How to Build a Team – Challenges in Business & Having Great Employee Relationships

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How to Build a Team?

It's no secret that building a team is hard.

No matter what field or industry you're in, you have to find people who are going to be able to help you achieve your vision. You need people who are committed and motivated—people who can take on the tasks that you don't have time for, or don't want to do yourself. But how do you find those people?

In this episode, we'll discuss how to build a team, the challenges of building a team, building good employee relationships, finding mentors, and more. You'll learn how to navigate these challenges and come out on top!

Melih Oztalay of SmartFinds Marketing

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Atiba de Souza: As business owners, we have to weather storms. There's no doubt about it. And my guest today, Melih Oztalay, he has been in business for over 30 years and has weathered all kinds of storms and through it all he has built solid teams that have helped his business grow through each and every one of those storms. Stay tuned today because you are going to learn some of the secrets to weathering storms as you are building your team.

And as always, we are brought to you by Client Attraction Pros.

Hey everyone! Today, I am with Melih Oztalay of Smartfinds Marketing. As always, we are going to be talking about Building Your Team. I'm excited about this conversation because Melih and I were talking before, and we share so much of background and thinking and thought on team and business that I know this conversation's gonna be really rich for you. And so, Melih, welcome to the show. 

Melih Oztalay: Nice to be on the show, Atiba. 

Atiba de Souza: Thank you for accepting. First off, tell us about Smartfinds Marketing, who you are and who you guys serve.

Melih Oztalay: We're a marketing agency out of the Detroit Metro area. The company has been around for 35 years. It's been a long ride. We were in traditional media originally. Then I started the internet group in '94. To make a long story short, during the 1990s, we had a lot of fun. It was the wild, wild west of the internet. We had three different groups. We had our website development and website marketing. There was no web marketing, it's just website marketing. And then, we had our ISP team and we had a traditional media. The ISP team we sold off in 2002. And, in 2004 we went a hundred percent digital.

So, in 2004, when we went a hundred percent digital, we just moved away because more and more budgets were going to the internet. There were dime a dozen companies, marketing companies that were doing traditional media. The pot got smaller and smaller for everybody. So, it was really time to cut loose and move on.

When we moved on, we decided to come up with a new brand and that brand became Smartfinds Marketing. And so, for the past 18 years now, we have been a hundred percent digital. We are a full service marketing agency. So, we have a creative team, we have a tech team, we have a marketing team, we have our own writers.

We basically walk in the door and can become a company's marketing department completely, or we can help support an existing marketing company. So, it really depends on the client. As you can imagine, we're in the Detroit Metro area, we have the three largest car manufacturers in the world in our backyard.

That means we have the largest ad agencies in our backyard. We have the largest Tier 1 manufacturers in our backyard. It's a vibrant town at the end of the day in terms of opportunities, that happened in terms of business. But, you cannot get away from manufacturing and you cannot get away from automotive. So, you're in digital. You're bound to be involved in one of these two industries, in terms of what your business is going to do. So, sometimes your geography has an impact on what your business is gonna look like as you move forward. So anyways, that's a real quick description of us as an agency.

Atiba de Souza: Because the name of this show is Build Your Team and you use the word team an awful lot in that description of, "We had this team, we sold this team, we brought in this team, we built this team, we changed this team." Right? And in 35 years, I know you've seen a ton. And so, I wanna take you back to the beginning, if I could.

Melih Oztalay: Sure.

Atiba de Souza: If we can go back 35 years, 34 years or so ago, and tell us what was it like? Because obviously it's very different than today. But, what was it like for you and some of the hurdles that you had to overcome as you were looking to build your first teams for this business?

Melih Oztalay: I think a lot of it has to do with the owner, the CEO, the president of the company, their attitude and their approach to business. I think one of the first things I learned very early on is having a turnover of staff is not a good thing. It's not good for the company, but more importantly, it takes a lot of time. There's a lot of energy that you put forth to training somebody that's working with you, not for you.

And, I think there's a lot of effort in terms of wanting to keep them. Because managing the relationships, I think of the team is most important and how you approach whether they're an employee or a team member, I think makes a big difference.

