A Business Owner’s Perspective on Training with Travis Huff – Episode #25
Evan speaks with Travis Huff, chief social marketer and founder of Real-Time Outsource, a social media management and influencer agency, about how to train employees in an ever-changing industry. Travis has a background of success working at Disney, and started Real-Time Outsource in 2009. He understands the importance of staying up-to-date on industry trends and providing employees with proper training to ensure success. You connect with Travis on LinkedIn here.
Announcer: Welcome to Training Unleashed, the show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference. Now here’s your host, Evan Hackel.
Evan: Hello, everyone, to another edition of Training Unleashed. I am your host, Evan Hackel. My guest is Travis Huff of Real-Time Outsource, a great person who truly believes in training. And I thought it would be great to get his perspective on training as a business owner of a relatively, and I’ll say that compared to a lot of the people that we have on the show here, to how he takes training inside his business. Travis, do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Travis: Yes, sir. Absolutely. So I started my business in 2009 after working for the Disney Company, and I had a great run at, you know, an interesting career in television, but then I got a chance to take that knowledge, and after a Starbucks conversation with a buddy, I started my first business and it was Real-Time Outsource. I just did my successful full business as an entrepreneur. As a kid I always had multiple businesses but this is the one I really took on and it literally, you know, it’s our brain child now if you want to call it that. It’s an ever-evolving business. It’s now eight and a half years into it, and so my background is really sales and marketing. Now my biggest challenge is, I can go out and make money, but most importantly I’ve got to have the team to be able to support the campaign and actually deliver the work, and over-deliver on all our objectives. Otherwise we’re not going to have a customers for long. So in every business, yeah…
Evan: They all say the same. Tell everybody just briefly what your business does.
Travis: Yeah, so our business is a social media management and influencer agency. So we help businesses and brands manage their social media, from creating the content, scheduling it out, and then once it’s out there, then actually monitoring and responding when people are commenting. And this is in real-time, so it’s happening, you know, 24 hours a day now, with all the different time zones. You know, it’s pretty much a 24-hour cycle, and so having the team to respond to that as well as then also working on advertising, and reporting, and contests, and promotions, and really everything that encompasses social.
The one thing that’s really different from us and a lot of people is that we just do social. So there’s a lot of companies that do digital marketing, and they’re doing SEO, and they’re doing all these different things, and more power to them, but we just do social media. We feel like we can only do one thing good, and we feel that we’ve grown because we just do one thing good, you know. It’s a really consistent recurring revenue business, which is amazing too, meaning the money is recurring monthly as long as you’re doing your job, it’s recurring. And then in some cases the budget can go up based on the client’s proven success on one platform and they want to get on Instagram now, and want to start new advertising, and retargeting, and all the things you can do. So the retainers can definitely grow just like any other business, you know? But the challenge is, it’s not an automated business. It’s still like a lawyer. It’s still like an accountant or like a gardener, you know. Someone’s got to do the work, you know. And so…
Evan: And so you need people, and you need…
Travis: You have to have people. You have to have people and we feel like we have to have people that are in America specifically, that we can train and we can develop from people that are either at a college-level age or even more further on in their careers, or in some cases we actually work really well with people that are in that side-hustle mentality of, like, the Uber world and things like that, where people will only want to work six to 10 hours. They don’t want to work more. They only want six to 10 hours because they’ve got other things going on, they’re a mom, they’ve got this and that, but they want to still have a side hustle. And six to 10 hours of work a week is perfect for them, you know?
And so that’s actually some of the best situations for us, is, you know, allowing a mom or a dad to be able to watch their child, not have to commute to work, and be able to make money, you know? And just from doing work, you know? And so, but then obviously our biggest challenge is still just continually keeping them educated and trained about the new things happening, and then most importantly there is an education scale just like any business of, when you get them going to, then, at the end, you know, two or three years later, hopefully, they’re now a more fully educated social marketer. No one starts off…
Evan: How many people do you have on your team?
Travis: So we have 38 different team members or contractors that we work with on our team, and then we also work with a lot of different other businesses as well that are not actually part of our team but that we just pay them as a business. So all our team are contractors, yeah.
Evan: So we have very similar businesses, and we have fulltime dedicated staff which is about 17, and then we have about the same amount of independent contractors that do… Sometimes some of them are close to fulltime, some of them are a little part-time here, a little part-time there, and we have a methodology, and it sounds very clear from this you have a methodology. And we’re not looking to hire someone that has done what we do and let them do it the way they’ve done it. We look to hire people that are experts in training, but we want them to follow our methodology because that’s our differentiator. And so tell me how you, when you get a new hire, how do you on-board them, how do you get them to understand your methodology and bring them on your team?
