In this Coaching Call style 10 Minute Marketing episode, I’m thrilled to sit down with Cloe Guidry-Reed, who has journeyed from being a risk management consultant to a tech entrepreneur as the CEO of Hire Ground — a SaaS platform that connects diverse suppliers and enterprise buyers. .
Throughout the episode, we outline the trajectory of Hire Ground’s growth and I underline the significance of personal branding in humanizing a business and nurturing deep connections with customers. I also coach Cloe up on how to leverage LinkedIn to enhance her personal brand and attract clients for Hire Ground, such optimizing her LinkedIn profile for enhanced visibility and engaging with digital communities for increased interactions.
As Cloe continues to grow Hire Ground, her journey offers insights for other entrepreneurs navigating their own branding and business paths. You can also harness power of digital platforms to boost your personal and professional brands. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner, Cloe’s story offers valuable insights and inspiration.
About Cloe Guidry-Reed and Hire Ground
An Agnes Scott College and Georgia State University Executive MBA Alumni and former SVP in two global brokerage firms, Cloe Guidry-Reed spent over 16 years successfully helping clients solve challenging issues around supply chain risk and human capital management. She founded Hire Ground, an online marketplace that connects corporate and government buyers with diverse suppliers, with the mission of providing new-majority business owners with more opportunities to win supply chain contracts while also enabling enterprise buyers to build and strengthen their supplier diversity programs.
As founder and CEO, Cloe is responsible for the overall success of Hire Ground by leading the development and execution of long-term strategies. She also co-hosts their Breaking Barriers podcast, speaking with leaders and rising stars in the increasingly vital field of supplier inclusion.
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Read The Full Transcript From This Episode (click to expand and read the full interview)
- Sonja Crystal Williams: 0:09
Hi everyone, welcome to today’s episode. My name is Sonja Crystal Williams and I’m the host of 10 Minute Marketing. Joining me today I have Cloe Guidry-Reed. She is the co-founder of Hire Ground. Cloe, I’m going to let you talk a little bit more about what Hire Ground is. I had the opportunity in the early days of you starting that up to work alongside with you all in a few areas, but you all are thriving. You’ve grown quite a bit. Would you consider yourself still in that startup phase?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 0:40
I think startup phase is something that we oftentimes get confused. Startup, by definition, is really meaning that you’re in an accelerated growth period. Yes, I would say that we’re still in the startup phase because we are growing very rapidly and want to continue to grow.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 1:01
Tell us more about Hire Ground. Yes, I’m just everyone listening?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 1:06
Absolutely, absolutely so. Hire Ground is a software company. We do strategic sourcing and really help enterprise organizations with supplier engagement and governance.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 1:18
Awesome. So you’re working with a lot of corporations on really helping fill their supplier chain pipeline as well as manage some of the processes behind the scenes. That’s what the software is doing.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 1:29
Absolutely so, helping them with the sourcing pieces all the way to the onboarding and the vetting, and then continuing to engage with your suppliers on a regular basis.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 1:39
Very cool. So with this business, I guess let’s kind of dig a little bit before we talk about and so everyone knows this episode today is a little bit of a coaching call. We’re going to talk about Cloe’s business but also talk about as she is in this phase of accelerated growth with Hire Ground. Really what are the things that she’s putting in place that are helping them continue to thrive and where are their best areas of opportunity. So we’re going to spend some time today really talking about that. But first, Cloe, I want to hear a little bit about the background of how you got into this line of work. It’s a complex business problem that you’re solving, but how did you even kind of figure out that this was something that needed to be addressed?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 2:20
Yeah, so prior to me starting Higher Ground, I was a risk management consultant and primarily worked with large enterprise organizations the same of our clients that we service now and so help them with risk identification across their supply chains and across their purchasing and procurement teams. So that is where I really got introduced to all of these corporations and their commitments around diversity, equity and inclusion, particularly around their supply chain. And originally a lot of our clients were like could you help us with finding and sourcing some diverse own businesses based on what we’re trying to do? And of course there was a lot in my network, but of course I was like surely there’s a tool or a marketplace or something that I can find, because there has to be other suppliers other than just the ones that I know. And so started really scouring the internet to see if I could find a solution that really was an end to end solution that could plug into some of their AP systems, and I couldn’t find anything on the marketplace. And so that’s what kind of led me down this discovery path of finding a solution to really address this problem, because not only were corporations I knew corporations were looking for these diverse own businesses but I knew diverse own businesses were also looking for some of these larger contracts to expand and grow their their businesses as well.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 3:47
