How To Grow a Business with Hustle and Heart: Lessons from CEO Chris Kubby
Who Is Chris Kubby?
When you google Chris 'Kubby' Kubbernus, a lengthy parade of keynote addresses appears at the top of the search list. From speaking at the 2018 Dotmailer Summit to headlining CBS’s Entrepreneurial Day in Copenhagen, the guy stands out as a natural-born motivator. The kind of guy that posts videos you excitedly tap your screen for, because somewhere between answering early morning emails and ordering your next Amazon Fresh delivery, you know he’s going to boost you into that ‘I GOT THIS!’ mode in 15 seconds or less.
Despite feeding his entrepreneurial consciousness by founding his first agency at 18, Chris Kubby’s earliest career dreams were familiarly similar to many of ours. Climb the corporate ladder, become a CMO, and retire at the top of your best game. Interestingly enough, as the years progressed, Kubby began to lose interest in this idealization. Looking to ‘up the ante’ on his already renowned success as a high-profile marketer, on January 1st, 2016, Chris Kubby launched Kubb&Co, a digital marketing agency recognized for their expert growth hacking, social media, and content marketing services among many others.
Intrigued by someone who seemed to be magnetic to success, Thought Bakery cranked up the coffee and sat down to chat with Chris at 6am EST.
What time does your day start?
Typically, it starts at 5 AM, to be in the office by 6:30 AM. I can easily stay in the office as late as 9 PM but that’s not the expectation I have for my team. “I don’t want my crew to work like me, I want them to work 9-5. I try to ensure my team has the ability to champion work-life balance pretty easily. There are days when it’s all hands-on-deck regardless of holiday or weekend but for the most part, there’s enough time for them to get to whatever makes them happy.”
Where are your operations focused?
Mostly in Europe with many of our clients being mid to large-sized companies located in Denmark, Germany, and surrounding areas, with a couple accounts in the US.
Are there any steps you’re taking to ensure your team doesn’t go through burnout, and you scale growth effectively with a positive culture?
It all comes down to the team you choose to hire and who you choose to release. You need to make sure you have the best people, putting their best feet forward, and then support them as much as you can. Look at them like the human beings they are, not resources.
What do you look for when hiring new employees?
A lot of people go into recruiting for a new role – identifying mindset as the main priority for selection – but for us, it’s actually domain skill and knowledge. I can’t afford to bring on somebody and teach them to do what we do. We typically take on a skills-based hiring approach. If someone has the right experience and skill set for the role we’re looking to fill, it typically means they’ve taken the time to invest in learning the craft and possess the passion to execute on it, especially for creative roles like our videographers, project managers, and content editors.
How well they work with others – I usually ask questions about family. Family speaks to the environment they’ve had to deal with, where conflict, open communication and the ability to grow strong bonds are key elements of happiness.
I look at their previous experience, check their references, ask questions such as “What were they like?” “Were they easy to work with?”
Within 30 days, we know if they’re going to be a great fit with the team. If the person does not positively support the culture we’re building, there’s no point wasting any more of their time. We let them go. It seems harsh to some, but to us it’s critical we have the right chemistry.
When an entrepreneur is ready to set out on their own, without any prior leadership experience, what are some things that should be critical to their mindset?
There are three things which are specifically important for entrepreneurs:
One thing new entrepreneurs fail on is sales – they struggle to get a consistent cash flow by jumping into a domain they do not have qualifiable experience in. There’s a lot of folks who have built a personal, successful, social media brand, who go out to do the same for others and it doesn’t work. And the reason it doesn’t work is they haven’t built up a network of people they can sell to. You should have a strong base where you can call upon and say, “hey I just went into business for myself, do you guys need anything?” If you don’t have that, you end up cold calling and easily spend months with zero success which can spiral you into a demotivated state of mind.
When looking to hire your first person, start with a freelancer – someone that’s experienced, where you get the opportunity to manage them as it relates to your deliverables, deadlines, and overall cadence management. Once the budget allows it, you can then bring them on as permanent, so the established trustworthy relationship, adds considerable value to the culture of your new company.
Mindset – you are responsible for people AND the business. As a CEO, you’ll have to make hard decisions, you have to look at what’s best for the business and sometimes that’s not necessarily the best decision for the people. E.g. you’ve got an amazing potential hire, but they cost more than you can afford. Do you hire them anyway? At what cost? Do we have to release others? They’re hard questions and as an entrepreneur, you’re the one tasked with answering them.
For every struggling entrepreneur out there, there’s a notion that constant self-motivation is a rite of passage. What’s your take?
The path is never clear, the unknown path is okay because the steps you lay out are hardly ever the ones that allow you to get where you want to get. Start with a vision and the easiest way to find inspiration from the market space in which you compete. Your competitors can be your guiding light. You’ll need something visual to work towards. I use this perspective for my business and personal growth. “As long as you keep that guiding light in your head every day and wake up every morning saying I’m going to get there no matter what, that’s going to help you a lot”.
How would you define sustainable growth?
From my standpoint, there is no such thing as sustainable growth; it’s an oxymoron. Sustainability is about maintainability, maintaining the things that you grow. That’s different to growth, as maintenance is just about holding on. If you’re trying to hold on to where you were, you won’t go where you want to be. My team and I, we celebrate our wins and talk about our pipeline. I’m very open about the goals we strive for, the vision, the mission so I think having that growth mindset every day is super important. So for any business owner, have a mindset that is “I am going to grow this motherf***r” E.g. this is going to be us in one year. Go all in, keeping in mind, all in means putting yourself at the maximum risk.
I believe entrepreneurs are not born, they are made. Almost everybody has an entrepreneurial bone in their body because that’s how we’ve survived. If you go back generations and generations, you’ll realize everybody was an entrepreneur in some capacity. There’s a detrimental idea, that entrepreneurship means having a large team, huge office, and god knows what else. If you want to just have a side hustle or a part-time initiative, go do that.
So that means….
Chris 'Kubby' Kubbernus built Kubb&co. using innate passion and will. We chose him as our first growth champion because of his immense focus growing people, culture and innovative tactics as much as growing the business as a whole. Look out world, he’s just getting started.