Michelle Venorsky, Founder – Hello, LLC
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
Today’s guest is Michelle Venorsky, Founder, Hello, LLC.
In this episode,
- Michelle shares the story of how and why she started Hello, LLC:
- Being fired can be a good thing! It’s a catalyst for change…especially for entrepreneurs.
- When building a company, it’s critical to create Core Values, and then truly follow them!
- Creating an environment for working moms and women to thrive!
- She provides advice on the right college major to choose to be successful in Social / PR…and also why analytics is the key to driving value with Social Media.
- Lastly, Michelle offers some excellent advice for both recent college grads and experienced pros, on how to differentiate yourself in a job search.
Full transcript of our interview below:
RON: Hello, everybody, and welcome to episode seven of the Bell Fall Search Focus on Talent Video series. This is the Digital Marketing edition.
Our guest today is the founder of a B2C focused “Engagement Agency” with expertise in PR, Digital and Social Media strategy. I have known her for several years and have always been a fan of her entrepreneurial focus and especially of the team she’s built exclusively of women.
She and her team deliver consistent results for her clients while providing a flexible environment for working moms. I’m honored to have with us today Michelle Venorsky, Founder of Hello.
MICHELLE: Thanks. I appreciate you having me on.
RON: So first for our listeners, can you take a step back and reintroduce yourself and talk about the career progression that’s gotten you to where you are today?
MICHELLE: Yeah. I wish I could say that there was something in me as a kid that knew I was going to do my own thing one day or had some really cool story, but I don’t. In fact, I’m surprised as anyone that I’m sitting here and talking to you, because I’m sure there’s probably a lot of people out there that are surprised to that I own something.
But I never in a million years thought that I was going to own something or run something. I never had those kinds of ambitions. I always had great admiration for anyone like yourself who takes the risk and goes off on their own.
But I never really thought that was me. I’ve been so unbelievably fortunate in my career, which has always been PR, primarily consumer PR media relations. Then around 2005 there was this thing called Second Life and you still have a “.edu” to get on Facebook, but started sprouting up.
So then I started immersing myself into social media.
So I really have a hybrid background of social as well as PR. But I’ve been so fortunate that I worked at such great places with such great teams, and I never really saw myself here. But I’m also the kind of person that is not afraid to take risks or try something new.
I was fired from my last job and no one likes to leave a job that’s not on their own terms. But looking back now, it was the catalyst for so much good in my life. So I’m a huge believer that good can come out of anything.
And I had a chance to go back to my where I was before I had a chance to go to another agency. I had a chance to go to client side, but I really kind of took a step back.
And even though I never thought of myself as working here at the time, I was fired, my kids were a lot younger than they are now, and I was traveling a lot like it was just it would have been a perfect job if I was in my twenties, but not somebody that just wasn’t present for school.
And what I realized for my last two employers was that I will always work. I love to work. I tip my hat to every stay at home mom out there. I think that’s the hardest job in the world. But I also didn’t want to suck it being a mom either. And so I decided that I really wanted to try and find more of a lifestyle career or something that let me drive at work, but also not suck at being a mom.
And it wasn’t there. So I decided to create it myself. And before I do anything new, I always ask myself what is the worst that could possibly happen, and I imagine it. And then I’m like, “Yeah, I could survive that.” And I did that here.
I don’t try to have a big ego, but I know I’m good at what I do. So I knew that if this were to fail, that I could go back somewhere else.
But I was like, I want to try it because I know there’s others like me that want to work, but also want that balance. And sometimes you have to make it yourself for it to happen. And that’s why I got here. And here we are. This is our eight year on something.
RON: Congratulations. Yes, you are. You touched on a few things that I really want to unpack for a second before we move on to the next thing. And I hope I can remember them all first.
You are absolutely one of the most humbly confident persons, or people I’ve ever met. So I give you massive kudos for that. And one of the reasons I respect you so much to I love the fact that you said you were fired because I’ve been fired, too.
And everyone thinks being fired such a bad thing, being fired is actually what helped me start my company finally just like you.
Congratulations! Because I think that’s actually I might talk about it or write a blog post about it.
Being fired is not so bad. Now, if you suck at your job and you just don’t go to work and you don’t show up, that’s a different story. But sometimes people don’t align and objectives and goals, and it got you to where you’re at. So thank you for being willing to talk about that.
MICHELLE: And it always surprises me when people that I know were fired, but they dance around it. You just have to own it. Like, if it’s not, I don’t think it’s a reflection of who we are again. I mean, if you’re showing up drunk every day to work, that’s a different thing.
But, you know, where I was before…a great organization, I have no regrets taking that job. I took that job knowing I’m probably not going to fit in with this culture because I was coming from a very different culture. But I sometimes you get an offer you can’t say no to. And I was excited by it, so I was like, I’m going to try it.
But I knew going in this may be hard, and I have no regrets. I built a great team. I met so many wonderful people, even the person who fired me. I learned a lot from him.
And again, nobody likes to leave a job not on their own terms. But I could have also a very learning experience for me, probably more than you want to know.