Huge, huge, huge, huge and you hit on a key term that a lot of us here today diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) which definitely is a overall niche that needs addressing, of course, across a lot of businesses today, and you found this I’m really happy to hear about that how long now have you all been in business, or kind of officially, since you’ve formed higher ground?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 4:10
Almost three years, almost three, four years. Wow, I can’t believe it.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 4:14
Yeah, a lot happens in a small amount of time, and today I mean you all, you have people dedicated. Now, I mean, was that you in the beginning that had to do a lot of the legwork on the sales side? Or, and now, do you have people in place for that?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 4:28
Yes, yeah, it was me doing a lot of the legwork. It’s still me doing a lot of the legwork on the sales side, because no one can really tell our story the way that you know. Someone from the beginning can, and, as as right now, while we’re still in this accelerated growth period, I’m still the best person to do that. So some of the other responsibilities, from operations to HR and some of just more the business process and system things that we have inside of our business those are usually run by somebody else.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 5:00
Okay. So I want to dig into that a little bit more because, as a founder of a software company and of course tech is just such a, you know, huge niche and kind of vertical to be in right now, that’s kind of a unique position because, as you just said, you’re still out really being the face behind the brand right. It relies on you, as you all are in this period of growth, and so, with it relying on you, I know one of the things you and I kind of talked about previously was really putting yourself in a position where that personal brand really means something. The way that you are represented, where you go out in front of these customers, makes a huge difference. Let me just kind of ask you why because that was one of the things you brought up to me like, hey, this is something where, like I want to, you know, kind of make sure I’m doing better or staying on top of. Why has that been an area of importance to you? Because I think there’s a lot of business owners and founders out there that really need to hear that message.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 5:56
Yeah, I mean, I think that you know, when you’re in an accelerated growth period, people want to know who you are, not just what it is that you do and what your software provides, and so it adds a level of connectivity that and humanizes our brand, our business, our story that people can connect to, and so I do realize that that’s very important. It’s just one of those things that often you know we can market higher ground all day long, but when it comes to like marketing myself, sometimes it’s just the last thing on my list of things to do.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 6:29
Yeah, and you use a word I love to use when I’m working with clients a lot, which is humanizing your brand, because you have to find ways to connect, and it’s so easy to be so focused on growing the business that some of the things that we have to remember about ourselves, especially when you’re running the business, is important too. But, like you said, it’s often the last thing on the list of things to focus on In terms of like how you position yourself to grow your personal brand or things. And I mean you had a brand, I mean you were. You were already thriving as an executive and a partner at a risk management firm, even before you started higher ground, so you’ve always had a visible presence. What are the ways, at least leading into higher ground, that you feel like, well, I had a presence here or here with people when it comes to like just being visible online. And then are there other places where you’ve started to grow there.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 7:20
Yeah, I mean I had a presence, you know, pretty much on most social media platforms. So Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram. I find that I’ve gravitated towards more LinkedIn. That’s where most of our customers on both sides of our platform are and most brands are. I do have a Twitter account. I’m not on Twitter as much I know. That’s where tons of people get information, or X now as they call it. Yes, X now yes. And yeah, I mean I’m on Instagram for the purposes of finding things and as a resource, but I don’t usually I’m not posting that much on there. I find it difficult to maintain more than one social media platform right now for myself.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 8:08
