We had the good fortune of connecting with Richie Zarnicki Nick McKenzie and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Richie Zarnicki, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Nick: Before COVID hit I was still in the routine of my 9 to 5, and during that time I wish I had more time to study digital marketing. I was furloughed as soon as the world shut down while simultaneously given the opportunity to turn our marketing services into a full-time business. We were thrusted into a do-or-die situation to make this business happen, because at the time there was no fall-back plan with the state of the economy. In those initial months we spent hours upon hours in a sort of “marketing bootcamp” to learn, build, and adapt with our clients industries and evolve our marketing skills while ignoring other aspects of our life like health, creating, & socializing. As soon as we laid down the foundation of our business, we recognized a need to establish balance in our business with our overall physical and mental health. With time, we were able to create more efficient systems while maintaining and improving the quality of the results we were servicing to clients. This extra time opened up space to give attention to what we saw as “empty time.” In where we plan times during the work day to have no plan, to intently not think about work. After asking a challenging business question I would go walk outside, journal, meditate, rock climb, or whatever in order to let that question sit without any mental stress on solving it. When I returned to work, I noticed it was a lot easier to receive an epiphany after my mind was less cluttered, and possibly working itself out while I was “gone.” Balance to me is figuring out how to have all aspects in life complement and enhance each other instead of taking away. Rich: I was fortunate enough to still have a job when COVID hit since my industry was labeled essential. Just like Nick, we were stuck in the 9-5 work mentality and it wasn’t until the first month of COVID we had opportunities to officially grow our marketing services. It was extremely tough to fit marketing skill learning, 9-5 job, working on existing clients, squeezing time in for physical health and lastly dealing with daily life obstacles. I decided to respectfully leave my day job to contribute 100% with Nick to set the foundations for Z&M. It was then we started to lay the groundwork for which tasks we can take care of on a daily basis and create minor systems that would evolve over time. Providing the best customer service was the blueprint for our business and in order to do so a lot of virtual communication was needed at random times over the day. We were hungry for results and it didn’t matter how long it took, as long as we executed. We have a decent understanding of how to stay healthy mentally and physically, but we didn’t have much experience with time management since we are now in charge of our time. Nick & I went from working 8 plus hour days to working the same amount or less with more effectiveness. We each developed a morning and daily routine to compliment our work. Before I log on in the morning I will do a light exercise, do light reading or simply walk to let my thoughts unwind. Throughout the day I take mini breaks to move around or focus on physical activity. My goal is to take a break when I feel fatigued mentally, it’s like hitting the refresh button.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Richie: We believe we are different simply because we hear our client’s problems, we provide solutions and we execute by keeping ourselves accountable. We don’t portray ourselves as marketers but “your partners”. Nick & I don’t work with client competitors so our goal is to do everything we can to make our clients successful with their customers. Our story goes back to 2014. We all have inspirations, some are realistic within reach, some take time to achieve & others are dreams we wish of. Nick & I talked about creating a business back in 2014, it was like a dream to us since we barely had any skills, no money in our pockets but a slight amount of marketing knowledge. 4 years go by as we took different career paths but somehow managed to develop our marketing skills and it seemed like creating a marketing business became within reach. 1 year later in 2019 we took the opportunity to land our first client and it was at that moment we realized that anything is possible. We can tell you this was no easy ride, there was a lot of uncertainty but if you stick to executing and enjoying the process, you will succeed. Nick: Biggest lesson? Knowing you are 100% responsible for every action and non-action you make, and success is completely up to us. There is a sort of exhilarating feeling of freedom combined with a dreadful fear of failure that’s been lingering over us the last ten months. We were thrown into running a business out of necessity last march, so we were forced to find order during a chaotic time. I like to think because we built a business and thrived during COVID that we can handle any challenge to come.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Nick: We are both from the Chicago area, but I moved to Colorado Springs during COVID while Richie stayed in Chicago. My best friends are coming to the Springs this March to stay out here for a month. I am still learning the area, but I am going to take them hiking at section 16 and the Cheyenne mountain area. We may attempt to hike Pikes Peak at some point and try out the incline trail. For rock climbing and bouldering we will go to my gym City Rock. For cafes, we will work at the european style cafe in Old Colorado City called Jives Coffee Lounge, and The Exchange near downtown on Tejon. After we work at The Exchange we may go next door to COATI Uprise for live music and a beer. Richie: This is tough to summarize Chicago into a paragraph. The food, forgettaboutit, we’ll be eating good all week. I’d first show you the vibes in the downtown area of River North, Gold Coast, The Loop and Streeterville with all the buildings and shops. Next I’d introduce you to the West Loop and Fulton Market area, this has the same vibes as downtown with less noise. Next on the list is Wicker and Lincoln Park. You have to get a feel for the authentic side of Chicago. The music, the creativity and the energy of the people really make these neighborhoods different. Lastly we would visit a condo rooftop in Old Town overlooking the skyline and suburbs in one view, it’s my favorite view of the city.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Richie: I have several shoutouts that I’d like to mention. First, not just a book but the mentality of Tim Ferris, the famous author of 4-Hour Workweek, more best selling books alike and podcasts interviewing intellectual people from all over the world. His approach to life, business, and health has introduced me to a perspective that has helped me grow in all aspects that I wish I read upon sooner. Lastly, my mom and dad for their support and doing everything they can to help me succeed. Nick: I agree with Richie on Tim Ferris as well. Of course my family for encouraging me and answering my questions when I was annoyingly curious at times. My grandfather for when he let me shadow him during real estate showings. He taught me without words how to respect, exercise patience, and care for his customers. My girlfriend for bouncing ideas off with and giving me amazing insight with business in general. Also, huge credit for my business partner Richie. 7 or 8 years ago I was driving home and did not have enough money to put gas in my car. He drove out to help with the situation, and at that moment we made a firm decision to not let finances be a burden, and to grow a business we can be proud of.