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How This Rapidly Scaling Agency Avoided The Tribal Knowledge Trap

Just last year, founder and CEO Veronique James saw just how difficult things can get when operational knowledge is left to tribal knowledge, and it walks right out the door when employees move on.

Here’s how she systemized her agency and solved the documentation problem—

Founded in 2005 with a vision to create an agency focused on open communication, honesty, and transparency with clients and employees, Veronique seemingly overnight took The James Agency from a one-woman shop to a seven-person agency and now, a 30-something person marketing powerhouse.

Veronique’s team and revenue grew 100% year-over-year for three consecutive years and during those periods of rapid growth, she realized a void she had in training and documentation. But the knowledge documentation problem just wasn’t urgent yet.

Avoiding the Tribal Knowledge Trap

“I realized I relied too much on tribal knowledge when it came to training and onboarding,” James said. “But I had some longtime tenured members that worked with me through the early years of the agency, so there wasn’t really a need for me to document how to get things done.”

At that time, James said, they didn’t have any documentation around their business processes or role-specific policies and responsibilities and didn’t have any structure for basic daily deliverables or tasks. As they say, hindsight is 20-20, and James was put in a difficult spot when her team experienced some major turnover last year.

“In that transition, I noticed a very obvious void of knowledge from new team members,” James said. “We realized that some of the folks that had been with us for five to seven years were the ones who had all of the information on how we do things at The James Agency,” James said.  

“Overnight we said, ‘holy smokes,’ we need to build some sort of practice manual on how each of these roles needs to be implemented, as well as an overarching manual about how to be a really stellar team member,” she said.

Discovering A Better Way

James was feeling the burn and was quickly sucked back into the day-to-day of the business, leaving her with little to no time to work on growing and expanding the business.

“I found myself having to have face-time with every single team member within the agency, somewhat course-correcting their actions, retraining people on best practices and behaviors, and it was very cannibalizing for me,” James said.

She became engulfed in the monotony of daily business and knew she needed to find a better solution. That’s when she found Trainual.

“I was introduced to Trainual by a friend from a professional organization I’m involved in and I was a little skeptical,” she said. “I was thinking, I have 14 years of knowledge I’ve built for this agency…how in the world do you take all of that stuff and get it into a documented, clean, repeatable system?”

Training You Can Count On

Now seven months into using Trainual, James said her skepticism has gone out the window. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “My entire team collectively has aligned to get all this content into the platform.”

To get all of their most important how-to’s, procedures, and processes into Trainual, James said they crowdsourced information from each team member to build out responsibilities specific to each unique role. They treated creating their own internal knowledge base like a client project, meaning they couldn’t push it off, and it paid off almost instantly.

“We hired two new people in our client services team and had them go through The James Agency: Day One Curriculum on Trainual, it was almost automatic,” James said.

Not only did her new hires appreciate the fact that there was a process in place which got them fully up to speed on everything that the company had worked on so hard on over the last 15 years, but the best part, “I didn’t have to be a part of it at all” said James.

“There’s a cost-benefit, there’s a time benefit and then there is a mitigation of risk and mistakes. My confidence that I had, knowing both of these new hires were being trained consistently and they were both receiving the information by way of my expectations, is fantastic,” she added.

The Proof is in the Training

James saw firsthand how damaging it can be to have crucial company knowledge just walk out the door. Now with Trainual, she’s confident that training and onboarding work seamlessly and consistently behind the scenes without her having to lift a finger, and has peace of mind that she’ll never fall into the tribal knowledge trap again.

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