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October 17, 2023 30 mins

Ep. 136: If you're a small business owner, often in the early days of your business you struggle to hire the best talent. With todays conversation, I want to help you rethink this challenge, and encourage you instead to develop your own talent.

I share some of my experiences in getting solid at the skills I needed to hire for myself, what convinced me to start developing talent instead of falling to the idea that I couldn't hire qualified and skilled people to grow my business, and a few strategies I used to find ambitious people to join my team.

Follow Will Lucas on Instagram at @willlucas

Learn more at AfroTech.com https://instagram.com/afro.tech

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Will Lucas here, Black Tech, Green Money. I'm super excited
to be back with you guys. I want to talk
about a couple of things today started the first start
off talking about afro Tech, getting to some news and
then the conversation. But afro Tech twenty twenty three back
in Austin just a couple of weeks. We are less
maybe three weeks away. Two weeks away from afro Tech

(00:23):
twenty twenty three in Austin, Texas. I am excited because
the schedule just dropped and it includes, you know, performances
by Jadakiss, Rick Ross. I am personally the music I
listen to mostly like if it's hip hop, if it's
rap music, I am listening to hustling music. So I

(00:43):
care about rap music that makes me feel like I
want to go get a bag and like, So that's
like Nipsey Hustle, that's jay Z. Obviously it's Rick Ross
and Rick Ross. I am already brushing up on my
Rick Ross lyrics so that I am to turn it
out at afro Tech this year. And so I'm hopeful

(01:04):
that you guys will join me in having the time
of my life, having the time of your lives, having
the time of our lives at afro Tech. This year
it's going to be big. And every year I leave
afro Tech wondering how we could ever top the year
before the time we just had, How can we top it?
And I am super excited for the work that the

(01:26):
team has done because this stage is set to be incredible,
and so I hope to see you there. We've got
talks like, if you're raising money, you should be there
because there's a conversation happening around VC trends for twenty
twenty four proactive strategies for fundraising. My guy Marlon Nichols
is going to be on that panel. He's co founder

(01:47):
and managing partner at mac Venture Capital. Henri Jacques, Henri
Pierre Jacques, who's co founder and managing partner of Harlem Capital.
He will be there speaking on this subject in this
conversations moderated by Aaron Samuels, who's one of the co

(02:08):
founders of Blavity, which founded afro Tech, and he's also
a founder and managing partner at Collide Capital. So if
you are raising money or you will be, it's important
to know how VC's a thinking and which verticals they're
paying attention to and so you need to be in
that conversation. Also, Robert Smith will be there, billionaire, black billionaire.

(02:31):
He's talking about creating a shared digital future, powering forward.
So he is chairman and chief executive officer of Visa
Equity Partners. He's the guy a couple of years ago
paid off all the college debt for the guys at
Morehouse and so he's going to be at AFRO Tech
this year talking about what he sees opportunities for black

(02:52):
innovators and how you can scare your ideas. One of
the things that I love about here and Robert talk
is how he's always pushing a to think bigger. And
sometimes we don't even realize we're not thinking big enough
about the opportunities in front of us. But he issues
that challenge and he starts to prode you on how
you can think about your thing a hundred times bigger

(03:13):
than you may be thinking about it today. So what
if your journey is an entrepreneurial one and it's you know,
and it's based on you. Whether it's a lifestyle brand
and so sometimes we think lifestyle brands can't be big businesses.
We think lifestyle brands are just ones that we work
personally day in and day out, and it might do

(03:34):
six figures, it might do seven figures. But lifestyle brands
can actually be pretty big. So we're gonna be talking
about that. If you're going to be an afrotech and
you're an entrepreneur, and maybe you're not trying to build
the next Facebook, but maybe your brand is built around
you as an individual. So there's talks about that. Whether
you're trying to get a board seat, there's conversations about

(03:55):
that about people who sit on boards and who put
people on boards. They will be on the stage at
afro Tech. If you're managing remote teams, their talks there
for you at afro Tech this year, and the big
conversation of the day is AI. I'm sure in almost
every conversation that we have at Afrotech this year, AI
will come up because it's that disruptive to our norm.

