Chris Kramer - Founding Partner of House of Kaizen

Always hire the best people you can find, both within your company and outside it. Trust your lawyers, accountants, and advisors, and don’t try to do everything yourself.

Chris Kramer is a founding partner at House of Kaizen, a leading end-to-end digital performance advertising agency based in New York City, London, and Lagos, Nigeria. Chris is the head of affiliate marketing for the agency and considers his most important task to be creating a performance-based service for his clients that’s centered on continuous optimization.

Where did the idea for House of Kaizen come from?

“Kaizen” is the Japanese word for continuous improvement, and that is the heart and soul of everything we do and who we are. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a marketing campaign for one of our clients or simply the need to create a great place to work, we’re here to make it better today than it was yesterday.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

One of the things I love about our company is that we embrace flexibility. Our ability to work from the office or any other location, combined with flexible work hours, makes it easier to maximize productivity. If I’m working on something that requires a lot of collaboration, I’ll work with my team in the office. But if it’s something that requires more focus and quiet time, I’ll tackle that project from my home office.

How do you bring ideas to life?

It’s all about trusting and enabling your team to do their best work. I try to remove all fear from a person’s job because I don’t think anyone does great work while worrying about making mistakes.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love the idea behind the sharing economy and how technology can enable people to move beyond a typical 9-to-5 job to generate income. Look at how Airbnb enables people to rent out a room or their whole house to cover a significant portion of their rent or mortgage. Uber gives people with cars the chance to make a few extra bucks on their own terms without being told what time they have to show up for work or how many hours they have to put in.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

It’s really easy to spend your day stuck in your inbox, but the more I get away from that and carve out sections of my calendar to work on specific projects or tasks, the more I get accomplished.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I spent a few years working in retail, and I learned a lot. But the biggest thing I learned was simply how to treat people. I worked for great bosses who were inspiring and amazing, and I also worked for tyrants who thought they could only manage through intimidation. Sometimes you learn the most from the most difficult experiences, and I’m proud to say that we have a culture that places a high value on treating each other with respect.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’d probably not be afraid to take a few more risks and invest in the areas we thought might have a long-term payoff. Sometimes, you get so caught up in your day-to-day work that you forget to step back and look at the big picture and where you’re going.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always hire the best people you can find, both within your company and outside it. Trust your lawyers, accountants, and advisors, and don’t try to do everything yourself.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

From day one, we decided that we wouldn’t take any shortcuts and would always act with the highest level of ethics. This has enabled us to gain an extreme amount of trust with our clients, and we’ve had some of those people hire us multiple times as they’ve changed employers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Placing too much reliance on one client or customer. In every business, customers come and go, and when one of those really large customers leaves, it causes a massive disruption to the business and to our teams. The only way to minimize this risk is to grow your business so that no one customer makes or breaks your company.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think the Internet killed most of what was the traditional travel agency business, but the 100 percent self-serve model is flawed, too. I think the technology has advanced far enough where someone can offer a more personalized approach to travel planning while using the efficiencies the Internet provides. The modern-day travel aggregators like Priceline.com, Expedia, and Orbitz could use a little disruption, and someone can steal some of the market by creating a great customer experience (not just by offering the lowest price).

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

I’m fairly obsessed with live music and will fly across the country to see my favorite bands perform.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I’m a big fan of apps that make travel easier. TripIt is the most valuable for me because it’s simple, and it keeps all my travel info in one place. It’s smart enough to monitor flight status, and it lets me know before the airlines do if there are changes to my itinerary.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m a huge fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.” It’s changed the way I approach task management and productivity forever.

Connect:

http://www.houseofkaizen.com/
Chris Kramer on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chriskramer