182 podcast episodes 🎙️

In today’s episode, Joe and Christie talk with Brad Touesnard, Founder and CEO of Delicious Brains Inc and SpinupWP. As founder of Delicious Brains Inc, Brad has worn many hats. He now spends most of his time managing the product teams and growing the business. Before starting this company, Brad was a freelance web developer, specializing in front-end development.

Joe, Christie, and Brad discuss the challenges of finding good people when competition for remote job posting is high, what it’s like for entry level people in companies with limited resources, traditional and unconventional hiring process, and making dependable employees stay.

Tune in and learn about the best hiring practices in the open source environment.

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:35 Let’s welcome Brad Touesnard of Delicious Brains Inc
  • 02:24 Rebranding concepts for different company products
  • 07:12 How’s 2020 job hiring been for you?
  • 10:12 Challenges competing with more remote companies in finding new hires
  • 17:00 On people switching careers and learning new skill sets
  • 22:55 Hiring entry level person with limited resources
  • 25:16 Vetting candidates before going through a trial project
  • 30:27 Finding the right people is super difficult
  • 32:36 Keeping people for years
  • 37:31 Promotion and position changes
  • 40:22 Active recruitment won’t go away

Episode Resources

Episode Transcript

Joe Howard: All right. We are live this week on the pod. Christie, what’s up? How’s it going?

Christie Chirin…: Hey, nothing much is up. It is the last month of 2020. So we’ll see what surprises it brings.

Joe Howard: Yeah, right. What’s left in 2020 to bring? It’s like, please no nothing else. Can we just get to 2021 already?

Christie Chirin…: Yeah. Murder hornets, revolution, who knows?

Joe Howard: I know. Some good things. There you go. Cool. And we’ve also got Brad on the podcast this week, as our guest. We get to have three people on the podcast this week, which is always a treat. Brad, tell people how to pronounce your last name, and then also some of the stuff you do with WordPress.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, sure thing. Thanks for having me guys. So, yeah. My last name is to Touesnard, but a lot of people say Touesnard because it has a D at the end that’s silent. So that usually trips people up pretty good. So my company is Delicious Brains Inc. And we do several WordPress plugins. WP Migrate DB Pro, WP Offload Media, WP Offload SES, Better Search Replace Pro, and we also have a SAS app called SpinupWP, which is our new shiny product that we are putting a lot of effort into at the moment.

Joe Howard: Yep. So folks these are pretty familiar, at least in the WordPress space with your company, Delicious Brains. And yeah. I’m also very familiar because I remember reading your blog posts about how you did your rebranding for all your plugins. And I was like, oh, that company looks pretty cool. And then here a couple years later, we’ve done our rebrand for WP Buffs and went with the same guys, and they did a great job for us as well. So.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. Your site’s looking great, man. So the branding that Tim and his partner at DOS Media did. They just did an amazing job on you guys stuff. And I’m still pumped about our branding, to be honest that they did years ago. So yeah. They’re really good.

Joe Howard: Yeah. 

Christie Chirin…: I remember we read through your blog post on the podcast, so it was intense. Yeah.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, we’ve had since then… That first round of rebranding went really well. It was easy. But then when we were doing the branding for WP Offload SES, Tim and his partner they came up with this pigeon concept. Right? And I don’t know about you guys, but a pigeon is not the most majestic bird in the bird kingdom.

Joe Howard: We’re not talking of a pig or a falcon.

Brad Touesnard: No. We’re talking about, yeah. Exactly. We’re talking about a flying rat. It’s what we’re talking about. And so we were so against it right out from the outset. We even said in the initial brief, that we didn’t want a pigeon. Even though we knew that carrier pigeons and messaging are very closely linked, and it would make for a good thing. We were just like, we don’t want to pigeon. And then one of the first things that came back with was this pigeon. And we were just like anti pigeon.

But then we went through a bunch of other things. We went through like a St. Bernard dog thing that didn’t work. There was just a bunch of other things. And it was just this lengthy exhaustive process. And I think Tim and his partner were just getting really bummed and exhausted by us. And then eventually we just capitulated the end, and we really started to embrace the pigeon, the branding that they had done for us. And so we now have a pigeon. We’ve got a pigeon in our branding.

Joe Howard: And this is for WP Migrate DB pro, right?

Brad Touesnard: No, no, no. That’s the migrating geese which are more majestic.

Joe Howard: I knew [crosstalk 00:04:17] that’s why I was trying to.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. And that’s another reason we quoted why we didn’t want another bird. Because it was going to be confusing. But no, we really like the pigeon. The pigeon that they came up with looks really slick, the brand, and so we love it. Yeah. We came around on it even though we were determined for it not to be a pigeon.

Joe Howard: I think that’s one thing that I would definitely rely on that team at DOS for. Is they can go from a concept that sounds like, hmm, I don’t know about that, and they can take it to like, whoa, this is actually really cool. And they have the design chops. And honestly kind of the creative chops I think to help you take that step, help us take that step. We were totally like lost and they totally let us on. Pretty much how to move forward with everything.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. I think the next time we do branding, we’re going to just go in with a completely open mind and not put any kind of kibosh on any ideas out of the gate. At the same time, even if we hadn’t done that, I definitely would have been opening that pitch deck with like, don’t be a pigeon, don’t be a pigeon, don’t be a pigeon, in my mind. So sometimes you just go in with preconceived notions, right? You just can’t help it.