My approach has always been that everybody's working with me, nobody's working for me. And more importantly, I think we have to understand that when you take the mindset of the team is working with you, that means everybody has an equal say. Nobody should be afraid to voice their opinion, and more importantly, to be contrary to let's say what I'm suggesting. I think that makes a big difference and based on that, you can then build a team and a sustainable team over a long period of time. Now, much to my disappointment, the financial crisis in 2008, 2009, 2010, causes a lot of grief.

It certainly wasn't anything that anybody was expecting, and there is no way that you could plan for it. If you go back to business 101, right? Essentially, there's always been this idea that, "Hey, you're gonna keep 90 days of operational cash handy someplace." Right? In case of a rainy day so to speak. Well, this wasn't just a rainy day, it lasted a year. So, it was difficult.

At that point we did have to let some of our team members go. We were not able to sustain it. That is something that's unfortunate, something that's outside of your control. We were in ground zero at the end of the day being in Detroit. So, they were shoveling people out of Michigan back in those days. We learned a lot from that experience as well. That's part of being in business means that you're gonna be gaining experience and the idea is that you take that knowledge, and understand how to keep improving what you're doing. We did make some changes following that downturn. Luckily, we did also win an award from the state of Michigan. 

State of Michigan had something companies to watch. It is actually funded by three or four major organizations that include the Small Business Administration, Michigan's Economic Development Corporation, the Edward Lowe Foundation. They choose at a state level, 50 companies every year. You only get the reward once. But, once you have the award, you do have some resources and I don't mean financial resources. I mean, more like human resources available to you to support what you're doing. If you can tap into that, that's great. We did tap into it during the pandemic in 2020, because that timeframe, pivot reassess who we are.

I think that's an important step in this in running a business. You need to take a time to reassess who are you and how does the world perceive you and accept their responses. And so, we had a team of consultants that provided us a perspective to help us revisit who we are. We changed our logo. We changed our brand. We changed our colors. We revised how we take the same thing of what we're doing and repackage it in a way that meets today's require, and what the marketplace says, what the industry's doing, how the technology falls into all of this. But, going back to what we were saying, building this team requires that you do these types of things, right?

You have to reassess yourself. In my opinion, everybody's working with each other. I think it's about being able to voice your own opinion, even if it's contrary and everybody's working together for success.

Atiba de Souza: So, that leads me to two questions. Thank you for that. Timeline of history and how even sometimes, one crisis that you come out of leads you into success, that then sets you up for success through the next crisis, even a bit, right? You touched on multiple times the concept of "with-not-for," right? And, I see a lot of business owners who struggle with this because they feel like I hired you, you work for me. I live in this "with-not-for", as well with my team have always lived in that way. Part of my bedrock of "with-not-for" is because whatever I hired you for, you're actually better than I am at doing it. I don't have to be the smartest person in the room.

Melih Oztalay: I agree. And I don't think it's a good idea either.

Atiba de Souza: No, it is. It's a bad idea, actually.

Melih Oztalay: Bad idea.

Atiba de Souza: It's a very bad idea, right? Talk to me a little bit about that. Have you found that hiring people that are smarter than you at whatever you hired them to do helps you build this culture of "with-not-for", where they also believe it? Because it's one thing for us to say it, but they've gotta believe it.

Melih Oztalay: Exactly. But, how do they believe it? It's based on my actions, my interaction, my communication, how I build that relationship with them individually and as a team. You have to start by being open. As you were talking, there's a few things that came to my mind. During the course of my 35 years, I will tell you that I've had three different people, I would call mentors at different stages.

I think this concept of being able to have a mentor, somebody close that is knowledgeable, has more experience by a lot of factors especially in years. And, somebody who's willing to work with you in becoming your mantra. I think, finding individuals like that, and those are personal relationships is something to think about. 

There are two books, one of them is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. That is something I went through the course, as well as the book. I think that is something to help understand and give perspective. The other one is the book Crossing the Chasm. Because we're in the technology industry, right? I keep on referencing that quite a bit, because it does go through this concept of change. It goes through the concept of early adopters versus late stage adopters, et cetera. How does that impact your business? How does that impact how you sell and talk with and communicate with your customers? These are some things I think are helpful during the course of your business career as an owner of a business, give you perspective and helps you take a look at the long run, not the short run.

