December 8, 2019

Is work life balance a myth?

Mateusz Zabierowski, partner and CEO at Admind Branding and Communications is one of the heroes of a an edition of “Forbes Woman”, speaking on the possibility to achieve a balance between the professional and private life when running a business. Below, you can read the conversation that Mateusz had with the magazine’s reporter Piotr Zieliński.

As the chief of a large agency you probably have to get up quite early (considering that you run your business across several time zones)? What does that look like in practice?

When I’m in Krakow, I get up late. On my typical day I will take a shower at about 8:30 and have breakfast only after I’ve arrived at work. Then, I start a series of meetings, which lasts until lunch (which I usually order via Uber Eats). Additionally, I have business dinners once in two weeks.

And outside of Poland?

During foreign travels I have meetings with the team and current or future clients. I try to visit each office once in three months, which combined with the business meetings in different places in the world results in 70 flights a year.

It must be quite absorbing?

Our teams organize themselves very well, which translates into an 8-hour workday and relatively little overtime. One of the main values at Admind is cooperation. No one needs to be reminded of their responsibilities; the employees of our company are eager to help colleagues even at the expense of other tasks. I greatly respect this approach.

It’s actually possible to run such a big company without doing overtime?

I try to take care of work hygiene. The times when people would spend 12 hours in the office are over. Our style is based on internal consultations and reasonable agile practices, combined with a high awareness and ambitious goals.

How many people work at Admind?

Our team currently consists of 100 people. We work with clients in over 50 countries in the world. Me have a turnover of 20 million zloty. We are the biggest branding agency in Poland and one of the leading agencies of this type in Europe. On a permanent basis, we cooperate globally with ABB, Givaudan, OEC, Phoenix Group. Our clients are leaders in their fields. Regardless of time zone, it takes a lot of effort and passion from each person who works at Admind to maintain and enhance this position.

But the main office is in Krakow?

Yes. Our base is in Krakow. It is here that my high-school friend Krzysiek Langer and I started Admind ten years ago. There are 60 of us here. The other offices operate on a similar operational principle but differ in what they specialize in.

What does it mean?

We expand them organically. Currently, eight people are employed in Amsterdam, three in Zurich, six in Odessa and seven in Bangkok. We cyclically send our designers, brand consultants and project managers to the USA and Europe. In the States they have so far worked in Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Ohio and New York. I can’t remember all the places in Europe off the top of my head. Some of them are Oslo, Hanover, Naples, Brussels.

You must travel a lot

Indeed, I travel a lot. Sometimes it’s tiring but for me it is, first and foremost, a unique opportunity to see up close how other countries, businesses and societies are organized. For example, the cities where our offices are located have a long and fascinating tradition of trade relations. Amsterdam and Zurich are icons of  the world economy. Odessa is an elder sister of our Gdynia, a city which, in the middle of the 19th century, dominated trade in the Black Sea. Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, an economic and social behemoth and one of the main business hubs in Asia.

Don’t the distances between these locations make it harder to run a business. Don’t they, for example, take up your leisure time?

Not long ago, me and my associates were traveling back from  the celebration of the third birthday of our Amsterdam office. In a KLM airlines magazine we found a map of international flights. We started to wonder how much a shift of tectonic plates would make it easier for us to run the company. We created a megalopolis New-York-Lisbon and Toronto-Dublin; Australia joined the Indian Peninsula and Sao Paolo began cooperation with Lagos.

How old were you when you started creating the agency? Did your work already require that you give up a substantial part of your private life in order to build a business?

I was 25 when Krzysiek and I started the company. The path that we walked required an enormous amount of sacrifice, but the level of satisfaction and the opportunity to work with some many fantastic people on a daily basis have made it all up to me.

What do you mean?

Thanks to Admind, I have met many good people. I have made many great friendships and acquaintances. I have experienced incredible adventures in many places in the world. In this sense, my professional life has intermingled with my private life to a very large extent.

Do you go on vacation? How many times a year?

In 2019 the situation has improved: both me and Krzysiek have gone on vacation. I think it is most of all a matter of making a decision, a sort of maturity and awareness. We have understood that the company is safe when we are away, that we work with people who feel just as responsible for Admind as we do.

Are your weekends free too?

On weekends I study, travel and have social life. I maintain a healthy balance that benefits both me and my company. I know what I need to function well.

What do you do in your free time when you finally have it? How do you rest? Do you have any hobbies?

I have free time. Otherwise, this whole thing would not make sense. I rest actively. I need stimuli, adventures and challenges. Twice a year I go somewhere alone – at least for the weekend. It’s when I switch to a self-listening mode without the distractions that are plenty around me. I think rest should lead to getting to know yourself and other people. For me this is its main purpose. I have many interests but I am rather old school. I read a lot of books, I’m interested in history, politics, sports, film and literature. Sometimes, after work, I get into my car and drive and listen to music. Electro from Tel Aviv rings out from the speakers. On the way back – old school New York rap.

Interview by Piotr Zieliński

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+31 202 403 464
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65121 Odessa, Ukraine

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+48 12 265 51 45
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30-314 Kraków, Poland

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