No, I’m a ridiculously stubborn individual. And I didn’t make changes that were asked of me, so I probably could have handled things differently. But again, it got me here now. And I learned a lot about, you know, myself through it. I have no regrets. And I think that a lot of good can come out of being fired. And sometimes it’s that push that we all need.
And look how it turned out for you too..
RON: Yeah. I have the biggest smile on my face right now because I just couldn’t agree with you more.
All right. So moving on. Typically, this is where I asked my guest to talk about case studies from their experiences. But in your situation, I’d love to focus on Hello.
And I love your agency, and I’d love to focus on…you started touching on it a little bit…But why is it women only? And what types of opportunities do you present? And obviously a huge fan of you guys, of your team and what you’ve done in the focus you have on being who you want to be.
MICHELLE: Yeah. And thank you. You really have always been so kind to me and to us as an agency. And I appreciate that. I have mad respect for you, too. So thank you very much.
And it’s not that we’re anti-male at all. We’re not that kind of group. And I have been so fortunate enough that throughout my career….one of my mentors is a man by the name of Mark Bachmann and I learned so much him. There’s been great guys along the way that have impacted my career in a positive way.
But there’s just something about…at the end of the day that just women that just gets. And no matter how understandingvof an organization that can try and be or how forward thinking or progressive, they think that they are, they’re still that mentality that if you, as a woman, leave early or requestvdays off or try and do both, you are seen as weak or you are seen as not a team player.
In every place since I’ve had kids, the two agencies that I worked before that I negotiated that I would have Fridays off. And there’s still people who would question that or look down upon it.
But if a male colleague were to leave early or to go coach a game, no offense, they’re goddamn hero, right?
And it’s very different for women. And sometimes you feel the need that you want to hide what you’re doing. And I didn’t want to do that anymore.
There’s eight women that work here, not all our moms, six out of the eight are So that’s not like a prerequisite that you have to be a mom to work here. But it’s not just it’s not just your kids, it’s your mental health or it’s just all of these things that working in an agency that we take for granted.
Because when you’re an agency, your client service, you are always on, especially when you’re doing social media for client your evenings, weekends. It’s not bankers hours, right? So you need to have that balance. And you should know that you are with a team that respects that balance and wants you to go to recess duty, wants you to go volunteer for Field day or take the day off because you just need it or whatever it may be.
So even before we had our first client, I mapped out exactly what I wanted, our ideal state to be from a culture standpoint. And it is not for everybody. There are some people that have walked through our doors, and it can be a hard pill to swallow because it’s unlike anything that they’ve ever encountered before. Not having to, not having. We have unlimited PTO, rather, no set office hours. We were virtual a couple of days a week, even before the pandemic. And now we’re going to post pandemic. When we come out of this, we’re going to do virtual three days, 2 days in.
And then again, not having to make excuses of, you know, where you’re going to be during the day, if you’re going to do something with your family. And I apologize. I ramble a lot.
So it was just thinking about what would I want, especially when I was a young mom. My kids are older now, and what would make me stay at a place and create that ideal lifestyle career.
And, you know, we did it. There’s a lot that I can’t compete with. There are so many good agencies in town, right? Everywhere you look, we’re just loaded with talent. You know, this. And I think we pay pretty well here and offer some good benefits, but I’ll never be able to compete with the big guys. But I can on culture, and I can give people a place where they can thrive at their job and have some cool experiences.
We’re really fortunate with the clients that we have, but also not have to sacrifice who they are or who they are as a mom.
RON: I love it. And my two big takeaways are first, (and I wrote a blog post about this a little bit as it relates to Core Values), lots of people write down core values, put them on their website, stick them on the wall, but they don’t actually follow them.
And you are the epitome of creating core values and following them to the “T.” That’s the first thing. And a great example of that for anyone out there who wants to learn about that.
And second, the biggest thing I want to share about your model is that there’s so much more talent out there that just gets I’ll just say the demographic you talked about that just gets missed, that companies could be leveraging to get more done and get more not just more done, but higher quality, thoughtful, introspective work.
So I appreciate that perspective. And I hope maybe we could change a few more minds with this call.
Moving on to the talent piece. So these are great transitions. Thank you.
For the first segment of my talent market for entry level College students getting ready to come out and join the workforce. What tips or suggestions would you give to them, especially as it relates to new trends or hottest trends in kind of the marketing field? What should they focus on? What should they absolutely come out of school with to be best prepared?
MICHELLE: Yeah. So there’s a couple of different thoughts that I have here. One for those that just like, I want to work in social media, focus on journalism.
There’s a lot of great schools that offer courses within social. But I always tell people, but focus on journalism because that will give you the foundation for great content, being a great writer, understanding what makes a great story. All of these are building blocks for social. And then you also can work in PR as well. So a degree in journalism, if you want to pursue PR and social is really the way to go.
But all that said, if you still really want to focus on doing something social, you have to make sure you understand analytics. So I take a lot of classes within analytics because it is not just, you know, I always tell people posting something on Facebook or Instagram or Tik Tok. That’s great. Congratulations. That 10% of the job. And that’s being generous.
