Marnie Jones started her career when she was 19. For 10 years she worked as a management consultant helping companies from $200k to $130m turnover get the most out of their businesses. At 23 she was the Head Consultant for a small boutique firm in Sydney where she managed a team of consultants.
Marnie held workshops and seminars for over 1,500 people over this time. She was responsible for more than 150 clients across varying industries such as mining, construction, child care, real estate, accounting, law, non-for-profit, manufacturing, printing and travel.
Talent X is mainly known for their unique and revolutionary hiring process that boasts an 89% success rate and also for their 12-month retention guarantee; if the staff member leaves within 12 months they replace them for free. So almost 90% of the candidates they place stay. Talent X has scoured the internet for retention rate stats from other recruiting firms to no avail. As far as she can see, as a recruiter they have the best retention rate in the world.
Talent X is proud to share that 96.7% of our clients and 100% of our candidates report that they are better than a typical recruiter.
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Table of Contents
Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Marnie Jones: My name is Marnie Jones and I am the proud owner of Talent X – what I coin a “People Agency” – dedicated to the performance, viability and happiness of teams.
I love business and have made it my life’s endeavour to do what I can for it.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Marnie Jones: Well, I didn’t really ever plan on becoming a CEO. My experience has been somewhat backward. Most consultants start as a CEO and then get into the consulting field. I started my career as a consultant taking small to medium business owners through a specific curriculum I was trained on. This gave me access to work alongside many incredible business owners in many different industries and gave me an insight into the challenges, losses and successes of business that I feel would have taken me 25 years to learn had I started a business from the outset.
I always loved working beside and with CEOs and never really envisaged I would have a company of my own. This changed in 2020 when, after 10 years of consulting, I realised that I had some services and products that I thought would be a joy to scale and helpful to many businesses. And so Talent X was born.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Marnie Jones: Daniel Davis, the now Leader of the EOS methodology for APAC, was my employer in my consulting career. Daniel helped define what a true CEO is, taught me how to traverse the intricate relationships in business, and helped form my commercial mind. I would attribute my work ethic and standards to Daniel for sure. It is really something seeing a CEO in action, live in front of you day to day and how they make decisions to steer a group in the right direction. I feel very fortunate to have worked directly with Daniel and I wouldn’t be the businesswoman I am today without him.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Marnie Jones: I have been urged many times by many CEOs throughout my career to start my own company. For years I always preferred the idea of being an exclusive consultant to the few. I think I realised at some point that I was hesitant to run my own company for fear of not doing as well as others thought I would.
You have to understand that my whole career up until being my own CEO was advising, helping, mentoring and assisting other CEOs to run their companies. I was comfortable in that space. I had minimal risk, could take my clients’ wins, and still go home without the stress. Stepping up to the plate to become my own CEO took a bit of nerve. I have to admit the journey leading up to this was made up of a lot of conversations with many of my clients asking for their opinions, advice and confidence – and of course late night calls to mum and dad.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Marnie Jones: I took the risk to enter the market as a recruitment firm and consultancy firm. I didn’t make this decision lightly and was advised against it numerous times. After I formulated my hiring method, which I am very proud to say boasts an 89% success rate, I realised that hiring amazing staff is only one part of getting success from people. You can have the best staff in the world, but if you’re unorganised or don’t manage them correctly, you lose hundreds of thousands of dollars and end up with a poachable team. I decided to be bold and enter the market as a “People Agency” – dedicated to solving the 3 core people issues: hiring, organising and management. This has proven to be the right decision. It makes sense to my clients and our services compliment each other beautifully. We really do have a direct impact on our clients’ success.
As a CEO I dedicate my time to product development, strategy, financials and relationships. I like to keep intimate contact with our clients and live projects so I know exactly how to improve them. I think it is really important to know exactly what my customers think about my services at all times so that I can improve their experience where possible.
What I am doing is bold and risky, so I make it my endeavour to be the best in the game.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
Marnie Jones: Oh, man. It is so many things. It is imagination, leadership, policing, enforcement, mentorship, care, firefighting, planning and organising. It is a combination of many archetypes that one must exhibit at the right time and be able to switch to serve the situation at hand.
