Ivan Stanković, Founder, Communis, Serbia

Ivan Stankovic photo web

You work and live in an environment that has undergone profound social, economic and political changes in the last 25 years. Regardless of these challenges, you managed to remain successful. What is the most interesting business fact or experience you have gained that you can share with us?
There is one that is most important. Her Majesty CHANGE. Change was and is the only constant in our lives and business. If you are not aware or ready to change, you will fade into history. Like the dinosaurs. If you watch our profession now and compare it to 40, 20, even 10 years ago, you will see very little similarity. Yes, we are in the communication business, but everything changed: consumers, products and services, channels, habits, agencies, the framework... So, the mantra is Change Or Die. Freedom of choice. A little bit cruel, but real.

How did you find opportunities and make sure you took advantage of them?
Life is full of Opportunities. Of Threats. Bruce Lee said: To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities. Some people can’t see something that other people could. Everybody knows the story of two market researchers who went to Africa to research the market opportunities to start up shoe factory there. They came back with two different proposals. One said: No way, there is no market for shoes there, everybody goes barefoot. The other one said: It is great opportunity – nobody has shoes! So, it is up to you do decide which angle of life you are going to take: is the glass is half empty, or half full? This is very important in your life, and in my presentation this is precisely what I will be talking about: How to identify, grab and develop opportunities in your life.

Some people only exist while others live and choose. What is the most important part of our awareness - that we are able to make decisions and (how do we) take advantage of opportunities that are given to us by the ability to choose?
Your life is determined by two very important elements: your attitude and the decisions you make. Your attitude is the way you see life and all elements. Do you see friends or enemies? Threats or opportunities? Happiness or sadness? Black or white? Life or death? Mark Twain said that life is about making choices and living with consequences. And we all are making many choices every day. Some are good, some are bad, but you have to make them. The more choices you have, the harder it is to choose the right one. Sometimes not making a choice is also a choice. After all, you will never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

Where do you think the boundaries of improvisation are?
The sky is the limit. Or rather, you create your own boundaries of improvisation. Your own brain is the best castrator in this situation, where you limit yourself so you can’t do something. Very often, people are afraid of making mistakes, so they do nothing. Mistakes are an essential part of every success and every manager has to develop a great degree of tolerance for them. If you are punished when you fuck something up, the next time you will be afraid to think ‘out of the box’ and you are on the road to becoming predictable. On the other hand, improvisation without good knowledge and hard work is also not productive. You might do it once or twice, but for life, perspiration is more important than inspiration or improvisation.

It's a cliché to say that the most important things you learn in life are not learned in school. How do you feel about this and what is the most important lesson that you want your students at University to learn?
In Serbia, we say: English are thought in Oxbridge, Serbs on their mistakes. Unfortunately, we don’t learn even from our mistakes, as recent history shows. The most important lesson I would like my students to know is to take charge of their own lives. The only person in the world you can influence is you: not your kids, spouse, parents, friends... That’s why it is very important to be who you are and not to lie to yourself. To be aware of your good and bad aspects and to cope with them. To be aware that life is not a cup system where you play only one game, are either a winner or loser and everything is finished. On the contrary, life is a liga system, where you plan matches every day. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it is a draw. The final result will not come after one or a few matches, but after the whole liga is finished. And that is a long way.

Nowadays, knowledge is quite accessible. However, it is necessary for us to use this knowledge and turn it into profit. In your opinion, what are the most prosperous industries/fields that we should build on or invest more time on?
If I knew the answer to that question, I would probably be somewhere on my private island in the Bahamas, rather than answering such difficult questions. Talking about the communication industry, I do believe that, finally, as specialists, we have a bright future. When we forget everything we know about business now.

What will be crucial for the survival of agencies in the next 2 years? What do they need to understand in order to accomplish their goals? What are three wise choices today that will lead to a successful future?
There are two important elements for the future: flexibility and speed. We have to be flexible not only to adjust to changes, but also to initiate some of them. Sometimes, clients find it even more difficult to accept that the current way is gone, so we have to try and help (them) and guide them into the future. It is difficult, especially if we are not ready to adapt. We need the flexibility to leave models of work and communication and explore new ones. Speed is also essential in modern communication. I remember when I started working almost 40 years ago, you needed a couple of months to be on air with a campaign. Now, if you are not on air in a couple of hours, you are dead. Even a few days is sometimes too late.
I don’t know about three choices. For me, there is only one that will keep you alive: be unique. If you manage to find and maintain your uniqueness, you will have very good chances to survive.

What would be your message to the Golden Drum delegates?
Be who you are.
Take charge of your life.
Have fun. Enjoy life.
Try to find your own train, because if you are on the wrong train, all the stations will be wrong!

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