Travis: So this is one of my biggest challenges when I first started my business. Well, it was definitely one of my very first challenges because it was my sister that I hired. As you know, with a family business can be difficult, you know. So that was always a challenge. But then as you got past beyond my sister, then it was like, “How would I keep these people educated, and keep them all trained, and do it skillfully?” You know, because if you have this many people there’s no way you can sit down with them, and talk to them, and individually meet with them. It’s not that you’re wasting a lot of time, in this new world today with putting things online, you know, and online courses, I figured, “Hey, I’ve got to make our own kind of online course for our new team members,” right?
And it actually all started from because I got a chance to teach at the Fresno State University about a social media class, and that opportunity had me create a course. And so from that course I then took and said, “All right, I’ve got to do this same thing for my business, because I can’t be spending time here with new people,” as, like you said, you know, when you bring a new person on, there’s got to be training classes or a trainer. And at this point we feel like everyone in this world today, with YouTube and things like that, everyone is new and self-trainable, you know. And if some of the stuff that we’re doing is not rocket science. So most of the stuff is not coding, or anything crazy. It’s like, if you know how to work on a Word document and you know how to just basically spell, you’re going to be good, you know what I mean? The rest we’ll teach you, you know? So it’s not really that hard. It’s just teaching them how to go, where to go, where to find things. The pages are always changing so the, you know, changing out because, “Oh, the pages look different,” you know.
So what we did was, I invested into a folder, a Dropbox folder, folks, a folder, a magical folder that I can click and send someone one link. And in that link, they can go and, by topic, it’s going to have all the different tasks, if you want to call it, that they would be responsible to do. And then they’re going to go self-educate. They can go and watch those videos one time, 100 times, 1,000 times if they want to watch the video, back-to-back-to-back, as many times as they want. In fact, just now a lot of the team members enjoy being able to watch and go back, because sometimes if you sit down and train someone, you have to spend an hour with them and you’ve got to get through this whole thing so you can’t go back and back and back and re-top and repeat. Well some people want it to be repeated. So a couple, you know, many team members have told us, “Hey, I like the fact that I can just re-watch this video whenever I want to.” And, you know, it’s perfect. So it has not only saved me time but it really allowed me to create something that I now literally count on when we have new team members. We just had two new team members this last week. Both of them have already, you know, self-educated themselves and they’re ready to go, you know. And then obviously, like anything, Evan, you know, you learn from as you go, right? I mean, you learn from as you go. But this gives them at least a good starting ground.
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Evan: Let me just highlight something to our audience, because I think this is very important. You know, the premise of this show is that people don’t bother to train, they don’t believe in training, they don’t invest in training, but if people take time to do training you unleash the power and has a major positive impact on your business. One of the reasons that I’m given that we don’t train is, “We’re not big enough to train,” or, “There’s no budget to train. It’s too small.” So a lot of people listening, and certainly a lot of our clients have, you know, 5,000, 10,000, 30,000 employees, I think one actually has over 50,000, and…
Travis: Wow. That’s huge.
Evan: Yeah. And you sit back and you say to yourself, “Okay, I can build first-quality e-learning and, yeah, I can afford to spend $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 on a course because I’m spending over $20,000 a person.” Right? So I’ve always said, “You can train at any level. You just wouldn’t apply the same hammer, right?” You aren’t going to go spend $50,000 on a 10- or 15-minute training module when you have 30 employees. But you can do what you’re doing. You’re putting a plan together, you’re giving the tools, you’re doing these things, and so let’s just take this for a second here and ask some of the questions people are going to ask you, “How do you know they actually are watching these videos and doing the training, because you don’t have what’s called the Learning Management System that actually tracks and monitors?”
Travis: So there’s definitely, my whole business is based on trust. So number one, I’m in a trust-based business. I trust everybody, because I don’t have a big office space where we put everyone in an office. I’ve got people working from 4:00 a.m. in the morning when they want to work at that time. I’ve got people working at 12:00 a.m. at night because they just want to work at 12:00 a.m. at night, you know? So, and because our business allows them to do that, the most important thing for us is to keep them educated on the most current thing. So it’s trust.
