I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.
- Can you please tell everyone your name?
Maximillian Kirchoff, but most folks call me Max.
2. Tell us about your business and what you do?
LAMA SIX is a creative agency that I launched with my business partner, Isla Murray. The name is actually an anagram of our first names. We specialize in Branding, Visual Identity, Design and Digital Experiences. We work with some of the biggest and smallest companies around, from 1-person startups to giant gaming and tech companies, and all kinds in between. We create innovative strategies, design compelling brands and stories, and build bold, new ideas.
3. Why did you want to become an entrepreneur?
There were really three main reasons that drove my desire to build a business.
First, I wanted to have control over my time and my work. I dropped out of college and found myself moving between jobs frequently. I initially thought this was a “problem” with me, but as I progressed in my career I came to realize that it was because my employers, and often my managers, couldn’t move at the rapid pace I could and they would trivialize my need for variety in my work. I am a hardcore polymath, something I’ve found very common with other entrepreneurs.
Second, I value people over process. This sounds like something a business may say it values as well, but it is rarely true. During my first review cycle, when I worked at Google, I outperformed many of my direct colleagues, both new and established. This was for my core tasks as well as goals and metrics outside of my role. I had an incredible first 6 months. When my review came around my manager told me “everyone gets a ‘meets expectations’ on their first review.” “Meets Expectations” is an average rating for Google reviews, think 3 out of 5. I protested that my work and record showed that I was performing well beyond an average rating. The manager agreed that I was but said “everyone gets this rating on their first review, sorry.” That is the epitome of process over people. I didn’t want to work in a community where “this is just how we do things” was ever an excuse, and eventually realized I would have to build my own company.
Third, I have an incredible business partner and collaborator. She inspires me as well as our clients, and is one of the best people I’ve been able to work with. I knew we needed to start our own company, if not for any other reason just to ensure we would keep working together.
4. What are the challenging aspects of running a business?
I am equal parts creative and technical — but zero parts business. Businesses are living, breathing entities that need care, thought, direction, and lots of hard work. I’ve had to learn a lot just to understand how to keep our business moving without getting too distracted by the customers we serve and their projects. Running a business is a big job, and it’s not the same as just working on projects or products — it’s much more than that. The most challenging aspect for me is balancing where the business is now, where it needs to be in 6 months and where it needs to be in 5 years. Those are all very different times with different goals — that sometimes compete. Occasionally you need to say NO to a project that would pay the rent because it’s a relationship or project that will hurt you in the long run. Running a business means knowing how and when those compromises need to be made. And having confidence in yourself even when you may not be sure your decision was right.
5. What do you love most about your job?
Our customers and our collaborators. We get to solve really interesting problems for incredible people — and we normally get to do it with friends who we are inspired by. The trust that our customers put in us is lovely and helps me feel like we’re doing exactly what we should be. I value our customers and collaborators very much, as they both put their businesses and careers in our care, and let us do our best to solve their problems or enhance their vision.
6. How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
Early in my career I played a lot of pranks. I think this can be a lot of fun with the right group. For me, I’ve changed a bit and now get a lot more enjoyment in caring for my colleagues. I have fun by connecting over coffee and talking about life, sharing my hobbies, and getting to know them on a deeper level. I love to laugh, and laughter becomes much more fulfilling when you have a deeper connection with the people around you.
7. What would one piece of advice that you give to a new business owner?
Include goals in your business and your own development as a leader that are not related to money or status. Your colleagues and employees aren’t the only people in the business, you are a person too. Your emotional, social and physical health should be a priority just as much as the quarterly profit. It is much easier to build a healthy business if you are a healthy person.
Make it a goal to learn a new skill, spend time with your family or pets, volunteer at a local charity, or spend time outdoors doing things like Stand-Up Paddleboarding (one of my goals! :P)
Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web: