Melanie Chandruang | Supporting Creative Agencies and Best Practices for Building a Remote Team’s Company Culture

John Corcoran 12:13

It’s funny, because one of the things we implemented during the pandemic was an onboarding process with our team, when when new people join, they meet one on one with a mentor, someone who’s been in their position for a while to give them feedback, help answer the questions, all kinds of stuff. And that’s been so popular. That’s great. So so popular, you know, buddy system, Yeah, buddy system kind of thing. And it goes as long as it needs to usually, you know, a couple months or something like that, and goes less frequent after a while, but it’s just like a check in. Yeah, you know, it’s been, you know, and you’re right, it probably would be if we were in person, it would be something that would just happen maybe more dynamically. But yeah, yeah. And I got to make space carve out space for it. What about no recruiting, you mentioned, labor finding, you know, hiring. That’s a big challenge right now, for agencies? Yeah. How are companies? How are agencies coping with that?

Melanie Chandruang 13:10

I mean, there are, it’s like a bidding war, right against one employee at one prospective hire. You know, there are certain roles that are more highly coveted right now. But like project managers, it’s so difficult to find talented project managers or producers in an agency. And so yeah, I find that agencies are looking inward to see, okay, how can we improve how we are as an organization to attract these people and then also retain them. Because if it’s so competitive, you know, that if you can’t, you can put on the smoke and mirrors of during the interview process. But if they get into your doors, your doors and and it’s not what you have pitched to them, then you’re in trouble. And they can leave and go find another position in an instant. And so yeah, a lot of companies are having to look inward and ask themselves, what can we do better as an organization to make sure that, you know, our employees are happy and fulfilled and content in their work?

John Corcoran 14:20

Yeah. And and, you know, burnout has been a big one, because so many people are working from home and there’s a there’s less of a dividing line between where work is and where home is. Yeah. Or, you know, a lot of people have had to work longer hours, especially in the digital agency world, because, you know, there’s a lot of client work and and maybe the agencies don’t have as many team members to get the work done. Yeah. What are some best practices for helping prevent employees from burning out?

Melanie Chandruang 14:53

Yeah, I think it starts with some financial metrics. I know that’s the very I think black and white answer, but I do think it’s important that agencies are tracking how much revenue they can support with their team. And so they should know that, you know, there is only so much that each person can handle and there are certain metrics that you can track, like utilization of each employee is really important to track if you are tracking utilization, and that employees supposed to be at a rate of, say, 75% utilization of their, you know, time, and they’re actually, you know, 90% utilized or more than you know, that you’re in trouble and you’re headed on a path for for burnout. And so that I mean that I would start there, and then also just checking in with the employees and see how they’re doing, hopefully, you know, they’re able to have a voice and, and be able to let management or leadership know, when they’re experiencing burnout. And again, that goes back to having those check ins those one on one meetings where those conversations can happen.

John Corcoran 16:06

And you had a client that that came to you they had a turnover issue. They actually had an operations person that you you trained, but then that person ended up leaving, and one of the things that you did was a culture audit. Talk a little bit about how that worked. Yeah,

Melanie Chandruang 16:23

yeah. Um, so yeah, this agency came to me there, I would call it a symptom is high turnover. And they weren’t sure why. And, yeah, the the culture audit for me, I do this with every engagement that I start, I talked to all the employees that work there. And I asked them, what’s going well, what can be improved upon, and those areas that can be improved upon I dig further into. And it’s, yeah, it’s, it was really insightful for me to do that audit, and I was able to pinpoint that there were some pretty big issues, and one of them was that projects weren’t being scoped correctly. And so once they were kind of tossed over the fence to the production team, they were left with, you know, just having to scramble to get the work done. In the time that was estimated for them, they weren’t involved in the estimation process, which is, you know, one of the problems. And so it was, that was a big problem, there was no infrastructure around the start of a project. And then also, there was a communication, I think, just issue coming from the founder to the rest of the employees, there are a lot of expectations, but those expectations weren’t communicated. And, and also, the expectations weren’t very realistic, because they were brought into the organization. And there wasn’t really much onboarding, there wasn’t much training to get up to speed to, to meet those expectations. And so I helped the CEO kind of get all of that information out of his head and into the hands of the employees. And we did see some significant improvements after that happened. And, yeah, sometimes, it’s really hard for employees to to stand up, I guess, to leadership and say, Hey, you’re part of the problem. I know, employees do not want to do that when it’s their boss. And so I kind of act as a buffer to kind of, you know, shine a mirror back onto

John Corcoran 18:29

them, you got a little bit more distance, and that’s what you’re being hired for. Right? Right.

