Neil Chaudhari is the CEO of Propane.Agency. He is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Neil provides the leadership and energy that has inspired the creation of Propane.Agency. Neil Chaudhari joins other leading CEOs and Founders taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team has recently awarded Propane.Agency with our Impact Company of 2019 award. We are delighted to have Neil join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview.
Neil, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day for this interview about your company, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
1. Neil, please tell us about Propane.Agency.
Propane is a digital platform and experience agency. We work to augment marketing and digital transformation initiatives. Our full-services include: brand strategy, content strategy, creative design, digital experience, development, and connecting marketing ecosystems. Founded in 2003, we deliver experiences that inspire action with brands like Kaiser Permanente, Equinix, GE, Intel, CalAmp, Banner Health, Volkswagen, and Clarisonic.
At heart, Propane is a strategic and creative agency rooted in delivering well-conceived solutions across the entire marketing ecosystem. By developing a deep understanding of the way consumers engage with a brand (when, where, how and with what goals in mind), we create authentic experiences, campaigns and platforms that simultaneously advance our clients’ objectives while offering utility and true value for consumers.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Propane.Agency?
The idea of Propane started about the same time the internet was starting, back in the mid 90s. While it was not officially operationalized till 2003, the purpose was always the same; that is, to use digital to improve the way humans connect with each other over this new online medium. The vision has now expanded to include connections between businesses partners, products, and employees of brands.
3. What is the key to your company’s success?
To consistently innovate and invest in strategy, design and development equally. Some say you can’t be good at all three. Propane has proven that false since day one only because we don’t look at them as three separate departments, we look at them as essential ingredients to get digital experiences right in the first place.
4. Many of our readers are just starting to build a company. What advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?
It depends on what kind of company they are trying to build. If its a service company, partner with others that have already laid the groundwork, don’t start from scratch like we did. If its a product company, learn how to work with partners so that you can create value faster, as its all about time to market.
5. For other entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
The business beginning in 2003 means we started in a down economy already. We built in lean operating methods. Thats always a good thing, and is one that becomes easily lost when things scale. If heading to another down turn my advice is to take a look at what you really want from that time period. For us, if it was not going to be money, it was going to be exploration and innovation. We kept busy working on projects that had little to no cash, but in the end gained expertise on how to build platforms. Which when the economy picked back up, put us in an ideal spot to close better clients. See that landscape for what it is, not for what it is not.
6. How do you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
Set real expectations then exceed them. Be ok with going a little deeper than they paid you for. Second, try and raise the bar every time you get a chance to put something in front of client. Last, try and create a culture that innovates the way things are done, so that you can create more time for quality. All of these things are easier said than done.
7. In today’s fast changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
Hire the right people that want to stay ahead of the curve is our best advice. Without that you won’t be able to move an entire company forward. One person can’t do it alone. If you have eyes and ears coming from all directions of the business, put processes in place that looks to improve and innovate the way things are done. Digital agencies are some of the worlds best transformation hotbeds. We constantly change the way things are done in potentially 3 year cycles.
8. What is your “Why”? Why do you get up in the morning, and how do you keep yourself at peak performance to lead Propane.Agency?
There is a dream of one day being a digital firm that gets to influence things like cars and spaceship digital experiences. But first we need to prove ourselves in business and operations. There is a dream that this firm will one day help automate robots and machines, but first we need to understand how software, hardware and AI work. There is a dream one day that we will be able to increase global consciousness but first we need to learn how to communicate better with each other. Propane is just a vehicle for our dreams to come true.
9. Can you recommend a book that has had an influence in your career? How did it influence you?
There have been many books, so to single one out is not really fair to the others. But one that I like that I would recommend is The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business – by Patrick Lencioni. We have always believed that the strength of a company comes from its people and how they work together. Together people truly can make 1+1=3. The exponential value creation is what we are always trying to harness.
10. What makes a great leader?
One that is empathetic, one that knows how to trust their instincts, recognize that instincts can sometimes be wrong, one that is constantly learning not only about personality types, but about business, and the last one that has vision for how things could be.
Neil Chaudhari, thank you so much for participating in the DotCom Magazine Leader Roundtable Interview Series. We very much appreciate the time you spent helping our readers learn more about what it takes to build a great company and become a great leader. We wish you, your family, and of course Propane.Agency, nothing but the best.