Originally from Canada and now based in Denmark, Chris ‘Kubby’ Kubbernus is an incredible example of using digital marketing to create the life he wants. Chris shares from the heart his passion for digital marketing and how he has made it work for him as an employee, an entrepreneur and employer.
Listen to his experience on how he started going “digital” when he started a business at a very young age as well as how his parents guided him in choosing his career as an entrepreneur. Hear his ideas on how to be successful in your business by learning the “art of letting go”, the importance of having the right team that will tell you what your weaknesses are and will work on filling that gap, and why it is important to focus in running the business.
He also gives insight on how he keeps up with this ever changing digital world that puts him in good stead to make the most of what’s available to him. Breathing, living it, being passionate about it – letting yourself go completely on digital.
About Our Guest
Started his own company at age 16, Chris is the Founder and CEO of Kubb&co – a digital agency based in Copenhagen. He is an entrepreneur, speaker, and a business guru.
Hello. I’m Serena Dot Ryan and welcome to the See Digital Clearly show. This show is dedicated to inspiring action. Each episode, there is an interview with the forth-later doing great things for digital. They will share their insights and experience to get you inspired and focused to create the life you want thanks to digital.
In this episode, Chris ‘Kubby’ Kubbernus, founder and CEO of Kubb&co, joins me.
S: Thank you so much Chris Kubby for being able to make yourself available, it’s been incredible being on the other side of the world. I’m glad that you’re able to have the opportunity to help people see digital clearly.
C: Yeah thanks for having me.
S: Sure. It’s kind of surreal, I talk all the time about connecting the dots, and having this opportunity to reach out and have a chat after seeing you in San Diego and now your back home in Amsterdam, wow.
C: I’m actually in Copenhagen.
S: Oh really?
C: Yeah, yeah. Its close, very similar. A lot of people get them mixed up actually. When I first met my wife I thought she was from Amsterdam as well, and she was like, “No I’m from Copenhagen” , I’m like, “Oh, sorry about that.”
S: Well I’m glad I’m not the only one.
C: No you’re definitely not the only one I’ve experienced this so much. So it’s cool, it’s cool.
S: So is that how you’ve actually ended up living there, for love?
C: Yes that’s correct yeah. My wife is Danish and we were actually living in Canada together and back in 2008, when were like, oh no it was 2009 we decided, “Um, where do we want to be in the world, lets try Denmark for a bit” then we moved here, and yeah, the rest is history as they say.
S: Oh I love hearing that. To think, you know, being in the digital world, you’ve been able to use your skill anywhere in the world quite literally. Showing the example of how people can do it.
C: Oh absolutely, I mean it’s not um, it depends on what kind of skills you have and stuff like that. But I’ve found that I’ve been quite easy. And actually it’s been, quite good for me being North American here in Europe and Denmark specifically because when I first got here, they were actually actively seeking people with my skills, with digital marketing skills. Cause it wasn’t, I mean Denmark is pretty innovative and they’re ahead of the game in many many areas. But in, sort of, digital marketing, when people think of digital marketing they can see US and Canada at least it was that way back then. Now it’s a bit, maybe it’s a bit more balanced but certainly that was the feeling in the industry that the Americans had, and North America happen to be on the upper hand of the digital side.
S: Wow, so you found that you’re able to carve out your niche, like timing of being there as well.
S: So, for you to actually get in to what you’re doing now, what was your inspiration to start using digital?
C: Oh back in the day, I mean, well I’ve been doing this for work, I’ve been doing this forever, okay. I’m a veteran I’d say. I started back doing digital when I was 16 years old. This was like 1996, 97-ish. Um, basically I was into design. I was working as an intern for an advertising agency. I was really into design and I was into technology. Technology in that sense, like it did really exist back then. I was interested in what was going on to the world and basically started learning how to program by myself. So I picked up an old program called Microsoft Frontpage. Shout out to anybody who remembers Microsoft Frontpage, this was like an HTML editor but it was also you could, it was like, I don’t remember could you actually live preview? It’s basically straight up HTML editor. And with a little bit of of libraries and things in it that you could actually learn from.
And I started designing websites and I got pretty good at it and then basically almost everybody and their dog at that time owned a website. So I started producing websites for people and basically formed my first company at 16. Probably about 17 by the time I got it really going producing website for people and making that a business. And I produced websites when I was in a band, we, I did the website for the band and website for a buddy’s dad and local businesses. So that’s really how I got into digital.