(04:18):
So I guarantee there's something there for you. And one
of the things I try to stress when I'm talking
to anybody about afro Tech is sometimes people think because
they're not directly working in a technology related role. If
you are using technology to perform your duties at work,
you should be at afro Tech because whether you're working
in healthcare, whether you're working in law, whether you are

(04:40):
working in sports entertainment, you are utilizing technology to power
your work, and so it's important that you're in the
room where the conversations are being had that can in
many ways dictate the future of your role. So highly
encourage you to be at afro Tech this year getting
some new It is notoriously hard to get a true

(05:04):
Kangnac and it has he made in a certain region
in France, the Cognac region. So shout out to Faughn Weaver,
founder of Uncle Nearest. So look, Hennessy is by far
the biggest distiller of cognac and they account for like
almost half of all cognac production. I think it's like

(05:26):
forty six percent. Then there's like Martel, there's Remy Martin
and Covasier, which like are started in like eighteen o nine,
so they've been around for two hundred plus years. Uncle
Nears is now the young gun and according to a
press release they sent to afro Tech Fawn Weaver, they
just acquired domain Saint Martin in the state, which encompasses

(05:50):
over one hundred acres with Charente River frontage and a
unique island. Furthermore, it's fifty acres are dedicated to Grant
Shan Paying Vineyards make it Kanyacs Citi's crown jewels. So
Kanyac City is a place in France where kannac is made.
They're made Kanyak is made from a much more delicate,

(06:12):
like seasonal raw material grapes, so and that distillation period
is like super duper short, so like they got five
months every year to make kanyac. It's hard to make
and therefore it's like expensive, and so it is a
status symbol, you know, because it's priced in the way
that it's you know, ability to be made dictates. It's

(06:32):
really hard to do and kanyak makes up like less
than one percent of the world's spirits by volume. And
so the fact that there's now a black owned kanyak
coming to market is very, very exciting. So shout out
to farn Weaver and the work her and her team
at Uncle Near's are doing. Sony Group wants to put

(06:53):
money into African entertainment startups. A lot of people who
listen to this podcast are on the content, so shout
out to you, especially if you are building something in
the gaming, music, film content distribution space, Sony Innovation Fund
wants to fund you, and they're putting ten million dollars

(07:14):
of capital in that fund to deploy two startups, particularly
ones in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana. Last year,
according to Partech Africa, the venture capital that was spent
or deployed into African entertainment startups equaled about zero point

(07:36):
nine percent of the continent's total venture capital investments. And
Jen Toshikawa, who's CEO of Sony Ventures, believes that there
is an untapped potential for African creators, entrepreneurs and teams
and that there's a growing adoption of technology that is
developed on the content. So if you are in that space,

(07:59):
or or if you have an idea to get into
that space, now is a good time to get your
wheels going because the set date for distribution of that
ten million dollars into African entertainment startups is pending. But
you know, if you stay ready, you ain't got to
get ready. This conversation about Africa and so many African

(08:20):
companies and things from the African culture, whether that be
afrobeats or otherwise, they are now starting to come to
mainstream here domestically in the United States. And it's so
interesting to me because what that says to me about
what's happening back on the continent is that there's more
opportunity for people to be able to do things that

(08:42):
can be exported to the world then historically. And what
that causes is more people, younger people particularly to find
more career opportunities that are available to them now than
historically might have been available to them. And so when
I think about that in my experience, and so I

(09:04):
have a couple of companies in one particular that makes
sense to talk about in this scenario, it's Creatio. So
Creatio we are a full service video production, website development, communication, strategy, design,
and more. And we focus on companies that want to
reach and engage multicultural and diverse audiences. And so what's

(09:26):
been important to me is, you know, when I started
this business, I was doing all of the work. I
was teaching myself how to develop websites because I didn't
have the capital to pay somebody else to build a
website or to even the website for Creatio, our own
individual website. I didn't have the money to ship that
out to somebody else to build a website for Creatio,

(09:50):
or whether I was installing a system at one of
our client locations. I had to learn how to install
those systems at a client location. And we started venturing
into other offerings service wise, whether that be in video
production or photography, I had to learn how to do it.
And so what's been important to me about our entire

(10:11):
arc of you know, so far in our art I
should say, is you know, having this scrappy mentality of
a desire personally to be really good at the things
that we are going to be providing to our clients.
And so this does not necessarily mean that whatever you're doing,
you should be spending the time to learn, you know,
if especially if you're gonna, you know, do something that

(10:34):
scales really really fast. This company wasn't designed to scale
really really fast. When I started the company, I didn't
really understand, you know, about scale. And so it is
a lifestyle company. It's a successful one, but it is
a lifestyle company. We have employees and et cetera. But
it was not designed to take off like a unicorn.
And so this particular conversation I want to have is

(10:56):
for people who you know are building lifestyle companies, and
it is about the idea of how do you grow
talent and should you grow talent. Often in particularly black
owned businesses, lifestyle businesses that are not funded by outside parties,
you do not have outside investors. You are at a

(11:19):
disadvantage when you're trying to attract high caliber talent because
you may not have the resources to pay high caliber
talent what they can get in the marketplace. And so
what do you do. You could, you know, throw your
hands up and say, you know what, I can't afford
the people that it's going to take for me to
be able to run this business successfully. And you give up.

