Alberto Jaen was a Creative Director and Executive Creative Director for multinational companies at Leo Burnett, BBDO, and JWT NY for fifteen years. During this time, he received 23 international awards and recognitions from Cannes Lions, Art Directors Club Europe, The One Show, Cristal Festival Europe, Young Guns, Eurobest, or New York Festival. He was also a jury member at different International Advertising Festivals like the New York Festival or AdStar in Asia.
He is the Founder & CEO of Plus305, an Impact Creative Boutique for social impact with offices in Miami/Zurich. Some of their clients are VIACOM/CBS, Real Madrid, Air Europa, Miami Dade College, 3M, SONY Music, Swatch, or Baloise Group.
He is also a Co-Founder of HULA App (a Zero Waste App based on the bartering of products and services which recently became a winner at the UN Global Contest for Circular Economy 2020).
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Alberto Jaen: Probably seeing my father working in advertising. Going with him to the shootings of commercials opened the doors of storytelling to me. My mom is very creative, too, she cooks and paints very well, so I guess I grew up in an environment where coming up with ideas was part of our ‘everyday’.
I worked at Leo Burnett, BBDO, and JWT New York. But in 2014, I quit my job in NYC and I founded plus305. I wanted to step out of big ad agencies. I wanted to create another approach to the communication business that inspires me and makes me feel good about what I do.
And then in 2016, I met my partner in life and business, Nadja Scherrer, working for a big Tech Company in Silicon Valley. We both had the same interests and vision of how we wanted to help make companies more conscious and hopefully make the world a little bit better. So she joined plus305 as a partner and we started focusing on the Social Impact and Social Responsibility field.
It has been a challenging but beautiful journey, using our resources, experience, and talents to create a different narrative for organizations and help them walk the talk. Building a brand based on values and purpose, using creativity and culture transformation as the main tools.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Alberto Jaen: I’m definitely not self-made. My life is full of people who have helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be here without my parents and siblings, who created a stable environment in which I was able to grow and form my own opinion. My partner Nadja, who is a human being full of light and energy that makes things happen.
Everyone who has given me opportunities since I started 20 years ago. Creative directors, brand managers, account people, co-workers, janitors, clients that trusted me and shared the same values, making every challenge inspiring, friends from inside and outside this business. My coach, Miguel Angel, helped me work on myself. Nelson, CEO at Voices For Children Foundation, where I’m part of the board. He opened my eyes to the positive change that we all can make in our community, in this case, Miami.
In this life you don’t have problems if you have friends… And in business, I always say that I have never been the cleverest guy, but I’ve tried to surround myself with people that are cleverer than me, that challenge me and make me better. In this life you need others who support you, believe in you and make you a better person in the process. If your business doesn’t make you grow as a person, it’s a waste of time.
A person I will never forget and who has touched me deeply in many ways was Miguel Angel Furones, former Worldwide Creative Director at Leo Burnett, who left us this year because of COVID. He was very important to me from the beginning, a mentor that believed in me before I did. One day in a restaurant, a minister from the government came to our table to greet him. Later, a young trainee came to our table to greet him, too. He smiled and treated them the same way. On the way back to the office, he told me how he believes that everyone is equally important, the job position, however, is only temporary.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons you learned from that?
Alberto Jaen: Being an entrepreneur is like jumping from a plane and building the parachute on the way down. It’s about learning new things every day and being flexible and resilient in the face of all the challenges on the journey. Every meeting is key, you don’t know where the opportunities will eventually come from. I don’t know if it’s a mistake but it’s a very funny story that happened to me on our way to an important meeting. For those who don’t know Miami, let me tell you that it sometimes literally pours down from one moment to another, sometimes, it even rains heavily in one street while it is totally sunny in the next street.
Well, that day, I had to present a big campaign to a CEO of a big organization that is very well-known in Miami. In fact, it had taken us a long time to make this meeting with the top management happen. I dropped off my partner at the door of the building and I went to uncovered parking that was around 50 meters away. At the moment that I switch off the engine of the car, a brutal storm started. Everything was flooded in seconds. The meeting was about to start so I decided to run, but the rain was incredibly intense. I ran anyway. The moment I arrived at the building, I was soaking wet, it looked like I had gotten a shower with my suit on. But I really didn’t want to miss this meeting, so I decided to go to the restaurant downstairs and ask them at least for a dry shirt. Of course, they just gave me what they had, so the shirt was part of the waiters’ uniform.
Two minutes later, I was doing the whole presentation wearing the uniform of the waiters from the restaurant downstairs, with their big logo on my chest. For those of you who are wondering, the owner of the restaurant felt so bad that he let me keep the T-shirt. I still have it. After all, it’s a great memory.
