Spotlight on - Oliver Yonchev
We put the Spotlight on Oliver Yonchev, Managing Director of Social Chain.
Social Chain uses owned media, marketing and technology to build brands. The agency is famed for its disruptive creative work. Within 5 years Social Chain grew from a start-up of 2 to a team of 700+ individuals, currently operating through six locations: New York, Los Angeles, Manchester, London, Berlin and Munich.
As the US Managing Director, Oliver is responsible for the development of the group’s North American operation, spearheading the companies plans to open two additional offices; San Francisco and Chicago by 2022. At 30, he is at the forefront of creative and social media marketing, delivering global social strategies for the likes of Amazon, Coca-Cola, Disney, Uber, Twitch, to name just a few.
Why this industry?
I often think the marketing industry is an eclectic mix of people who didn’t fully know what they wanted from a career, but deeply value people, creativity and problem-solving. I was one of those people, I had been a musician for several years, and found myself falling into working for a media company.
I spent years pursuing things that I loved, be it football, music and each time they were taken away from me. The thing I would take away from these experiences is that there is no such thing as certainty. You can’t control the outcome, but you can control your response.
I worked for 4 years at a media company, and one day I watched a TED Talk from Steven Bartlett, about creating a multi-million dollar business without knowing anything about business. I was inspired, and with no expectations- I connected with him and messaged him on LinkedIn. He let me know that they had job opportunities, I was young and took the risk to join Social Chain- I trusted my gut.
What has been your biggest challenge or setback during your career?
Like everyone I’ve faced setbacks, however as an eternal optimist, I believe it’s only helpful to focus on what you can control.
What is an important initiative that you feel passionate about in your role?
There are two:
People: I love being around people, learning from people, and sharing with people.
Creativity: I believe creativity is one of the most valuable skills you can nurture in any role, whether you’re an engineer or a writer, an ability to think creatively will help you.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed?
I’ve been blessed to have very loving parents and an upbringing that encouraged the pursuit of passions. I also consider myself born with a form of ‘mindset privilege’ because I was delusionally confident as a child, rarely doubting myself. Is this nature, or nurture, who knows? But I feel very lucky.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt along the way?
I believe success comes from three places - luck, choices and actions. Two of those things are in your control. Make the right choices and actions, then more often than not, luck works for you, not against you.
What three tips would you give to those starting their careers?
Don’t allow the opinions of others to determine who you are or what you want to be, only you control that.
Doing what you love doesn’t determine your success, your love for the process will.
Quitting isn’t the same as failing, quitting for the right reasons is winning.
What is your advice to people who are wanting to start a business?
Find people that compliment your skillsets and talents. You should focus on the things you’re great at, and bring in people better than you at the things you’re not.
What is the best bit of advice that you have ever been given?
Be comfortable being uncomfortable – put yourself in situations that make you nervous, and take you out of comfort zone as often as you can.
What advice do you have for people aiming for leadership positions?
Be kind and empathetic. Lead by example by never asking people to do things you wouldn’t do.
What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Hold strong opinions, but hold them loosely – meaning, have conviction in your thoughts, but also have the humility to listen so you’re willing to change your perspective.
What would your advice be to someone managing a team?
Treat your team, exactly how you would like to be treated.
What’s the best part of your job?
Giving very talented and deserving people opportunities.
What’s the worst part of your job?
Making tough decisions, that have a negative impact on an individual, but protect the bigger picture and wider culture.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Know yourself, know how others perceive you, work very hard, and think big.
Remember that rejection is normal. If you’re not being rejected, you’re not doing enough.
Pursue things you love- doing 12 hours of something you love is better than 12 minutes of something you don’t! Doing what you love won’t always determine your success, but your love of the process will.
What has been your strategy for your business during Covid-19?
Proactivity, that’s not opportunistic, but aims simply to provide value.
What top tips do you have for businesses struggling with remote working?
Over-communicate with colleagues, context is often missing when working in isolation. Most importantly make an effort to maintain connection and culture.
How has your business adapted to deal with such uncertain times?
We have introduced new workflow processes, greater visibility across projects for all team members. We’ve also introduced remote cultural activities, coffee mornings, sharing an office Spotify playlist, etc – basically trying to normalize much of the abnormal. As well as enhancing our creative approach and pitching processes to reflect remote pitching.
Thanks so much to Oliver for being a guest on Spotlight, you can find him on his social media @oliveryonchev, or head to the Social Chain website here. You can also watch Oliver’s Key Note Speech here.