(11:41):
You've given up even before you started, right, And so
that is not a mentality that was going to work
for me. And so I was like, look, I'm first
of all going to become the high caliber talent that
I wish I could hire, and then I am going
to replace myself in each of those particular roles. So

(12:03):
one of the first things, fortunately I got an opportunity
to stop doing which I actually do enjoy it personally,
but I stopped doing video production and photography. While I
did enjoy doing it, it's time consuming, and what I
could not afford to do was keep doing it just

(12:23):
because I enjoy doing it. If I am in in
front of a computer editing video and I'm out at shoots,
you know, taking pictures, who is out building the business
for everybody else to continue to have other projects to
work on. Because producing video, taking pictures, that is two

(12:47):
jobs right there. It could be three even because some
people can just be videographers, some people can be editors,
some people could just be photographers. That could be two
to three jobs right there. So if I'm doing two
to three jobs just based on the capturing of content,
who is out finding you know, business for the next

(13:09):
round after this particular project is done. Now, it's a
different thing. If we're talking about you know, being there
because the client wants to see you and you're their
representative and et cetera, and you're making making sure everything
is going well, that's a different conversation. But the conversation
I'm having is about, you know, if I am actively
doing the work, if the product, the asset doesn't get created,

(13:33):
if I don't create it myself with my hands, with
my eye, with my skill and my ability to perform
the work, then we can only grow so far. So
I also don't have the capital to go higher. You know,
a photographer or a videographer at the beginning of this
business at the rate that they can afford to get

(13:56):
either freelance or with an agency that's more established. So
what do you do? You have this business, you want
to get off the ground in your early stages, whether
that be a couple of months old or you're a
couple of years old. In so many cases, because you
can still be in the early days. If you haven't
caught traction yet, you're in the early days. You don't
necessarily have the capital to go hire people who are

(14:19):
very well versed in that work, in producing that work,
because they can get more money from a freelance perspective
or with an agency firm company that is more established,
has deeper pockets than you. What do you do? What
I did was I started knocking on the door of
my local university. What I did was I started to

(14:42):
hire people who were earlier in their career and just
wanted a shot. Maybe they were learning videography or maybe
they were learning photography, but they may not necessarily have
the skills to go be successful from a freelance perspective,
which means they can't go sell themselves. And so I was,

(15:02):
you know, in many ways, their representative. I could have
been their manager, except they were coming into the fold
of my enterprise. That's how I built this company. I
built this company by leveraging ambition, by leveraging initiative of
other people who otherwise wouldn't have been given a shot

(15:25):
at a company or a firm that's more established. But
I wanted to give them a shot because they were
taking a shot on me. I could sell. I also
knew how to do the work, so I was able
to be able to vet people who were while they
were early in their journey. I could see that they

(15:46):
had something, and so my ability to both sell and
to bring the best out of somebody even though they're newer,
was where I found success. Now, if you're trying to
go and encourage somebody who's early in their career to
come alongside you and you can't bring the best out
of them, they will not stay with you long. These

(16:07):
are ambitious people, and ambitious people want to be challenged,
and so your ability to both a sell so that
you can pay them and be coach them bring the
best out of them, create an environment that they that
they enjoy working in. That's your job, and so we

(16:28):
were able to find success in that way. Some of
the first people who ever worked for Creatio I got
directly out of college or before they graduated, and they
were producing work under the umbrella of Creatio that put
us on the map. But it wasn't just about the

(16:50):
money for them. They enjoyed the money, but they also
enjoyed working on something that meant something. They got a
chance to build something alongside somebody who took a shot
on them, because they recognized that they were early, and
they also recognized that they weren't going to be able
to go and demand a lot from an agency that's