S: Wow and, you found, you said you started there. What was the next step like for you to, creating websites and you’ve come to evolved more so in that space like you found what you really want to
C: Yeah I mean from there it was basically just me, getting that entrepreneurial spirit or getting that idea I can actually use my skills use my love for this to make money. I think that was interesting because you know at the time most of us are working in pizza shops, I mean if you’re a kid in high school, you’re working in retail, or you’re, you know, still doing newspapers or whatever it is you’re doing. And i think it was kind an eye opener for me at that age, that oh, I can actually make this a business I can actually use my skills to do this. This is incredible. I was already super interested in advertising at a very young age I was interested in advertising and I have planned always to be in marketing and that’s how I actually ended at an internship at 14 in an ad agency. Cause I knew I wanted to do this.
S: Wow at 14!
C: Yeah even earlier actually. At 12 I asked my parents for book on, I think it was called the thousand, or maybe the hundred most popular jobs on advertising. And I would like go through that book and like read about copywriters and concept developers and AD’s and all these kind of things and executives. And so I read a book with these people on it, and my god, that’s the job I want or I want to do all these I want to do this job I don’t want to do that job. So I was very weird, ah I was a weird kid I kinda knew, I knew very early what I wanted.
Um and then that wasn’t in the vision, I mean that wasn’t, there is no way near digital that time other than that was the sort of beginning of the internet and it was, my uncles for example would be on, forums, so they’d be on what they’d call BBS’s, you know this Bulls and Bard System. So I was getting, you know there is a little bit of the digital around me at those times but I wasn’t into that at all. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I really got into it.
S: So was it your mom who took you out, like that she was walking in advertising that caught you oh that is actually the place to be? Or is it just something that you discovered watching a TV ad? Or..
C: Well that is a very good point. Okay it all started back when I was, like I was into drawing and I was in the art and, particularly comic book art. I was drawing comic book art and I was really just in that. I think my parents were like “Oh my god please don’t let him be a starving artist.” So they kinda like, they kinda nurtured me and thank God for my parents at the time. They were divorced but still they did a good job. Sort of, playing together or teaching me together. But they basically, you know, said: “That’s really cool that you love this. Hey want to check like out this, check out that” like lightly, influence my decision in that way. So they were really, you know, influential in pushing me towards advertising. They were, “Let’s see if we can make this thing commercial at least.”
S: Oh nice.
C: Yes they were very concerned about, I guess, my future earning potential as any good parent should be.
C: Yeah, or I don’t know maybe not. I think, I mean now that I am a parent you know, do what makes you happy and you know, everything else will fall in place. But it was nice to have somebody, a little bit more financially cautious. Guiding me a little bit.
S: That’s good, it’s good that you are interested in what you are doing.
C: Uh hmm. Absolutely right? So they nurtured that. Instead of shying away from it and saying like “Oh no no you should never be a comic book artist, you should never be a painter, you should never… ” they were like “Oh that’s really cool! Hey you should check out other ways you can use that”. So that was the turning point I guess. That was the tipping point of this whole journey that I’m on.
C: Yeah, so. And then I went to university and took a degree in Communications. I actually, originally I was taking a degree in marketing and I didn’t sit that at all. That was like, that was uncreative in my opinion it was basically business which is funny because i love business now. It was basically like a case study and market positioning and demographics which is super interesting to me now. But back then I was like, no, I’m like creative, I’m like. So I switched my major to communications which is way more my style.
S: That’s interesting. Yeah.
C: Way more my style.
S: That being a natural creative the challenge then of being out to turn your creative skills into a business. You’re saying that suddenly after you’ve gone into business now that you see the value in the business skills?
C: Uh hmm. Absolutely. I mean it’s only, I mean I think I took that for granted when I was younger so I did have another small company that we did you know, I did when I was 18 like I said when 17 doing website and doing flyers through people and like you know print ads and some of that. We did a bunch of stuff. But it’s not until I think, now. Oh it’s been the last, like maybe three or four years that I really gone into and thought Oh man those business. I mean it would be nice to go back and I actually do a Masters in Marketing or Bachelors in Marketing now because it would give me some foundations on, maybe it wouldn’t teach me everything I don’t know.
But I think it would be interesting to see how that would match up with my plans now. And I highly believe in education. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs out there that kind of there is this rhetoric going around right now that says like Education is too expensive and it will put you to debt and that’s not worth it and if you’re an Entrepreneur you don’t need that. And I think that’s you know, if I can swear in your program I think that’s bull.
C: I think that you know everybody has to find their own path. I’m not advocating for people spending a bunch of money to just spend money you need to know what you want to do and you need to get what you can in education. But I firmly believe in higher education and education in general. I think that’s money well spent.
S: I totally agree with that. I actually well, I went to university, I actually struggled with it. Because I resonate quite a bit with what you’re saying because I, not a naturally process oriented person or could gel very well with the theory until I had the experience behind me. And you know, I really struggled with things like accounting and numbers. Now I don’t really, in fact, I can even say I failed accounting three times at uni. It just didn’t sit with me but it’s not until I’m running my business now, I thought Oh my goodness. My accountant’s my best friend. Because I still struggle. But I now at least know, to have someone near me who understands numbers. But I’m determined to understand the numbers myself because I see the value in cash flow. So yeah I think.