Joe Howard: Yep, totally, man. Cool. We talked a little bit before we got started here. We were just chatting offline and talking about some of the stuff you’re working on this year, you personally. And it sounds like you’re pretty active in the hiring process, for I don’t know, a few different positions, just that’s where you’re spending a lot of time on right now. How’s that going? How’s 2020 been for you?

Brad Touesnard: Not great. It kind of fits with everything else that’s been going on in 2020. And I think that actually, the pandemic has actually maybe thrown us a curve ball in hiring as well. Because, one of our biggest differentiators before the pandemic, was that we were a remote company, right? That you can work from home. And all of a sudden, that is no longer a differentiation. Everyone’s working from home, everyone’s remote. I mean, I shouldn’t say everyone, because obviously there’s people out there doing difficult work during this pandemic.

But everyone in IT pretty much, right? Except for the people at the data centers that have to keep the server’s running. Everyone else is kind of good to work from home. And so, yeah. I think that’s been a big challenge. So our typical process involves posting a job to weworkremotely.com. And we just get tons of applicants from there. And we just pick from them. And this year, we’ve gotten way less applicants because there’s way more companies hiring on that job board. SO-

Joe Howard: Interesting. Total applications went down a lot this year. 

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. Way down, way down. We used to get close to 300 applicants for developer jobs, we would post on there. And we’re getting like 20 to 30 now.

Christie Chirin…: What, that’s a huge change.

Joe Howard: I know it’s like 90%.

Brad Touesnard: It’s incredible. It’s staggering.

Christie Chirin…: I’m surprised because at least in the U.S., we’re hearing a lot about just our astronomical unemployment rate because of the pandemic. Right? And granted that is mostly across non-IT, but I still heard there’s plenty of people. Right? Exactly. It’s a lot of surface work. But even then, I’ve heard of plenty of people in IT who have lost their jobs. Some company’s revenues that are… At least client pipeline has gone down. So I’m shocked, what?

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. I think the thing is, there’s an imbalance there, though. Most people in IT haven’t been affected. But most companies have stopped working in offices, right? Not most, all IT companies have stopped working in offices. So I think there’s a huge disparity there. Right? And so you’ve got way more companies competing for job postings that are not local anymore.

And you’ve got just a handful, relatively speaking, of people who have lost their jobs that were kind of linked to the service sector or something, right? So yeah, I am staggered too. I feel like there might be another part of the story that I’m missing. I keep double guessing myself, second guessing myself. Like, what? Did we change something? Is our job postings repelling people now? What is going on?

Joe Howard: Yeah, it’s funny because you’re competing against a lot of other companies right now. So maybe not as easy for individual companies who are remote hire anymore, but definitely a good time for the remote job boards. I’m sure we working remotely is happening up here, right? There have a ton of people posting on, oh, we got to find more remote workers. Brad, do you feel like this is a temporary thing? Or do you feel like people, I don’t know are starting to… I mean, everyone’s working remotely this year. So I’m sure a lot of people are like, this pandemic sucks. 

Brad Touesnard: Yeah.

Joe Howard: But working remotely, I could see myself doing this. Maybe I want to do this more. Do you think that you’re going to probably have ongoing challenges competing with more remote companies in 2021 and moving forward?

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, I think so. I think a lot of companies are not going back to offices. Especially in IT where a lot of the workers are introverts anyway, right? Now, if you’re an extrovert and you thrive off of, you get energy from other people, and you’re sitting in your office by yourself at home, that’s going to be a problem long term. Right? It’s going to be difficult. And so I feel like there’s certainly some companies like an agency, for example, right? An agency with Client Services people, that thrive off that, I don’t think they’re going to be able to-

Christie Chirin…: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know about that one. I mean, it’s probably true, honestly. But at the same time, right? I’m a pretty extroverted person. And so a lot of the nature of work from home is a sacrifice to me. But the sacrifice is still totally worth the benefit, right? I just have to work really hard to fill that other part of what I need to be happy and thriving. So I think even then, we’re going to see those people be like working from home is great.

Brad Touesnard: Have you taken a personality test though? Do you know that you rank as extrovert? You do?

Christie Chirin…: I have taken a personality test. And the shocking thing is that, depending on how I’m feeling that day, I get introverted or extroverted. So I’m right in the middle, I’m right in the middle, right? So I might not be the super extroverts. I definitely know people who are extremely extroverted, right? Who coordinate everything, and love to put events together and stuff like that. And I can definitely see those folks really struggling in a fully remote environment.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. I had my whole team take a… it wasn’t Myers-Briggs, I don’t think. It was some variation or something. Anyway, I don’t think one person in my team ranked as extrovert.

Joe Howard: Wow. 

