304 MINISODE Ashley Crouch: Hiring A Players

Ashley Crouch is a PR phenomenon helping her clients capture the imagination of national editors. Bestselling author of The Rebel’s Guide to Landing Publicity like a Royal and founder of Appleseed Communications, Ashley shares advice on how to scale a company quickly by hiring premium talent and setting premium prices, plus why it is never too soon to go for placement in the top media outlets.  It creates instant credibility and a proliferation of “as seen on” logos that make everything else easier from there, whether landing clients, raising your prices, or getting that Facebook ad campaign to convert.

Melinda Wittstock:         Ashley, welcome to Wings.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you for having me, Melinda.

Melinda Wittstock:         I'm so excited to always have another unicorn on the podcast. Unicorn club being of course for women with seven, eight, and nine figure businesses. And Ashley, I'm so excited to find out what's inspiring you right now in your business, and in your life.

Ashley Crouch:                  Well, it's the top of 2019 and I'm so inspired, because I'm going to the fifth year of my company and we're having our five-year anniversary, which I'm stoked.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yay!

Ashley Crouch:                  But one of the things that I realized over the past five years is it is truly possible to live and work from anywhere. And that was my whole position when I launched the company, was to provide premier service to women entrepreneurs and land them in national media platforms, wherever I am in the globe. And so just recently I circumnavigated the globe with my fiancée, we went to five continents in five weeks.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my goodness! There's no such thing as jet lag, right?

Ashley Crouch:                  I may be a little jet-lagged. What really opened my eyes was just the beauty of all the different cultures, we did Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, and Australia. And all around the world we met these fabulous people, and it just ignited me and lit a fire under me to help more and more people. So I'm really inspired by global impact, and coming off of this world trip.

Melinda Wittstock:         I love it. That's so inspiring. So inspiring. So everybody always has challenges in business, and especially as we scale. And you mentioned you're five years in, and congratulations on that.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you.

Melinda Wittstock:         What are some of the challenges that you face at that five year mark?

Ashley Crouch:                  Yeah. So as you mentioned, I work with women entrepreneurs during their launch, scale, or pivot phase, and at this point my company is in scale mode. Usually that happens within years three to five. And so in my case, at that point of scale it's so important not only to be … Can't it just be the solopreneur face of the company, you really have to have an underpinning and a machine of A players-linchpin staff that can support the vision that you have. So one of the frustrations I had is in finding and hiring the A players that propel the vision forward to the level of quality that I want to produce.

And so that's what I'm looking for, additional mentorship. Around last year, my company hired about 30 people, at least 30 people.

Melinda Wittstock:         30 people is a lot of people to hire. I mean, so I presume you had a really great process in place to make that happen.

Ashley Crouch:                  Yeah, so we go through … Referrals are always looked at more thoroughly than cold leads, but we have job descriptions, we have a series of processes, and bring them on. And I always do a 30 day probational period, because my team is virtual and so it allows us time to get to know each other and our work styles, and all the software that we use and everything. And moving forward now into 2019, as we do scale the … I'm bringing on additional consultants to really streamline that process so that we're sure everyone coming in the door is equipped with the techniques and the tools and the expertise, as well as the passion for what we do.

Because it is unique, we're the first one-for-one PR agency to exist. We work with women in developing nations, and offer micro-loans, and work with some of the most inspiring women on the planet, so we want all those key categories to be in place with the team that comes in the door.

Melinda Wittstock:         That's awesome. So getting alignment too, on mission and vision and making sure that all the people are in the right seats and all that, it's not easy. But it sounds like you got it handled.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you, yeah. I'm excited, we're almost there. I have a couple more key positions to fill, but we're almost there.

Melinda Wittstock:         That's awesome. Okay, so Ashley, along the way what have … If you had to think in the context of your own entrepreneurial journey, what would be the top three pieces of advice you'd give to female founders who you work with, and women in business? The top three pieces of advice?

