An interview with G Studio Branding Agency founder Jan Hofmeyr on 20 years in the branding business.
Tell us about how you got started in the branding business.
I founded G Studio Branding Agency in 2003 in my mid-twenties after completing my studies in engineering and marketing and doing some international traveling. I’ve always been an entrepreneurial person and I knew I wanted to start my own business and that I wanted to be in advertising. Myself and my co-founders set up in a garage and just got going. Here we are, two decades later, ten times bigger and still loving what we do.
What drives you as an entrepreneur, and what are the foundations of a successful business?
My personality makes me automatically seek out and recognise opportunities. If the opportunity presents itself in a way where I can work with the players involved, I take a shot. I have the assets to brand and market it, and I see the opportunity, and I get a conversation going with like-minded partners.
The foundations of a successful business are good people and good systems. I love businesses where sales and marketing teams are aligned because it prevents waste of time and resources. These are to my mind, the most successful. Where departments and teams communicate and work synergistically.
What do you think sets G Studio Agency apart from its competitors?
We take a larger and more holistic view of business and marketing. We are there for every step of the process for our clients, from foundation to growth to failure to recovery. Perseverance, consistency, and partnerships built on trust are all important factors.
With technology evolving so quickly, what is the best way to stay ahead and relevant in your industry?
Research and application are critical. You need to read, test, and talk to people. As a conversational learner, I ask my team to check it out and see if it works for us. You also need to understand the tools and apply them.
What is one of the toughest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
The buck stops with you, so make sure you take responsibility when things don’t work out. The toughest lesson I’ve learned (and re-learned) is to be detailed-oriented. Never assume. Cover yourself through a paper trail. Keep records of everything. You have to check, double-check, and check again. Murphy’s Law has taught me that if things can go wrong, they will, so set up processes, checks and balances through every step of production.
Can you share some insights on the key to staying in business and riding the wave when things get tough? How do you stay resilient?
Understanding the market, the business, what influences it, the channels, and the tools are all critical factors. Being through-the-line and offering an end-to-end service is essential. It’s not just about the detail, but it’s also about the overall objective. It’s playing a strategic long game to create, build, and grow businesses and see them through tough times by being a good tactician. If it’s strategic, creative, and markets the business, it will succeed.
How do you identify people’s strengths and ensure they have your back?
I look for people who hold themselves accountable and take responsibility. I work with specialists and play to people’s strengths. I’m relationally oriented and use HR and gauging tools.
Responsibility, talent, skill, training, knowledge, and experience are essential factors for me. Ultimately, people who don’t want to take ownership and don’t take risks are different from me. Risk and pressure help drive me creatively, and it can be an activator and a motivator.
Is work-life balance possible in the branding industry, and how do you manage stress?
Part of my DNA is seeking opportunities, connecting, and networking, and that doesn’t feel like work to me. What feels like work is boundary management, which is challenging for a business owner like me who has multiple businesses running at once.
To manage stress, I do things with integrity, take ownership of mistakes, and do better next time. My spirituality and my religion also help me manage stress. Ultimately, even if it’s not your fault, it’s still your problem, and you need to step up and sort it out.
What are your thoughts on technologies like Chat GPT and design AI, and do they have a place in your business?
We think AI is new. But it’s been around for decades. Google Images is a form of AI. It’s been around forever. Chat GPT is not different. It’s just an iteration of a very targeted search algorithm. It’s more sophisticated and refined.
We certainly cannot ignore it. We have to embrace and explore it. It needs to supplement the industry as a whole. I think we are figuring it out. It feels like a new toy and it has immediate benefits but we aren’t sure where it’s going yet.
Technologies that use algorithms and content cannot replace human experience and creativity or our ability to connect on an emotional level.
In some ways, AI tools give people too many options. That’s where our experience and expertise guide the client. The context and experience and expertise we have is invaluable.
Design is a medium but the expertise is how you put it together. It’s the same with compelling storytelling. We still need that human touch, at least right now.
Even if ChatGPT writes you an amazing marketing plan, who is going to expedite it, manage costs and logistics etc?
How much do personal relationships still matter in business today? Are they less important or more important than ever?
It’s pivotal. People do business with people. Business is still completely relational. G Studio really comes to life when we change things up. We give brands substance. A grounding. An integrity. A story. We are great at building strong foundations for brands. If you do it properly, it lasts.
Tell us a little about managing and inspiring people. How do you keep morale up during times of crisis?
Through transparency. I am realistic, but I also play a long game. We have been here for twenty years. We know what we are doing. We know how to adapt, to scale up or down, and I am always direct and honest with my team. I am an optimist. When I feel something needs to happen, I trust my instincts and I act. You need to act on your gut. And you need to commit. You can’t keep changing your mind. If you can substantiate your offer, commit to it with pride. Motivate. Your conviction will help sell the pitch to others because there’s work behind it. I don’t believe in doing something that doesn’t have an impact. It has to matter.
What’s the key to managing a number of businesses at the same time?
Systems. Strong communication and being able to delegate. People who can deliver the results. Understand the objective. Know your people and work accordingly.
After twenty years in the industry, what are you proudest of?
We have and are working with a global audience on a global scale. That has given me a lot of validation and joy. It’s why I started doing this in the first place. It feels like a great privilege to apply all that knowledge and share that experience with every client. The work is so diverse, but the principles don’t change. Ideas. Good implementation. And ensuring solid returns on investment for our partners.
G Studio Branding Agency is adhering to all levels of the national lockdown and will work remotely until further notice.
Our team is ready to take on and overcome any challenges that may be posed by these circumstances. We don’t expect our services to be impacted during the lockdown period, and our team has planned meticulously to ensure that you receive the same level of assistance.
Our systems are expected to perform without fault during this time. We have addressed business-continuity planning, to mitigate risk for our clients.
During the upcoming lockdown period, kindly take note of the following details:
Throughout this period, we will fulfil all obligations without fail.
Our team is working towards the long term prosperity of this world.
The G Studio Branding Agency Team