Yeah, and I think that’s true. I think there’s some social media platforms that you might just be an observer or a lurker on, like Instagram, and it’s also kind of distinguishing. As I have this business, what lane do I want to be in?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 8:25
Sonja Crystal Williams: 8:25
I start to kind of figure out where I want to go with that brand. So LinkedIn definitely makes a lot of sense in terms of focal points. I’m going to pull up your LinkedIn Just so I have kind of just in front of me and I’m not going to pull it up on the screen for everyone, but just so I can look at it more. So to kind of say what’s the current status of what Cloe’s profile looks like today as the founder of Hire Ground and as I do that. Hire Ground has a LinkedIn presence as well. Right, right, okay. And is it a pretty active presence? Is there? You got someone on the team that posts content on that?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 9:02
Sonja Crystal Williams: 9:04
It is very active, yes, so one opportunity that I always share with businesses that are in a position like yours is that the beauty of LinkedIn is that it’s a platform where your company can exist and you can exist. But if you’re willing to be, in a sense, an ambassador on behalf of your company using a platform like LinkedIn, it really opens up a huge opportunity. In fact, there’s a stat that LinkedIn released a few years ago that said profiles where you is like whether it’s someone at the company or you’re the founder of the company sharing post off of the business page, it will increase that page’s visibility by up to six times and get your business out in front of a lot more people in your own personal network.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 9:52
Got it, got it Okay.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 9:53
So there’s kind of two ways to think about even how you approach LinkedIn. As I look at your profile today. Right, you’ve got the basics that any founder should have. You’ve got a great headshot. You’ve got your you know your name is there. You’ve got kind of the basics on the job title CEO of Hire Ground and you’ve got some keywords in there that hit on some of the things that you do, which is right now. You’ve got it supplier, diversity and economic inclusion advocate. You all have a podcast, so you’ve got your podcast on there as well. Yeah, and so I want to break down LinkedIn into a few different areas, because if we were to think about how do we take this profile and, in a sense, just kind of tighten it up so that we can get more out of it, there’s a few different areas you could go in a few different areas that you can update, in addition to just content that gets produced, that goes out on that channel that can help you on the way. So one is the background image. So you’ve got your profile image, and then behind on a personal profile, your image is like the background image. You’ve got it branded for higher ground and I would say that’s a good thing. You can keep that as it is, or you could think about if you want something that’s slightly more personal to you but still represents the work you do at higher ground. So it goes back to what you were saying about humanizing yeah, and. Thinking about, well, what is it that we do at Higher Ground? And it’s okay in that banner to even have some of the words on, kind of like, what you do or how you’re working with clients and who you’re working with. You don’t have to necessarily put the names of those companies. I’m good put you know serving or bringing DEI, you know software or programs or opportunities to enterprise clients or something, but that’s good, yeah, the action exactly you can stick with. So right now your banner has Atlanta as the backdrop. I recognized it because I know Atlanta. You could stay with that or you could think about is there something that’s more meaningful? That again might help people understand. I’m gonna go to your website because it’s one of those things where, like I know, your website’s been updated as well. Well, not updated fresh, fresh, but like I know it’s what. It’s gone through many iterations over the past three years, and so I know that you all have kind of a unique look with the type of graphics you’re using on this site. Yes, the color scheme has changed a little bit, so so if you want it to have that brand feel a little bit tighter, yeah, that’s a good area opportunity just on the graphic as well. Okay, the beauty is what? I would do yeah in your position, because you have the, the support, because you have a team. I would ask someone on the team to do that so you don’t have to think about it. But now you have a little bit more direction. You can give them on what you want it to look like. Yeah, and that gives you the opportunity, you know, and maybe ask them to produce two to three version, new banner versions that you could run with. Okay, okay. And then when we get into the profile itself, all right, so we got the image part of the profile that people are gonna see and they’re immediately gonna form an impression there. Then there’s like when people type in LinkedIn in that little search box if I typed in supplier diversity and inclusion, what kind of profiles come up? So