Agency Advantage 48: Dan Golden on Building a High-Performing Team with Open-Book Management

Agency Advantage 48: Dan Golden on Building a High Performing Team with Open-Book Management

In this episode of Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, we talk with Dan Golden (Twitter), founder and President of the 45+ person digital marketing agency, Be Found Online.

Be Found Online was recently awarded a spot on the Inc 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in America, and if that alone isn’t impressive enough, this was the 5th straight year they’ve had that honor, so they know a thing or two about growth.

What's open-book management and how you can use it to build a high-performing team Click To Tweet

Today Dan shares how they accelerated that growth with agency partnerships, but the real focus of our talk is how he and his team use open-book management to build a high-performing team that made this growth possible.

If you could use a few fully-engaged and driven employees, then don’t go anywhere because Dan lays out exactly how to get (and keep) them.

Download a full transcript of the interview with Dan: Get it right here.

Key Takeaways

Building an agency with open-book management [15:00 – 22:00]

After spending time at a big agency, Dan realized that for most employees, the actual business results are completely disconnected from what they are doing on a daily basis. Inspired by The Great Game of Business, he set out to empower his employees to affect change and seeing how their actions impact the business metrics. To do that, you need to open up your books.

Many employees, especially at bigger agencies, have the idea that the owners are making tons of money while paying everybody else peanuts. That is very rarely the case, but when they see huge invoices going out, it’s an easy conclusion to come to. By opening up the books, not only will they understand all of the costs that go into running an agency, but everybody will be fully engaged and working towards the common goal.

The level of openness you embrace is up to you (Dan doesn’t share individual salaries, but does list salaries by department), but if you try to hide things, you’re missing the point.

Why this matters [23:00 – 39:00]

Simply put, you can’t achieve your goals without getting buy-in from your team, and if they don’t feel like they have ownership in the company, you’ll never get that buy-in.

Part of this is as simple as getting them to treat the business as something more than a piggy bank. When booking travel, you don’t want your employees going out to $50 lunches because they can just “put it on the company.” You want them to not only see how that spending impacts the business but to actually care about that impact.

The other part is that this ownership mindset gets everybody aligned with your core values so that they can be fully engaged, working towards the common goal. It may sound a bit hokey, but there truly is a difference between businesses where they employees truly care and one where they are just showing up for a paycheck. If you want to build a great agency, whether that means big profits, a great work/life balance, or both, you need to get those employees who truly care, and open-book management is a great way to do that.

How to get started [39:00 – 45:00]

Dan and the Be Found Online team practice The Great Game of Business method of open-book management, and while they’ve adapted it to suit their specific needs, there is a huge community that you can tap into for help.

To get started, Dan recommends starting with books like The Great Game or Small Giants, talking with companies who have implemented it, and then testing it out with a small pilot in your own agency. There are going to be bumps along the way, and to make open-book management work you need to make a commitment to be consistent even when it seems easier to go back to the old way of doing things.

Want to learn more?

If you want to hear more from Dan, he actively writers on the Be Found Online blog, you can follow him on Twitter, or you can listen to the episode where he shares his email address.

Resources mentioned:

The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack
Small Giants by Bo Burlingham
Conscious Capitalism
Entrepreneurial Operating System
AAP: Bob Ruffolo on Why Team Culture Matters for the Bottom Line