This is the problem with social. And that we’re all on it and our personally is probably too much. And so therefore, we’re all experts. Well, I always tell people I watch a lot of HGTV. That doesn’t mean anybody’s hiring me to design a house anytime soon, right?
So, again, that’s great that, you know, the channel, but you really have to understand so much more behind it. You have to understand the different channels, the role of each channel, what makes great content. You have to understand the analytics.
You have to understand what the FTC says you can and can’t do. You have to have the wherewithal of understanding potential vulnerabilities because things can and will go wrong every single day. So get some experience in that.
We get so many resumes where they list their personal channel as their experience. I’m like, that’s great. Again, it’s great that, you know, you have to start somewhere, but that’s not enough.
It’s not enough for us to take a candidate potentially seriously, you know, getting an internship or even shadowing somebody within social really understanding it more than just I’m on it all the time, and I do it all the time. It surprises me how much we see that on resumes.
And then the other thing is reach out. Even if some places isn’t hiring, ask to grab coffee. “Can I meet you for coffee? Can I come in?”
Every single person that reaches out to me for a job or for an internship? And if we’re not hiring, I say “We’re not hiring, but do you want to grab coffee?” I am more than willing to talk to you about it, This is a small town. I know a lot of the agencies. I know a lot of people. You never know where one conversation is going to go.
And then the past eight years, maybe less than five have taken me up on that. And two of them now are sitting at Hello, their employee here. Because they were like, great, I want to keep that conversation going. So I just it amazes me how many people don’t. And they’re like, they’re so hungry for that job, which I get, and they’re quick to next and go on to something else without knowing that where that conversation could go.
RON: Well, it’s the same thing with people even currently employed. Lots of times, they think that networking and coffees are only for when they’re looking for a job or when they’re already out a job and they need their next thing. It’s too late. You should be doing that all the time to develop and learn and get exposure to things that you might not be in your current situation.
MICHELLE: 100% When I started, Hello had no flipin’ clue what I was doing. I mean, literally no clue. And I reached out to everyone in my network, and I was like, Can I buy you coffee? Can I buy you lunch? How did you get started? Tell me.
And then just getting reacquainted with everybody saying, “Look, Here’s what I’m up to. I’m scrappy. If you’ve got something you don’t want, I’m happy to take a look at it, or I can help your team. You can call me part of your agency, or whatever you want. I just want to work.”
And that’s really how we got started reaching out to our network.
RON: Last thing, as a person who has hired lots of people over the years in different roles and especially at Hello, what do you suggest to people to differentiate themselves in the interview process?
MICHELLE: Yeah. Tell us something that sparks your interest. I know you’re searching, and you’re like, probably reaching out to everybody. I get that I’ve been in those shoes many times.
But what is it specifically about Hello that sparked your interest? I mean, just the simple things of just saying “Hello hiring person” or “Hello founder” or Hello…I’ve been called Michael, right? Just knowing who you’re reaching out to.
And then what was it about Hello that caught your interest? Or how do you see yourself here? Anytime somebody demonstrates that they have done their homework, I get really excited about, and especially given what we have or what we do is PR and identifying the story and doing the research.=
And so I expect that that starts from the moment that somebody is reaching out to us that wants to work here. Well, did you do the homework? What’s your angle? I’m always seeking, like, speaking those types of things out. And that goes so far.
RON: Got you. That’s good advice. I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit. Is there any, I’ll say, most memorable candidate experience or presentation that comes to mind?
MICHELLE: Yeah. We had an intern. Her name was Halley, and this might have been two or 3 years ago. And she designed this, like, almost like this poster of Hello, if you will.
And it was like it was more like a trifold card. And it had, like, our logo on the outside. And when opened up, it talked about herself. And I just thought that was the fact that she took the time to do that and thought creatively and differently about something. It was so fantastic.
And then when she came, she brought us all like Hello mugs, which I’m not saying people have to buy us anything, but she brought us these different things with Hello, the conversation with her.
She really demonstrated in every answer to our questions. She was about how she could see herself fitting in here. So it’s just that first impression. Is everything right? Your first handshake. Everybody remembers if it’s a good handshake or bad handshake, and hers was that she just want the extra mile and demonstrated other skills.
We’re not a creative agency, but I like her creative presentation. I thought that was pretty cool that she had that skill set and just how she clearly understood our culture and what we were all about and how she wove that into her responses left a mark.
RON: Excellent. I said it once, and I’ll say it again. I said it many times, and I’ll say it again. I call it it’s like Elementary school. It’s like the “show and tell” day when you get to bring something, it’s so differentiating. And it’s such a good idea, whether it’s a personalized card or presentation, just something to make yourself stand out, it’s always a great idea.
MICHELLE: Yeah, I agree.
RON: Well, Michelle, I appreciate your time. Thank you for doing this today and sharing your thoughts, especially about Hello and your vision and culture. And until next time, Thanks again.
May 4, 2021