Brad Touesnard: And that sort of, I work 12, 13 people, right? So it’s not surprising that… Especially the way we hire, we hire, we try not to do video interviews till the very end. And we don’t use that as a decision. So we don’t. The video interview at the end, it’s really just a meet and greet. Just for fun. We’ve already made a decision by that point, one way or another. And the reason for that is a bunch of… There’s a bunch of reasons for that. 

But the primary reason is we don’t do a lot of video calls as a team, right? We primarily, we do one once a week video calls for updates. And we don’t really need to do that. We just do it because we want to get some face time and so that we don’t turn into complete social idiots.

Joe Howard: So just to clarify for your hiring process. So you only do one video meet with the person you’re hiring at that point, you’ve already decided if you’re going to hire them or not? And the rest is

Brad Touesnard: That’s right.

Joe Howard: … communications emails or slack right or something? 

Brad Touesnard: Yeah.

Christie Chirin…: That’s mostly your job anyway, right?

Brad Touesnard: Exactly. Exactly. Writing clearly, and concisely is a big ranking factor for us. And, yeah. So yeah, we actually have been doing text-based chat interviews over Google Docs. So the interesting thing with Google Docs is that you can actually see them, every letter they type you can see as they type it, whereas typically with like a slack chat or something like that, they have to hit enter after they’ve typed their whole message and then you see it all. But you can see their thought process and they’re backspacing and everything as part of the chat when you use Google Docs to do the interview.

And so it’s a little nerve wracking, I think for the candidates. But we haven’t had any serious complaints about it, and I feel like we glean a lot. We know we really get the cadence of their thought processes and just how quickly they type. And there’s a bunch of information that comes from doing it that way. So yeah, we found that pretty effective way of doing things. It’s really bizarre.

Joe Howard: Did your team come up with that? Or is that something you’ve [crosstalk 00:14:32]

Brad Touesnard: I think I came up with that idea myself as part when I was developing the hiring process. Yeah.

Joe Howard: Yeah. That’s a cool idea. I like that a lot. I like the idea of not doing a lot of video through the interview process, especially if your job is based on written communication. It also is a nice way to take pressure off of people who may be more of introverted maybe not as much video people, and want to showcase their skills in a different way. 

Brad Touesnard: Exactly. Exactly.

Joe Howard: Also, that means there’s always going to be some kind of pressure in a job interview. I mean, it’s a job interview. So it’s, it can’t be, no pressure. And there probably should be some pressure because, working a job to get some kind of results has some kind of pressure too, right? The Google Doc sounds like a nice happy medium, because it’s, you can write, and someone can be there hanging out with you and chatting with you. 

But you get to glean a little bit into that process. And I totally get the backspacing, or the speed of typing, and looking into people’s thought process. I bet you see people like, oh, I really liked that he or she deleted that little part and rewrote it, because I think that how they rewrote it was better. That glean in those little things are, a lot of times can be helpful. Is this the right candidate or not?

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, totally.

Joe Howard: I mean, still[crosstalk 00:15:54]

Christie Chirin…: I would find [crosstalk 00:15:54]

Brad Touesnard: What do you do? Do you guys, yeah, do you do interviews over video early on or?

Joe Howard: Yeah.

Christie Chirin…: I can talk about Caldera, because Liquid Web has a very traditional hiring process, right? But we used to do slack interview. We’d bring them on as guests, and they would have a time and things like that. But we would do a slack interview, right? Because, again, we’re testing for your skills about what you’re actually going to do here, not your interviewing skills, right? So we’re going to be talking over slack a whole lot more than we’re ever going to be talking on video. Right? So that was how we started. Yeah. And then the rest of it was pretty traditional. But we started with a slack interview, because that’s the basic skill, right? 

Almost anything else, depending on the role, of course, but almost anything else we can teach you when it comes to tooling. And that’s the one thing I can’t teach you, or at least don’t have the resources to. What just can you effectively communicate asynchronously in short messages? And I don’t know, I’m kind of curious. And I want to come back to this thought, right? But I’m really curious about what both of you think about how the current moment presents an opportunity to teach people stuff. To bring on the people who maybe aren’t currently IT workers, but could reasonably switch now that we’re going to be focused more on online work from home and things like that. So I’m kind of curious.

Joe Howard: Yeah. I think that’s super challenging. I’ve had a couple WordPress friends reach out to me, like, hey, I have a friend, or someone I know who’s looking for a job, they’re looking to get into a tech job, or technology job, or WordPress job. And they have been the manager of a clothing store for three years. And I’ve had reservations about potentially hiring those people. And I think my reservations stem from having to do a ton of teaching and education. And that’s a big commitment. I don’t know if we have the systems built out to… We can teach people how to do basics of most things, but around the WordPress community.

How does the WordPress community work? How does WordPress work? How does open source software work? That takes a lot of experience. I think, took me a lot of time to figure that stuff out. And to bring someone who’s like, what’s WordPress? Or WordPress with a lowercase p? It’s like, okay, there’s a lot to dig into here. So I’ve been hesitant actually to hire people from outside of kind of at least some experience in working in a technology coming or working in here. But Brad, I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are there too.

