For Board Studios, a calculated risk pays off big time

Telling your company’s story might sound easy, but it’s something that many small businesses find a struggle. Konstantinos Papakonstantinou, who founded Board Studios, is on a mission to help companies simplify their message and explain exactly what they do.

With an Ivy League education and a lengthy career in finance, Papakonstantinou helps companies by producing videos that put their products and services in front of potential customers. Board Studios works with high-profile clients like Alibaba and PepsiCo.

We chatted with this WeWork Fulton Center member about the one big lesson he learned after starting his business and the risks he’s taken to propel his company forward.

WeWork: Where are you from originally, and can you briefly describe your
path to what you’re doing now?

Papakonstantinou: I was born in Athens, Greece, and I came to the U.S. in 1997 to attend college at Harvard for my undergraduate studies and then later Harvard Business School. I spent 10 years in finance, working in investment banking, private equity, and hedge funds. Then in 2012, I was inspired to make the leap into entrepreneurship and started Board Studios.

WeWork: Did you have an “Aha!” moment when you knew that you wanted to start your own business?

Papakonstantinou: I wanted to start my own business for many years before I actually took the plunge. Finance affected that decision in two ways: it makes you very conservative, and you’re always calculating risks. It also pays really well, so the opportunity cost of being adventurous is very high.

I took a very measured approach. I started the business while working at a hedge fund, built the website on my own until I got a paying client, reinvested the money for a better website, and so forth. I quit when I started making more money on this “side” business than at the hedge fund. I find building my own business infinitely more fulfilling and rewarding than finance.

WeWork: Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur and creator? And what does being one mean to you?

Papakonstantinou: Absolutely. Being an entrepreneur means having a vision for something new, executing that vision, and leading others towards the same vision. A creator comes up with something out of nothing. The toughest thing is working without parameters, diving into the unknown without a lifesaver. You have to figure out every day how to best allocate limited resources, how to augment these resources, and how to compete against incumbents.

WeWork: What has been your biggest screw up so far and how did you recover?

Papakonstantinou: Hiring—and firing—has been a real challenge in the past. I was very hopeful that I had found the right person and jumped in with both feet. I offered a very high salary and all the support I could muster. I knew it wasn’t working, but I kept giving it one more shot when I shouldn’t. Since then, I have become much more decisive.

WeWork: What is the most challenging part of your job, and how do you keep yourself from burning out?

Papakonstantinou: I haven’t found anyone to replicate parts of the job I was doing before, and now I’ve added people on sales and business development, so we’re expanding. I’m trying to balance the day-to-day operations, managing people, and figuring out how to evolve. I haven’t figured it out yet!

WeWork: Has there been a point when you’ve decided to take a big risk to move forward?

Papakonstantinou: On January 1, 2015, we went all in, making a big jump for the company. We opened a new office, hired two people, invested in SEM and on an outbound sales coach. Already, we have nixed SEM and outbound sales coaching, albeit at a substantial cost. For our size, that was a very big bet.

Our culture is to always make bets and test new things. Our latest bet is a content marketing innovation: We’re producing video summaries of our favorite books, which are distributed for free to subscribers. We’re incurring a big expense without charging anyone for the value we’re delivering. The bet is that by showcasing our production capabilities, we’ll win new clients and it’s starting to work!

WeWork: Your favorite drink to start or end the day?

Papakonstantinou: I wish I had a good one for you, but I start the day with a high-protein shake, hoping to prove Tim Ferriss’ weight loss theory right.

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