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7 Questions with Michael Korkia
7 Questions with Michael Korkia
Name: Michael Korkia
Current title: Head of Marketing
Current organisation: Taxfix GmbH
Originally from Georgia, but currently British citizen. Started a marketing career with smaller jobs back in Georgia, but after graduating from Coventry University MA Advertising and Marketing started working at Hotels.com in London in 2010 as a marketing assistant. Worked almost 8 years at Hotels.com marketing team developing Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa along with scaling further DACH and Scandinavian regions working myself up to Snr. Marketing Manager.
In 2018 started working for Guestready as a Head of Marketing and drove their growth for next year before joining Taxfix at the end of 2018. At Taxfix had been building a marketing team and driving all things marketing for the company for the last 2.5 years achieving 3-digit growth in each season and leading expansion into new markets for Taxfix. This is where I am at now.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
I would go with a 3-fold answer here:
1. Data is always a challenge in small companies. The setup at the beginning is always suboptimal and by the time you need accuracy and depth of the data the infrastructure simply can't support it any longer. This means that you have constant data struggles leading to lots of assumptions and use of a "crystal ball" for final decision making. Throughout the years, data improves in a continuous way, but also means it keeps playing catch up with company's needs.
2. Find the right people quickly enough with right foresight into future needs of the company considering the growth trajectory. As the best talent takes months to hire, you always need to preempt the need before you get stuck in lacking resources, which could slow your company growth.
3. Fast pace growth of the company means there are a lot of changes. Constant changes in ambition, KPIs, priorities etc. means that everybody needs to adjust accordingly and develop themselves at an even faster pace to keep the growth going.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Through my experience at Hotels.com where I was leading the development of new and emerging markets, I was mainly working in a "startup" environment within a big corporation. Yet, benefits and limitations of a big corporation were still there (lots of data and famous brands as benefits, a slowness and inflexibility as limitations). This allowed me to see both worlds in one and prepared me for a pure startup challenge. The first experience at Guestready was very unexpected as I was Head of Marketing, but basically was a Head of a department consisting of only 1 person, myself. It gave me an opportunity to not only think about strategy and tactics, but also do everything hands on. This was an interesting challenge, but also was not fulfilling my need for building and managing the team. Taxfix unlocked that for me and has been an extremely fulfilling experience since. Throughout 2.5 years, Taxfix allowed me to finally experience growing a marketing team from the scratch, helping me test my hypothesis and learn a lot about team chemistry and setup along the way. It also allowed me to develop marketing strategy from the scratch and see it applied and deliver immediate results. Basically by being a leader of an SME it opened up significant independence and higher level of control over the direction the company was going, which I always craved while being in Hotels.com.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
There is no such thing as a usual day in my position. I am highly involved in multiple topics around marketing, starting from performance, to CRM, to budgeting and forecasting, to tracking to analytics, people management, strategy and people hiring, which leads to varying daily schedules. I always do try to start the day with analysing data from the previous day and doing "course correction" wherever needed. Big chunk of my day goes into meetings varying from alignment cross functionally and within the team, to one to ones with direct and skip-level reports. Fighting data, tracking or performance challenges is also an almost daily crusade. There are also rare "no meetings" days, which allow for focus on strategic and tactical topics and looking into new growth or efficiency-improving initiatives.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Always keep expanding your scope to further the reach of marketing elements. Don't limit yourself to understanding of advertising or brand elements, but keep expanding it all into technology, product, pricing and many other elements.
The second lesson I keep learning is how crucial the communication is and how different it can be for each individual. It is so important to find the common language across everyone and minimise misunderstanding and miscommunications to keep improving the company efficiency.
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 would be an exception from your usual breed of SME leaders, as I do not read any industry related books, but rather learn by doing and through talking with other leaders, as I strongly believe in practical application of the theory, rather than theory itself. Saying this, 2 things had the biggest impact on my leadership style and work ethics: 1. My 2nd manager at Hotels.com, Florian Russ, currently Director of International Marketing & Sales at Flixbus, who taught me key managerial principles and also many practical things about marketing; 2. "Lynch on Lynch" a biography of David Lynch - this book opened my eyes about work ethics, creativity and the importance of individuality.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Not sure I get the question completely, but if you mean how I shape the leadership for myself and other leaders within the organisation, I would answer organically. I have a strong intuitive adaption method along with integration of early signals anticipating the needs of transformation of the role, which leads to constant development/transformation of my and other leaders' roles within our organisation.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
Not sure I have a good enough story as it is, but rather wanted to point out few points that keep cropping up in many instances and that are very important to learn quickly:
1. Take care of your data setup and data infrastructure early on. This will save you a lot of time, money and headache down the line.
2. Take your time during hiring, never settle and never rush even if you feel the pressure. Right person at the right time will make you go far as a company and make your life as a leader much more fulfilling, while wrong will make things go very wrong.
3. Create alignment between marketing, product and data at the early stage and ensure that everyone has shared goals/targets.
4. Ensure you take communication seriously.