Episode 125 : Building a Highly Motivated and Inspired Team

Antonio Buchanan is the Co-CEO and Chief Strategy Officer. He spent his career influencing some of the world’s top brands. His career took off at Y&R Worldwide, where he quickly became a vice president of Strategic Planning working on American Express, Citigroup, Verizon, Evian, Disney and Club Med. He then served as a senior partner and head of Strategy and Planning at Ogilvy Worldwide, American Express and IBM Global Business with assignments in Mexico City, London, Singapore, Brazil and Sao Paolo.

In 1998, Antonio and his partner, Paris formed bang! Zoom, a global research and strategy consultancy with offices in San Francisco, Chicago and London. Their form oversaw research initiatives for 3Com, Lucent, BBC, Avaya, American Express and others before selling the company to MDC partners, (a Toronto-based communications holding company). Antonio has been named one of the top creative thinkers by AdAge, named on the top innovative thinkers list for Wall People Magazine and one of the top 100 executives on Black Enterprise’s BE 100 list.


  • Could you share a little bit about your journey, how it is you got to where you are today so we can get a better understanding of who Antonio is.
  • So I can imagine strategy has been a bit challenging, maybe for you and your company during this pandemic period that the world is going through, can you share with us how that has been and how you guys have been able to navigate through this time?
  • Do you find that it’s been difficult just getting people motivated and inspired during this time, especially across cultures? Because Mexico City, would you say is a different kind of culture, a different set of mind-set people versus those in San Diego? Has it been different across the globe, in a different continent for example?
  • Could you share with us if there is one website, tool or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • Could you share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read a very long time ago, or it could be a book that you read recently, but it has had a great impact on you.
  • So if you were in a room with one of these managers, or business owners, and you’re sitting across the table from that person, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them to improve on the consistency of having motivated human capital?
  • Could you share with us what’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about, it could be something that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
  • Where can listeners find you online?
  • Do you have a quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you will tend to revert to this quote, it kind of helps to maybe get you refocused and just get you back on track.


Antonio’s Journey

Antonio shared that he started in the financial services industry, he was working as a trader at Merrill Lynch, the ad agency for Merrill Lynch was coming in to do a campaign on the company. And he was one of the people that was designated to be interviewed by the ad agency. And after that experience, he kind of looked at and went, “They seem to be having more fun that I am.” And so he literally switched careers and started from the bottom again. And, mentioned in the bio, started at Y&R and moved on to Ogilvy. He spent a significant amount of his career at Ogilvy with a lot of the international assignments, and then decided to start his own. And so, they’ve done it, this is the second time around. The first time as mentioned, they started an agency in about three years in, they were approached to sell it. And when their non-compete was over, on the day the non-compete was over, they launched Antonio in Paris. So he’s the Chief Strategy Officer, Paris was also his wife is the Chief Creative Officer, her experience comes out of McCann Worldwide on Microsoft. And so, he kind of do the strategy side, she does the creative side and they’ve been having a great time doing it. So it’s good to be here.

Navigating Through a Pandemic

Me: So I can imagine strategy has been a bit challenging, maybe for you and your company during this pandemic period that the world is going through, can you share with us how that has been and how you guys have been able to navigate through this time?

Antonio shared that that’s an understatement. So it’s been interesting, he thinks like everybody, February, March of last year, everybody kind of went into a panic mode. His clients went into a panic mode, rightfully so, not many people knew. What do I do now? Business kind of stopped over that period of time. And they made the decision to really look at it, they could have stayed with how do they continue to help companies enhance their brands?

But that wasn’t the right thing to do at that particular time, he thinks the right thing to do, in hindsight, was the fact that they decided that they’re going to look at when was there something like this in the past?

And how was it handled globally?

And what should they be thinking about?

So they decided to start a research study globally, during COVID that every six to eight weeks they would go back into the marketplace and get indication on what were consumers thinking?

What were they feeling?

How engaged were they?

How much more engaged were they going to be as it related to streaming videos and entertainment and working from home and what were their stress points?

And all of those things that they could kind of give that information to clients, and gauge when was the right time to get back into the marketplace.

They also started presenting this to clients and people who weren’t clients, companies that they would have loved to work with. They set up calls with them, Zoom calls with them, things like that, and walked them through these results.

They also talked to them about let’s talk about history as he said. When SARS happened, we had a front row seat into being able to see what happened in China and how it went from China, the resurgence, the comeback happened in Asia, through Europe, and then to the United States.

So we had a roadmap of how it happened. And so they are able to talk to people about it’s probably going to happen the same way, which it did, we had the bounce back in Asia first, then Europe, then the US, unfortunately, we had a second round of COVID.

This is a perfect time for companies to kind of really think about how they’re going to attack, how they’re going to pivot, and change maybe something small all the way to their business model. So they started talking to companies about that, if you were to start your company today, how would you change it?

Because it’s not going to ever be the same again. So they started working with companies and helping them change their company from a strategy perspective, too. So it’s been an interesting ride but he thinks it’s the right thing to do, because many companies responded to us helping them figure a lot of that out.

