Unplugged Chats with BC’s Best Marketers

July 13, 2022

James

Interview with James Bustard – May 2022

In this new series, we sit down with the movers and shakers of BC’s marketing industry. The brand-builders, recruitment specialists, up-and-comers, growth hackers and everything in between. We’re kicking off the series with an engaging chat with James Bustard from the marketing recruitment agency, Smart, Savvy + Associates. Read on for some great insights about what marketers should be thinking about to advance their career. 

What’s your current position and how long have you worked at Smart Savvy?

I joined Smart Savvy nearly five years ago after starting my career in higher education recruitment. Our team works with a variety of clients to find marketing, communications and creative talent, from coordinator up to the C-level, for their teams.  My colleague, Jaylene Crick, and I became partners and agency owners in 2020.

As a specialist in recruitment for the marketing industry, what are the most important skills that marketers today should be developing?

Focus on developing two important soft skills. First, develop the art of coaching….and by this, I mean the ability to guide and influence. Marketing positions at their core are collaborative and cross functional so honing the ability to influence others that you don’t oversee is a very important skill. Learn how to apply ‘the coach approach’ to how you interact and engage with others. The second skill to develop is a sense of curiosity…. asking more and telling less. When you approach problems, conversations and topics with curiosity, intellectual questions and a true interest in learning, it’s building that rapport and trust with different teams. That is going to allow you to have a position of influence. Michael Bungay has written two excellent books that every marketer should read: The Coaching Habit and the Advice Trap, and Vancouver-based Fluency Leadership also produces excellent, insightful blog posts about these skills and others. One of my favourite posts is the one on leadership lessons from Ted Lasso where you will see #3 is curiosity.

What advice would you have for any BC marketers starting out or in the early stage of their careers?

Step outside of the parameters. Are you putting yourself in different spaces and scenarios to learn more? My advice would be to acquire a broad range of experience in your career. Some of the intermediate and senior marketers that we find who really stand out are ones who have done a pivot at some point in their career – perhaps they’ve done B2B and B2C, perhaps they’ve tried working in an agency, and now they’re moving client-side. Diverse experience early in your career will allow you to land in a spot that could be a great long-term fit. Some of the best experience to be gained might be outside of your list of responsibilities in your role and will allow you to grow your experience and skill set. I want to clarify that I’m not suggesting you need to try to be everything to everybody, but ask yourself how you can get that diverse experience earlier in your career in order to open up to a whole new range of opportunities. 

What have you observed as the most challenging aspects for BC-businesses right now trying to recruit? 

Number one is that it’s a candidate’s market this year. Candidates have A LOT of career options right now so a company’s ability to secure the perfect fit, A-player is more challenging than ever before. That’s why it’s so important to really reflect on what skills a qualified candidate needs to already have, and what areas can be coached or developed. You may have a true diamond in the rough right in front of you – they just need a bit of polishing through coaching.

What’s the biggest myth in marketing?

Three myths come to mind: The first myth is the belief that if someone doesn’t have experience in Canada, or if they don’t have specific industry experience, then they won’t be successful in a role. I think that sometimes people can be a little bit limited in their perspective on this. If somebody has the core competencies for the role, approaches things with curiosity, and is a quick learner – and they are a proven and accomplished marketer –  I think that they have a very high likelihood of successfully adapting to a new geographical market or industry. For some roles a lack of market experience is a valid concern, but sometimes I just think, even today, that there can still be a bit of bias out there. Coaching and developing an individual for success in a company is also a great career-building achievement for the leader who’s hired them.

Another myth speaks to the belief that marketers can do everything under the sun. There’s an expectation that if you’re hiring a marketer, they can build a strategy and can execute across all channels, and.. that they can make videos, do graphic design, and UX/UI design, and… they can also write, and… the list goes on. And that’s definitely a myth…I like to encourage hiring managers to identify and prioritize what can be learned, what can be coached, and what can be outsourced.

Lastly, there’s a myth or belief out there that the best marketers are outgoing and high energy. Sometimes that will get you a pretender. Some of the best marketers out there are actually a bit more understated in their personality or approach. We know several CMO’s in BC who are very accomplished and strategic leaders, but who are actually not the dynamic, outgoing and engaging people you would anticipate.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now? 

One of my favourite newsletters is by James Clear. He’s the author of Atomic Habits but he’s also got a great newsletter that I would highly recommend people check out. Also, the book: ‘Stillness is the key’ by Ryan Holiday is one of my favourites. Holiday uses so many different interesting examples of professional athletes and successful people who use the concept of stillness to reach results. 

Thanks so much for your time, James! I really enjoyed this. One last bonus question is to hear what you would like to give a quick plug to? 

Hmmmm well, this might be obvious (grin!) but if anyone needs help building their marketing, communications or creative teams, we’d love to help. And on the flipside of this is that if anyone is looking to make a career move in within the next six to 12 months, we would love to learn a bit more about you. Reach out anytime at info@smartsavvy.com.

Want to connect with James? Here’s his LinkedIn profile. You can also find Smart, Savvy + Associates at https://smartsavvy.com/