy chair. We’d, you know, put covers around everything and then we’d build this fort. And it was so cool. It was awesome. We had this project that we were working on together. We were excited about the project. It was real to use. We had this creativity and this energy that was just amazing. And then when we were inside the fort, we thought no one could see us. You know, it was just amazing. It was a wonderful childhood experience.

And when I saw that picture, you know, on the web, I thought about this phrase that people have a lot when they’re referring to hiring someone in their company. Okay. The phrase is this, “I need to get stuff off my plate,” okay. And that’s what I see most people thinking about and talking about when they’re referring to hiring someone in their business, maybe hiring a virtual assistant or hiring someone else to help them “get stuff off my plate,” and I think this is dead wrong. Okay?

I think this is absolutely wrong. I think it’s bad for business. I think it’s bad for the lives of the people you hire. And I think that it’s not going to help you grow where you need to grow. Okay. So let’s just talk about this. When you hire someone to get stuff off your plate, you’re basically saying there’s this junk or these tasks that I have to do and I want someone to do these menial tasks that I don’t like to do and I really don’t care how well they handle them. I just need someone to take my shit. Okay, I need someone to take my crap. I need someone to get stuff off my plate. I need to unload on someone.

What this results in when people do “I need to get stuff off my plate” hiring is it results in a vision bandwidth problem in your company. So if you’re hiring someone to get stuff off your plate, chances are you have a time bandwidth problem, okay. You don’t have enough time to do everything that you need to do in your business.

When you hire someone to get stuff off your plate, you end up having to do more work than you originally did just to manage them because all you did was unload a bunch of little tasks that may or may not be related. And that might temporarily relieve the time bandwidth that you have in your business.

But, I think you have a much bigger issue in your business than time bandwidth. In fact, most businesses have a much bigger problem in their business than time bandwidth. The problem that most businesses have in their business is not time, okay, it’s vision. Most business have vision bandwidth issues.

Let me give you an example. Back in the day, I hired someone to do support for my company, okay? I hired someone. I had all these support issues to do and I needed someone to get that off my plate. And I ended up hiring someone who had no vision for customer support. They had no, you know, necessarily, like they had no interest in it long-term but that’s the person I got because I was looking to just get stuff off my plate. That didn’t end up working out so well.

What I ended up doing is working with Tracy who now I worked with long-term. But Tracy came in and what she had was she had a vision for customer service. She wasn’t getting stuff off my plate, she came in with a vision for customer services, a bigger vision than I had for customer services. I knew all along that I wanted us to have amazing customer support and amazing customer service. But I did not have a vision for it other than that I wanted it to be good.

I had a vision bandwidth problem and I tried to solve it with a time bandwidth solution. Okay? So Tracy ended up coming on board and that month, okay, that month that I spent money to hire her that I thought I did not have at that time, our profits…

…tripled immediately, because we had a vision bandwidth problem and then it got plugged. Okay?

And I submit to you that in cases where you are looking to just get stuff off your plate, if you spend the additional money necessary to get someone who not only will take stuff off your plate but who has a vision, a long-term vision to address the things that you want to get off your plate, your business is going to do much better and you will transform from a company where everyone is sort of slaving away to do the things that you’ve gotten off your plate to a business where everyone is building their own fort and they’re being excited and they’re having fun. And that is a truly great company.

And just to sort of wrap this up, I want to say, just my little piece here, my little rant on the state of hiring in this online space, the information marketing space, this little community that we have, what I’m seeing here in this online marketing space is essentially a race to the bottom. In almost every single developed legitimate market, you see a talent war for the very best and brightest people.

In the online space what we see over and over and over again is the exact opposite of a talent war, we see people going to get the cheapest people they can possibly find in, I don’t know, places like India where they can pay as little as possible and shove as much stuff off their plate.

And in time, after time, after time, everyone I see who tries to, you know, initiate that race to the bottom to get someone to take the stuff off their plate and to pay the cheapest amount they possibly can to get someone again to hire someone off their plate, every time I see that happen, almost without exception, it fails.

What I would encourage you to do is hire the person who has the biggest bandwidth, the biggest vision bandwidth for your issues, the person who has a long-term solution, the person who has a vision for what you need handled. Okay, the person who can play in a fort and address the issue that you have.

So that’s the marketing show for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Hire employees who can work in a fort. Hire the best people you possibly can. Pay them as much as you can possibly pay them and build a truly great company. Don’t hire people just to get stuff off your plate. That’s it.

  • So true Clay. I have more recently been outsourcing some tasks that are important but not a great use of my time. What I’ve found when testing out working with different contractors, is those who just do the assigned task, and those who step up and go the extra mile by suggesting other things to add or improve on. Guess who gets my attention and vote for future work, and who I start to trust and offer more responsibility on shaping my business vision and future…

    Enjoy the format of the white board by the way.

