How do you solve a problem like Damian Blumenkranc? The CEO of Creativa Videos loves solving problems and enjoys creating new concepts. Having a solution mind comes naturally to him.
Since the age of 15 years old, he has built various businesses, from IT to several other industries, which he grew and then eventually sold. So, why did he retain a creative business out of all the ventures he has put up? “I'm a creator. I always need to do new things,” he simply quips.
Damian’s entrepreneurial journey started early on. In his teens, he has already put up a business venture that could be considered as a genuine business. That was in 1993 when he launched the first online shop in Argentina, selling computer parts to computer nets through an application called BBS, or bulletin board system, something that was prevalent before the explosion of the internet.
“That was probably my first really serious venture as an entrepreneur. From then on, I have always been looking for opportunities; building small businesses, running them and selling them,” he reminisces.
Although he has formal training on business, having a double degree on business and information technology (IT), he believes that his family background has a lot to do with his savvy when it comes to entrepreneurship. “I think most my acumen comes from the family. My father, being an entrepreneur, was always sharing, always getting us involved in the business, letting us know what happened, and letting us participate. He would tell us about the wins and the losses, as well as the problems and the good things that happened, and so on. And I learned. I learned that way,” recounts Damian.
Those learnings were the tools he brought with him when he came to Australia to study. As a student, his visa didn’t allow him to be employed by corporations, but he needed to survive. The only way for him to earn money in order to support himself was to create a business. “When I came to Australia, I started my own business and IT support which I ran for seven years during that time. I also started a pilates importing business, the first voice over IP integrator in Melbourne, and then later, a hair removal business as well. In time, we grew them, including a couple of online shops. We grew them, we made them profitable, and we sold them one by one,” he narrates. Damian now oversees Creativa Videos, which he co-founded with Miguel Donnenfeld, also his partner in his other businesses.
For someone who had the confidence to build a business at an early age, it was expected that he would survive in a foreign country. Which he eventually did, but it wasn’t an easy one, given that he had to plant those businesses in a land unknown to him. “Imagine parachuting into a new place where you know no one, where you have no connections. It is a place where everyone knows everyone because it's a smaller city than what you are used to. It's not your language, it's not your origin, it’s not the same culture as yours. So, it's always been a challenge – trying to network, trying to understand. What I did, I read a lot of books, like everything, because everything was new from tax legislation to mannerisms to language to pricing to negotiation methods. Everything was different,” he notes, describing those early days of starting his first venture in Australia.
The challenges didn’t stop there. The unusual business terrain of an unfamiliar soil was not the only stumbling block Damian had to confront as he went on building his own enterprises. Whilst nothing might have scared a 15-year old boy because he had nothing to lose for taking risks, it was no longer the same as Damian matured in age and experience. He recognised his vulnerability as he found further in his entrepreneurial journey that revenue and cash flow, which are significant components in sustaining a venture, always worried him. Since he bootstrapped all his businesses, which were typically self-funded, finances for capital were never in abundance. For him, generating not enough revenue is equivalent to failure, and that scared him.
Navigating through an unknown landscape with limited resources, it was inevitable for Damian to commit some gaffes along the way. One particular miscalculation he did was hiring the wrong people. “We were hiring too fast and firing too slow,” he interjects. Nonetheless, he has coped and managed to correct that mistake as he needed to, especially that his company is people-intensive; thus, having the right persons in the team is crucial to the success of their projects. Otherwise, they just have to make that important decision of letting go of the wrong people when things don’t work out fine. “When it happens, we have conversations with them. If we don't believe it is going to work, then we end it.”
Others may think that being a business owner gives one all the power and freedom in the world. “But that's not particularly true,” he corrects. Damian explains that being a business leader, there are a lot of responsibilities to attend to, whether to the staff or to clients or to partners. “The result is generally attached to what you do. Because you're attached to the business, you cannot do whatever you want. When it comes to the freedom as a business owner, you still have a lot of concerns that you have to work around with. You're also the one who sets examples and creates a culture because whatever you are doing, you can expect people to follow it as well. So, if you don't want them to do (something) that is not good for the business, then you shouldn't do it either.”