You can sit there and want sales all day long in the next 30 days. The reality is you're trying to run the company for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years.

And so, keep in mind as long as you're having fun doing it, I mean, I love technology, I love marketing, I love being in business. From my standpoint, this is something I enjoy, which is why I'm able to keep going or wanting to keep doing it. You have to have that as a personal factor as well. You have to enjoy what you're doing. If you enjoy it, then you can just keep it going. But, you need to think this through that long period of time. How's this all going to work? 

Going to your question earlier, I have team members that have education in areas I don't. They have experience in areas I don't, which is why it's important to secure a team with different experiences. Our vice president, she used to be a CEO of another large corporation. She has a lot of experience in B2C (Business-to-Consumer) for example. She has a lot of experience in managing sales teams. She has a business in managing a larger corporation, much larger than we've ever been. So, you have to figure it out how do you tap into these types of resources? Same thing with what goes with our team members? We have a creative team. We have a tech team. We have a marketing team. On our marketing team, we have somebody who has a master's in new media communications, for example. That's not something I have experienced. 

And so, you wanna tap into our creative team, we have somebody actually has an Emmy award for a film that he was in. That's a whole another set of experience that goes into all of this. You have to be open to hire people that are smarter than you in different areas.

Atiba de Souza: I love those points. Your first point about a mentor and I'll put mentor slash coach. If you are in business and you don't have a mentor or a coach, you're not really in business. 

Melih Oztalay: Right, exactly. 

Atiba de Souza: You need that mentor or coach at all points in time.

Melih Oztalay: I think the difference between the mentor and the coach, the mentor I was mentioning earlier are personal relationships, people that you trust and that they trust you. Whereas when I think of a coach, I just wanna clarify with you, I'm thinking about somebody who's being paid for their consultancy, right? I just wanna clarify.

Atiba de Souza: You're absolutely right. There is a difference there. But, you need that advice. And then, the second point, you're talking about The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Crossing the Chasm. We put those two together because those aren't new books. So often, we want to read the 2022 version. And, the 2022 version is giving you just a bunch of tactics and stuff. Whereas, when you go back and read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, when you go back and read Crossing the Chasm, you're talking about strategies that have stood the test of time.

Melih Oztalay: Those books have been updated through the time too. There has been some minor tweaks, but your concept is absolutely on point. What you read in these books continue to be out there. Give you an example, Crossing the Chasm that ended up making me do sometime in the last 10 years, I've booked on this, and a lot of it has to do with our clients or the experience working with clients. But, I came up with my four A's of marketing.

I should say my four A's of digital marketing. It was a direct result of the foundational elements of Crossing the Chasm. So, the first A is Anticipate Change. The second one is Accept Change. Now, I'm talking as it relates to our clients, that one seems to be the hardest. The reason being is that accepting change means they just spent a certain amount of money and invested into their company. And because of changes in the industry and technology and algorithms or whatever you wanna call it.

All of a sudden, whatever they just invested, they lost. I'm just taking a wild guess here. Let's say 30%, even if it's 20% or 10%, it's not a good feeling to say I certain amount of my investment just went up and smoke. So, accepting change seems to be the hardest part. Honestly, I found myself having to consult with my clients to get over the emotional hurdle that's not logical. 

It's not logical to sit there and fuss and few and say, my investment went up and smoke because sometimes they wanna stop their marketing and I suggest to them don't, because you're gonna fall behind by a factor of 10. It's gonna cost you more to catch up and your competition's gonna go ahead of you.

So, just stop fretting and fuming. just move on. Assuming we can get past the whole accepting the change bit. The next couple are a little bit easier. So, the next one is about Adapting to the Changes, whatever that requires. And then, the last one is Adopting the Changes and bring back into your habits, into your business operations and into your company. So, Crossing the Chasm, it stands the test of time, right? As a result of that, and considering I work in an industry that changes every day, coming up with the four A's was a natural progression.