Christie Chirin…: Yeah.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. My biggest reservation there would just be digital communication. I mean, I see this on a daily basis, with the other people, non-IT people that I interact with. Is they’re just, they can’t even do email right. They’re replying all saying, thanks. And just breaking all the rules of like digital etiquette, right? 

Joe Howard: Yeah.

Brad Touesnard: And I’m just like, oh, man, this would be so painful to try onboard someone like this, and to just train them up on basic things like, how to email properly. I’m not saying-

Joe Howard: I think [crosstalk 00:19:37] when someone posts a new post and doesn’t reply to the other post about the same topic, don’t start a new post reply to that. And that’s even another level. Yeah.

Brad Touesnard: Right. Right. But I mean, they wouldn’t even… Potentially they would have a hard time even getting their head around slack. Right? If they’re having a hard time with email, right? And the etiquette there. So everything would be new to them, or a lot would be new to them at a basic level. And I think that would be very difficult for a small company to absorb someone and have to train them up at that very basic level. I could see larger organizations being able to do that, and having the processes in place to handle that. Because larger organizations tend to take on more junior people anyway, as part of their whole growth strategy and hiring strategy. 

For us, we don’t even take on intermediate and junior people, because we felt like we would be spending so much of our resources, the little resources that we have, just training those people up and getting them to a point where they’re going to be a valuable member of the team. And then they might leave. Right? Is the other thing. And we’ve only got 13 people. So yeah, I feel like you need to be a much bigger company to take on some of the basics. I would say at least 50 people you would have to be… I think that’s kind of the number I have in my head anyway.

Joe Howard: Yeah. I feel like I want an academy or a training section of my company, right? It’s you see a bunch of big Fortune 500 companies doing a ton of technology education for youth around the world. A lot of that is they want to be a good company, and maybe make the world a better place. But there’s also the advantage of, hey, in 10 years, that person could be an employee here, because we helped bring them up. Right? 

Brad Touesnard: Exactly.

Joe Howard: There’s that thought process. So yeah, Christie, I’d be interested to hear it Liquid Web, like you said, you have a more traditional approach. Do you all have, or have you this year, you may not be super privy to all the hiring stuff, but have you seen folks come into Liquid Web who have not had traditional backgrounds? Or is it mostly people who have had some experience?

Christie Chirin…: It goes either way. With Liquid Web in particular, I mean, we’re 1000 person company. So-

Joe Howard: You don’t know every single person [crosstalk 00:21:54]

Christie Chirin…: Well, the thing is I probably know more people on the average part of that 1000 person company, right.? And that just has to do with my role and my personality.

Joe Howard: Extroverted, yeah.

Christie Chirin…: But in the middle, right in the middle. But it depends, right? I think that even a company like Liquid Web isn’t going to hire someone with absolutely zero tech skills, right? And I also think that today in particular, there really aren’t that many people with zero tech skills. I mean, there’s a lot of people with zero tech skills. But a lot of the technology skills that you need to come in with are now things that more of us are practicing. Right? Just for daily life, especially now that we’re living in this weird, topsy turvy post apocalyptic pandemic world, a lot of people have had to learn how to communicate online.

Have had to learn how to use Zoom, right? Have had to learn how to write. So I think the tides are changing a little tiny bit, right? And I don’t want to be discouraging to anybody in that position. For the most part, though, Liquid Web is traditional in it’s hiring. And so part of that means that you don’t see a whole lot of sort of career switchers, right? You see, roles being posted, and people with experience coming in. Some of the roles are deliberately posted as entry level roles, right? And the company is still looking for the relevant credentials for an entry level role, right? 

And so with Liquid Web, it’s more in the traditional. And I definitely agree with you both that for a small company, the amount of resources that training requires, is massive. And training is a skill, right? I don’t think that everyone who is a CEO, or an owner, or a technology lead is necessarily going to be the best teacher. And that alone brings on a level of complexity that is not going to be easily approachable to most small companies. The other thing too, is it’s not the best thing for the entry level person, right? 

You mentioned that they might leave. But it’s really hard to start out in a position in which you don’t have mentorship. And you don’t have a lead in whatever you’re trying to do to learn from and grow from. Right? And I think that that can also be a disadvantage, but is that disadvantage heavier than the disadvantage of getting your foot in the door? I don’t really know.

Joe Howard: Yeah, interesting. Also this kind of transitions into something else that Brad you put as maybe a potential topic we could talk about today, which is, when you’re rating potential candidates for a position, there’s this intuition versus scorecard, I don’t know, conversation. Some people may do more of a formal scorecard. We used to do pretty formal scorecards around what we thought about answers to certain questions. Was this a 7 out of 10 answer?

This seemed like a 7 out of 10 answer. Actually, I remember we specifically didn’t do 7 out of 10, we weren’t allowed to give 7 of 10s because 7 of 10 is like a total awful answer. It’s not good and not bad. But it’s just in the middle. So we were like either six or eight, or any other number out of 10 besides seven.

Christie Chirin…: No 7s.

Joe Howard: But anyway, you could give… Yeah, no sevenS. But we’d like go into a Google Doc, or a sheet. And we’d like go and average the numbers and, okay, this person got like, an 8.2. And this person got like an eight. So was one person better than the other? And don’t really do that anymore.