Melanie Chandruang 18:33

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.

John Corcoran 18:35

And is that a hard sell, to convince a founder that the problem is one was them and two, that everything’s up in their head, and that they need to carve out some time, whether they like it or not to get that stuff out of their head? Um,

Melanie Chandruang 18:54

I think it’s not a hard sell. Well, it can be it can be tough, as long as I’m able to convey that what the path looks like forward after, after they do all of this stuff, after they implement some more, you know, infrastructure around, you know, a new client process, or, Hey, you need to document all of this, this workflow around how to manage clients, and then that person won’t be coming to you all the time. I kind of have to paint the picture of like, here’s what it looks like for you, right? life’s gonna be better. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. What is a hard sell sometimes is just me being able to interview every employee, you know, a lot of founders that I, you know, speak with in the early days of, you know, seeing if we’re a good fit for each other is that is something that is a requirement on my end, and sometimes they don’t understand the value in that and that’s the hard sell. But once I get past that, you know, the information that comes from it Usually I can, I can, you know, relay it to, to whoever it needs to be relate to.

John Corcoran 20:07

So is there anything else we haven’t touched on that you see agency is really focused on these days. So labor shortages, building good culture, especially remote culture, putting systems in place, obviously good processes in place. Anything else that we haven’t touched on that you’re seeing being kind of particularly important in this era we’re in?

Melanie Chandruang 20:28

Hmm, I mean, the only the what I just touched on before, which is looking inward to their culture, and making sure that they have that proper infrastructure. And that start for me, that starts with, you know, someone’s organization chart, like organizational chart, and making sure that the right people are in the right seats. And for me, that means that there are supporting people to the employees. And you know, that would be in a traditional sense of manager for employees to lean on and for them to, you know, their sole purpose is to support those people and grow them. And then also align them with the company’s goals. So right, right, yeah.

John Corcoran 21:16

Now, final question. I want to ask you about my this is my gratitude question. So you know, I’m a big fan of gratitude. I’m a big fan of expressing gratitude, particularly to people that have helped you along the way. So, know, if you look around at your, your peers and your contemporaries, however you want to define that. Who do you respect? Who do you admire who’s out there doing good work that you

Melanie Chandruang 21:39

respect? Yeah, two people come to mind. The first person is Kelly Campbell, she’s a fellow consultants in the agency world. And I remember coming across her in my when I first started consulting, and she stood out to me because simply of the fact that she’s a woman, it’s a very male dominated industry. And I reached out to her and I just said, you’re, you know, the fact that you’re a woman in this industry, I just need to talk to you and see what you know, what you can teach me or what lessons I can learn from you. And she, you know, opened up her time to me and really guided me in those early days. And another person that comes to mind is Karl Sakas, who actually recommended me for this podcast is another person that I reached out to early on. And again, it was just a he welcomed me with open arms into the, the this group of consultants and he just was so gracious with his time and, and really just told, he still does this. I mean, we’re still exchanging emails and get on phone calls till this day, this is four years later now. And he just tells me all of the lessons that he has learned along the way. And I’m so grateful for that, because give me some hard lessons that you learned as a consultant. So yeah, for

John Corcoran 23:07

Sure. Yeah. Kelly’s great. Conscious Leaders is one of her companies. She was a past guest on this show, I’ll be sure to add a link to that episode and right in the show notes. Well, Melanie, this has been great. Where can people go to learn more about you and connect with you?

Melanie Chandruang 23:22

Yeah, they can find me on my website. It’s And then they can always find me on LinkedIn too. And just shoot me a message there.

John Corcoran 23:31

So excellent. Melanie, thanks so much. 

Melanie Chandruang 23:35

Yeah, thank you.

Outro 23:36

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.