I’m trying to create a work environment that is pleasant for every employee. Not only within our organization, but with all the others I’m in some kind of contact with. I do understand that businesses can be quite successful no matter what the company’s cultures are, and that creating a positive vibe is not an easy task, but still … if we are able to do that in a workspace where we spend most of our lives, I’m certain it will have positive effects on all spheres in life.
Hooray Heroes was originally created by Rado Daradan and Mic Melanšek, two co-founders who had just become uncles and wanted to provide their nieces with unforgettable and useful gifts. But they found it was difficult to find something that fit these categories and that was also personalized. Together, they decided they wanted to provide their nieces with a fun book where the girls could play the main role and actually resemble themselves. The books became a hit with their nieces and they decided that every child should be able to be the hero of their own story.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is it about the position of CEO that most attracted you?
Thank you! I became the CEO by default by being a co-founder of the company. The company grew faster than we expected, and both my co-founder Mic and I were very operational, we had to divide some of the main responsibilities. Mic is the creative mind, and I’ll do anything that requires “brains”, so the split was kind of obvious.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO does, but in just a few words can you explain what it’s like to be a CEO. Does it differ from the responsibilities of the other executives?
I don’t think all CEOs have the same responsibilities or skillset. Within our company, it is important that you have broad (in comparison to other executives that need a focused one) knowledge of each department and are capable of discussing and coordinating with each of them.
What were your biggest struggles throughout your professional life and how did you overcome them?
I really want to give some value with this answer but I know I’m not going to be able to. 🙂 I feel I struggle every day, and at the same time I feel I don’t struggle at all. I believe if you are pursuing this kind of professional life, you kind of need difficult situations, hard puzzles, stressful moments. But you consider all of these as part of a fun game that you decided to play. I consider any struggle as a basis of an interesting story that I’m gonna be able to tell once I’ve overcome it.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being a CEO?
I enjoy the complexity of information you get to handle.
What are the downsides of being a CEO?
What’s up with these negative questions? 🙂 Definitely the one and only downside of this position is when you have to fire somebody. I can rationalize it however I want, but it’s absolutely terrible, and I try to avoid it when possible.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’m not leading it alone, but with co-founder Mic. Probably still the funniest situation that happened was 4 years ago when Mic was backpacking across Asia, and, while discussing some extreme budgets for Facebook ads, he was showing me live video of him sitting with some cows on a dusty street in India. Surreal.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My middle name is Mistake. 😉 Completely. At the beginning, I thought we were going to do all the personalization by hand on transparent paper and scan all of the personalized attributes. For me back then photoshop was used only to make people look better on photos. Needless to say my first meetings with illustrators didn’t go well. But I learned along the way, and today I understand and handle most complex IT processes in our company.
Specifically, what is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The job description is changing with every bigger change in the company. And there are plenty of them, since we are growing so fast. It is not the same when there is 7 people in the team, then 20, 70 and more than 120. What I didn’t imagine is that my job would be more and more being a glue that connects different minds.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be a CEO. What specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful CEO, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be a CEO?
Can’t say. I know what traits would increase the odds, but I do have a strong opinion on the matter who should avoid it. If you want to become a CEO in order to wear a suit and a tie, to feel important and to be a boss to somebody, or even to fix some ego issues, this is not for you. You will most probably be successful, but will make people around you feel bad in the process. Leading somebody is more of a responsibility than anything else.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team thrive?
I’m not strong on advice. I never liked the lectures on the perfect formula. We started the company from scratch; there was no right or wrong. We tried and we repeated everything that worked, and learned from all the rest that didn’t work. And that is how we operate on a daily basis, and it works perfectly for us. What I like to do often is to remind myself of those beginnings and that I have nothing to be ashamed of if I sometimes feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I need to be courageous, fast and careful at the same time. Then I try to project this on to everyone around me, and at the same time give them both freedom and responsibility.
Who inspired/inspires you and why?
Last time I had an idol was in my 4th grade of primary school when I had posters of Keith Flint (Prodigy) and his green hair on my walls. I think I was inspired because he was different and different intrigues me at the present as well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
OK, this is really an easy one. Without Mic (co-founder) there wouldn’t be any foundation for this interview. The most important is when he said, “Well, Rado, you are thinking about this business idea for too long — if you are not starting a company with this idea, I will.” And then we started it together.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Very unofficially I’m trying to create a work environment that is pleasant for every employee at Hooray Studios. Not only within our organization, but with all the others I’m in some kind of contact with. I do understand that businesses can be quite successful no matter what the company’s cultures are, and that creating a positive vibe is not an easy task, but still … if we are able to do that in a workspace where we spend most of our lives, I’m certain it will have positive effects on all spheres in life.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
It’s a cliche, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Each and every mistake has led to this point. Each thing that I had to figure out on my own helped me understand way more than just an easy solution to that current problem. I am quite happy to share my experiences and mistakes with other starters, so they might have a headache or two less. But still, we are different, and we need to shape ourselves.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I don’t imagine I am. I believe what we are doing right now with Hooray Studios is a kind of movement. The main reason for starting the company was putting smiles on people’s faces, both adults and children. We are succeeding in co-creating these moments, but the goal is to be able to do that for everyone.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Create-Give-Enjoy-Cherish. We live by this and create experiences with our products by this quote. I’m almost certain it can be applied to any area in life. But then again, who knows. 🙂
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Huh, this is a hard one. I do have one person in mind. I’m intrigued with his entrepreneurial mindset within entertainment. I’d like to meet with Dwayne Johnson and give his daughter Tiana Gia a personalized book from us.