Here’s Ed Crain, Founder of Kingstar Direct

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Ed Crain, founder & president of Kingstar, talks about how to take a company from good to great

Ed Crain founded the production company Kingstar Direct almost 20 years ago, and with Kingstar Media, he has changed the face of the “Canadian DRTV landscape” by disrupting the business model and forcing it to change. As a result of its skillful combination of television and radio, and an awareness of the power of both, the company has become the country’s established “premium direct response media agency.”

At Kingstar Direct and Kingstar Media, Ed Crain brings his “extensive experience in direct marketing and television production,” allowing him to continue to stay on top and respond to “the new ways in which consumers interact and connect.” In today’s digital marketplace, he has planted a foot in the “new world of surround sound marketing via Kingstar Media,” where he helps his clients “communicate across all channels with one voice.”

Ed Crain has also given Kingstar Media the mission to “drive efficient and measurable response across offline and online content platforms.” This mission comes from his vision, at the founding of Kingstar, to “develop a marketing agency that anticipates and responds to industry shifts,” and “continually provides true, measurable value to his clients.”

For his work, Ed Crain knows that he still has so much to do, and “there is so much road left and the path is always new and exciting.” His job is not yet done.

Check out more interviews with pioneering founders here.

Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Ed Crain: One word — people. I think people make your company stand out and having your teams buy into a winning attitude.
Never be completely satisfied but know that you gave it your best effort. I think that’s what critically sets up a great company. I think we’ve done it on a lot of creative projects, and I know we’ve executed last minute media plans with fantastic deals and super low CPOs. I can’t think of one story, but I think of all the faces on the team and I think of the one word- people. People and teams.

Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Ed Crain: I’d say one of the most important things as a business owner is to learn to delegate. And delegation means building trust with someone who works with you or for you. And that can take time and so do it methodically. If you can’t delegate and build trust you can’t build a great company.
Delegate responsibility and let people fail. Offer a hand to pick them up but know when to stop. Have a common goal to succeed and keep the people that share that goal. Let the people that don’t move on. Building teams is about delegating and motivating -probably one of the most difficult things that any business owner will have to learn to do.

Jerome Knyszewski: 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?

Ed Crain: I really can’t single out one person who helped me build a successful company. I think there are so many faces along the way that learned to trust me and eventually our teams and what we could do. I think creating the connection with clients and having them recognize that you’re dedicated and committed and willing to go the distance is critical.

Jerome Knyszewski: Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

Ed Crain: I think there are a lot of good companies out there. A great company is lead by inspired thought, creativity and thinking outside the box and giving people the leeway to take risk and understand that sometimes risk leads to failure. But if you don’t try ideas and you don’t strive to be better than you’re not being the best that you can be. Having that ingrained in your company’s mindset can lead to great work.

Drive a culture that your employees are excited to be a part of. That is what defines great companies.

Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

Ed Crain: I think that the biggest realization for business owners whose growth has stalled is once again “ What got us here may well not get you there”. Meaning what was your USP yesterday may not be your USP today. The only answer is pack it in or figure out how you can pivot. Start by doing a cost benefit analysis of your business revenue streams and a by client profitability index. Where is your company’s time being spent? It should be on the most promising and potentially profitable business segments. That has likely changed. Especially over this past year. Going through this process with key management can re-invigorate the company and set new goals for your team.

Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Ed Crain: To survive and grow a business during turbulent times and a challenging economy is difficult and it involves looking at the net contribution from certain business verticals that you have pursued. There may be parts of your business that are extremely unprofitable and eating up a lot of time…get rid of them. Really focus on the higher margin business, adjust your business size and scale to drive at that high margin business.

Generally, more innovative business verticals can be more profitable if you uncover them early and they offer solutions not found elsewhere to your clients.

Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Ed Crain: For me, as I alluded to earlier, one of the most underestimated parts of running a business is all of the accounting, record keeping, filing, making provisions for taxes and all the structural parts of a business that you must tend to including invoicing and collecting money in a prompt and efficient manner. Once you realize your weaknesses, its so very important to accept them and hire properly to fill that gap. I have been very fortunate to have a team that has now been with me for many years that does just that. You have to make great hires to cover what you are not strong at. It’s essential to survival. It has allowed me and our teams to do what we are good at — pursue new accounts and service and create great advertising for our clients.

Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

Ed Crain: In addition to above I would say communication and follow up. Emails, texts, even phone calls. Let the customer know you care and value their experience, how they rate your product etc. Ask the question. Don’t be afraid of the answer and never be satisfied.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Ed Crain: I do share this concern. I think you must try and be consistent with your companies messaging and social presence. You are a brand, and you must always be focused in your brand messaging.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Ed Crain: Grow methodically and build a team. Fast hiring, plugging holes with temps or just “getting the job done” all lead to trouble. Don’t be afraid to agree to aggressive timelines but know that you CAN deliver. Growth for the sake of growth is never good. Make it real, make it organic and make it with purpose.

Jerome Knyszewski: 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. 🙂

Ed Crain: Today I would say smile at someone. Be infectious in your drive and optimism and let people see it and how you love doing it. If you are caught up in your own problems do something for others. By the time you are finished doing that you will feel better and you will be remotivated to do it again. Strive for balance

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Ed Crain: You can find me and Kingstar on LinkedIn.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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