After years of working for big creative agencies, Keith Couzinwood decided it was time to create a workplace that he wanted to work in. So in September 2002, he fearlessly set out with his own creative marketing agency, Kinc. Originally a one-man start-up, Kinc has grown steadily to its thirteen-strong team today. On the eve of Kinc’s 15th Anniversary, we spoke with Keith about what it takes to run a successful business, letting go and keeping it real.
At age 15, what career did you imagine having? How’s it different from where you are today?
Very different. I was on the road to being a lawyer, but I craved to be more creative.
Tell us about your initial vision for Kinc.
My original vision was to try and overcome my fear of starting and going out on my own. I was completely inspired by Richard Branson’s book, ‘Losing my Virginity’. I went pretty much day to day, and then over time that went to month to month and eventually year to year. Today it’s about providing great design solutions to business problems that are driven by the smart, diverse and dedicated Kinc family.
What’s the single most important decision you made that’s put Kinc where it is today?
I empower my team to succeed, by learning to let go and being less of a control freak.
If you were to start Kinc today, what would you do differently?
I would build a team sooner and not stress about the small stuff.
What have been Kinc’s biggest highlights?
Getting our own office, seeing team members grow personally and professionally, seeing great client results, and feeling that we have achieved something that I thought was originally unachievable.
What have you learned from Kinc’s low points?
For sure, small business is a rollercoaster of ups and downs! I’ve learned not to panic if you’re having a down, as soon you will have an up, and I try to build this proactive culture within Kinc. You have to keep it real – and then you can deal.
How has your management style changed since starting?
I’ve learned not to micro-manage and allow the team to own their work.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own agency or small business?
Make sure you have a passion for it. You will need it as it can be bumpy as well as rewarding. Then just have a go.
How do you handle criticism and get over hurdles?
By acting directly, fairly and with integrity.
How do you balance work and play?
I leave my phone at home on the weekends. I meditate, exercise and press the off switch when I need to.
What non-work habits keep you thriving at work?
I’m proud of being different and I live and breathe it every day!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Stop telling me about what you’re going to do and what you’ve done.
The marketing landscape changes frequently. How do you ensure you & your team are always up to speed?
By investing in them with training and support in order to learn, explore and discover and bring this knowledge and learnings to the rest of the team.
What do these words mean to you?
Possibility…is up to you.
Passion…can’t be forced.
Persistence… pays off.
Creativity…makes us human.
Relationships…work when everyone is invested in them.
How would you describe yourself?
Focused, balanced, fair and real.
How have you changed on your journey to starting Kinc?
I know exactly who I am, and I’m not afraid to give life a nudge.
Is there a recipe for success? What’s been the key to yours?
Understand what you lack and work with people that can fill those gaps.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along this journey?
It’s not over yet!
What’s the one thing you find to be true that others would disagree with?
Donald Trump may be just what America needs…
How does Kinc compete with other agencies?
We keep it real, and we have a deep understanding of what we and our clients do. And we always look at how to do it better.
What’s the biggest threat to small agencies? How can agency owners turn these challenges into opportunities?
The biggest threat is seeing small as being small. Be brave!
What makes a great team of staff?
Diversity, listening, and respect for one another.
What would you like to see more of in the agency world?
What’s next for Kinc, Keith and the next 15 years?
Celebrating 30 years. Cheers!