Brad Touesnard: My point too. Clearly he’s better.

Joe Howard: Yeah, exactly. But we’ve kind of transitioned to more, I think, intuition based. And we think you’re going to be good. We’ve done some qualifications on you. Let’s do a trial period. But and see how this actually works. And that’s, I think, worked out better for us. But I’d be interested to hear Brad what, your thoughts on there? Because you had this as a point you want to chat about it? I don’t know what you guys do over there.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, man, I feel like our hiring process has gone from, so the approach was just throw them in the deep end and sink or swim, we would literally just take several candidates that we barely even vetted and just throw them at the project, and just add them to GitHub and everything and just say, here you go pick up some issues, start contributing to this project, right? Kind of almost an open source kind of mentality, right? And the problem with that is, super disruptive to our team, right? Because you’ve got all these other people in there just fiddling around and trying to learn on the fly, and they’re asking questions, it was a mess. So we do a lot more vetting now before we get to the stage where we bring them on into a trial. 

But our trial now is still based on our product. So it’s like a fork, we just make a copy of our product repo. And we just copy some issues into there that we feel like this person, or that the role would be revealing for the role. And things we want to see. And then they just do that. They open a pull request for that stuff and commit some code, and we review it, and we give them feedback and they fix it. And we just go through the process that we normally would. And that’s been the best trial project. We’ve in the past also come up with these conceived trial projects for people. And that’s been a really false positive signal in the past. Because we could try this project, and it was too simple for the person to get their head around. 

And so they did great on that project, but then they get into our actual plugin, and they can’t get their head around it, the concepts are eluding them. And so yeah, we’ve really kind of gone back to the old way of like throwing them in the deep end in a way, but just in a way that’s less disruptive to our team. And that’s been pretty good. One other problem we’ve had, though, is that so what part of our process is to review sample code upfront, as part of kind of the application process we ask in your in the application. 

Can you provide some sample code that we could quickly review to see if you’re in the same arena as what we’re looking for here? Right? And a lot of people especially when we’re hiring Laravel developers for spin up, a lot of people say they don’t have any code to share. Everything’s under NDA or whatever, right? And I think that’s just the difference between Laravel world and the WordPress world, whatever WordPress world is GPL everything right? So it’s kind of all open source if you’re working on WordPress stuff. So you should be able to share pretty much anything you work on there. Whereas Laravel is much more private and protected stuff. So now with Laravel developers, we have to have this kind of code challenge project that is contrived, that allows them to do something that can show us, can you cut it?

Will you be able to cut it when you get into our application? Right? So we have to contrive something there just for those people. But then we still bring them into our app and try them out sometimes, right? If we’re still not sure. So our process is really fluid. And it really if we’re not feeling sure about something, we’ll figure out a way to squash that uncertainty before we make a commitment, especially if someone is employed full time and has to leave their job to come and work for us. Right? In those situations, you don’t want to say, yes, you’re hired and then find out two weeks in that they’re not a fit. And then they’re out at sea. You just let them go. Right? It’s tricky, man. It’s so tricky.

Joe Howard: It’s tricky is like the number one word I use for hiring stuff. Because it’s a huge challenge. It’s no matter how good or bad, I feel that someone’s almost it’s like anything could happen, right? As someone who’s hired a good amount of people successfully, but also had a lot of issues hiring in the past, over the past three years, like I’ve probably had, we’ve had, I’ll say we, I have personally had like three or four people who I’ve hired who just didn’t work out very well. And usually I can look back, in the moment it’s hard to say I need to let this person go. It can be difficult to say that. 

Brad Touesnard: Sure.

Joe Howard: But then after it’s done, I can always look back even to the application process, even to their first week. Obviously, there’s more stuff we could always do for onboarding and helping people get better at that. But there’s usually something I can look back at to say, hmm that was maybe a red flag for something that could have turned into something bigger. Brad, I don’t want to call you out. Maybe you’ve had some hiring that’s worked out. Maybe some it hasn’t worked out. Any arounds hiring it hasn’t worked out where you’ve seen something like that? Anything specifically you’ve seen that you look back and like, oh, that wasn’t, I should have listened to myself more and notice that, that might have been an issue?

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, I feel like in the past I’ve given up that is the hiring decision to my team without guidance. I mean, that was a huge mistake. That was probably the biggest mistake I’ve made hiring in the past where it’s just I said, you guys hire this person. And just like, you’re on your own, you’ve never hired anybody before, but I’m sure it’ll work out. Is basically the approach I took, which is terrible in retrospect, right? Everything that doesn’t work out is always terrible and retrospect. But at the time, it didn’t seem like that big of an ask that they would just figure it out. But in retrospect, the hiring is super difficult. Of course, I’m not very good at it still. And I’ve been doing it for years. 

Joe Howard: That’s my thing. I was like, I’m not very good at it. Someone else should probably help him please.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, yeah. So yeah, that that was probably the biggest thing. And then, like I said earlier, we contrived of a project that didn’t actually test their skills very well to test kind of all the important parts. And so in retrospect, we look and say, oh, yeah, that project is a bad project to actually use as bedding. So yeah, that’s true. I’m sure there’s a dozens of others if I… I’d rather not sit down and make that list though. 