I have, of course, gone through a lot of bad experiences and made many mistakes during all these years. That’s the only way to succeed. I learned from the beginning that when you get into a very bad, uncomfortable, and unfortunate situation, you just have to keep going. Like Churchill used to say: “when you’re in hell, keep walking”.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Alberto Jaen: In business and entrepreneurship, it is extremely important to be resilient. To me, resilience means sticking to your goal, your values, even when the scenario or circumstances are not favorable. It’s the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It’s about bouncing back from every crisis, and there are so many… It’s that ability to see the bright side of the story, keep being optimistic but without being unrealistic. It’s believing in yourself, no matter what.
Now we’re living in critical times, and this global uncertainty can be even harder for entrepreneurs. That’s why it is crucial to be stronger than your doubts. To use discipline when you feel unmotivated, to always remember why you started, and to dream harder than most people.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Alberto Jaen: Seven years ago, when plus305 was born, we already thought about the future. We loved the idea of building the Creative Impact Boutique of the future. Back in the day, when we talked about Social Responsibility or Social Impact in meetings, many organizations did not think that this needed to be part of their agenda. At the same time, we had to reject companies that wanted to use us to do greenwashing.
Today, sustainability is becoming part of the business plan of many companies. Now, finally, we’re the Creative Impact Boutique of the present… Throughout all this time, we have had the opportunity to accompany many companies, foundations, and organizations on their sustainability journey, making it more effective, inspiring, and creative.
Now, it’s our goal to, in 5 years from now, be a social innovation hub that has the next 5 years in mind. There are many exciting projects and initiatives that we’re working on to launch into the next years of impact. We have also started our journey to becoming a certified B corporation. Our goal is to keep investing in building more and more ways to make a positive change on real issues hand in hand with brands, companies, and organizations.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Alberto Jaen: Probably empathy, discipline, and vision.
- Empathy to face problems from another point of view. To understand what’s really happening in a situation and keep your ego in check.
- Being disciplined is the only way to keep the right energy and environment in the team, even in the worst crisis. You need to walk the talk.
- And to have a clear vision and stick to that. The path to that can change, but the vision should always be there.
Overall, you should leave your ego at the door.
How important do you think it is for a leader to be mindful of his own brand?
Alberto Jaen: It’s very important. We’ve seen many examples in the last few years. The image and reputation of CEOs can devalue a company in 24 hours. Just think of what happened with former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, who confronted an Uber driver violently. He had to step out because it directly affected the value of the company. It’s really important for a CEO to walk the talk of the organization that they represent.
The same is happening the other way around when companies name new CEOs to increase the value of a company and improve its reputation. That usually happens a few months before an IPO at the stock market.
How would you define “leadership”?
Alberto Jaen: Probably the one that is invisible but essential. I mean invisible because it’s not about a title, it’s about a mix between talent and attitude. Respect shouldn’t be granted but earned. Leadership means working for the people, making people grow, inspiring people to own their talents, and building more leaders. It’s about recognizing valuable ideas they have and making things happen. And something that is very important is to avoid victimhood. You cannot be a victim and responsible at the same time.
It’s very important to take charge, be hands-on, and avoid making excuses. A leader needs to make decisions, keep the vision alive and tell the world what the organization believes in through the way it behaves.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Alberto Jaen: I’ve seen so many different types of successful entrepreneurs that I can’t say that there is a perfect formula or advice for everyone. What is important, however, is neither taking business advice from people who have no experience with entrepreneurship (even if you love them and they love you) nor from people who don’t work in the same industry. Most people will tell you that what you do is risky and it might not work.
My advice, in general, is to be flexible, resilient, and patient. And learn how to manage frustration.
You have to remember that there’s room for almost everyone in the market. You just need to do well what you say you do well, solve a problem, and you’ll get the part of the cake you need to be successful.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Alberto Jaen: I once heard a “life lesson” quote from Naval Ravikant that got me: “Every man has 2 lives, and the second starts when he realizes he has just one”. There’s another one that has also made me think: “A healthy person has a thousand wishes, a sick person only one”.
These are the kind of thoughts that make me try and see life from a different perspective. I think we’re too busy being busy, we waste too much time trying to impress others. Life should be simpler. Everyone should have their own measure of success, we should work on ourselves and find out what really makes us happy. It might even be work, too. But happiness is the new rich. Every time we think that life is hard, we have to ask ourselves “compared to what or who?”…
In this first world, we should be more thankful for every opportunity we have.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alberto Jaen for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Alberto Jaen or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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