Hey, I trust that they’re watching it. Just like anything, you just trust that they’re doing it. And even if you’re in a physical training with someone, I’ve been in many trainings where you just tune out sometimes. So, whether you’re physically or not, you don’t have to be there mentally, you know. And nowadays, you know, more and more people are on their phones. So the biggest thing that I do with my videos is I keep them all very short. I make them all two or three minutes each. I don’t make very long videos, and if anything, I just make lots of videos, about different topics, about lots of different things. Instead of just keeping it, because now today, you know, we want short videos, you know. My generation and younger, you know, watching a 30- or 40-minute video, like I enjoy it, like listening to an interview about Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. So I was just watching one this morning. It’s just interesting, you know? It’s just interesting.
But to learn you want to have something quick, you know? You don’t want to sit there for 40 minutes to learn a topic. You want to be in like five or 10 minutes to learn something, a task. And in some cases, these videos only need to be 30 seconds. They just need to be, “Hey, go here. Hey, click here. Hey, drag here.” And that educates enough. And then the most important thing is you’re just making as many as possible, because in my business it doesn’t have to be professionally done. I can really do it on Zoom. I can screen-share and share my screen and show them what’s going on on my screen. And I can self-educate and make as many dang videos as I want, folks. And the quality of the video is not important, it’s capturing my screen. That’s the most important thing.
So in my business because social media is changing all the time, the platforms are changing, the regulations are changing, the algorithms are changing, what I have to do is make as many videos as I can. So weekly I got to try to make at least two or three, four or five new videos. And it doesn’t take much time, you know. It really doesn’t. But I have to force myself to do that. And because I have, now I have a huge database, you know. I have hundreds of videos, all these little bite-sized chips, not really huge but small chips, you know? And that’s another thing that our team tells us, you know. So, “I’ve seen it today, Evan, I don’t know, you know. I can’t track it.” And if we, you know, had a management system obviously you can offer more tracking, but my business is based on trust and so I just trust that they’re wanting to self-educate.
Evan: You’re also going to know. You’re going to know because you’re going to see what they do.
Travis: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely, 100%.
Evan: In a smaller environment like yours, you have the ability to manage and understand. If you had 30,000 employees…
Travis: Oh, yeah, it would be impossible.
Evan: It would be impossible. And there are different solutions for different-sized companies. And one thing that I love about what you said, because I’m a big believer in it, is it doesn’t have to be perfect, because perfect is the enemy of good. And good in most cases is good enough, and the difference between being good and being perfect generally, unfortunately, is the difference between doing it or not doing it. And being perfect is 10 times harder than being good, but it would be better for you to have a lot of good videos than have no videos.
Travis: Yeah. Exactly. Everyone one I know that I talked about it, they’re like, “Oh, I want to do this and that,” but they want it perfect and they just don’t ever get it done.
Evan: Yeah. Yeah, I know.
Travis: They don’t ever do anything, you know?
Evan: A lot of people come to me because I’ve started over 20 businesses in my career, and they come like, “Help me with my business plan.” And I go, “Well, can I see it?” “Well, I haven’t started it yet.” “What stopped you?” And then they go, “Well, I want it to be perfect. I want it to be right.” And I’m like [inaudible 15:34]. And I go, “Well, let me teach you…” and I shouldn’t say this but I’ll say it anyhow. “Let me teach you about the shit school of business.” And I go, “Perfect is the enemy of good, and good is the enemy of shit. Okay? And if you’re writing a business plan, feel free to start with shit, and then turn the shit to good, right? But get something down. Don’t worry if it’s good or bad. Just get your thoughts down. Just get your basic bullet point, do whatever you need to do. Put out some shit and then take your shit and slowly turn it into good. And then you can…”
Travis: Turn it better. Yeah. It can always be better, you know? It’s just like a website. It’s just like a logo. I mean, I remember our first logo. I started on PowerPoint on my very first presentation, because I literally growth-hacked my business from zero, boot-strapping it from a PowerPoint, you know. And I look at the PowerPoint that I have today that has graphic designers and all nice and looks just… But the one I went and first pitched, guys, it looks like shit.
Let’s be real. We’ve been saying it. It looks like shit but all the way along the business to eight and a half years, it’s gotten a little bit better. It’s gotten a little bit better. It’s gotten a little bit better. And I’m hoping today the PowerPoint that we have today is shit compared to the one eight years from now, you know. I mean, it’s just, you have to look at your business that way because it’s such an evolving thing that if you’re not, you know, if you’re not making it always better, I think that, you know, you’re going to end up like Blockbuster or Sears. You’re going to end up out of business. You’re going to end up selling products that people don’t want, you know, or services that people don’t want, you know.
Evan: I give a speech called, “Seeking Excellence, the Never-Ending Journey.” And it’s never-ending because there’s always better. And you certainly are in a business that changes, and that’s amazing. Let’s just talk about this for a second. Google changes their algorithm. You’ve got to reeducate everybody. You’ve got 38 people that need to know.
