Ep. 2: Anatoliy Labinskiy | Motivating & Managing An Entrepreneurial Company to Scale

September 8, 2022 | 28 Min Read

A Little Bit About The Host

Richard Shaull is a husband, father, and visionary. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, he got bit by the "entrepreneurial bug" at a young age and has been involved in starting and running multiple businesses since.

After two of his businesses nearly killed him, Richard made it his mission to ensure other entrepreneurs didn’t go through the same struggles alone. To do this, he co-founded Unleashed, which helps match Founder CEOs with a 2nd-In-Command who can execute their vision, fast, risk-free, and with a clear ROI.

Richard is passionate about helping other business owners go from playing "Chief Everything Officer" to an Unleashed CEO and lead a tribe of 10,000 CEOs and 2nd-In-Commands who build a wealthier future and the world’s best workplaces.

Don't Have Time to Listen? Read The Full Transcription.

Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for readability. 

[Theme music plays]

Richard Shaull: Hello again, and welcome back to the Becoming Unleashed show where we are so passionate about helping founder CEOs get free from the day to day so they can focus on growth as CEO. We believe that when entrepreneurs are empowered to get free from the day to day, they go and build a brighter future in the world's best workplaces. And we want to empower you to do that about 20 minutes every week.

Now in today's episode, I'm excited to talk to you with my friend Anatoliy who I recently met, who has some very impactful ideas on how to motivate and manage an entrepreneurial team. He's built a fairly large entrepreneurial team very quickly, and they have a really, really unique culture as well as incredible results with their business. So tune in, listen up, and I'm sure you're going to walk away with some great takeaways on how to better motivate and manage your entrepreneurial team. 

Let’s get started!

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Hello again friends, and welcome back to the Becoming Unleashed show. I am here today with my fellow entrepreneur Anatoliy Labinskiy. Anatoliy is the owner and CEO of Ukraine based digital agency, Golden Stream Media. They are experts in paid media and also experts in Shopify as well. And Anatoliy has just built an incredible, very large team, and been able to do that remotely as well, which I think is a huge, huge deal for a lot of business owners who are trying to figure out how to do the same thing in the new climate we're operating in.

So Anatoliy, I’m really glad to have you here. I know you're such an expert in sales, business development, digital marketing, as well as motivating and managing teams, which is really what we're here to talk about today. So welcome to the show, really glad to have you here.

Anatoliy Labinskiy: Awesome, hi to everyone. Richard it's really a big pleasure to be here with you and thanks for such a warm welcome and introduction, it really means a lot for me. And I hope that I'm going to be sharing some really good, valuable information to people out there who are listening to and watching us, or would be implementing at least a couple of things from our conversation. Because I understand a lot of information will come to the brain and people usually forget 90%. But at least 10% of what I'm going to be sharing, if it would be valuable to someone I'm going to be super proud of myself, of my team, that someone else could just modulate and make it similar. So yeah, I'm excited.

Richard Shaull: So excited too, from my seat. Now anybody listening, if you couldn't guess, you have at least from our side a bit of an accent, you would say we have the accent, but were you born and raised in Ukraine?

Anatoliy Labinskiy: Yeah, so basically I'm from Ukraine. And when I was 22, I left Ukraine because I was in debt because of education and I had to help my mother with the mortgage for our house. So I just left Ukraine and went to Dubai and started working there with no English, nothing. I went there with no skills at all. I somehow got an interview in one restaurant and became a food runner. I was cleaning the tables, taking out the dirty plates, and bringing them out to the washing area. So that's the beginning of my whole journey. It was in Dubai back in 2013 and by 2017, during all this journey, I had my wife from Ukraine as well. And she informed me that she's going to be pregnant, oh sorry she informed me that she was pregnant, and that was the-

Richard Shaull: I was going to say, if she informed you in advance…[laughing]

Anatoliy Labinskiy: Yeah, no actually that was February when she said that she's pregnant and it was that day which has changed everything in my life, because we were in a deep situation even after four years in Dubai, three and a half years at that moment, in a financially bad situation. So I promised myself that my son would come to this world. At that moment I didn't know that it would be a son, but I promised myself that things will be changed because he shouldn't grow up in the same environment, in the same financial problems like me when he came into this world. And this is exactly what was the biggest motivation to start.

