Harry Sanders is 22 years old – but he manages a team of 22 and the largest dedicated SEO agency in Australia, which is poised to take in $3.5 million in revenue this year. While he began as a one-man-band while couchsurfing when he was 17, the agency has continued to grow and scale as he welcomed more team members and secured more big name brand clients, such as New Balance.
As with all aspects of business, there’s both an art and a science to scaling — and scaling a team can be a significant learning curve. Sanders shares some of his top tips for managing a growing and successful team no matter how old you are.
- Practice what you preach.
Not only is Sanders 22, but everyone on his team is older than him. “You build respect, especially if you’re younger, by being able to do everything by yourself and live by example,” advised Sanders. So, he makes sure to always be on the frontlines of learning new SEO strategies and sharpening his axe. When you run a team, they all look to you for direction, and the best way to lead by example is to model what you want the team to prioritize: hard work, cutting-edge discovery, a collaborative team culture – it’s up to you!
- Prioritize a proper team structure and hierarchy.
Every good organization must have a defined structure and hierarchy, so everyone knows who does what and who reports to who. “Without these in place, everything is all over the place and it makes it impossible to scale,” said Sanders. A structure is the firms foundation on which a business can be systemized and expanded — both for more clients and for more employees.
However, think of the structure as fluid as you continue to grow. “When businesses scale and hit 10, 20, 50, or 100 employees, each new threshold is a chasm in which you have to totally manage the business in a different way,” Sanders reflected. Don’t expect things to stay the same, and be open to changing around the hierarchy or how you do things as the scaling continues. A shakeup is good for everyone.
- Find a community of other business owners.
Sanders also credits a community of other entrepreneurs as a major source of strength and advice. “It’s vital to find a good community, such as through the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), YPO, or elsewhere,” said Sanders. “We all know business is a lonely journey, but few know how lonely it can really be – so being able to connect with others who are doing and thinking about the same things as you are can be quite helpful and comforting.”
Furthermore, these are the people you should be asking for feedback and tips from. “I always say that anyone can give you advice. Ask for experience,” said Sanders. Ask those in your newfound business communities what they’ve learned from their experiences of managing teams, and based on that, what they would do if they could do it all differently.
- Get comfortable outside your comfort zone.
Finally, know that you’ll be on a steep learning curve for a while, and you’ll have to learn how to adjust quickly. “Never stop testing and experimenting,” he said, “and know you’re going to be outside your comfort zone.” It may seem more comfortable to define a structure and stick to it, but as personalities and skill sets on the team change and evolve, it’s going to be a constantly evolving team and process, too. The nature of this type of scaling is going to require some major changes. This is where leaning on your community and the major organizational bones of an intra-team hierarchy will be useful.
If your team is also looking to hone their SEO skills, learn more about Sanders’ new Hawk Academy, a digital learning platform that teaches SEO through practical guides and quizzes at hawkacademy.co.