C: It’s crucial actually as a business person to have those things: to know your weaknesses and your strengths and to cover them off. I think that’s also important I mean that’s how also I’m working with my business, I’m trying to hire people that, don’t um, that complement me but contrast me and sort of can fill the gaps right?
S: Yeah that’s a really good insight.Like you said just fill the gap, I like that. ‘Cause this, people say to play to your strengths but not enough is said around the weaknesses and how do you work with those.
C: Yeah and there’s several, I think most people don’t know what their weaknesses are. I’ve been fortunate enough to have people around me that actually tell me straight up what my weaknesses are. So..
S: That’s good.
C: Yeah I know it’s really good, I mean, you know, people will tell me “you’re not good at this, can I do that for you instead?” And I go: “Yeah you’re right I suck at that. Yes you can do that, thank you”
S: That’s fantastic.
C: Yeah it is really fantastic and I thank those people big time. I’m like thank you so much because, um. And that just comes from being very, having a very honest and transparent and having an approachable attitude and approachable spirit if you will.
S: I love that. Yeah. I talk about every year, I pick a word as my word of the year. I want something that will help me with my focus. And 2017 incidentally is the year of “team”. Because I feel like I really want to focus on building the right people around me and also that acknowledgment that I can’t do all things myself. And I love hearing you said that you’ve obviously got some great people in your team to be so direct with you as well.
C: Yeah their fantastic, I love that. And you got to nurture that right? I mean, it’s not, you don’t always get it right. I mean, I will tell that to people as well. Like, when we’re hiring we hire pretty fast like we can get a sense, we use our instincts a lot here. So my agency come and go. We hire people we use our instincts, we get in people fairly quickly and we can see right away do they gel with the team? Do they add value that we want? And then we, if they don’t they have to go.
Because it’s super important, it can actually, really take things. One person not holding their weight, or not, you know not being a part of the team, or being sort of not what we want is actually kinda like a poison that poisons the water and it actually affects the other team members and it affects all work done in the agency so I really believe in keeping the team extremely – I would say, you know key. Keeping that like the number one thing that you focusing on is the team dynamics. And if you do that you can nail a lot of things.
S: Thank you. That really, I find that really helpful as someone who is in that stage of growing my team. To hear that from someone who has all the experience that. It really helps, thank you.
C: Use your instincts a lot. Like, the time that we ignore our instincts and then like “Oh, we’ll put them in, they’ll be fine”. The times that we have done that, it’s always failed. That’s also why we have two people do our interviews and I recommend that as well. You interviewing people now as a single person in business. Even having your partner, or business partner, or your life partner or whatever you want to call them or a friend sitting on the interview with you has been really massive for us. Because you can’t catch everything and then having those two people to then talk about, what was this person like and what kind of feel were you getting and then being able to talk about that person has really helped us focusing on our instincts and get to truly think that this person will fit with us.
S: Fantastic. Thank you.
C: Yeah no problem.
S: Well I’ll be letting you know how things go.
C: Yeah absolutely.
S: So you, like you talk about your challenges you know, how you’ve been able to cope up with getting people to your team. And you naturally sounds a really creative person. What have you found most challenging while running your own business?
C: Um, well. Okay so. All businesses are a little bit different but I would say there’s a pattern in terms of when you become a single person, like a single man company or woman company or your running everything by yourself, when you start to build your team, you’re going to have to let go of some certain things and you’re going to have to focus on running the business. The accounting side, the money side, the cash-flow side, the business relationship side the you know dealing with vendors and dealing with you know all these other smaller, not smaller but these other things other than being creative.
Other than producing work for client or you know what I mean, so you will have to. There’s a gap, there’s a chasm that you have to cross when it comes to this and you’ll probably find this too when you grow your business, you get more players on your team that you know, leaning in to the team and letting them produce with guidance from you, is the, that’s the hard part I guess. That’s the most difficult part. Right now it’s me, actually getting out of production and letting the team run with it and just me overseeing.
S: Yes so, practicing letting go is what I’ll take from that.
C: Yeah. If you want to boil it down it is like that it is letting go. But then there’s also knowing where to let go and knowing which parts you should let go and which part you need to hold on to and also, you know instilling the confidence in the team to actually do those things. That’s also really hard sort of aspect on when you start working with teams and larger teams. Is that you know, you really have to instill confidence in them that they can do it and they will do it. So that’s super interesting for me right now and that’s some challenge.