So basically at 22 I left Ukraine, at 26 or 27 I came back to my wife, to my son because I was sending her back to Ukraine to deliver the baby. And during that time when she was in Ukraine, I was staying in an apartment with seven other people just renting the bed space just to save money and learn eCommerce.

In short, my journey was about five different jobs in Dubai. [I was a] waiter, sales manager during the day, waiter in the evening, supervisor for the servicing people on private villas. Video shooting, photo shooting for Bollywood movies for the Emirates promotions, and a lot of other things. Just whatever people were ready to pay, I was there. Two times I was sleeping [only] 40 minutes a day. It was a hard year.

But I was saving, testing out several things, failing again and again. It's a long story to explain but this story is not about that, just in general, those failures made me believe in myself and I just decided to move forward, found a mentor and this is where all the success began and a new series of failures came as well.

Richard Shaull: Wow, and I think that story represents so well what most of the entrepreneurs I respect, what they share with you in their story, which is that it wasn't easy. And I think for many people who are listening, who are going through it right now in their business, it's first of all good to just know you're not alone. 

Every entrepreneur has a story of struggle.

And I was just even reflecting on life the other day, waxing a little “philosophical” if you will. And I was thinking about how unpleasant of an experience life is if your goal is comfort. But how amazing life is as an experience if you see it as the battleground that will develop you into the warrior that you're called to be. If you see it as the struggle and the test that will develop you into the person that you know you have the potential to be.

And I just salute you man, for walking through that battleground and to some extent, still walking through that battleground, to become the best entrepreneur and leader you can be. Which is a great segue into today's topic where we're going to talk about as a leader, as a founder CEO, how do you motivate and manage an entrepreneurial team?

We know this, we know that there's a lot happening in an entrepreneurial company, and there's a lot that has to happen to make it function and operate at its peak. And a lot of that has to do with your people. There's been a lot of research studies and books written on how to motivate, how to manage, but I still find all the time, I find myself talking to entrepreneurs who are like, I just feel like I can't get my team motivated and I don't know what I need to do to manage them, to get the results that I'm looking for.

So let's dig into that a little bit today. From your perspective Anatoliy, what would you say is one of the biggest mistakes that you've made and that you also see entrepreneurs make when it comes to motivating or managing their team?

Anatoliy Labinskiy: Oh, it's actually a great first question because it's about the pain of many entrepreneurs in general. Before I share the biggest mistakes in my opinion from my journey, I would just like to add to what you were just saying before. That all entrepreneurs are really going from their own struggle and all failures. And [what makes] the difference between the real entrepreneurs and people who are just giving it a try and giving it a shot. And this is what makes the difference between people who are just giving it a shot and people [entrepreneurs] who are directly saying “I'm going to do that.”

It’s what happened to me. After several failures, so many people who were next to me on the mastermind were somewhere else [no longer entrepreneurs]. People were quitting after a couple of years, I was texting them and they were working somewhere else or they were doing something else, like crypto or whatever. But it shows me that people are really not able to be calm in distress to deal with difficult situations. The number one thing [about entrepreneurship], is the risks you're going to be dealing with every single day as an entrepreneur, especially in the beginning.

Richard Shaull: Resiliency, was what you're talking about. Resiliency. And I think I respect less and less as I grow older, people who start things. And respect more and more, people who finish them and see them through. And I think mental toughness and resiliency can't be overvalued in entrepreneurship. And you only do that by getting reps, which is failing, picking yourself up, learning from it, and then continuing to push forward. And I think that actually plays into the question I just asked.