Atiba de Souza: That's awesome. I said earlier, I had two questions for you. I asked the first one, which you gave beautiful answer to, and it wraps all the way back around to question number two. Because you started talking about reassessing and how you had to reassess things and which you don't reassess, unless things change.

You mentioned and talked about reassessing from the business standpoint. Your four A's from the business standpoint. Now, let's talk about reassessing and how you present that as new assessment to the team and get buy-in from the team when you have to reassess. How you handle that?

Melih Oztalay: That's an easy answer. You bring the team with you during the reassessing. They're part of the change, they're part of the process. I'm gonna use the most recent scenario, right? The recent one was the pandemic in 2020. We have a downtime, and having had the experience from the financial crisis during that downtime, it's good to reassess. Take that downtime and re-look at everything. When we brought on the consultants, the idea was the team was involved during those conversations.

Even if they weren't directly involved there, the idea was that they were involved. We, as a team, met and talked, what are we doing? How are we doing it? I would certainly hope, that any entrepreneur or any business owner, when you are going through this phase of reassessing, trying to understand who you are, what you are and what direction you're gonna go, that you are gonna bring your team along with you during the process. Let them be involved in making the decisions, helping making a contribution to the direction of the company. And then, what ends up happening is everybody's taking ownership together, as far as where are we going and where are we gonna steer ship, so to speak.

That's what we did. To give you an example of the process, because we had that award that was helpful. I was able to tap into the resources that the state of Michigan provided. We did have to qualify, don't get me wrong. It's not like you just pick up a phone and they're gonna send a bunch of people over and help you out. 

We had to go through a qualification process and once we were qualified, there was one person within their organization that manages the process with the consultants. So, we brought on the consultants first. It was simple. It was just me having one-on-one meetings. I needed to get an understanding of where this is going. You don't want to waste anybody's time, especially your team's time. You're the gatekeeper, so make sure that what you want and how you want it is going to actually happen.

Once we got past that and we started having these meetings, we brought the team on to the meetings to also be part of this. We actually did that for about six months. We went through a few different consultants. Each consultant, it had a specialty in a different area.

We gained knowledge from all of them. We worked with them, we talked about it internally. Once we got past that sometime around the beginning of 2021, we started to implement what we learned from all these conversations for six months. So, change our logo, change our colors. What is that gonna all look like? Revise our website. Revise our messages. We spent about six months building what it is that we're going to move forward with.

Then we took another six months to go to market with our ideas. So, we came up with an advertising budget. We came up with a marketing budget for ourselves. We went through the process of implementing it for six months. That was the third phase. And then, the fourth phase, which we started earlier this year, which was to bring on a sales team. Because, we wanna grow at exponential level. And, if we're gonna meet those goals, it's gonna take more than just our small team. At the end of the day, it's gonna require more resources. Maybe that's a better way to put it in terms of getting sales. So, we gotta bring on a sales team and I have to admit it was harder to find a sales team than I thought.

Atiba de Souza: Yes it is today.

Melih Oztalay: Awesome.

Atiba de Souza: You're not the first person to say that. It's a global thing too.

Melih Oztalay: Absolutely. So, that's the process to answer your question. So, I'm using most recent scenario that as far as our team is concerned, the changes that we went through. The purpose of the change was the pandemic. That was an opportunity to revisit who we are, what we are and identify the necessary resources.

So that, we can say, are we on the right path? Are we heading in the right direction? I don't know, if the pandemic hadn't happened and nothing changed in the marketplace, in the industry. It was a high probability we would just kept on going. But, the pandemic did happen. A very significant business changes took place because of the pandemic.

Those business changes also included a marketplace changed. All of a sudden zoom became a big deal. Now, all these people that I kept on saying, would you stop worrying about coming to my office and just get on a digital call? All of a sudden they became really interested in digital phone calls.

So Zoom, GoToMeeting, WhatsApp, FaceTime, all of a sudden became real popular very quickly. That's a significant change. When you see these massive changes taking place in the marketplace, you need to take a look and see what's going on within your company and identify whether or not the whole company is heading in the right direction.