S: Hey that’s good to know. So being, you’ve evolved so much from the early days of the digital and the internet. How have you been able to evolve and continue to stay with digital that moves so quickly. And where I am heading with this is you have to be keeping up to date with things. And, how do you fit that into your day while still trying to run the business?
C: That’s extremely difficult actually and I think we have to stand top of this industry, you have to be in the industry. And what I mean by that is really living it and breathing it and being passionate about it. If you’re passionate about it it’s something that, okay so for example, if it’s something that I have to do if I feel like, “Oh man, I gotta like, I gotta keep up to date, what’s going on with Facebook live” or if I feel like I have to do something its never going to happen. And that’s the same for many many people. When you let yourself go completely. When you say, you know what, this is me, like I love this I’m super passionate about this, this is my life.
Then it doesn’t become something that you have to do. It’s like go into the gym, it’s like when it becomes the part of who you are, you just do it and you become a healthy person and you live it. The same with digital when you say you know what, this is me, I am into it. I am passionate about this and this is where I want to go then it doesn’t become a struggle to keep up to date with things because you need to. It is who you are. So I think that’s been how I do it. It’s that, I’m so into it that it just becomes very natural very much like a lifestyle thing.
S: Absolutely. I love hearing that. So I think the struggle for me when I went to creating my business is trying to find where the boundaries were. And hearing it come from you is reassuring as well. So I’ve realized that it’s actually, if it becomes part of your life you don’t worry about boundary.
C: No, it becomes who you are and then so how I deal with it with my family as wells like tying down family and business is always difficult for people but you know my family is part of my business in some ways. My wife she super great at finance, she is my financial goddess. And she’s so incredible at it and I’m, you know, I’m happy to have here go through the books and look at stuff and do cash-flow prediction. And that’s like, then she’s part of it. And she’s a part of my life.So I don’t separate the two.
Some people draw lines in the sand that don’t need to be drawn. They like “Oh I got to separate my work and my life, I mean my work and my home life”, I’m like, why? “Well I think that will be detrimental to my kids?” Why? Like you know I mean living the life you like. If it’s, obviously if its detrimental to your kids, detrimental to your marriage,then don’t do it. But I’m just saying like we shouldn’t take anything for face value because somebody told us that “Oh you should separate your work and your family life” or you should “separate your social media and your family life”
I think everybody has figured out their balance and what works for them. So, but for me its been like I take my kids to the office on Saturdays sometimes. They go and draw on the whiteboard and they play in the computer. And they can see that their dad is hanging out with them but also working. Also like, because it is apart of my life it is a big part of who I am. Its my personality. So I think, and that’s healthy for them to see that. Like I don’t stop becoming CEO of Kubb&co when I hit the front door. I mean that’s just, things don’t work that way. I mean policemen don’t come home and stop being a policeman or a policewoman. You know what I mean. That’s what I would say, that’s what works for me and I don’t know if it works for everybody. but you know my advice is you gotta find out what works.
S: Yeah, you just nailed that. I think my passion is everybody see digital clearly for what it is. And you say there’s no one size fits all, my hope is through this podcast everyone gets to see that very thing. No one size fits all. That you can actually see how everyone who doing great in the digital space is actually using digital to create a life they want.
C: Yeah, right. I mean everyone’s doing it differently. I mean there are a lot of people that are massive in the live streaming, massive in the podcasting and massive into Instagram or massive into YouTube or some people that are really creating online funnels and use that to build eBooks build programs and sell in that way and build life that way or they build agencies like I do or they work for a corporate company and then sell from social media to them or run marketing for them or they have small business doing Facebook ads.
Like everybody, in my opinion, has to find what works for them and what they love and I never subscribe to this feeling that you have to be doing something. Like if you’re super happy in having an agency that just focuses on Facebook live, or if you have, your digital life is at, maybe you have no business around you maybe you it’s something you want to do. You know I want to do old print, or, Then so be it. Like don’t let anybody force you into doing something you think you should be doing. Like, right?
S: Absolutely. That’s really wise advice. I think it’s fantastic. I really really enjoyed having the opportunity to hear your story more and hear how you’re using digital to have the life you want.
C: Thank you.
S: I love that you actually come into the office to by the way.
C: Ha ha ha yeah.
S: I have a set up here that I have Netflix on the TV when the kids come in the afternoon after school, that’s very handy.
C: Yeah I guess.
C: Cool. Well thanks Serena I really appreciate your time and um, we’d love to do this anytime with you so just let me know.
S: Oh fantastic! Really, really, thank you! That’s all I gotta say it’s been a great chat and I look forward to having this again soon.
C: Okay bye.
Thanks for listening. The best time for you to take action is now. Get out there and use digital for what it’s intended for. To make your life a better one.