Joe Howard: Yeah. Exactly. It’s a stressful list to put together.

Brad Touesnard: And I feel it’s kind of whack-a-mole too. I feel like there’s going to be something new next year that’s never happened that someone gets in through the cracks. And then we find out, oh, shoot. Yeah, we got to-

Joe Howard: Another thing.

Brad Touesnard: … watch out for that in the future.

Joe Howard: Yeah. How about well, maybe we could talk about the other side of the coin? The positives people who have worked there for a long time. Anybody or your best team members, people who’ve been there, and you can really lean on and trust in a really core members of the team, maybe some positives from some of their, I don’t know, because there’s kind of hard skills and soft skills. There’s obviously technical chops that your developers need. But then there’s also soft skills around communication. 

How do you use slack? Like, okay, they can just do it. Anything specifically that comes out to you as things that… I usually think about it, the people I manage directly, if they can make my life easier as a manager, I don’t have to sit over their shoulder, they get their stuff done, they’re good team members. To me if they can do that they’re 80% of the way they are, right? So anything from your perspective, though, where you’re like, this is what tells me this person is the bomb.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. Well, I mean, our retention has been excellent. We just had our first team member leave that’s been with us for a long time, which is sad. But he was moving On to new exciting things. And so we kind of celebrated it. But there was a somber mood to it too, right?

Joe Howard: Once you get to 10 plus people statistically speaking at some point.[crosstalk 00:35:11]

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. So he had been with us since 2015, so five years. We still have five people that have been with us for at least that long. And we got two more that have been with us, I think, for three or four years. And then the rest are newer ones, been with us for two, and the others are much newer. So yeah, retention rates are really good. We had one person stay for two years and leave, our marketing manager. That happened. 

But I think largely what happened there is that she hired someone under her to help her with a bunch of tasks, and it kind of replaced a lot of the work that she was doing. It kind of filled her role a little bit too much, if you know what I mean. So she kind of made herself obsolete. 

Joe Howard: She was stuck between manager and individual contributors. She was just kind of like, [crosstalk 00:36:24]

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s a bit what happened there. And I mean, the idea there was to grow. For her to become more of a high level person. Right? But she was having difficulty doing that, I think. And so she ended up leaving the company. Which is fine. We’ve been fine ever since. So it wasn’t like, oh, this is devastating. We’re not going to be able to keep going here. That would be bad. Right? If you lost that key person.

Joe Howard: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like honestly, at this point most people on our team, if they quit or had to leave, things would be okay. But there are definitely probably two or three people who I would be stressed if they left. Because they’re really core to the team, which is good, right? They’re really core contributors. But if they left, that would be a challenge for us. Which is, that’s a challenge too. So you want to have people it’s like, where do you want people? You want people to be dependent on but not too dependent on? Yeah.

Brad Touesnard: Right. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I feel the same way. I just promoted, I mean, promoted it’s a weird word. Change the role is probably a better word. He went from being a developer primarily to be a manager. So he’s managing a development team. He’s doing almost no coding, actually. Yeah, he’s doing little tiny bit of coding still, here and there. And doing some PR reviews. But other than that, he’s just managing the projects, and the products, and eventually going to be doing some UX work and stuff like that, product managers stuff. And then we have another person, again, this person’s been with us for over five years. And he’s kind of taken on a lead developer role within one of the teams. 

And so yeah, if for one of these… The whole reason for this was to take a bunch of stuff off my plate, right? There kind of stepping into a new role and taking away a bunch of stuff that I’ve been doing, right? So yeah, if they were to leave, it would really, really suck because I would have to inherit all those things again, until I could find a replacement. And one of the only reasons that I felt confident in giving up these responsibilities to these people, because they’ve been with me for so long. They know everything so well. And I trust them. Right? And so yeah, if they were to leave, it would be really difficult, so.

Joe Howard: Yeah. Totally. The one other other thing I wanted to chat about here, in this podcast actually is based on what we all started talking about, which was how you’re seeing fewer leads come in for new hiring prospects. So top of the funnel. And I wanted to talk a little bit about that, because as someone… I personally, I’ve adjusted my hiring structures somewhat from just basing it on these websites where I post a job, and I get candidates, to actually doing more, “recruitment.” 

That sounds really formal, but it’s more just using my network to reach out to people. Allie Nimmons is on our team now. That started from a Twitter DM where I DMed her a project I think she was helping her coworker Michelle raise money for a laptop. And I Dmed her and was like, this is a really cool project, super cool. And that eventually turned into now she’s our community person and rocking it. 

Brad Touesnard: Nice. 

Joe Howard: And I’d be interested to hear also from you Christie around… I mean, Liquid Web is 1000 person company, right? So you probably have an HR department that does outreach and has a certain candidate quota every month. But Brad is a smaller company, wondering if you do any outreach for people like Slack, DMs, and the making WordPress channel, reaching out to some educators in the space, we have a collection of like 100 freelancers they work with, hey, anybody, you know who could do this? Yeah, and thinking about that as kind of to support your process of getting candidates on the top of the funnel.