Travis: Mostly Facebook. Mostly Facebook. Yeah. Mostly Facebook is the bigger one.
Evan: Okay, let’s use Facebook. It doesn’t matter who. Changes happen. You need to redo it. How are you going about doing that? How are you educating people?
Travis: So I educate myself first, right, because I got to figure out myself what we’re going to kind of guide the training for. I educate myself first and I usually do that through all the articles that are out there, “Social Media Examiner,” “Mashable,” “Social Media Today,” “Bloggers.” Some thought leaders that send articles to me that I follow on their website, and I just try to read as much as I can from different points and angles, because sometimes people, as you know, Evan, sometimes people write articles to freak you out. Like in the news, you know, they try to freak you out, but nothing’s really bad happening, you know? It’s like, everything seems pretty normal. When I go to the grocery store people are normal. I mean, you know? So, it’s the same thing with social media. People think, “Oh, Facebook,” I mean, I heard this many a time, “People are going to leave Facebook.” I’m like, “Well, they’ve done a pretty good job of keeping people there for, you know, since I’ve been in business.” And now they own Instagram, which people, half of them don’t often even know is owned by Facebook, and they’re keeping a lot of people there too, and, you know, I’m sure they’ve got enough money to buy the next big thing, right? And they already did, but they will continue to, you know?
So I think the biggest thing for me is that once I’ve educated myself, I try to go out and put together some screen-share trainings, you know, how I think it’s going to affect our business. And then I just leave them out there. As well we have a dedicated Dropbox that is separate that is its own… We call it the Explorers’ Training Club and basically it’s full of articles that we have collected and curated, and it’s up to date. So a lot of our team members go on there. In fact, a lot of our clients will go on there too, if they’re pulling stuff. Like, we work with a lot of advertising agencies, you know? And so a lot of them will actually, if they’re looking for topics for their client meetings or stuff like that, they’ll just go in there and they’ll just search, you know, real estate or whatever. And then it will pull up current automotive, or current social media stuff about, you know, whatever it is.
Or on the other side, how these trends that are happening, or, you know, “Facebook’s changing this algorithm and this is how it’s going to affect your business.” And so that’s another training mechanism we’ve used, is not only our own stuff, but we’re curating the world’s content. And we usually put seven to 10 articles per day into that Dropbox. And on top of that, we create one slide-share and we’d also write one blog that’s our own, that’s just our own thoughts about an industry or kind of some advice that we also put on our website. We put on our email marketing. And we put it all into a separate Dropbox for our customers, and we give this to our customers for them to self-educate themselves. Because a lot of them are not going to do the work themselves, you know, especially the ad agencies. They hired us for a reason. They want us to do all the work. They just want to go sell it and then hire us, you know. It’s really simple, “Okay, yeah, I want to go sell it and then hire you and mark it up, you know. It makes sense.” But they have to self-educate themselves in their meetings because they don’t know how to pitch it. They don’t know how to present it right, you know?
And so this allows them to go and then train our customers, you know, which I actually prefer because then I can just go throw the article in there, and whenever they get bored and want to read up on our industry, they just go and do it, you know. That’s honestly one of the other biggest things that I’ve done, is create a Dropbox full of content for my customer, you know, to empower them in the sale, to empower them because we actually are sold through our white label program, where we basically are not even the brand that the client even…the end-customer never even knows Real-Time Outsource is the customer. Do you know what I mean? It’s literally whatever the agency is. So, you know, as much as I can do to empower them in the sales process is make them better salespeople, you know, for me.
Announcer: Training Unleashed is brought to you by Tortal Training, specializing in e-learning and interactive online training solutions for corporate, government, nonprofit, and franchise organizations. Tortal makes effective training easier. Just go to tortal.net to gain access to real-world tools that can make a difference. That’s tortal.net, T-O-R-T-A-L, tortal.net.
Evan: As you can probably tell, our company feels the same way, and that we believe that educating our customer makes sense. In fact, we go further, we believe in educating the world, and our mission is to be training champs, and that we want to champion training and the importance of training. That’s why we’re doing these podcasts. And we know that, you know, we’re averaging, I don’t know, I think, you know, somewhere between two and three or four thousand listeners per podcast.
Travis: Yeah, that’s good, man. Yeah.
