Spotlight on Janusz Stabik
At Spotlight, we had the opportunity to speak to Janusz Stabik, who gave us a background into his business and spoke about how he became so successful.
A background into you and your business?
I am a coach and mentor to digital agency owners through my business Digital Agency Coach and am an ex-agency owner myself. I now work as a non-executive director for agencies across the globe. Helping them to run better agencies, helping them with strategy, marketing, finance and with their profit. In addition to this, I also help them to exit and help them to buy, or buy out their businesses. Ultimately, I help them with growth and give the agency owner back more time than they have.
Time is often a big blocker for agency owners, I know this from my experience as an ex-agency owner. I myself built, grew and exited an agency over the space of 10 years and I got into doing this when I realised that I just loved working with engaged people. I loved working in the agency space and I found agency owners to be really engaged because they really care about their businesses. They love what they do, they are aspirational, they want to grow, they want to change and they want to implement change, but they don’t necessarily know how to do it.
So that’s where I come in and I absolutely love what I do. For me, it doesn’t feel like work. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working with such great people every day. When I came up with the concept for this business, it was because when I was running my agency, there were certain bits of my business that I loved. I loved working with my senior team for example. I was lucky to have an awesome senior team who were a joy to be around and to work with. However, I didn’t really like the rest of it.
I’m a visionary, which means that I was always looking for new things to do, new people to work with and new big relationships to build, but I didn’t like the fine details. So, I realised when exiting my agency, that if I could help other agency owners do the same thing as me, then I could get more of the work that I loved. I would be able to engage with people who I absolutely loved to be around.
I started doing this in 2016 when I first started working with another agency and it’s grown exponentially. I now work exclusively with agency owners and am a lead coach for Google on a number of digital agency growth programs across the UK. I'm also the lead coach on a program called Google elevator across central Eastern Europe, on which I help agencies to grow, make more money, build better teams and become better leaders and managers.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I just thought there was a real gap in the market and I love doing this kind of thing. I love working with agency owners and although there's a tonne of business coaches around, I realised that they don’t have any practical experience.
They all know the business side of things, but they don’t actually have any experience in running a creative business. They don’t know what it’s like to pitch creative work or what it is like to manage a team of creatives who are highly paid and in demand.
They also have no idea what it’s like to be in such a competitive market where, even if you do have a successful agency, the value of the work that you are doing is dropping because it’s so easy to set up a creative business in your bedroom with a website and a few technical skills.
So, I’ve been able to use my practical experience from running an agency, and the experience I've gained from working with over 200 agencies through the various Google programs and direct work that I've been doing, to create a service that benefits my clients and helps them to grow.
What has been your biggest challenge or setback during your career?
I think probably the biggest challenge was when we first started my agency, and we were doing everything for everybody. We didn't stand out because there was too much competition which meant the phone never rang. We had one big client who we did some awesome work for, but we didn't win in the other leads which was a huge thing to get over.
Our second setback came when we suddenly found ourselves running a business, looking at the finances, paying taxes, managing people, leading teams, doing performance management and setting objectives. When you don’t come from that kind of background it’s very hard. It’s especially difficult to recruit an awesome team when you don’t have experience in recruiting, which means you end up spending 70% of your time-solving people problems.
So, I would say that the biggest challenge, or biggest setback, that I’ve experienced during my career came from hiring the wrong people. I couldn't manage them because I didn't know how to manage them or how to manage conflict. I didn't even know how to provide feedback, positive or negative and I wasn’t sure how to recognise people or reward them, which ultimately meant our business stalled as a consequence.
If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
I started engaging with a coach. At this point, I was ready to close the business down and give up. But after engaging with a coach, he managed to persuade me that there was another way to do things and that we could build great teams, and teams that behave and think the same way that I do.
We ultimately ended up doing a recruitment drive and recruited more people in the business that were right for us, and after that, leadership became a little bit easier and more natural.
We also decided to focus on a niche which was a real light bulb moment. We asked ourselves what we do and the answer was that we do content management system development. So then we asked ourselves we didn’t do what we knew well, which was Umbraco based development for agencies and at the time, Umbraco, the CMS provider, was launching a partnership program but they still didn’t have many partners in the UK and had none in the Southwest where we were based. So we decided to use Umbraco to outsource for agencies and decided that we were going to become a development partner.
We did it, we changed the website and the phone rang on the first day that we launched the new website. Since then, it never stopped ringing.
What is it that gives you the drive and determination to succeed?
What gives me the drive and determination to succeed? I think it's just doing things that I love.
I feel like the role that I do now is a consequence of saying yes to so many things that came my way and that I believed in.
I don't believe that you can become successful overnight. I definitely couldn't have taken a shortcut 20 years ago to the job that I'm doing now. I didn't have the experience or the knowledge that I have now and I definitely didn't have the qualifications or credibility. I'm now in a role that I love and am providing a service that the world needs, and that there's a market for.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
The biggest lesson that I've learned came when I was running my agency, and it’s a lesson that I think has helped my clients to learn as well. It is incredibly important to understand that you are running a business and an agency.
So many agency owners like myself, get into running an agency because we have a passion for what we’re doing and then all of a sudden we find ourselves running a business. Which leads to so many agency owners out there getting paid less to run an agency than they would if they were in a role where they were employed by somebody else.
The majority of them are happy with this, which is fine, but if you could get paid more to go and work for somebody else than you are doing for doing something that you love, it’s not a job, it’s a hobby.
You need to look at the finances and the profitability when running a business. Look up utilisation and optimisation (all the dull and boring stuff) because this is what will actually help your business to generate value in excess of its cost.
What three tips would you give to those starting their careers?
Firstly, say yes. Say yes to stuff that feels like it's moving you in the direction that you want to move towards. You won't always make the right decision, but I think I am where I am now because I've made hundreds of positive decisions that felt right.
The second tip is to be solution-oriented. If you're just starting a career and you're going to work for somebody else, it’s important to remember that no manager enjoys the employees that just bring them problems and no solutions.
My third bit of advice for people starting their careers is to get as much external advice as you possibly can. Go to conferences, seek out mentors, look for buddies in other organisations, reach out to networks and just absolutely absorb as much information as you possibly can.
To what do you attribute your success?
I think being commercially aware and having good communication skills as a developer set me apart from other people in my position. Being able to go to your boss as a technical person and promote and propose ideas that are commercially better for the business, as opposed to technically better puts you ahead of the rest.
I was surrounded by developers who just wanted to write blue sky code every single day and would go to my boss and ask them what they needed to feature on the website. So I think that my commercial awareness of what was right for the organisation really helped me. It also really helped the clients because I was able to talk to them about what was going on in their business as well.
If you have enjoyed this blog, and want to know more about Janusz, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or visit his website. Alternatively, if you would like to read more blogs written by leaders, you can find more Spotlight blogs here.