In the ever-evolving landscape of business, finding a balance between personal values and professional success can be a challenge. As useful as it is to look at strategies and the theory behind creating a successful business, I always find it helpful to hear about real-world examples of people who are doing it really well, particularly in a remote and flexible way.

That’s why I wanted to speak with Karen Young, founder of Ethos Metrics, who I consider to be both a friend and business peer who is rocking her HR best practice to get the best out of herself and her team. 

Karen has created a hugely successful business that thrives on ethical practices and flexible work models, and she’s doing great stuff in the world of online advertising, together with her team.

In this post, we’ll explore some of the key strategies and insights that Karen has learned along the way, and look at how we can all ‘be a bit more Ethos’!

Karen Young, Founder Ethos Metrics

Karen's Why: Balancing Personal and Professional Values

An integral part of Karen’s success is her commitment to her personal and professional values, something that’s reflected in the name of the company itself. Ethos Metrics stands out in the industry as an ethical choice, with practices and policies founded on purpose, trust and full transparency with their clients.

Ethos Metrics initially came about as a result of necessity. Karen’s son is on the autistic spectrum, and after he was born, she realised that her brand manager role at British Airways was not going to provide the flexibility or space required to take care of her growing family. It became clear that Karen needed to find something else.

After spending some years working at a local University, and then in various freelance roles for London-based agencies, Karen identified a gap in the market for an ethical, transparent, ads service. Google Ads in particular are challenging for small businesses to run on their own, as it’s technically difficult and changes very quickly.

Karen wanted to provide a service that was based in transparency, only taking on clients if she thought she could make them money. She spent some time in PPC work learning the craft, and then in 2016, founded Ethos Metrics.

Growing and Structuring a High-Functioning Team

As the business grew, Karen eventually realised she needed to start an agency, an organic process which happened as clients and profitability increased. 

A big part of Ethos’ story is Karen’s choosing to hire and work with people who are in a position where they cannot work in a traditional nine to five environment.

Many talented women find themselves in a similar position to Karen after having children, where the roles they are doing are not supporting the needs and responsibilities they have at home. This has proved advantageous, as it means being able to bring on board amazing team members who in a different world she would not have been able to retain.

Karen looks to bring on board people who don’t necessarily have a traditional marketing background, because she can train them on Google ads and the mechanics of each platform.

Instead, she looks for those with a numerical background, ‘corporate escapees’ as she puts it, who demonstrate maturity, commercial awareness, and the ability to communicate effectively with clients, with gravitas and credibility.

Building A Business Culture and Navigating Client Relationships

Her approach to recruitment has also given Ethos Metrics a competitive edge, as one of the only Google Ads agencies staffed by mostly middle-aged women! It’s something that has worked to their advantage in attracting and retaining their ideal clients, who tend to be small, family-run businesses. Karen has a built team of experienced professionals who know business, having run their own companies or been a senior manager in a previous role. This means they understand the value of return of investment and bring a sense of credibility and perspective, which Karen’s clients really appreciate. 

Over the years, Karen has worked to build a supportive, flexible business culture. A particular area of focus has been to ensure continued collaboration, innovation and learning, which, in remote-working teams, is often a challenge. 

To get around this, Karen has her team work in pairs on client accounts. Not only does this ensure interaction and collaboration amongst the team, but it also ensures coverage and deliverability for the client, too. The team makes use of online tools, like Google Meet, to facilitate communication and team calls, with a ‘drop-in’ session for the team once a week. They endeavour to get together in-person on a half-termly basis.  

Karen shares that the business is very much run on the school schedule, reflecting the fact that most of the team are parents. Key business processes have been built around supporting the flexibility and needs of the team, with new clients only brought on during term time, when the team has the time and the headspace to settle clients in at a high standard.

Karen recognises that she could probably grow the team faster if she didn’t do it this way, but it emphasises her commitment to a purpose-driven, flexible approach.

Promoting Team Wellbeing and Flexibility

Karen also places an emphasis on personal and team wellbeing. Her view is that the leadership has to model the behaviours that they want their teams to have. Karen keeps a structured morning routine for herself, finding that if her morning goes right, everything else tends to go well! She makes time and space to see friends, go on regular walks, exercise, meditate and maintains some space and flexibility in her working day where possible. 