But I just want to make a note here that your team will never rise above the level of commitment that you set. So sometimes I talk to entrepreneurs who question the motivation of their team, and when I look at them they're not all that motivated. And I know that, that's maybe a harsh kick in the pants to some people listening. But it's like, you look at their motivation levels, you look at the standard they're setting in their own company, and it's no wonder that their people aren't exceeding the standard that they've set.

So all that to say back to my question to you, about what are the most common mistakes you've seen, maybe that's one of them, but what are the most common mistakes you've seen or experienced yourself when it comes to motivating your team?

Anatoliy Labinskiy: So yes, regarding the team and the top mistakes. I would say the two things which really were a problem to scale the company early on. The first thing, I was scared to give my team responsibility, which is going to be in their hands and they're going to be responsible for the project, not me. Because I was always think, “I'm in charge, I'm in charge. I'm giving tasks, I'm just double checking and I'm in charge. It's on my shoulders.”

So the number one thing that has been changed is getting the right person on the tea. Let's say that moment if you're speaking about a sales team, it was four people in the sales team. I found the top guy and I offered him a manager position, which was for me completely difficult to do and I motivated him. [I said] “Listen, this is the position which you're going to do, controlling the team, you can grow as a professional salesperson. You're going to be making more money and at the same time, you're going to be having higher skills than ever before.” And he agreed. And that was the game changer because I became free from what I was in charge of. Now there’s only one person I have to manage, instead of four people.

And the delegation of responsibilities is the number one thing that was a mistake for me that I hadn’t done for almost two years. There was only one media buyer when I started my agency, at the same time it was a mentorship program, and we had a couple of clients. And I was scared, I wasn't thinking that it was necessary [to delegate].  

Another mistake is I wasn't hiring people. I was thinking, “it's big salaries, it's expenses, I'm not making enough.” Which was false. I was making enough to hire people. And my mind was thinking so small, that I wasn't really understanding that if you want to jump to the next level, it’s important to build the team. So it was the first mistake.

The second mistake is to delegate the responsibilities between the heads of the departments.  This is after I created the media buyer manager position because I was in every single chat with every single client and our clients. And it was COVID 2020 when we started scaling, there was such a huge boom and I knew that I'm not able to manage all that. So when I created the media buyer department and a manager there, we started hiring media buyers, some guys with good knowledge. And I just gave [the position] to one of the guys who was staying with me for a year. I asked him, “Listen, would you like to be a manager or media buyer?”

This is where I got out of the day-to-day with clients, I was just on analytics on the management call center and giving them feedback on what we have to do with that account or this account. But in general, it started giving me possibilities to start to grow as a CEO of the company. Up until that moment I didn't know what it meant to be a CEO. What does it mean? What kind of responsibilities are there? So the second second mistake is to not delegate. It took too long for me.

And the third thing, which in my opinion is the biggest mistake in general. When entrepreneurs or CEOs or just company owners, are not sharing their goals with their team and not asking them questions. What does the team want? What are their goals? Because it happened actually after seven months, when we started scaling, we already had 19 people in the team… Yeah 12 media buyers, yeah around 19 people at that moment. And it was after seven months since we started scaling that I first decided to ask them what they wanted. 

Actually, it was the suggestion of one of my friends who said, "have you asked your team?" And I was like, “What do you mean?” Like, why should I ask my team if we have a goal? I was already sharing that goal with them. And in my mind, it was that my goal should be or was the goal for everyone.

But in the end, the number one thing that's supposed to be asked is, “what are the goals of your guys?” And, “what do they want from life?” “What's their suitable financial situation in life?” “What's their suitable lifestyle?” And when I found it out, first of all, it wasn't a big difference from what I was expecting. But secondly, it opened my eyes to some deep, deep feelings of my team, which has helped them to be more engaged and help them understand that this company is worth something to work with, to help scale it. Because their personal goals will be achieved by achieving the company goals. 

