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7 Questions with Jeff Gapinski
7 Questions with Jeff Gapinski
Name: Jeff Gapinski
Current title: President
Current organization: Huemor
As co-founder and President of Huemor, Jeff Gapinski has directed interactive digital projects for clients such as NBC Sports, Geico, Live Nation, The United Nations, American Crew, United Way, The Humane League, The Webby Awards, and M&C Saatchi Mobile.
His work has earned multiple awards from organizations such as The Webby Awards, The Pixel Awards, The W3 Awards, The Communicator Awards, and The Davey Awards. Additionally, his creative work has led to national recognition for his agency, such as being named a top US digital agency in 2020 by the Clutch evaluation association, and month after month recognition as a top organization by the boards of Top Interactive Agencies (TIA), The Agency List, and 10 Best for multiple service categories.
Jeff is an integral member of the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts (AIVA), guest judging international industry competitions such as The W3 Awards, The Communicator Awards, and The Davey Awards. Jeff is also an active member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), The Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), and Founders Society.
Jeff graduated from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York with honors. He received a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) with a focus on communication arts and digital technology.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
On a personal level, I'm the type of person who likes to sit down and focus on one thing until it's done. As the owner of a small business, I don't really have the luxury to do that most days. While our team has grown and I'm not doing quite as much as I used to, I still am involved in a variety of different business functions on a daily basis. This constant mode-shift can become exhausting at times, but it's what needs to happen to keep things moving forward.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
In terms of getting the title ‘President’ I kind of cheated – I co-founded my company, so by default, I was immediately in a leadership position.
In terms of being a leader for my organization and becoming more sophisticated as a business owner in general, it’s been a lot of hard work.
I’ve read nearly 100 business books spanning a variety of different topics. I try to capture at least 1 key thing from each of these books and figure out a way I can incorporate it into my own business.
I’ve also spent a lot of time speaking with other business owners. Part of this comes from my job itself (we work directly with dozens of businesses every year) and some of it comes from networking with my peers through various groups.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I’m definitely pretty normal when it comes to routine.
Most days are with me waking up between 6-7 am to take care of my two dogs, consume some caffeine, and get in a workout.
During my workday, I’m typically on 6-8 calls a day that’s a mix of internal meetings, client calls, and PR meetings. I always try to make it a point to take an hour in the middle of the day to pause, eat, and get outside of the office. This helps give me a much-needed mental breather and I’m pretty protective of that hour on my calendar.
I wrap up each workday between 5-7 pm.
After work, I try to focus on quality time with my wife or friends. Typical activities would be playing a game together, watching a movie, grabbing a couple of drinks at a local spot.
I try and be in bed between 10-12 pm most days. I find that I’m not the best sleeper in the world so the extra time is needed so I’m rested for the next day.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Encouraging my team to speak up has been pretty significant.
Younger team members, especially in a creative field, are often too shy to ask questions or speak about issues they may be facing. They get the feeling that by admitting they don’t know how to do something, they’ll be looked at as less than.
Getting the team talking and asking questions has both allowed younger team members to flourish, and improved our efficiency overall. More people know how to do more things because they took the time to ask the question and deliver a meaningful answer.
It’s also helped us manage more effectively. Knowing what the challenges are for people allows us to come up with better solutions.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I’m not sure if this would fall under the ‘Leadership’ concept per se, but I’ve really enjoyed reading Agencynomics by Peter Hoole. It’s a modern, realistic take on what a successful creative agency should look like, what milestones should be achieved, and who should be on the team.
That book alone has had a big impact on the shape and composition of our team.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
The values we uphold are only valuable if you see them reflected in the leadership team. I do my best to lead by example, and in turn, earn the respect of my team.
If you’re not willing to stand by your corporate values, why would you expect someone else to?
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
I had a pretty difficult start to this year (2021). A person I was very close to passed away from COVID-19, and I contracted COVID on the visit for their last days/funeral. Double whammy.
Needless to say, I was in a pretty bad spot. Emotionally and physically drained, I couldn’t do much work-wise, but we were at a point where a couple of key team members were transitioning out of the company, and critical projects needed to be completed.
Knowing my difficulties, my team decided it was time to step up. Across the board, my team pitched in numerous ways to help pick up my slack over the few weeks I was down and out.
One of our core values as a company asks team members to pick people up when they fall down. The team nailed it. They worked extremely hard to help lessen my burden without needing to be asked. It was amazing to watch unfold.