Ethos Metrics are family-first, which is shared with team members right from when they come on board. That means when personal situations arise with children or other family, the team are supported, and client work is managed across the team. Karen is careful never to increase the workload to absolute capacity, understanding the importance of keeping the workload manageable so that the team can cope with the unexpected when it happens, whilst ensuring excellent client service. 

Karen believes in treating her staff like adults, and as a result doesn’t track team time or hours. As such, she doesn’t mind if her team work in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evenings or at the weekend. Their main KPI is whether their clients are happy, and feel well-looked after. This has created a cooperative culture of people working together, that are prepared to step in and go above and beyond when it’s needed – on the understanding that there’s flexibility the other way, too.  It is recognised this model won’t work for all businesses and an approach like this is something many business owners worry about implementing as they are unsure that the work will get done.   Karen believes in trusting her team to get the job done to a high standard, and in exchange for the flexibility, they do exactly that.

Maintaining Open and Transparent Communication Amongst the Team

Karen sees herself on the same level as her team, and maintains very open discussions amongst them, from thoughts around projects and clients to where the business is going. As hugely experienced individuals in their own right, she says she’d be crazy not to consult them and get their input on key business decisions.

This carries over into personal updates, too – for example, in recent years, members of the team have begun to go through perimenopause, and because of the open nature of the business, feel comfortable to share when they’re not quite at their best on any given day. And the work still gets done, despite that.

Karen believes there’s no need to put unreasonable standards or expectations in place, because the work can still get done, even whilst listening to your people and allowing some flexibility. 

The team all share their calendars with each other, and take personal responsibility for blocking out times they are unavailable and ensuring that their workload is covered during holidays. This is where the pairing on client accounts comes into its own, too – as long as the client experience is good, Karen doesn’t mind how the work is achieved.

How to Be More Ethos - Key Lessons for Business Owners

It was impressive to hear about the innovative approaches Karen has taken to build a successful, purpose-led, remote-working team, that supports and respects her staff, without compromising on continued growth and profitability.   Many businesses feel employee engagement is hard to achieve, yet Karen’s approach and business model works well, and her team are engaged and empowered.

If, like me, you’re feeling inspired to find ways to be more Ethos in your own business, here are Karen’s top tips to managing a remote-working team: 

1. Find and attract the right people 

First and foremost, it’s about getting the right people. If you don’t have the right team, it’s never going to work. Consider the skill-set you need from your team, and focus on leveraging individual strengths. What skills can you train in, and what skills do you need them to arrive with? 

When you’re working with a remote team, it’s important that they can work independently and are ‘self-starters’, without someone telling them what to do. Check in with your team as you bring them on board about how this will work for them and how much contact they feel they might need with you, and the rest of the team. 

Consider ‘outside-the-box’ thinking when it comes to recruitment – how can you take advantage of market weaknesses / gaps in the market? For example, hiring skilled workers who were not finding the support and flexibility they need in their current roles. 

2. Create a team culture based around values and how you want to work 

Take time to communicate your team values, and do it often, not just during the initial onboarding phase. At Ethos, the business values are reiterated frequently, so that everyone knows how the team works and how they support each other.

In addition, find ways to build and encourage connections amongst your team – with remote working, it can often be more challenging to reach out to people you don’t know. Are there ways you can build in collaboration into the client management process, as Karen does with her team by pairing less experienced team members together with more experienced ones on each client account.

3. Ensure you have the right systems in place to facilitate collaborative working

Although it might seem obvious, having the right systems in place to facilitate how you’d like your team to work together. Take the time to consider exactly what functions will be required, and how you can make things as efficient as possible. How can you communicate and share information amongst the team effectively?

Being a Google Ads agency, everything Ethos does is Google-based, including Google Drive, Google Meet, Google Chats. They also heavily use a tool called Loom, which is a video screen recording tool. They use this to film short, quick training videos about technical questions that come up. This is then placed into the training library, as a resource if the same question comes up again.

A huge thank you to Karen for sharing her insights and experiences and for letting me share with you how remote working can work in practice, successfully, and one approach to fully engaging and empowering a team to do their best to help a business leader run the business and serve their customers to a high standard.  Karen has definitely embraced the idea that happy people make a happy business and happy clients and how great HR approaches and practices can improve the bottom line and add value.

If you would like to talk about employee engagement or people management approaches, get in touch.  Oh, and if you want some advice on pay per click Ads, Karen and her team can be contacted here.

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