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
Marnie Jones: Honestly, I did not expect the pressure of paying wages. I knew of this sitting next to CEOs for so long, but until that responsibility lays on your shoulders, you don’t realise how much it drives you and your decisions. It takes real guts to stand up and say “Yep – I am okay with being responsible for this family and their livelihoods.”
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Marnie Jones: I think anything that isn’t high level enters into a different role than a CEO. The CEO is there as the pilot – that is their core responsibility. Where is the business going? When? With whom? How? Who does it service? What does it not do?
The most powerful tool a CEO has is policy. Severely underrated and boring to most, policy (when used correctly) becomes a tool of expansion. I define policy as: a written document that outlines the successful way to do something. It may take years to figure out the most successful way to run an area. But once defined, policy allows for easy training and onboarding, it gives a cushion to managers who are no longer the bad guy, and it allows you to build a business on process and policy, not people. When it is truly written on what WORKS, it allows for problems and mistakes to be easily identified – if you have isolated the most successful way to sell your product and service based on real stats and data, for example, you know that any time the sales are not being met someone is not applying policy. It cuts through all the confusion and uncertainty on “Why is this area not doing well? Should we change our product? Should we fire so and so?”
I learnt this invaluable lesson early on in my career and from the outside employed this tool in my business. I spent a few weeks formulating the policy on how we do our hiring projects and allowed me to step out of this area after only 2 weeks of training. Other than QA here and there, that whole department runs without me. Anytime a staff member comes to me with a question I lead them directly back to the policy. This has saved me and my team hundreds of hours and means I can go on holiday without stress and scale the area without much worry.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Marnie Jones: I had to make the hard decision to stop servicing the construction industry with hiring. We still do management and consulting work with construction companies, but had to pull out of hiring. I analysed the success of our hiring in this industry versus others and it was 50% less successful. It also took almost double the time/cost and was something my staff hated. This was tough as at the time 40% of my client base was construction. I knew it was the right decision for my team long term but it was a very difficult thing to do.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Marnie Jones: Not sure about defining it, but I feel success is measured by the amount of criticism being received.
It’s easy to continue travelling the same path we always have. It’s a little harder to identify the flaws in our methods and it takes courage to do something about it. And when you do, people don’t like it because it highlights their flaws so clearly.
I am inspired by those who are ahead of their time and aren’t afraid to be the first to shake up the system. I guess to me this is success.
Blazing your own path certainly isn’t the easiest approach, but it’s one of the most admirable things one can do in their industry.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Marnie Jones: Innately I have a knack for identifying exactly where an issue comes from. Seems elementary but I think it has already saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars. Luckily people and hiring have never been my sticking point and finances come naturally.
I have had to cultivate patience and tolerance – these were not my strengths. I always admired the calm CEO who doesn’t get frazzled, remembers that business is business, but still does their best to rectify and then prevent a bad situation. This has taken me a lot of practice and is something I find challenging when it’s my own company, my own money, my own creation. I think I still have work to do in this area.
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Marnie Jones: I first asked the team what they wanted and how they wished to work. I set boundaries and expectations but otherwise gave them the freedom they asked for and this worked well. The biggest challenges were behind the scenes not shared with staff; weeks without any income causing cash flow stress. I got around this by going to my mentors and CEO friends and ranting only to them, drawing inspiration where I could. I then got above it all by developing services and products that could succeed in any future lockdown – this helped immensely and stopped any hopelessness. I think we are stronger now for that.
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting out on their journey?
Marnie Jones: Definitely form relationships with other successful CEOs. Most CEOs love to help others and will gladly help where they can. The only other key advice would be to always “look” and don’t “think”. If you “think” you’re using what you’ve been taught or told, and that is not always relevant to what is in front of you. Keep observing what is in front of you. Never lose touch with your clients and staff. Always be willing to imagine and create and then re-create. And lastly – always have someone you can rant to that is not your team haha.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Marnie Jones: Marketing! I am working on this skill now but haven’t been able to nail it. It is truly a different ballgame to sales and one I can see that must be mastered if constant growth is to be achieved. This is not a natural skill of mine as I am more of a one on one kind of person.
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Marnie Jones: Through the eyes of a hundred CEOs.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Marnie Jones for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Marnie Jones or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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