Coffee with an Expert: Q&A with Nenad Molerovic
Follow Up Pt. 1
Almost 60 digital marketers and advertising enthusiasts attended our second “Coffee with an Expert”—this time, with LeanSEM’s CEO Nenad Molerovich.
“Why did Nenad decide to start a premium digital marketing agency in Macedonia instead of America?”, “What is the company culture of LeanSEM, and what does it mean to be the right person for the company?”, “What will be taught in Google Ads Masterclass?” … These are just a few of the great questions Nenad answered during the one-hour meeting.
Learn more about Nenad and LeanSEM:
- Describe yourself in one sentence.
I was born in Skopje; I moved to America at the age of 28; I am currently 40 years old, my wife is American, and my two children were born in America.
- How did you decide to get into Digital Marketing?
I have been interested in technology ever since I was little; I got my first computer when I was only nine years old. When I first started working, I was doing programming. At the age of 19-20, I was one of the youngest programmers at Telecom.
However, in addition to programming and technology, I had many other interests as well: politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology… social sciences, in general. At first, I enrolled in the Faculty of Computer Science & Engineering but later switched to Political Science. So, why digital marketing, you may ask? Because it is the perfect blend of technology and how people think and what moves them. Digital marketing is a way to objectively measure people’s behavior.
- How did you find your passion, and who did you learn from?
As the saying goes, “If the student is ready, the right teacher will show up.”
It doesn’t have to be a person or someone who tells you what to do. The teacher may come in different forms; it may appear as sentences or books… If you have a passion and a goal, it means you’re ready.
So if you discover you’re passionate about digital marketing and you’ve mastered the basics, the most important thing you should learn is how to find a way to test things yourself regardless what Google, Facebook, or other best practices tell you. Google, Facebook and Instagram teams’ job is to make as much money as possible; they are told what needs to be pushed, which means that most advertisers will follow what they say. This is how they achieve their goals, but that does not mean it is right for your company. If you do not test something for yourself, there is no way for you to know if it is a good idea or not.
- Share some of your other interests: hobbies, favorite movies, books…
The thing I follow most is international politics.
But if you’re talking about movies, I usually watch stand-up comedians. In a way, stand-up comedy is related to marketing because these people have great insights about being human, otherwise, we wouldn’t find their jokes funny.
And as far as books go; “A New Earth” and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle have had a significant impact on me. They are very compelling and I spent 2-3 years reading them and re-reading them.
- What is your superpower and what superpower would you like to have?
I’d say that “strategy” is my superpower. I see what steps need to be taken before something happens.
However, a strategy without action accomplishes nothing – you can’t only be a strategist; you must also take action. Therefore, if you want to achieve results, you need more than just a superpower. You may have many skills, but your superpowers will never reach their full potential until you address your weaknesses.
- You say you want to be the best marketing agency in the world, which is quite ambitious and motivating for both your company as a whole and those who would like to join you. Why do you want that? Is it a high goal that drives you forward, or is there anything you’d like to change once you become the best marketing agency in the world?
The answer to the question “Why do we want to be the best agency” is: we know how to be one. I started LeanSEM after seeing how the other Californian agencies I worked with functioned.
Why do I think there isn’t a premium agency over there, but there should be? Because 90% of the people who start marketing agencies share a similar story: Someone told them what to do; they did well; they saw that they could expand, so they got new clients.
My path was different.
I became an expert first; I worked for 10+ years for big companies (Upwork being one of those companies); I had built teams; I had set up processes, and I already knew how things should happen day by day for the client to get the best and the fastest result.
It’s easy to start a marketing agency nowadays – all you need is an internet connection and a computer. But I did not learn as I went; instead, I came up with specific ideas about what a premium agency should look like. I wanted to replicate the team that I created at Upwork and offer the exact level of expertise to all the clients. That’s the difference between all the other agencies and us.
At the same time, it means not always having the capacity, which can be good and bad news. Currently, there are clients that we can not onboard because we know we don’t have the capacity required to serve them in a premium way. We want to offer what a Silicon Valley client would get if they hire an in-house team. That is the level of service we want to replicate.
- What was your company’s first year like, what challenges did you face then that helped you grow and continue to grow today? What was crucial for you as CEO and as a company?
You mustn’t compromise on your vision.
This raises the question of whether you are starting a business for cash-flow or if you really have an idea of how something should be done. If you know what you are doing, then you will attract the right people.
In the first year, I was mostly focused on building the leadership team – finding the right people to whom I could pass on all my knowledge so that those people could further take over the company itself and multiply that knowledge. The hardest thing to do is to find people with the right mindset.
When I moved my whole family from America to Macedonia, there were many concerns about whether it was possible to offer premium services from Macedonia to people in California.
The potential problems included:
- The language barrier.
- Where to look for talent?
- How do I find that talent?
However, working at Upwork helped me understand the client’s mindset, and I learned that the clients who know how to build a company do not want to save money. They only care about whether you can help them or not. The right customer needs quality above all. This taught me that finding people who have the expertise and time to dedicate to the clients’ needs is vital.
- From the current perspective, if you were to start your own business again, what would you change, add or subtract? In other words, what have you learned?
In the beginning, we made some big mistakes that we needed at least two years to fix. For example, we trusted people who did not have the potential to be the A-players. But once we figured it out, we started growing. Now we don’t compromise on keeping people who aren’t a A-players even when it is a difficult decision to make.
The main reason for this is that we try to give our clients an in-house level of service. It means that a person must have a passion for what they do. For example, if you love a challenge so much, you wake up in the middle of the night and deep down, you know that if anyone can figure it out, it’s you. This means that you are an A-player.
I do not think that we as a region are any less capable of offering quality and value than the US. America may provide more examples of success; you can more easily find what you are good at, but we are all humans at the end of the day. If someone else can do it, I guess we can do it too. The big difference is we are a country of 2 million compared to 328 million so there is less talent in addition to that talent having a very different mind set when it comes to work.
- Why is it so difficult to get a job at a marketing agency without any experience? Experience is required everywhere – it’s almost like a “chicken or the egg” scenario.
We are not looking for people with experience, on the contrary.
Before we moved to Macedonia, I told my wife that we would start looking for the right people once we got here, and in 3-6 months, we would find 15-20 people like me; we’d teach them everything we know and everything would be great.
Almost six years later, our team consists of only 20 people today. I completely underestimated that challenge.
Everyone wants an experienced person, but after interviewing at least 60 people with experience in PPC and digital marketing, I learned that many people here have a “freelancer” mindset. Unfortunately, I did not meet enough people who were thirsty for knowledge; instead, most people were only interested in finding the next good gig. It was a sign to me that we need to find people and grow them from 0.
Like what you read? This is not the end!
“How does LeanSEM choose its clients?”, “What does it mean to be an ideal client for LeanSEM?”, “Advice for those who want to start a business in the digital marketing industry.”, “What’s the most challenging part of leading a team?” and more…
Read the second part of the Coffee with an Expert: Q&A with Nenad Molerovich Follow-Up for more answers.
In the meantime, we’d be happy to have you in our Facebook Group PPC Addicts, where we discuss PPC and Digital Marketing news and trends.