Me: Where are you exactly based Antonio, are you in the United States?

Antonio stated that they are in San Diego. Currently, he’s in their Mexico City office. They’ve been working out of Mexico now for probably the past six months, but their headquarters is in San Diego.

Getting Your People Motivated and Inspired

Me: Do you find that it’s been difficult just getting people motivated and inspired during this time, especially across cultures? Because Mexico City, would you say is a different kind of culture, a different set of mind-set people versus those in San Diego? Has it been different across the globe, in a different continent for example?

Antonio shared that what’s interesting is about five years ago they went completely virtual, so prior to COVID they went virtual, the reason why they did it was because for a few reasons.

One, they wanted to get the most talented people that they could get to work for their company, no matter where they lived. And so, that meant getting more senior people but in getting more senior people, it was good that they didn’t have to uproot themselves.

A lot of times, you want to hire somebody and they’re in another place, and they don’t want to move, their kids are in certain schools or their spouses or partners are kind of trenched in where they are so they’re unable to move.

But they’re the right candidate for your company, from a culture perspective, from a talent perspective and they wanted that to go away. So they went completely virtual five years ago. So it’s funny, because they were using Zoom before people knew what Zoom was and that was one reason.

The other reason is because it’s a point that you’re making. They thought that and it’s turned out to be true, the culture, if they brought people into our organization from around the world, no idea would be US centric, or if he’s in Hong Kong, Hong Kong centric or things like that, but the idea’s that the agency would bring to their clients would kind of be from this diverse group of people, diverse culture, different attitudes and opinion and when you sit down to try to solve a problem, and all these people come to the table, you kind of ensure that you’re coming at this from a global perspective with an open mind. And then when you start to take these ideas from one country to another, they happen to have people who understand exactly the way that people look into the consumer insight from country to country.

So that’s helped a lot too, in terms of that, but it’s a good question because he thinks so often people come to you, you’re an American company, and you come at it from an American perspective, as opposed to being sensitive to other people’s ethnicities and cultures.

Me: Agreed. Do you guys do business in Jamaica?

Antonio stated that they do not, and it’s funny too, his family is from Jamaica and Panama. And they don’t do business there but he would not have a problem to do business there at all.

Me: So you should probably look to expand, now is a great time to expand into new markets, especially with everybody doing things virtually.

App, Website or Tool that Antonio Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about an online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Antonio shared that it’s probably Zoom. Because they probably have in their organization, him alone, he doesn’t even know what other people are doing, he probably has 8 to 10 Zoom calls a day.

And they are with people from all over the world because they have clients in Belgium, they have clients in Hong Kong and in London and in the US and Mexico and things like that.

So it’s a challenge, where it used to be a challenge before, he had to get on a plane and go do all that.

Now, it’s a different challenge in terms of time zones and things, but it makes life easier. But he thinks that’s the one thing.

So, another one would be Basecamp. They use Basecamp in order to kind of give clients transparency. So when they get a new client, for instance, they just signed on new client a couple of days ago who’s based in Hong Kong, one of the first things they do is open up a Basecamp file for them. It’s kind of a pod, and that gives them the opportunity to drop anything that’s relevant about their business into that pod. It also gives us the opportunity, anything that they do for them put into the pod, if there are schedules, they put those in there as well. And clients have the ability to go in and look at the schedules, make sure things are happening when they’re supposed to be happening or if they need input from them, they can go there instead of having to deal if it’s if it’s 2:00 am in the morning their time, but some someplace else it’s 3:00 pm in the afternoon, they can go to Basecamp and pretty much get a lot of answers before even having to speak to them. So he thinks those two are pretty valuable.

Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Antonio

When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Antonio shared that Bob Iger’s book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, the former CEO of Disney, amazing book gives us the ability to kind of look into a lot of the challenges that he had in growing Disney. And he likes to tell people, whether you’re large organization, or small, many of the challenges that you face are the same, it’s just the size of the company. And so, how he handled growth and strategy and how he handled disappointments. What he loves is he puts a lot of the disappointments in there, times that Disney tried to do something and fail, that’s really important to him because he wants to see how a) You can imagine it’s kind of cool knowing that Disney fails at something. But more importantly, how do they handle it? So that’s one.

The other one is Barack Obama’s book, A Promised Land. Fascinating, but also, as a business person when you look at it, the strategy and the planning that goes into running for the President of the United States, it’s very similar to in a business when you’re trying to launch something and everything that he had to go through, both from a personal perspective, which we can then move over to as an entrepreneur, you go through some personal things too to get your business up and running. From a business perspective, who are the right people that you’re going to build for your team. Just like he had to go through what’s the team he’s going to pull together to help him win the election. And so, he thinks that’s a fascinating book.

And then he’s reading now, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. And it’s literally, you don’t have to follow any of the rules, create what’s right for you, which he did, and a lot of people talk a lot of smack about him. But now look who’s laughing now, because he created an organization that was right for him and believed in it and it’s worked pretty well. Those three.