one you do want to get discovered when people are doing searches on LinkedIn. Part of that we want to get discovered through the type of keywords that we use in our profile. That goes down to your title, that goes down to even in your description, in the experience section of your profile. I would say, maybe filling that in a little bit more, because that’s a good place to also drop DEI, supplier diversity, economic inclusion, some of those keywords that you’re really focused on. But, definitely also. I would probably and I’m going to do it real quick for you On LinkedIn I would do a little test in LinkedIn search and I would type in supplier. Let’s just type in supply chain software. The reason why I’m typing that in is because I want to see what people pop up related to that. Those might be people in the industry, those might be competitors, and I’m using supply chain software. That might not be the right phrase, but I would play around with typing different phrases in that match what you do that your audience think about. How would my audience seek out people and try to write down a list of what those phrases might be and then look them up to do your test first, let’s just say, if supply chain management were one of those phrases, that’s the phrase you’re going to make sure you get incorporated into your profile in more places. Okay, so that’s particularly the two places where you could get any of those keywords related to what you do at higher ground would be in the experience section under higher ground, and then the other section would be above that. On LinkedIn, there’s the about section, about. Okay, got it that section. You have a pretty long good. This is good. You have a pretty long kind of details and backgrounds here. What I would do to just make that where people will read it more, because you’ve got some words. I see diversity in here several times. I see equity in here Great. I would break that up, though, into sections to make it more skimmable, and so skimmable meaning when people are on social media networks today and LinkedIn is slightly different people will spend a little bit more time. But the reality is most people don’t read captions on post-word for word Right. Most people are used to just taking their finger and scrolling up the speed. Yeah, anything that you put in front of them needs to be digestible on that scroll Right. So right now you have small paragraphs on the profile, the way it’s written, but it’s not skimmable.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 16:24
Okay, it does, it does, it does.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 16:27
So how do we make it skimmable? In a separate doc, because when you’re in LinkedIn it’s not going to let you do bold, it’s not going to let you put emojis. Okay, so in a separate doc, do it in Microsoft Word, because if you copy and paste it out of Word with bold text, italics, anything you want to really use, it will stay in LinkedIn and it’ll let you save it that way.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 16:48
Sonja Crystal Williams: 16:49
So you could do things like put headings over some of those paragraphs. You know my background, who we work with or who I serve opportunities. I’m looking for people I help. You could have headers like that in place on that profile. That can help you just break that up. And then I would say, if you and this depends on the tone of your brand and your comfort level, but you could also consider breaking some of that up with emojis, not really using emojis, but like at the side of each section just to draw attention and make it skimmable.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 17:26
Got it, got it. Draw attention to just the breakup and yeah, okay.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 17:32
Okay, so that’s just like functional stuff. The final thing, another area of opportunity is your featured section.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 17:40
Sonja Crystal Williams: 17:42
Yeah, so there’s a section right under about. So if I’m looking at a LinkedIn profile, you have the person’s banner and profile image at the top and you’ve got all their name and like where they went to school or whatever, and then below that is about, which is like a freestyle put whatever you want, which I would also put, like, if it’s okay to put some of your clients that are recognizable names, drop some of those in there too, okay. And then featured. Featured is the section that comes after about, and this is the section where you can put, and it basically produces a carousel. That carousel include, yeah, it can include past posts. It could include links to articles often linked in or graphics, whatever you put there. You can choose to put whatever you want in that section. That’s good real estate.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 18:39
Sonja Crystal Williams: 18:42