    Quick question which video player are you using?



    • Thanks, Natalie! Good question about the video player. It’s flowplayer, but with a special twist. I’ll make a marketing show about it sometime soon.

  • Excellent! I think this ties to your video the other day on help. This is pretty much tied to help again, but using a different framework. When thinking about in the manner you describe I think it really helps me think more in terms of ‘how is my outlook on life different than others?’ ‘How do I uniquely see the world in ways that others don’t and how can that be used to help others (sorry..had to use help there 🙂 )?’

    I think that’s where we can really begin to make a difference. It’s taking our unique vision on a particular area (e.g. Tracy’s vision on customer service) and then using that vision to help other people.

    • I like this: “It’s taking our unique vision on a particular area (e.g. Tracy’s vision on customer service) and then using that vision to help other people.”

  • I did an experiment few months ago. I hired a guy from India to do some work. The results were as expected, not that good. but that’s what you get with cheap labor and somebody not interested in what you do. Sharing your vision is very important if you want for somebody to create the results you are expecting.
    I’m really enjoying the marketing show, I have a similar idea for a show for a while. Good job!

    • There are some GREAT people working overseas. I think you can get whatever you want, as long as you know exactly what you’re looking for. But for most people, the only qualification is that it’s cheap.

  • Corbett

    Great stuff Clay. This is a fantastic counterpoint to what most people in the online world say you should do. I’ve been holding off on hiring anyone because I haven’t had a good long-term strategy. This has definitely made me think twice about following the typical advice.

    • I think having a long term vision is sufficient: once you hire someone, you’ll have time for the strategy part 🙂

  • Love what Clay has to say…

  • Spot on man.

    This is why I spend money on having people build things rather than having people take things from my plate. I try to only spend money on people more talented or devoted than I am.

    • Looking for your email address but can’t find it. Can you email me?

  • I appreciate the unusual point of view you have, Clay. You’re right, most business owners think of hiring people to perform tasks and assignments, instead of partners who’ll help their businesses grow.

    As for the bottom feeders, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and put some of the blame on service professionals. I know, there are circumstances when you absolutely need the money and accept any project no matter how small the fee. But at some point (and the sooner the better), we business service providers need to stop competing on price and work only with those who appreciate our value.

    • Tracy Simmons

      Alexis, I so agree with you. We sometimes turn people away when we know they’re just not a good fit for us. It’s not all about the dollar–and anyone who runs their business like it is will end up feeling drained by the very people they want to empower and guide.

  • Thanks Clay! This is really great advice. How and where did you find Tracy, and where could I find someone like her for my business?

    • Tracy Simmons

      Hey Anthony, I thought I’d jump in here and answer this one. Clay actually didn’t find me–I found him! 🙂 When I saw what he was doing in this space and the integrity/honesty that were part of that I knew I wanted to be a big part of it. So, I pursued working with him! You can ready more about that story here:

      Since then we’ve brought more people on staff and have always hired people that have vision. We work with the most amazing people, from our programmers to our Project Manager–every one of them has vision–and they love building and playing in their forts :).

  • You stole my line! I always tell folks that being an entrepreneur is really about building your own fort and inviting your friends over to play!

    Thanks for putting this in such simple terms… because we are at the jumping off point of hiring people we like (and who “get” what we do) and building out a bigger fort to play in!

    • Peter, I totally dig what you’re doing as a company. You basically invented an industry and created a market from scratch. Which is pretty damn amazing.

  • tomshark

    Great tip and taking a jab at Tim Ferris’ idea about hiring virtual assistants to do this. Not sure I completely agree with either side, but great food…

  • Love this Clay. I recently (3 weeks ago) hired my first help and I purposefully put “team member” not just VA in the ad and did my inner work to get the perfect person. Guess what! magnificent Shannon heard my call and has contributed so much more than I ever even knew I needed! she does the small stuff but thinks big and take s the initiative to move forward! She knows way more than me but has chosen to be a team member to support my vision- how great is that!

  • I don’t think its an either / or proposition. You can hire great folks overseas as as long as you are willing to focus on finding the right person. And then reward them financially, or with incentives.

    I have known folks who have done this very successfully, and have long term relationships with overseas vendors that benefit both parties. The vendors get paid above what they could in their own country. And the entrepreneur gets great work at a savings. But you do have to enter into this with the intention of finding great folks, and be willing to pay them more than the outsourcing baseline.

    And the focus initially needs to be on talent and vision, and not merely on saving money.

  • Mona

    Hi Clay, very well said.. I noticed something – on the Full Episode Page, the older entries text is white in white background and is not visible. 

  • Craiggonzales

    This reminds me a lot of what Gerber talks about in his All About Pies example. He tends towards systems and a strict owner/employee dichotomy, while you focus on shared vision for a greater good, but the idea of not hiring someone to relieve stress is spot on. cheers.