Advice for Improving On The Consistency of Having Motivated Human Capital

Me: We also have a lot of listeners who are business owners and managers who feel from time to time that it’s not that they have poor products, they believe they have great products and services. But one of their challenges is that they lack the constantly motivated human capital. So if you were in a room with one of these managers, or business owners, and you’re sitting across the table from that person, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them to improve on the consistency of having motivated human capital?

Antonio stated that we have a tendency to break rules with our organization, and we do it not just because, we do it because we stop and we put ourselves in the situation of, before you were an entrepreneur, you worked for somebody and he’s sure you thought of the good and the bad with it and how you wanted to be treated.

It’s more than motivation just from a salary perspective and a dollars and cents perspective. It’s, “I’m respected, they understand that there’s some other things that could help.”

So for instance, he’ll give an example. During the summer, on Fridays, every other Friday they shut their business down. And the reason for that is people get three day weekends during the summer and if it’s busy, and then a lot of people go, “Well, I can’t do that, because I can’t have my whole staff out.”

His advice would be if it’s busy, split your staff in half and don’t do half days because people end up not taking them. But split your staff in half and go, “Okay, this week on Friday, you guys are off and then next week, the other half is off.”

“You’re giving them a head nod. In order to be productive, you need to be able to have time to think, experience, to live, to have balance. And when you give employees balance, when they feel like you trust them, a lot of times that’s more important than the dollars and the sense, you can go to another company and make more money, maybe.”

Antonio Buchanan

But when you get the feeling that these people respect me and get it. Another thing they do don’t have vacation time in their organization, if you need to take the time, take the time and realize you’re part of a team.

So they hire grownups and he thinks that’s one of the things that you need to do is make sure you’re hiring grownups, make sure you’re hiring people that are passionate about what they do, and they know why you brought them in. If you hire people like that, then he doesn’t care if you take days off or what you’re doing and things like that, because those people overdo it anyway, those people give you their heart and soul anyway. So you need to take a day off to be with your kid, to be with your partner, whatever, go do it.

And he doesn’t care how much time it is, as long as your teammates are respected and they know that they’re going to have to cover for you whatever that is.

So he thinks that the big thing is respect who you’re working for, think about what you would want if you were a dedicated employee, a dedicated player in an organization, what are the things that would matter and he thinks these days especially with what’s going on, with COVID and everything else, it’s at how can you give up people work life balance, they’re going to give it back to you, when they go and they have a vacation, they come back fresh and you benefit from it too. So he thinks that’s what he would tell people.

What Antonio is Really Excited About Now!

Antonio shared that actually it’s something that they’re doing with a client that’s really exciting. It has something to do with their people, too, because their people are so excited about doing this, that it’s taken kind of the agency to a next level.

They have a client that is a museum, one of the largest museums in the United States, and they came to them and said, “We’re about to celebrate a fairly significant birthday and we want to overhaul our brand. So the logo with the messaging, things like that.”

They went and did some consumer research, and realized that there were a couple of segments that they were missing out on and they would never get, quite honestly, because this segment is a segment that is not going to walk through the doors of a museum, but they want to deal on a digital basis more than walk through the door.

And so, they went back to the client said, “Well, here’s what you asked us for in the first place. But if you’re open, we have an idea.”

And they were like, What’s the idea? They said, “We think that you should not see yourselves as a museum, but see yourselves as a content provider. And you should have a streaming service, like a Netflix, like a Hulu, like something like that, that is specific to the type of museum that you are.”

And that’s a whole new revenue stream, that’s a whole new way of looking at the customer experience. Because the customer experience is no longer when somebody walks through the door. Now the customer experience is 365, 24/7.

And they actually went, let’s present it to the board, which he thought that head of marketing had a lot of nerve to be able to go Yep, I’m with you. Let’s take it to the Board of Directors, and which they did.

And the board said, “We agree, go.” And so since then, for the last 2 years they’ve been helping them build out this streaming service and it’s been really exciting. But what’s happened is, is that it’s pulled the team together with their team internally because it’s this thing that’s never been done before.

And so, when he’s done with this, he’s retired, that’s it, what is he going to do that’s going to beat this after he’s done with this. And that’s a good feeling that you have clients that will give him the opportunity to kind of swing for the fences.

Where Can We Find Antonio Online

Website – www.antonioandparis.com

Twitter – @apbmoxie

Instagram – @apbmoxie

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Antonio Uses

When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Antonio shared that he has a signature on his email that says, “Rules, I’m just not that interested.”

It reminds him of don’t keep yourself in a box a lot of times and don’t look at things and say, “Well, it hasn’t been done before so I guess it can’t be done because somebody would have done it. That’s not true. We all bring something different to the table.” He likes to tell the story like Apple when they created the iPod, iPod was not the first gadget like that. There were mp3 players before and doing the pretty much the same thing. And someone would have probably looked at Apple and said, “Why do you need to do this, there’s already a lot of them in the marketplace.” We hear about the iPhone.

And so break the rules, if you’re passionate about it, ignore the naysayers and do what you want to do.

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