Because what you can do there is put and this depends. You could put calls to action there. Okay, so usually your first three. If you do it like a carousel, your first three are going to show. So you might think about what are the three most important things I want people to know about me and my business professionally when they scan this profile. Okay, it could be. Here’s a call to action. If you all do demos or anything like that, sign up for your demo and do a really good graphic, how some people have those really nice thumbnails on YouTube when you’re looking for YouTube videos to watch. Yeah, yeah. You want to have a nice thumbnail like that. Okay, on that carousel. Okay, perfect, humanize it by putting sometimes it might be a picture of you, but the background’s removed, and then it might say book a demo or something like that and it’s not necessarily with you. It’s going to take them to the website or wherever you all actually have a link that books people. But if you are part of that presentation, that’s an opportunity, perfect. So you could have carousels that are that style, or it could be a mix, it might be. One is like book a demo or request a discovery call. Another one might be, since you’ve probably been featured in the media, you know, and so taking one of those publications where you’ve been featured and also featuring that on your profile so that there’s, you know, of course, a little bit of credibility there, right? Someone’s been in boards and enterprise and ink, you know those magazines. There’s credibility there. So they know oh, this is like a legit person, she’s got a strong business. You know things like that, okay. Okay, that’s definitely helpful, so that’s a huge opportunity, okay. And then we get into just kind of the activity of posting, and this is where I think your team could help you because, as you said, like you’re busy, you’re doing other things. This is where you kind of start to ask and this definitely depends on relationship, comfort level with someone on the team and I usually, like I usually say like a point to one or two people, because you don’t want everyone to have your LinkedIn information at the company. But if there’s one or two people on the team that you feel comfortable with turning over access to, then I would consider giving them access and allowing them from time to time. And this is stuff you all have to talk through. So it’s almost like you need a strategy. Right, you need to talk through it with your team, but you may want to think about what are the posts that go up on higher grounds LinkedIn that I feel comfortable with resharing on to my profile, and that might be a frequency of once or twice a month Doesn’t necessarily need to be all the time, yeah, and then for other post content, whether you’re doing it or someone else on your team is doing it. I would say probably just thinking about if you’re participating in conferences, if you’re attending conferences, if you’re speaking on panels, any of that, push it out, push it out, push it out and try to stay on a consistent schedule. If you’re not going to be the one posting it, then just be in sync with someone on the team where at least you get the photo and you text it to them or Slack, you know. However, that works. Yeah, make sure that someone’s getting that and then maybe it’s a quick phone call and you give them the context, but you can remove yourself from it. Ok, the more you count on yourself to do it, the less likely it’s probably going to get done, and I know that from the experience of working with a lot of people again in your position. It’s less likely to get done. It’s better for you to just be the observer of seeing it happen on your profile and then, you know, still guiding your team on the language, right On how to do that.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 22:30
Perfect, that’s another piece, ok, these are good suggestions. These are yeah.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 22:36
And that’s just. That’s just like the profile stuff. Now, the other thing you said was I really would want someone to guide me on like what groups should I be joining Right? Like what are the things I should be a part of?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 22:47
like the digital communities and making sure that you have a presence in them.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 22:52
Yeah. So the one thing I’m gonna say on LinkedIn groups aren’t what they used to be there, used to be a time, I would say about a decade ago, where groups were just like popping and there’s still some, some active communities on LinkedIn. So I’m not gonna say all groups, but I’m gonna say if you post most groups in most groups, you’re not gonna get much content or much likes, comments, shares, not gonna get much engagement on posts. However the reason why joining the group still can be powerful is because you can join that group and now you have access to people in that group to connect with one-on-one. Okay, that’s the biggest value in groups. So that would go into the strategy bucket of working with someone on your team and asking them to produce a list of potential groups you could join and I definitely in the supply or equity. You know diversity, equity and inclusion in supply chain world. Those groups exist, right, we know there’s number one all of the majority supplier groups all have groups on LinkedIn and there’s gonna be the national one and then there’s probably one at each state level. Some of them you might have to formally be a member of, but some of those groups you don’t, and so I would look for those opportunities. I would also look for opportunities within your alumni networks where you went to college and then and then again, it’s not so much about, once you’re in that group, posting anything in the group. It’s about finding people in that group, because once you get in the group, you can search by job titles, people in the group, right, and now when you reach out to them, you can say, hey, we both went to Blank College and I’m looking to connect with more alumni in this role. You know, can you? You want to connect? And then it’s just hey, now we have a connection on LinkedIn and then maybe from there it’s messaging to start that digital relationship If they’re in Atlanta eventually. I always tell people within two to three messages. You know, nowadays it might not be coffee, but in person, but maybe it’s a Zoom call. Yeah, and I try to get them out of LinkedIn after the first couple of messages, because if you keep messaging in LinkedIn, somebody’s gonna fall off at some point. Yeah, so true, so alumni networks right, which I would imagine you’re probably a member of some already. I am, but they’re mine.