(17:11):
been around for a long period of time and had
very senior people there. They knew that probably in that
firm they were going to be bringing somebody's coffee, and
so here in this newly formed company, they were going
to get an opportunity to be a part of building
something and creating a culture that valued ambition and ambition

(17:35):
and people trying to figure it out together. That's a
special place to be in So I've always valued people
who want to take a shot on themselves because I
took shots on myself, and so we're taking shots on
ourselves together. We abandoned brothers and sistors, and so alongside that,

(17:58):
it's important also to think about why do the norms
that exist in traditional enterprises, traditional companies? Why do they
have to why do they have to exist here? So
my team knows I only care about I care about
three things. Some companies you go to have a long
list of things that they care about. I care about

(18:18):
three things. That the work is done on time, that
is fire, and that you guys work well together. You
figure out a way to work well together. That's what
I care about. And so there is no list of Hey,
you know, office hours are from eight to five when
we expect you to be here, and there's two weeks
off a year, and you know those sorts of things.

(18:42):
It didn't work for us. I didn't even try to
make it work for us because I didn't want to
work in a place that operated that way. So why
would I institute some policies and ways of doing things
that I didn't appreciate Being both a creative and a businessman,
so I got to design the company I wanted to
work for. And so many of you listening to this

(19:02):
are in a position to design the kind of company
that you would want to work for, if you just
recognize that you have that opportunity to do that. Why
am I telling and demanding a creative somebody who's editing video, Hey,
you need to be here at nine am? Why what

(19:25):
if they work best at noon. I used to have
a guy who shout out to nick. I used to
have a guy he's in La now doing movies, and
he used to come into the office at eleven pm
and he would be there till three in the morning. Now,
obviously when we got a shoot, he would show up
for the shoot and on time and be professional, etc.

(19:48):
But when there's a deadline for computer work, when there's
like things that he needed to do at his desk
that didn't require interfacing with a client, why do I
care if he's there at you know, nine am, eight am?
For what reason? And so the important thing for me

(20:12):
to do and every again, it's another thing that everybody
on my teams knows. My job today is not to
produce videos. My job is to make sure you have
what you need to produce videos. So if you come
to me and you say, hey, will you know my
my you know, my iMac is a little slow. You know.
My job is to figure out why is it slow?

(20:33):
Is the memory running low? Is it old and you
need a new computer, you know? Or is it you
need is you need to clear some hard dry space
off so you can, you know, more freely move around.
That's my job, and my job is to make sure
you have what you need. So if you need to
work in order for you to work best, if you

(20:55):
need flexibility in your schedule, as long as that is
not disrupting to the business. Why do I care? Why
do I care if your hair is a natural color.
He came in that same guy, he came in with
yellow hair one day. What impact did that have on
his work? Zero? And So these things that some of us,

(21:21):
you know, think matter because those are the way we
were raised in business, and there were these rules and
guardrails that restricted creativity and self expression. Those don't have
to exist anymore, and so sometimes we just need somebody
to free us, you know, to the possibility that working

(21:42):
can be fun and you can build again the type
of company you would want to work for. You can
build a culture, you know, and an environment that is
actually a good place to be, a fun place to be,
where I want to come to work to, where I

(22:04):
know I've got projects on my plate. Hey man, I
can't wait to get to the office tomorrow because you
notice nobody looking over your shoulder. Now, it comes with
a lot of trust, and that trust is earned. But again,
everybody knows there's the three things I care about. I
only care about those three things, and if I'm consistent
on those three things, they will trust me also, and

(22:26):
so we won't let each other down. So going to
my local university was very helpful to me. There was
a website it's called Handshake that many universities across the
country use. I know my local ones use it. But
it's a website where you can go and you can
post opportunities, jobs and internships, co ops and etc. For students,

(22:51):
and it's like a big student job board for colleges
and universities. They use it. So if you post a
job to a place like Handshake, you get to say,
you know here the particular universities that i'd like this
job to be promoted to. And then those universities on
the back end, you know, will vet the role and

(23:11):
you know, either accept or deny your job posting and
so again you can do internships on there. You can
do co op opportunities on their actual job opportunities on there.
And that's what I did. I posted the positions I
had to handshake, and I even reached out to a

(23:31):
lot of professors directly on a lot of websites. You know,
you can find you know, the email addresses of the professors.
And this might not be something or a tactic that
a lot of people employed, because, at least in my experience,
you know, professors seem to be very willing to make
introductions or to show you, you know, the proper steps