Atiba de Souza: That's such a major point. I'm going to work to distill that point down into a statement here, if I can. I think it's really crucial and important what you said though. Because going back to your four A's, so often when change happens in a marketplace for a business owner, and it doesn't even have to be as global as the pandemic, it could just be something local that changed even in your local business, like competition. The first thing that business owners do is they become an ostrich and stick their head in the sand. Right?

And, they just ignore the fact that change is happening and I can do something about it. The fact that we have to reassess, and this is what I loved about, and I hope you guys also caught this. The first point in what he just gave us that was gold. Reassess and don't be afraid to. But then, here's a second thing, in terms of team, right? We've been talking about this concept of, "with-not-for." If your staff works for you, you can bring them along as you reassess, but if they work with you, you can include them in the conversation. Right?

Because if they work for you, they just sit and wait for you to tell them what to do. But, if they work with you, they're invested and they want to be a part of and from what you're saying, that's exactly what you guys experienced.

Melih Oztalay: I think you did a good job summarizing that. Earlier before we started here, we talked about the fact that we have three different groups of people, right? You have your inventors, you have your entrepreneurs, and then you have your business guys or your businessmen.

Those are three different stages of a company. I will tell you that an inventor can never become an entrepreneur. The mindset's not there. An entrepreneur should never become a businessman. And, I say that loosely, at the end of the day, we're all businessmen or business people.

But, what I mean by that is that a businessman is your guy that's running a 500 fortune, 100 fortune, 50 company. And, I will tell you an entrepreneur cannot function that environment. It is a highly structured environment that people who like structure and work in that type of environment, that's for them. That's an entirely different structure and yes, those companies tend to get really large, but that doesn't mean that the entrepreneur has to go along with it. That's where the entrepreneur sells what he built or she built and moves on to something new, while the business guy takes what they just bought and blows it up. They're good at that. The entrepreneur is not likely to be able to turn around and take a 50 million company and turn it into a 100 million company. There's a huge gap. And entrepreneurs like myself, that's just not a world we can live in.

Atiba de Souza: It's not.

Melih Oztalay: It isn't.

Atiba de Souza: We are creative, but we are creative in a different way than an inventor is creative. But, all three are needed and all three must be respected.

Melih Oztalay: There's nothing saying that everybody has to be all three either. Not a lot of people can do that. Let's face it. Did Steve Jobs do it? Yes.

Atiba de Souza: On extent though, I don't think he did all three. 

Melih Oztalay: Well, not on his own. But, I mean, he did start off in a garage at the end of the day.

Atiba de Souza: He did. He was an inventor.

Melih Oztalay: It blew up, right? He was an inventor, but my point is not everybody can do that. 

Atiba de Souza: It's rare.

Melih Oztalay: You can set your goal on wanting to be a Steve Jobs, but that has an entirely different person all together. It's unique and it doesn't always exist.

Atiba de Souza: You should embrace who you are.

Melih Oztalay: Self-assessment is probably a good starting point too.

Atiba de Souza: Melih, this has been a fantastic conversation. I really appreciate your time. I started this by saying, I think this was gonna be a great conversation because of the pre-conversation we had, and it was an even better conversation than I thought it was going to be.

So, I really appreciate you and your time, and most importantly, your wisdom. Because that's the thing that I know so many of my listeners are looking for, because they're bombarded with the tactics on hiring, on building a team, on running their business even. But, they get so little wisdom. So, thank you. Your 35 years show in the words that you speak. 

Melih Oztalay: I appreciate being on your show. Thank you very much for inviting me. I'm glad I was able to be help them.

Atiba de Souza: My pleasure. Now, before we go, tell everybody how do they get in contact with you.

Melih Oztalay: First of all, the best thing to do is just go to LinkedIn type in my name, Melih Oztalay. Certainly, I invite you to take a look at our website which is 

Atiba de Souza: Brother, thank you for being here once again. Hopefully, I can have you back from time where we can have even more wonderful conversation.

Melih Oztalay: Absolutely.

Atiba de Souza: All right.

Melih Oztalay: Be happy to.

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