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 25:16
One of them’s active, the other one’s not as active.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 25:21
Yeah. So that’s where I would say you leverage it. The one that’s not active, go find the people in that group and then connect with them one to on one, and then the one that is, maybe that’s an opportunity to kind of you know bridge into another conversation. So, alumni networks, any nonprofits you volunteered with or been a part of, those are good opportunities. Any clubs, organizations, even if you did it in the past National Black MBA, any of those type of organizations get into those groups and then again, they probably aren’t having big conversations on LinkedIn. They’re probably. You probably just need to find them one-on-one. The place where, if you do want to find groups to actively participate in, it’s, honestly, facebook right now. Okay. So this is where, again, it just depends on how you want to utilize Facebook. Yeah, you know what I mean. And if you wanted to like update your profile where it’s personal, but only personal to the extent you want it to be personal, yeah, or you know. Or if you just want to like make it where that profile isn’t necessarily searchable or people don’t see all your stuff unless they’re your friend, right, and they still participate in groups without people seeing or having access to all these parts of your social life that you may not want people to see unless you give them access. Yeah, but Facebook groups, that is where people actively talk, communicate, there’s lots of conversations. So I think, yeah, I think you have the bones. Yeah, yes, it’s really just probably rewiring the profile Just to make it, and more discoverable, yeah, more discoverable, okay. When people land there, they instantly know what you do and they feel to your point that human connection to some degree, right, where it feels like this person is accessible, right and talk to her, and it’s not just the corporate stuff listed in the profile.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 27:23
Sonja Crystal Williams: 27:24
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 27:24
And I mean, and with these, these groups on either the the platform, it sounds like it’s a great place to build community.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 27:32
That’s the thing. Yeah, it requires legwork and time, which is limited for you, right and it, so it will make more sense for you to lay out this is the approach. You’ll have to invest the time and the strategy and the approach you want to take and then try to find someone on your team that you trust to manage the day to day activities. Right With monitoring and overseeing it.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 27:57
Wonderful. Okay, that sounds good. All right, this has been super helpful. Thank you so much. I’ll have to come back on the show and tell you yeah, just sort of the feedback that I get after I implement some of these suggestions.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 28:13
This is really good, and I think this is yeah, I think this is the starting point. I think there’s going to be more that you’re going to discover you can do, but I think this is the starting point that leads you down that path. And then, once you tighten it up like what am I going to put in the featured section, and then the stuff that’s there might not stay there forever, it might rotate. That’ll help you along the way.
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 28:33
That sounds wonderful. Great, great, great, great. Thank you so much.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 28:37
Thank you, Cloe. Thank you so much. Let me just kind of close out and just also saying yes, we’d love to have you back in the future. That way, everyone can kind of hear how things are moving, what you’re journey. For those of you listening, if LinkedIn is a place where you’d like to grow, implement some of these suggestions. You know, listen to this podcast, drop me a DM or comment. I’d love to hear how this is working for you and Cloe. For people that do want to learn more about higher ground, where can they find it? And if they want to connect with you, where can they find you?
Cloe Guidry-Reed: 29:08
Yes, yes, if you want to connect with us @ Hire Ground. And if you want to connect with me, you can find me on LinkedIn at @ Cloe Guidry-Reed.
Sonja Crystal Williams: 29:22
All right. Thank you so much for participating. Everyone thanks so much again. Have a great day you too.
- Sonja Crystal Williams: 0:09