Evan: Yeah, I’m happy. We’ve only been doing it for about three months now, too. I know that out of, you know, that bunch, maybe 30 or 40 of them are clients, but I’m helping the world understand the importance of training. And that, to me, is really important because if we can get more people interested in training, it’s good for me, it’s good for all my competitors, it’s good for the world. That’s the way I look at it. So I love the fact that you’re educating your clients, and I think that’s, particularly in your industry because I think so many people think that they don’t understand, and then they get confused. And if they have the ability to get trained and learn themselves, which I think is fantastic.
Travis: Yeah, a lot of times they just have a question about a topic, and they can just literally type it in the search bar and it pops up, and they read through a three-page article that shows some screenshots of them. And, honestly, it’s written better than we could write it, so we give full credit to the “Social Media Examiner” or wherever it is, you know. We don’t want to take credit for it. In fact, I’ll tell the client, “Hey, go join their email, you know, subscriber list because we’re not a full-fledged content marketing company,” but we need to help guide them to the easy places to find all this stuff too, because there’s also, honestly, Evan, a lot of people writing stuff that they shouldn’t be writing. You know what I mean? They’re not accredited, they’re not that far in the game, and they literally should just not be writing, but they can.
Everyone has a voice now, so, hey, even we have a voice on our little blog, Real-Time Outsource blog, you know. We get people watching that and viewing it. We can see the analytics on it. But it’s not “Social Media Examiner,” right? You know, it’s not “Social Media Today,” because they have a full team that does this, you know? So a lot the other thing is I think people try to think that they need to do everything in-house on their own. And some of the stuff, they just need to be the resource to a bigger, you know, network. You know, like, let’s just be real, we can’t do it all. So if you can just kind of be a conduit and say, “Hey, look at these awesome articles that I found for you on the internet. Out of thousands that are out there each day, I found these seven that I think are going to impact you this week,” you know. Boom.
Evan: I was on a plane, I don’t know, 20 years ago, when Arthur Anderson, or Anderson Consulting still existed. It’s now a center. And this person next to me was reading these articles. And I said, “Oh, what article is it?” He said, “The company every week gives us 10 must-read articles. They have a person on their staff that picks the 10 most important things for people that are business consultants to know.” And I thought, “Wow. That’s really cool, that people do that.” We don’t do that in our company, but in our internal website people will post articles all the time. They’ll go, “Everybody ought to read this. Everybody ought to read that.” We, also, every three months we do [inaudible 25:41] meetings which is built on the Covey Principle where all of our creative people get a day of time to build anything they want to show everybody what they have built and done, for them to get educated, which is kind of cool.
Travis: That’s cool.
Evan: Travis, we are out of time, but we always ask our guests one last question. And I didn’t brief you on this, so I’m really going to put you on the spot.
Travis: All right, let’s do it man.
Evan: But if you just have only one piece of advice around training, what would that be?
Travis: I would say today, right now, go and get a screen-share recording system if you don’t have one right now, and any tasks that you have in your business that you do that’s repeatable, meaning, respond to emails, answer anything, send out anything, anything that’s repeatable, go out today and start making trainings of it so that eventually one day you can give that to someone else to do that task, you know? And that’s how you can build your business, you know, from the ground up. And the most important thing is it allows you to not have to do that continual task over and over, you know? And with the power of Dropbox and a simple screen-share training, you can build your own whole database. And then, like we’ve talked about, just don’t be afraid to just get started today.
Evan: Yeah. Yeah, no. You’re absolutely right. And you plugged Zoom earlier, and I can’t rave about the product enough. I love the product.
Travis: Oh, yeah. They’re the best in the business. I use it with customers, clients. We changed over. When we first did the podcast it was on Skype and we’ve completely moved it over to Zoom because it’s so transparent and works seamless on both sides, you know, and throughout the world, you know. And so a shout out to the team, now. Whatever they’ve figured out how to do on the bandwidth side, it is very affordable. So it’s a very affordable business cost that will help you scale your clients. I mean, to hop on a plane somewhere and meet a client is ridiculous, you know, when you can get the transparency like we have today. I can see you, hey, right here. Hey, it’s just as good, and, hey, you don’t waste their time. We’re done, we’re good, you know. And be efficient with your business.
Evan: Yeah, we don’t do phone calls in our company. Everything is Zoom. Everything is Zoom.
Travis: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Evan: Yeah. We have employees in Ecuador. We have employees in Canada. We have employees in five different states, and subcontractors all over the country too.
Travis: You have to have them, right?
Evan: Yeah. Yeah. We’ve got to end, but thank you very much. Really appreciate having you on, and I think we got a lot of great content. Thank you.
Travis: All right, brother. You have a great day today.
Evan: You too.
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