Ashley Crouch:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Perfect. So as I mentioned, my team is virtual. And I designed the company to allow everyone on the team to live and work from anywhere. But in addition to that, I'm looking for … So building off the hiring conversation, I'm looking for people to hire that want to be entrepreneurs. And the benefit of this is that I'm also training and mentoring my staff, and a number of them have gone on to launch their own dream companies following working with my company. So in that process, I've noticed three key categories that really spell the difference, and those are the needle-movers when it comes to being successful.

The first one is one that I tell my team always, and my students in eight countries, and it's this: practice makes progress, and progress is the point. And so that piece of advice is rooted in the growth mindset philosophy around letting go of perfectionism, realizing it's important to take risks, important to be proactive, and inactivity is the greatest indicator of failure. So I want A players and all women entrepreneurs who are going for it with the big vision to do their big work in the world to know that this is about progress. And so approaching everything as if it's practice [crosstalk [spp-timestamp time="00:05:54"] get over those perfectionistic tendencies we might have that [crosstalk [spp-timestamp time="00:05:58"] starting.

Melinda Wittstock:         Gosh, I love that. Practice instead of perfectionism. You know, because if you can let yourself just take those risks, it's absolutely crucial to be willing to kind of fail, that's how we all learn. So that's awesome. So what would advice number two be?

Ashley Crouch:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay, so the second one … And I'm biased, because I am a visibility strategist and I work in media, but the piece of advice that I tell people always is that media is the foundation of your business growth, but you have to do it in the right way. So again, media is the foundation. Now, why do I say it's the foundation? When you first get started in business there's so many considerations, and unlimited pieces of advice. Everyone says you have to have the perfect website, get your head shots, perfect the product, do the Facebook ads, write a blog.

There's a million things to do, but what I say is, “Look. If you land national media attention, then you position yourself in the right way to close clients faster, and higher quality clients, because you're in a different stratosphere. If you do everything else, like Facebook ads, let's say you spend 30 thousand dollars a month on Facebook ads, send it to a website with no media, no testimonies, no credibility, you're leaving thousands of dollars on the table.” So get the media out of the way first, land those critical features fast, I would say in the first 60 days, and then everything else will be built upon that platform.

Melinda Wittstock:         That's so smart, because a lot of people leave it as the icing on the cake. And yet, I get what you're saying about the foundation, because you have instant credibility.

Ashley Crouch:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly.

Melinda Wittstock:         Okay, so number three.

Ashley Crouch:                  Okay, number three is a lesson that I learned a couple of years into my business around pricing. So my piece of advice is this: set premium prices, hire premium talent, and follow through. Because in today's market, an individual can become a business in 60 seconds, that's what Brian Chesky, founder of Airbnb says. There's more talent in the market than ever before, and it can be very tempting to compete on price and say, “I'm the most affordable option.” But as soon as you do that, you reduce your profit margins, you're working harder, often for lower-quality leads, and it's not a game you want to play. Pretty soon robots could do half of it anyway.

So if you set premium prices and hire premium talent for yourself and be premium talent, you're automatically positioning yourself in a different category based around value that you're offering, and not just a number.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's such important advice, and especially for women. A lot of us tend to undervalue ourselves and underprice and over-deliver, and of course so much of that is a mindset issue.

Ashley Crouch:                  So to that point, Melinda, there was a study that came out analyzing like 20 thousand invoices of creative freelancers, and they found that women naturally price themselves about 30% less than men for the same job. Yes. And I could tell you, as I mentioned, I hired about 30 people last year, mostly I enjoy working with women, I want to support women, but occasionally I do work with really qualified men, and on almost every occasion the men have been almost double the price of working with women. So just take it from me, if you're a high-quality woman offering high-quality services, then you need to raise your prices, 90% chance. You need to raise your prices.

Melinda Wittstock:         That is awesome. So Ashley, how can people find you and work with you? I can see that you would do so much good for so many of our listeners.

Ashley Crouch:                  Oh, thank you. So if anyone's interested in raising national media attention and positioning themselves as a premiere expert, they can find me at Appleseed Communications, with an S, .co, as well as hello@AppleseedCommunications, with an S, .co.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wonderful. Well, I encourage everybody to check out Ashley, thank you so much for putting on your Wings and flying with us today.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you, Melinda.

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