Christie Chirin…: Out button real quick. I want to hear Brad’s answer. but I will let you know that, that recruitment process never really goes away. Yes. Liquid Web has an entire HR department. And they do all the HR things. Like wellness programs, and paperwork, and onboarding, and all this stuff that you associate with a larger company. But, my job still came from a Twitter DM from Chris. So it never goes away. Right? [crosstalk 00:41:19]. I don’t think that, that process ever becomes like hiring is completely disassociated, and 100% outsourced to HR. It’s always going to be about networks. And that’s true for people looking for jobs, too, right? 

You have a better chance when you know someone who works in the company, even if it’s not someone who works in hiring, why? Because they could talk to a hiring manager, because they can make your name relevant in a stack of resumes, blah, blah, blah, all the regular sort of employment advice. Right? So that’s a bit about Liquid Web. I can definitely talk to how things were at Caldera. I mean, a lot of the things that you all are talking about are different for me. And that was because we did bring on entry level people. And that was because it wasn’t difficult for me to teach. Right? 

And that just sort of comes with again, it’s a skill and people are different levels of knowledgeable and also interested in it, right? Because it does take a lot of patience. And it does take a lot of effort and investment, right? But for me, I mean, a ton of my job responsibilities now is to teach the product catalog to sales, to the partner team, to new support people to things like that, right? So this is just sort of, I hate these words, too. But kind of a natural competency, right? And so when you’re looking at entry level roles, that funnel is just going to be bigger, it’s just going to be bigger.

And that sometimes helps if you have the structures or the time to put into bringing someone on and then documenting all that stuff, and then reusing all that stuff for the next person, which is more of what I have been doing here at Liquid Web. But outside of taking on that strategy, it’s hard to get qualified people. When we were looking for roles that were intermediate to senior, it was really hard to find people. A lot of recruitment was required. A lot of people didn’t make it through even if they weren’t entry level, just because there were key pieces of information that we just couldn’t teach. And I don’t have a great answer. But I do want to add that at no point does active recruitment go away.

Brad Touesnard: Yeah. Totally, totally. I mean, so my second hire Ian Polson, who’s still on the team, and he’s actually the product manager I was talking about earlier. He was hired because he replied to a tweet. I had posted that I was hiring. So we already had a relationship because he had bought WP app store from me. And he still runs WP app store today, which is now it’s just a deal site, right? And that’s what it was when he bought it from me. It’s kind of like, app Sumo, but for WordPress products, right? And he still runs that today. And anyway, yeah. He reached out to me on Twitter, and he said, hey, I might be interested in this. 

I think it was around the post that I’d written where it’s like, come work for me, and I’ll teach you how to launch your own product. Or something like that. It was kind of an apprenticeship kind of thing except paid. You actually get paid for your time. So he reached out to me for that. And then I think I reached out to Matt Shaw, who’s also with us still and had a conversation with him. And then it turned into an acquisition. So he had his own product, Better Search Replace. And it was basically turned into an aqua hire. And so Matt came to work for us. And that product rolled into our catalog. 

And the rest is history. So I agree. And I have been talking to people who know us from our content and our products. Some of the best candidates that we get applying, by far actually are people who know us already, right? Know our products and want to work for us. And are very enthusiastic about it. And they demonstrate that in their application. Right? I would say active recruitment has never been a thing for us. And we’ve only really been considering it lately, because it’s been so difficult to hire lately, but yeah.

Joe Howard: Those are all interesting anecdotal stories. Very interesting we’ve all had Twitter experience of a hiring process. I’d second what you said about people who know your product or good potential hires. I’ve talked to the team at Beaver Builder, and Anthony is their marketer over there. He was just a Beaver Builder power user. And they hired him because he just knew Beaver Builder so well and had marketing chops. Like boom, easy hire, right?

Brad Touesnard: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joe Howard: And then for us, I hired Alec who’s our head of growth. And he was a WP Buffs’ white label partner before we hired him. And so he knew the white label process. He was a white label partner, he was using it to grow his business. So he knew the benefits of it. He knew the ins and outs of it and obviously had learned from our side, but. He talked about Christie listening to us on podcast episodes during when he was applying. And it’s a small thing, but it’s an impactful thing. You know about the company, you know about us. And he’s been fantastic so far. So I think these little gold nuggets are important. Yeah, cool. 

Brad Touesnard: [crosstalk 00:47:42] Yeah. Speaking of HR, oh, sorry.

Christie Chirin…: Oh, no, no. It’s okay. I was just shining in that what Joe just described with Alec happens a good amount at Liquid Web too. Especially when it comes to sales posts.

Joe Howard: Sales post, a lot of Liquid Web. Totally.

Brad Touesnard: Oh, yeah. I would imagine. Yeah. Speaking of HR, though, we are now, after this year of, basically, I spent so much time hiring this year, I’m starting to consider a part time HR person to really do some of the heavy lifting around hiring. Because I feel like we’ve probably hit the point now where we are just going to be hiring kind of perpetually. And if I don’t have help with that, then I’m just going to be the one doing it perpetually. 

