Max Durovic, founder of AArrow Advertising, shares his illustrious achievements and challenges he faced as he turned a summer job into the world’s largest guerilla marketing franchise.
By BoRi Kim on July 22, 2013
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture? How did the idea for your business come about?
Hunger. My first business was as a DJ in high school so that I literally had money for food, plus I had three other jobs on the side. I was always hustling. As far as AArrow is concerned, the initial spark came from being a frustrated employee at another company where I was a temporary worker just standing there. I wanted to make the job more fun and the service more effective. My company gave me as many raises as they could afford to, but eventually my friends and I thought it would be fun to start our own business that focused on our niche concept and keep more of the profits.
What was your mission at the outset? What is the core value or philosophy of this company?
Our mission was and is: To create exciting job opportunities for young people and innovative advertising solutions for our clients. We have since added: We will provide our licensees with dynamic training and support in order to create social entrepreneurs that add value to society.
What kind of resources (not just financial) did you have when you started the venture? What sort of network did you have?
My family has a number of attorneys in it, including my mother, who offered oversight and advice with the filing of licenses, taxes, and other official paperwork. My network really only included my friends from my neighborhood in California, and my roommate from college. My professors acted as mentors and allowed me to do class projects on my company, which then got my classmates involved. Starting a business when in college is the smartest thing you can do because the network is already established, including alumni who are potential investors.
What are your responsbilities as the business owner? What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
As the owner, everything is your responsibility at the end of the day. You can hire employees, purchase insurances, and have third party suppliers, but you ultimately have to take responsibility for the delivery of your product or service and the leadership of your team. Top 3 skills needed are alternative vision, self discipline & motivation and flexibility.
What is your competitive advantage of AArrow Advertising and why can’t it be copied?
Many people have tried to copy us by spinning signs, or having people hold them, but without the names for the tricks, and the competitions, and the network of other spinners around the world it just doesn’t work. You can’t copy first, so as long as we stay relevant everyone else will just be a knock off, giving us an economic advantage. Because we have the biggest clients, we can pay the most, and offer the best opportunities to spinners to share their talent, so we always have the best people. My corporate team has been working together for 10 years, and we all spin and have grown into seasoned executives. It is very hard to replicate our specific set of skills and resources, and we are so open to partnerships that I can’t see why anyone would want to.
What risks are you facing as you manage this business? How did you overcome them?
In each new city, we always have to fight to get enough clients to stay in business and have enough work for our employees, and not every franchise has been successful. We try and maximize the probability of success and minimize risk by being very selective about which cities we expand to and who we chose to work with. Minimizing risk on the client side means collecting deposits or keeping a credit card on file in case of late payment.
How do you define success?
Success is the ability to walk away without a decrease in performance. As a parent that moment comes when your child leaves home and gets a home of their own and begins to build their own life with a new family. As an entrepreneur it is very much the same thing, and one the company will run itself with just a pesky phone call from me every now and then.
How do you build a successful customer base? How do you generate new ideas?
Building a good customer base means having repeat customers and focusing on the customer lifetime value, not just a onetime generation of profit. This means you need superior customer service, and to create a memorable experience. We get ideas for new customers by just keeping our eyes open for other ads (our competitors kind of) on the radio, TV, newspaper, and outside.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
A good website is the most important thing for any business these days. You have to allow customers to interact with by creating forms with the necessary action steps. You also have to do some crazy guerrilla marketing; something no one else is doing so that people take notice for a positive reason.
To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?
Most of our success comes from working together well as a team. No one person is the best at everything but together our team is: Hard working and willing to go the extra mile; Creative problem solvers; Accountable to others and to each other; Passionate about our company and the role the play; Not afraid to change.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moment was the day my 90 year old grandmother returned home to Croatia after 30 years to see her twin brothers and to attend our Croatian sign spinning championship which was televised on the local news. I am very proud of all of the jobs we create, especially in the developing world.
Does AArrow Advertising carry out any CSR activities? Does your company help the community where it is located? If not, do you plan to implement CSR activities in future?
AArrow is a social enterprise, dedicated primarily to youth employment which makes us inherently very active in the community. We work closely with local schools and youth organizations in each city offering job training and readiness to all students. We also donate signs and advertising service to non-profit organizations and charities in order to generate awareness for their causes and events.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
Being an entrepreneur means owning your time, and deciding what activities have the most value to you as opposed as being told what to do or having a quota that does not value some intangible results.
How do Americans accept social entrepreneur? What does it mean to be a social entrepreneur?
Being a social entrepreneur means focusing on the value you create for society not just the profit you create for your shareholders. America is slowly starting to appreciate the value of social entrepreneurs in the media, but investors are not providing funding for companies solely based on this factor.
Are there fundamental differences between social and for-profit founders?
The biggest difference between a social entrepreneur and the founder of a company solely focused on profit is the core of their value system. This will dictate how the make tough decisions, and what they decided to do with the profits from the business.
Has your goals and values change since the beginning? If so, how did it change overtime?
Our goals have not as much changed as they have evolved. We started AArrow with the dream of having more sign spinners that billboards, and since that has not happened yet, it is still a dream.
Where you see yourself and your business in 10 years to 20 years?
We are very focused on growing the business throughout the world to the top 50 international cities, and the top 100 cities in the US.