(23:54):
to getting in touch with their students. I got a
lot of response, more than you might imagine, you know,
when you send code emails, you know, I guess, depending
on who you're emailing, you really don't expect the response
rate to be super high. But the response rate in
my experience to this was very high. The professors were

(24:15):
in many ways, you know, excited to give their students
the opportunities to work on real things. A lot of
colleges and universities, particularly in creative works, have their students
work on make believe projects, like projects that are not
going to be used in the wild, and so to
have them work on things that might actually be seen

(24:38):
in the world. You know, for many that's encouraging to them.
It's inspiring for them to introduce their students to those opportunities.
And you got to be smart when you do this,
Like you're probably not going to go to the largest
college or university in the state. You know, many times
the technical institutions, the technical colleges is you know those

(25:01):
ones that are more community colleges that have programs where
you know, technical skills can be learned, creative skills can
be learned, you know, whether that be photography, videography, coding.
In many ways, a lot of those professors are very reachable.
They're very reachable, and they have students that are excited

(25:24):
about doing things. So it's been you know, kind of
a method of operation that has worked for me. And
so I highly encourage you when you're trying to build
a company and you're in your early stages and the
work that you're providing the world is like a technical
service or offering grow your talent. You're not going to

(25:46):
have the capital in many instances to go hire the
best people, but you know, what you want to put
into the world. You know the level of care that
you would take. And so if you can sell somebody
to coming alongside the journey with you, that says a
lot about your ability to have success at all. These

(26:07):
are people who are ambitious. You know, they're taking it
on themselves to learn these skills. They may not just
have the ability to go and sell it so that
they can make an income and make a living on it.
But if you have that ability, go to the people.
Find ambitious people, often young sometimes you know, maybe they

(26:29):
are adults who are re educating themselves. But if they're
willing to come alongside somebody who and they get to
build something with you, that could be really interesting to
a lot of them. Imagine the people out there who
are actually paying to go to technical classes and pay

(26:50):
to get certificateds to learn these skills. And you're offering
people who are ambitious the opportunity to be paid to learn,
to be paid to actually exercise something that they may
not be an expert at, but they're pretty good. You
can build a really successful lifestyle company with pretty good talent.

(27:16):
You don't need the best talent, the expensive talent. You
can build it with pretty good talent that you are
willing to invest in from a professional development perspective, and
put them in an environment that leans into the way
that they work. They're gonna want to know that they're

(27:37):
going to get constructive feedback that helps them continue to
get better and at the same time doesn't put unnecessary
arbitrary guardrails and rules around them. So not having the
talent to grow your company. To grow your business is

(27:58):
not an excuse. There are creative ways to find people
who know how to do the thing, and the enemy
of finding success in this way is wishing you had
and waiting for the day where you can hire experts.
What you want is hungry, scrappy, ambitious people who know
how to do it and they're pretty good, and grow

(28:20):
them into experts, demand the best out of them by
inspiring them to be the best and to bring their
best and to lean in on their ambition to learn
on their own. I love when I walk in the
office and I see somebody on my team watching a
YouTube video about lighting or a different way to position

(28:41):
a camera to get the best angle. That shows me
that they're invested in their own growth and development. That's
the kind of person I want. That's the kind of
person I can grow with. Be the kind of person
they want to work with. Be so committed to their
growth and development that you know, it's an exciting conversation
when you guys come together and you have one on

(29:02):
ones and you figure out ways to challenge each other
because you want to bring the best out of one another.
Be that kind of person. Be a leader who sees
the potential in you know this rough around the edges.
You know, person who is already committed to their own
personal growth and development, but you as a person who

(29:23):
is leading the organization. They recognize that you're invested in
their growth and development and their ability to produce great work.
Product is in both your interests them because they just
want to be better and they want to produce great
work and in doing so, more opportunities are created. Appreciate
you guys hanging out with me today taking a stab

(29:44):
at a new format for the podcast. We'll do this
more often, but I look forward to seeing you at
afro Tech twenty twenty three or to experience that afrotech
dot com to learn more. If you got anything out
of this podcast, please share it with somebody. Would mean
the most to me, I really appreciate you guys who
are constantly sharing episode that you find value with your friends, group,

(30:07):
with your coworkers, you know, with people who that you
just want to you know, inspire to continue down a
road that might not be easy. So a share is
the highest form of compliment you can give me, So
I would really appreciate that
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