Richard Shaull: That's so key that you just hit on there. And I just want to recap a couple of the principles you said, because they're so important when it comes to motivating and managing. You laid out three big things that I heard. The first one was actually empowering people, empowering your team, not just handing them tasks. Number two is structure, the importance of structure to actually motivate and manage your team. And then three is giving them clear goals and finding out what their goals are. And I'm going to start with the last one because it's most fresh in my mind. I think most leaders and founder CEOs, I don't want to say that we're inherently selfish, but we started a company with our vision.

Anatoliy Labinskiy: Exactly, yeah.

Richard Shaull: It was just us, okay? So I know some of us are very altruistic. Some of us are very, very money driven. So there's a spectrum here. But wherever you fall on that spectrum, it is still so easy to get lost. As an old mentor of mine used to say, “we're all tuned in to WIIFM: what's in it for me?” The challenge is, as a leader you can't be tuned into that radio frequency. Do you have to be tuned in to what your team is? What do they care about? What's in it for them?

And then being able to not only cast a compelling vision of where we're going and what the goals are but then solicit your team to go, “how are we going to make that happen?” Because if they build the plan, they will own the plan. And they'll execute the plan. If you dictate the plan to them, they will fight you subconsciously on it. It's based on the basic human need that we all have for independence and autonomy.

And so as a leader another thing that I think is so key here is, setting the goals for the company, clearly connecting them to your people's goals, and how helping the company achieve its goals will help them achieve their goals. And then allowing them, with your adult supervision, to build the plan. And challenging them to build the plan to actually achieve those goals. Then, man, at the end of that you have somebody who has a clear goal and knows how it will help them. And they've designed the plan to actually get there. In most cases, if you have a good person, they will execute, and they will be very motivated.

Another thing is structure. Most people miss this as an entrepreneur company, they far undervalue how much time and energy needs to be taken to think about what the right structure for your company is, and what all the right hats are.

And then like we just said, I think entrepreneurs are great at dumping tasks on people and then still being a control freak who oversees everything. We've got to get good at truly delegating and empowering people, which comes back to the goals and the other things we talked about. So tons of good gold in there.

One of the things you said earlier that you hinted at the end, Anatoliy, is treating your team like family. And I've heard literally all across the spectrum, I used to come from that camp. I've heard the CEO of Netflix say a business is not a family, don't say that. And I've heard other people say, no a team is a family, we're all in this together, high school musical style. How do you reconcile having the right culture here and making your people feel like they belong and are included, while also being able to still hold them accountable and run a business, not a nonprofit?

Anatoliy Labinskiy: Actually, that's a wonderful question, because I’ve had really hard conversations with one of my mentors who's usually telling me his way, it's like let's say Grant Cardone's way, which is like “firing, firing, firing, firing, hiring, hiring and firing,” every single month you have to fire. So other people will be always awake and going to be dealing with the stress of getting results.

But to build this kind of... On my end, as you already mentioned, my team is all remote, right now it's over 42 people on the board. And before, one month ago we were 49. We just cut the team because we found out a couple of people were not really doing what they were supposed to. But in general, 42 people on the team, and everyone on the remote.

My company and my business and everything in my life were built always on trust only, only trust. If I trust a person, if I feel that that person I can work with... I can find an amazing media buyer, but if he's going to be really a bad or mentally ill person, I won't be working with him. Even if I'm able to make extra seven figures with him. I understand I'm going to be losing, but at the same time, it will poison for the sake of the culture of the company.

So that is why by working remote, the number one thing that I was telling my team and keep saying to them, “our own name of the company is Golden stream Media, use Golden Stream Media as a tool to achieve your own results, to achieve your own goals. That’s why we are all here: me, you guys are here and we have a company that we can use as a tool. You achieving your results means the company is growing. If the company is growing, it means I'm achieving my results”. If we're not achieving results, that’s not good, it means I missed something and I'll help you out, to push forward where you missed your results, to help you achieve your goals. And that will bring us to goal number one.

So every single year, at the beginning of the year in January, I collect the goals of my team, of my top players. And asking them, “what's the goal?” I want to see that on paper, write it down. Seriously this is something that was a game changer for me at the beginning of 2021. When I decide to ask them, write it on the paper, write for me on the paper. “What's your goal? What's your income combined with your income from the past year, and what do you want to make this year? How do you want to achieve that? What's it going to look like? And it was uncomfortable for them?” I'm going deep into their mind and deep into their soul.