So a recruiter or someone to like filter applications, and maybe do initial contact with applicants. I’ve been doing all of that myself this year. And I really need to give that up. I need to get over the idea that I’m some kind of special evaluator of these applications. I don’t think I am. I know I am not. But yet when I’m doing it, I’m feeling like, oh, I’m so good at this.

Joe Howard: Brad after we wrap up here, we’ll do some [inaudible 00:49:04]. Because we just hired a People Ops manager, part time People Ops manager.

Brad Touesnard: Okay. 

Joe Howard: It’s changed a lot of what we do and made things a lot easier for Nick and I in terms of hiring process. So I will help to push to help you find someone, if you could connect me, this is a nice trade here, right? For HR stuff. I would love to talk to quid pro quo. 

Brad Touesnard: It’s a quid pro quo.

Joe Howard: It’s a quid pro quo, here we go. I would love to talk to your designer, because I would be interested in not hiring that person. But I would love to maybe cook into their network, and to find help them help me find a designer because, I see all the stuff you guys put out at Delicious Brains. And everything is… beautiful, impeccably designed, and you can tell that you have an in house designer, and not just a design firm helping you out. I can tell it’s all works together really well. So yes, quid pro quo. Sorry. But like I want to[inaudible 00:50:01].

Brad Touesnard: I don’t know how much Louis is going to be able to help you. I mean, first of all, Louis is an incredible designer, and I’m so fortunate to have him on the team. And it was a pretty difficult hiring process to find him, though it was only one round. I feel like how good Louis is, it should have taken three rounds to find someone like him, right? So I don’t know how a day he was working at an agency. He saw our job posting and he applied. It was really that simple. I don’t know how much he’s going to be able to help you there. It’s probably going to be luck, Joe, I’m afraid to say.

Joe Howard: Turns out usually that’s the case. And so, yeah. I’m with you there. But cool. Well, let’s wrap it up. We’ve been doing like 50 minutes or so. So yeah, appreciate you being on Brad. Why don’t you tell folks websites, Twitter handle,-

Brad Touesnard: Sure.

Joe Howard: … places they can find you online?

Brad Touesnard: Yeah, @bradt on Twitter, and you can find our products at deliciousbrains.com and spinupwp.com. 

Joe Howard: Yes. Cool. And last thing Brad, we ask guests to do, on the show is ask our listeners, for a little iTunes review. So if you wouldn’t mind asking our listeners right now for a little five stars here, we’d appreciate it.

Brad Touesnard: All right, folks. It’s time to do a little work. Not really, though, is it? It takes like than five minutes to do this, right? You go to iTunes and… Actually do you have to go into the iTunes app to do this? Or can you go to the website? Or where do you go?

Joe Howard: You can go to the website. My computer has a little pop up window when I go to the website. It says, do you want to open this in iTunes? So then I just opened it in iTunes but we also have a redirect so people couldn’t just go to wpmrr.com/itunes and whatever your devices does with that, it’ll take you to that view area. Yep. Super easy. 

Brad Touesnard: So wpmrr.com/itunes. That’s easy. Just do that. And then two minutes later, you’re done. And you’ve done a really nice thing, for Joe and Christie. I mean, that should make you feel good. Right?

Joe Howard: Oh. There you go. So, as always, we appreciate those. Leave a little comments with something you learned from this episode, and then we can shoot the screenshot to Brad’s Twitter. Thanks, Brad, appreciate you getting helping us get a review. And will also help us choose what other episodes to do if we get a bunch of reviews about a hiring episode. Hey, we’ll talk more about it in the future and bring other folks on to talk about it too. So cool. If folks are new listeners, we got a few older episodes. Right Christie?

Christie Chirin…: We have hundreds of older episodes.  Is it hundreds? I think it’s 100, and then some 10s.

Joe Howard: 100 with maybe a super small, s or something. 120 or so. Maybe not multiple 100’s, but 100 plus 10’s. Yeah, there we go.

Christie Chirin…: There we go.

Joe Howard: … of episodes in the bank. So go and check out some older content specific to challenged. We have a search on the website. So hey, you’re having trouble with pricing, search pricing, we got a bunch of episodes on that kind of stuff and everything else under the sun. If you have questions for us at the show, Christine I always want to do more Q and A episodes. So shoot your questions into where? Christie.

Christie Chirin…: Into joe@wpmrr.com.

Joe Howard: I just had that inbox redirected to my team to help me handle that because I’m not very good at checking email. So they’ll be checked even better now that inbox. So that’s another reason to send those in. Or you can just hit us up on Twitter @JosephHHoward, @xtiechirinos.

Christie Chirin…: Yeah. X-T-I-E Chirinos. That’s C-H-I-R-I-N-O-S. Yeah. I got an email from joe@wpmr.com. Allie forwarded it to me. It was very exciting.

Joe Howard: There you go. Perfect. Makes it easy. All right, that’s it for this week. We’ll be in your podcast players again next Tuesday. Brad, thanks again for being on man. It’s been real.

Brad Touesnard: Thanks, folks. Appreciate it.

Joe Howard: See you everybody. Bye.


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