Mindfulness/awareness — learning to train your mind to be aware of the transitory nature of our thoughts and emotions, and to not place so much weight on the small potatoes
Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur” we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Irina Papuc.
A physicist turned digital marketing leader, Irina Papuc brings a unique view to her work as a data-driven growth marketing expert. Irina co-founded fully remote digital marketing agency Galactic Fed to provide clients a better solution for on-demand, scalable, growth marketing teams. Irina has created performance marketing strategies and solutions for brands such as Shell, Descript, Tenfold, and HVMN, among many others. Her specialty is providing bespoke, highly scalable email marketing and link-building solutions, as well as designing and operationalizing full SEO programs at any size and scale for Galactic Fed clients.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Outside of digital marketing, I’m an academically trained anthropologist with a physics degree, having briefly worked at CERN in particle physics before moving into the digital marketing world. Before co-founding Galactic Fed, I led SEO teams at Toptal, a global online services business, and built high-powered virtual teams for hyper-growth Bay Area companies.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
My co-founder Zach Boyette and I met at 1B+ dollars fully distributed startup Toptal, where we bonded over a rebellious attitude towards the marketing world, the idea that the industry was due for a redesign, and a desire to do things a little (or a lot) different. We also shared an obsession with location independence: why live anywhere when you could live everywhere? After concluding at Toptal, Zach and I had clear next plans of taking our marketing talents to the big games: agency life.
It was a natural fit for us to combine our powers: Zach in paid media and myself leading SEO. We quickly scaled up an eager and talented team of digital marketing experts from around the world, with an early belief in the power of remote work: why be limited by borders when you could get the top talent wherever they are in the world. Thus, Galactic Fed was born!
In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?
My first business was in 4th grade. My uncle gifted me about 100 bookmarks, and I sold them to my classmates for lunch money that I would splurge on candy (lifelong sweet tooth). So I guess you can say that entrepreneurship has run through my veins for a long time.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
There have been many inspiring historical figures that come to mind. One is Coco Chanel, a woman from humble origins who went on to build a powerhouse brand. I highly recommend reading her biography.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Galactic Fed’s core values really sum up what makes us different and why our clients love working with us:
- Futuristic: we remain on top and ahead of industry trends and scientifically test them to see what will work for our clients.
- Mathematical and growth-oriented: Growth marketing is a science, and we take the scientific approach to testing hypotheses and analyzing data to achieve big-time growth.
- Radically honest and approachable: We are straight-talkers with our staff and clients, and keep “doors” and communication open at all times.
- Hyper-focused in our zone of genius: We know what we do, and we do it well, and the same goes for our employees. We employ each of them to own their talent and be their best.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Transform issues into learning opportunities.
- Bake continuous learning into your everyday.
- Become an effective over-communicator.
- Envision your final form, and plan towards it.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Follow your passion. I think people often misinterpret this statement, which could lead to some disappointing results. While it’s important to be passionate about what you do, I find that when you are great at what you do, that passion follows. And in any line of work, however much of a passion it might be, there are ups and down, and the banal “office” side of things.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?
Having a positive impact is crucial to the work we do at Galactic Fed. We founded a company with a mission to help other companies grow and reach their goals. At the same time, we have a company that encourages a positive work-life balance, and our remote work culture gives our staff the freedom to create fulfilling lives. We’ve also created the non-profit arm of our company, Galactic Good, that helps non-profit organizations scale up their marketing efforts.
Some practical advice that we follow at Galactic Fed is:
- 100% Virtual: our fully-remote team of nearly 100 people, scattered worldwide, strictly works with clients in a virtual setting.
- No Internal Calls: with rare exception, 100% of internal communication at Galactic Fed is in writing, via Slack and email. We believe pointless meetings are the biggest productivity killer in corporate America.
- Asynchronous Communication: operating across 13 time zones, we have built systems that allow our employees the luxury of setting their schedules.
What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?
Don’t be afraid to let your bold personality shine, and just be yourself. Many people stiffen up when it comes to addressing a team or being a leader, but people appreciate genuine human leaders. Show that you are human and have a life outside of work, that you sometimes make mistakes too! Also, don’t be afraid to show your nurturing side. Leadership is like cultivating a garden: you need to nurture and maintain medium to long-term relationships.
Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?
It’s clear that in today’s world, both staff and clients choose companies that they can have an emotional or reciprocal relationship with, not just transactional. Employees want to be part of a company whose values they identify with, and clients want to see that their money is going to people who are human: understanding and nurturing. Even though so much of our world has become automated, the need for human connection is more needed than ever.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
- Communication — it’s hard enough as it is to communicate effectively in a traditional team setting. Once to take this to a remote environment, you often have little more than a few specs, Slack messages, and perhaps a brief call or two to convey the expectations and the end goals. Daily communication is the cement that holds the team together, and at Galactic Fed, this extends over multiple time zones and continents.
- Building trust — it’s essential to build a team that trusts one another and their managers to deliver on their promises day in and day out — that reassurance of trust fuels the team to show up every day and give 100%. A unified company culture — whether your company is domestic or international, it’s vital that leaders find common threads to unite the organization in unified company culture.
Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?
The role of an entrepreneur and co-founder has you changing perspectives and vantage points very often. One moment you’re zoomed-in and focusing on the small details of running a company, say, a word or image choice online, and the next minute you’re zoomed out and looking at the company, strategy, and big picture as a whole, steering the direction of the entire ship — quite literally highs and lows. Also, agency business models in particular are very much a roller coaster, especially in the early years. When it rains, it pours clients. Other times in our early years we had periods where little work came in at all. We had to re-train our minds to not sweat this (rather natural) volatility.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Humor at oneself, at life
2. De-stressing routines/coping and self-soothing strategies (constructive rather than destructive ways of dealing with the inevitable stress that life presents us day by day)
3. Mindfulness/awareness — learning to train your mind to be aware of the transitory nature of our thoughts and emotions, and to not place so much weight on the small potatoes
4. Perspective — seek out lifestyle and environmental shifts that allow you to re-focus and align your perspectives, do this routinely
5. For fun: hot bubble baths every day!
Also: nature is very important.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?
Very early childhood memory: I didn’t speak or understand English going into pre-school, even though I was living in Chicago. My family spoke only Romanian at home. I still remember my first time ever going to school and sitting outside surrounded by children all speaking a foreign tongue. It was like visiting another planet! Of course, I quickly assimilated, but this event definitely built some resilience or at least honed the skill of going with the flow, and learning to adapt.
In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?
As Monty Python says “Always look on the bright side of life.” The narrative you tell yourself often becomes your reality, so it’s important to see the silver lining behind life’s challenges. I practice mindfullness, and I also do mood-enhancing activities such as regularly working out, journaling, and painting.
Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.
While no one can be positive all of the time, it’s important to know that negativity can easily spread from you to your team, especially if you’re leading by example. Self-awareness and understanding how important your mood and your reaction to workplace challenges are can truly make or break the difference between and positive company culture and work ethic, which can, in turn, make or break your business.
Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?
“Short cuts make long delays.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring This resonates in so many life situations, especially in business. From building and nurturing relationships, to planning a new department, to hiring a stellar senior-level engineer versus a n00b, short cuts make for very long delays.
How can our readers further follow you online?
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/irinapapuc/, Twitter: @TeamGalacticFed, Instagram:@ GalacticFed
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!