But that's what as well makes them feel that I care, I care about them. I care about what's going to be happening with them during the year and especially about their income. Because as I see that income is too small, the goal of income, I start calculating for them and show them the math. [I said], “this is what is written on the paper.” He wrote that let's say he made 80k last year, he wrote 120k. I said, “come on if you wrote 120k and you're going to make 50, it's supposed to be XYZ.” And he wrote 240k and he achieved 180k at the end of the year.

And that's exactly how I was building this kind of feeling about the family as you mentioned, or as opposed to just saying, “business is business.” It's just when you're showing people that you really care about them, not you trying to play a good boss or a good person. Because in our company we don't have a boss, we don't have someone like the director or whatever, we have leaders. It's true, I'm a leader of my guys because I have a vision and I'm helping them by sharing my vision. They're giving me points about if they agree, if they don't agree, and what could be improved. And after that, we just delegate it between the different departments to implement it and see if it's going to work and see if it's going to be implementable or not. 

And even structure as we discussed. Everything is remote. Four months ago, I had a chance to speak with some of my guy's face-to-face. And we had lunch and we just built a structure on the piece of paper together with him as head of media buying, how the team is going to look like. 

And from that moment everything has become so smooth. And because of that people have self-discipline for themself. So if they know that with the company they achieve their own results, and we are going to do whatever it takes to help them out to achieve that, it means they are going to be focusing on self-discipline to make it work.

Of course, some people were lazy, they just didn't want to do anything, nobody controlled them, and they did the minimum just to keep work going. But obviously, we're feeling that we are seeing that on the numbers and those people are leaving the company and everyone just waking up and keeps pushing from their end.

And because of that, to be honest, we don't have that big common fluctuation in the team. We have so many people who started with us from the first year until now. So many people who start from the second year until now, and nobody is leaving or we are not having to fire. We're fired from time to time just because of the personalities we discussed already, but that's it.

Richard Shaull: There's so much in there that I love, that when you think about the team as a family, what it really means and what it really comes down to is caring for your people as a leader. And if you're a good leader who actually cares for your people, it will feel like a family, but also still means you can have accountability as a leader. You can still run a business, that has to hit numbers, that has to perform, while still making people feel cared for. And hey, if they're not right to sit on the bus the best thing you can do for them to care for them, is help them find the right place to be.

So as we start to come to a close, Anatoliy, we're running out of time, I wanted to ask you two things. If somebody was interested in learning more from you or learning about you, how could they find you online?

Anatoliy Labinskiy: Oh yes. So I'm most of the time on Instagram, it's @ecombyanatoliy. 

And Golden Stream Media (www.goldenstreammedia.com). 

And my YouTube channel, which we are growing right now and making professional productions there is “Anatoliy Labinskiy”, so my name and surname. And there is a lot of valuable information we're sharing about eCommerce, you can watch it and there is also motivational stuff. And yeah, so these are the main places where I'm usually online.

Richard Shaull: Love that. Well, thanks so much for being a part of today's show Anatoliy, I know I appreciated your insight on this topic. And for those of you listening, go take what you learned today and apply it, to better motivate and manage your team. Cheers.

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And that's a wrap. I hope that episode helped you, inspired you, and gave you some actionable insights and tips to better motivate and manage your team. Now as we say here every time, we are so passionate about founder CEOs getting free from the day-to-day. And if this contract impacts you, I would encourage you to go and share it with other entrepreneurs in your network. You can do that on social media. You can also help us get this content out more effectively by leaving a review or liking and subscribing on whatever platform you are viewing. That would mean the world to me. And oftentimes if we see you post or share this on social media, we'll get to start a conversation with you as well as a thank you, and possibly re-share your post. So go ahead and do that now and thanks again for watching this week's episode of the Becoming Unleashed podcast.

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