What others don’t see are the impediments a business owner has to deal with in order to keep the business going and make it grow. Some of these drawbacks that Damian has encountered he enumerates, “A big deal didn't come through, an investor said no, a letter of offer got rejected, staff that has not been committed as we like to… There were always setbacks. But I can't recall any massive disappointments.”
That’s because he chooses not to dwell on the undesirable things. His actions are guided by his business philosophies and work ethics of doing the right things, doing what he says he’s going to do, and honouring his mistakes by admitting when he makes one. “I always try to do the right thing. I find win-win scenarios for everyone and I make an effort to understand everyone else's point of view. Then, I come up with a solution that is great for everyone,” the creative problem-solver explains. “Sometimes, even if they take advantage of you. It's not worth it, it's not for me. It is better to focus on the future and not on the past,” he asserts.
The setbacks, the disappointments, and the challenges. They are obstacles along Damian’s path. Yet, he doesn’t allow these hindrances to put extra weight on his shoulder. He prefers to look at what’s ahead of him and focuses on it. He shares this piece of wisdom that aspiring entrepreneurs can apply in their respective experiences, “You must have a very clear vision of where are you going because that guides everyone else on the journey.”
Not only that. While having a goal is vital at the very beginning of everyone’s entrepreneurial track, it takes more than that to be able to carry on with the entrepreneurial voyage. “Start by listening. That's the one thing everyone should do. Start listening to clients, to markets and to people; that's how you can align yourself with them to understand them,” Damian advises.
As he went along, he picked more lessons that equipped him to be a better entrepreneur. These lessons also enabled him to evaluate his actions and mistakes and see where he could still improve on. If he could do things all over again, Damian thoughtfully thinks, “I will only consider businesses with a high leverage on my time. Businesses that can be propelled without having to take much of my time.”
Time is something that Damian puts a premium on and he ensures he manages his time efficiently. “Well, I have a very strict, very specific way of managing my calendar. It’s a method that I use that I created for myself, where I'm constantly reassigning priorities and putting absolutely everything I need to do in that calendar with the right times so that nothing slips and nothing falls through the cracks. That is important on an ongoing basis.”
There are a lot of other things he sees in himself that he admits he can still work on. One example is motivating a team. When asked how he manages his people, "With difficulty," he jokes. “That's still something I need to master, I guess. I'm still learning.” And another skill he needs to hone is celebrating his wins. “That's the thing, I don't. That's one of the things I have to learn more,” he laughs.
One particular element he came across that was most helpful to his professional and personal development as a startup founder was a support group. This he found in the form of EO Melbourne. “Last year I joined EO. Over the years, a lot of people have suggested that I join, so I made the call and last year I did. Through EO, I have picked a lot of knowledge, a lot of nuggets, and some really good fun as well. It’s mostly about inspiration to me. Going to these events, you get that one little thing that inspires you, that re-ignites you; that 1% you can change and make everything better.”
With all the businesses he has put up all those years, Damian has probably done so much that has changed the business landscape and made things a whole lot better. “We built one of the biggest production companies in Australia, in an industry that is extremely customized, extremely competitive, where most production companies failed in a short period of time. This is in an industry where I knew nothing about. So if I managed to build from scratch and run and create a brand – a recognised and successful brand – in a profitable way from day one, it is a massive success in itself,” he discloses.
So, how do you become an entrepreneur like Damian Blumenkranc? “Find something that you are most passionate about because it makes a lot of things easier. It's a cliché, but it's very real,” he imparts. And nothing more can drive Damian to even bigger successes than what he is most passionate about – solving problems. Now, Damian rushes on to something that needs his attention. This problem-solver is always on the move, and he is fueled by his desire to create new things and fix broken ones.