As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful Service Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Zach Boyette.
Zach Boyette is Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Galactic Fed, a multinational, fully-remote marketing agency with employees all around the world. Previously he worked at Google, Toptal, and Procter & Gamble.
Given the remote nature of his work, Zach is a “digital nomad,” living full-time out of Airbnbs, and moving locations every few weeks (with the exception of current COVID lockdowns, of course). In the last 4 years alone he has visited 50+ countries, from western Europe to Morocco to Japan to Colombia and everywhere in between. Zach is also an alumnus of Remote Year, a travel program for working professionals.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I am the Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Galactic Fed, a fully-remote, multinational marketing agency with employees and contractors worldwide. I previously worked at Google, Procter & Gamble, and led the Paid Hypergrat Toptal, a $1B+ startup.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I’ve always been interested in marketing. My initial startup company couldn’t quite find traction and the right product-market fit. So, from other experiences like working at P&G, Google, and running the paid media team at Toptal, I realized my love for digital marketing. I loved working with Google ads, Facebook ads, SEO, but I wanted to do this for more people, I wanted to have a more scaled impact, and I wanted to help a lot of different companies grow.
So, starting an agency made a lot of sense because I have a background in this space. I told my colleagues at Toptal that I was leaving, and discovered that my colleague, Irina Papuc, was also going to start her agency in the same space — so it was a perfect fit for us to join co-founders. I focus on paid media; she focuses on SEO. With our similar approach, it made sense for us to join forces, and Galactic Fed was born. We both bonded over our love for travel, understanding that good work can be done from anywhere, and our desire to shake up the traditional marketing agency.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The first encounter I had with Google Ads was when I was working a high school job at a pizza place in Chattanooga, TN. I was the pizza mule in the back of the kitchen, shoving pizzas into an oven, but not allowed to eat any of them. I got to chatting with the owner, and he said he was trying “The AdWords,” and asked if I could take a look. So I ended up running his Google AdWords account for that summer and probably did a terrible job. Just bidding on broad match keywords like “pizza,” I had no idea what I was doing. But I thought it was the coolest platform ever, and it opened my eyes up to the power of digital marketing.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Having a positive impact is crucial to the work we do at Galactic Fed. We founded a company with a mission to help other companies grow and reach their goals. At the same time, we have a company that encourages a positive work-life balance, and our remote work culture gives our staff the freedom to create fulfilling lives. We’ve also made the non-profit arm of our company, Galactic Good, that helps non-profit organizations scale up their marketing efforts.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
Futuristic: we remain on top and ahead of industry trends, and scientifically test it out to see what will work for our clients.
Radically honest and approachable: we are straight-talkers with our staff and clients, and keep both our “doors” and communication open at all times.
Hyper-focused in our zone of genius: we know what we do, and we do it well, and the same goes for our employees. We employ each of them to own their talent and be their best.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
People over profits. We’ve had a few instances where we had to “fire” clients who were being rude to our employees, and those are my proudest moments. I’m fiercely loyal to our team.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My first startup was a do it yourself, drag and drop website builder for people to make personal websites like ZachBoyette.com, called Recsy.
This was around the time when Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, those companies were getting big. I coded the entire thing along with my Co-Founder, Marissa, and taught myself Ruby on Rails and how to code. I was coding for like 16 hours a day, all senior year of college, and into my first job. I had this couch that I would sit on that had a hole in it from me just sitting there coding all night. So I’d say those are my first entrepreneurial ventures.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
Things are great, thanks for asking! Haha. Galactic Fed is growing like crazy, and I’m so lucky to be surrounded by all the smart people we’ve hired, which speaks to how remote work is in the DNA of Galactic Fed. We can hire the best people wherever they live, and a great company is made up of great talent.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Hire the best people, and hire them early. They’ll define your culture for years to come.
2. Prioritize your employees over your clients. We’ve “fired” several clients over the years who were a**holes to our employees, and I don’t regret it at all. I’m building this company as a haven for smart nerds like me, and nobody deserves to work with people who make them uncomfortable.
3. Remote work is the future. We’ve been able to scale insanely fast and with brilliant people because we are remote. It is the ultimate job perk.
4. Religiously document everything you do. Our Galactic Fed Way blueprint is the backbone of our company.
5. Don’t be cheap when it comes to employee education and learning. We spend months on-boarding new hires to make sure they’re at the top of their game before throwing them in the deep end.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m eternally thankful for my co-founder, Irina Papuc. We’re best friends, and I trust her with my life. We had a mini “co-founder offsite” in Chicago recently, just drinking beers and walking along the river in the summertime, watching the boats go by. It was great to catch up on the progress we’ve made in the last few years and how much further we have to go.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’m incredibly interested in climate change. After Galactic Fed, I’d love to start a business in this space, particularly addressing the inevitable mass human migration due to climate change that will occur in the coming years.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter: @zachboyette, LinkedIn