What are the benefits of finding your passion? David Zapata, Founder and CEO of Zapwater Communications, explains that focusing on projects that your team is passionate about can lead to an increase in employee and client happiness and company growth. David also highlights his plan to expand Zapwater’s office space. David also describes how his hybrid work model promotes flexibility and collaboration.
>> More episodes here
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: DAVID ZAPATA
DOUG: So, this might seem counterintuitive, but how can turning down business lead to growth?
DAVID: It’s a great question. And what we’ve seen this past year is that when you’re pitching things you’re more passionate about, your win rates are higher and your work is better. We took a look back and said, “Why are we experiencing the growth that we’re experiencing?” And what we realized is we’re pitching less, but we’re pitching things that we’re really passionate about, our close rate on those pitches is now close to 70% this year, and at the end of the day, I think what’s even more important, when the account team begins work on these new accounts that they’re passionate about, the work is better so the clients happier.
DOUG: Yeah, and one of the interesting things, you want to find what the company is passionate about, but you also want to find diversity within the group that works there and you hire. So, how do you navigate finding, sort of, a consistency in what the team’s passionate about yet you’ve got many diverse people with different beliefs and thoughts?
DAVID: When you come to an agency like Zapwater, you understand the type of clients that we’re known for and that we work with. A lot of employees come here because they’re passionate about travel. You know, obviously, we do other things besides travel, lifestyle brands, but 60% of our business is travel so we’re traveling. We’re going to visit clients around the world. So, if you don’t like the people, there’s nothing worse than traveling with somebody you don’t like, it just doesn’t work. So, it’s, we look at it as at Thanksgiving dinner, you don’t agree with your family, but you love them, you know? And I think that’s kind of the culture here. We view our team as family. An important thing to really be respectful and understand everybody’s differences, but also really buy into the culture we’re trying to develop.
DOUG: Yeah, is there a process to try to find clients that the team will be passionate about?
DAVID: Yeah, I mean, we get around and we say, we go by the three Ps. Obviously, we want clients to be profitable as we continue to grow, but the clients we work with are more prestigious, but at the end of the day, it’s all about passion. And so, are you going to get up in the morning and be really passionate about providing the work that this client needs. And for us, that’s the key. What doesn’t work for us is a typical vendor relationship. We want to be a partner. And by being a partner, you feel vested in their success. You feel like you’re part of the team and you’re passionate about what they’re doing.
DOUG: You know, my crystal ball has been put in storage by now, it’s a little bit of a dated construct, but let’s say you had the perfect AI system that could look into the future and say, “Okay, what’s our firm going to look like five years from now?” What do you think that AI program, assuming it did a great job, would tell you?
DAVID: You know, we as an agency have a five-year plan that we update every year. So, we kind of look at it and say, hey, you know, this is what we’re looking at five years from now, and then at the end of that year, we go five years out. You know, obviously, the PR industry and the communications industry is changing so dramatically, it’s really hard to predict, but I think we pride ourselves on being ahead of things in our industry, whether it be affiliate marketing, whether it be influencer work. And I think, again, we’ve always been at the tip of the spear in why we’re considered a creative agency. But if I were to look and say, what does Zapwater look like a year from now? I mean, we will have a fourth office. So, we’re in Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles now. We’re going to continue to grow. I think we’re and continue to do really award-winning work. I am pushing the team to consistently elevate our creativity so that’s what we want to be known for. And we’ll still be having fun and that’s what’s important. Goes back to the first question about passion. You know, the more passion you have on the projects you’re working on, the more fun it is. For me as a kid who grew up in an airline family, you know, there’s that old adage, you know, “Do what you love and you never work a day in your life.” You know, I’m blessed to represent clients all over the world in the travel industry, and I get to visit, You know, five years from now, I hope I’m still having fun.
DOUG: Yeah, that sounds like a great plan. We were looking like we were going to wrap up at one point you touched on I think is important because a lot of people and brands are dealing with it with the idea of opening up an office. With more people working remotely and many people on many teams wanting to continue to work remotely, how do you make the need to have a physical office? How are you navigating that?
DAVID: Yeah, I think I think we bucked the trend, and I mentioned this earlier in our conversation, we’ve doubled the space in our office in Chicago and we’re planning to do the same in Miami. And the rationale behind it, we’re in a hybrid model. We don’t mandate when people have to come to the office because I don’t think that’s flexible. I think if an agency says you need to be in Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, that’s not flexibility. What we do is we give everybody a bank of work-from-home days, which is pretty significant, and allow them to navigate their schedules. Right now, in our office, there’s a brainstorm going on and collaboration for a new campaign on a client. I think that’s so important for the culture, so important for our work, and that’s going to continue. This model is working, we survey our employees, and they like it better than mandated days in the office, even if it’s less days. Being flexible with the times and understanding the needs of employees, but also understanding that we are an agency, we need to get together, we need to ideate, we need to create, and we can’t lose what makes us special as an agency.
DOUG: You’ve shared a lot of really helpful information to our viewers so thanks so much for participating.
DAVID: Oh, thank you for having me. This has been a joy.