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Leo Q+A: Radim Svoboda

Our EVP of global business management sits at the intersection of personal fulfillment and career success

From the launch of the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S8 to the Cannes Lion award-winning spot “The Ostrich,” Leo Burnett and Samsung are hitting their stride. In the latest Leo Q+A, Radim Svoboda, EVP, global business management who also leads the global Samsung Mobile account, explains how he embraces challenges and enjoys working on what he calls the “hottest profession in the building.”

Check out what Radim has to say.

In one sentence, describe what you do.
I lead Leo Burnett’s business with the Global Samsung Mobile division, which means I’m responsible for building and managing one of the largest pieces of Samsung business within Publicis Groupe, while also getting to help build and define one of the largest brands in the world – how many brands are working on their ethos these days?

What excites you about showing up to work every day?
Being a Burnetter for 13-plus years gives me a lot of personal reasons to go to the office. The team is my family, and many of the leaders here are my friends; so I’m not just going to my job every morning, I’m going to my second home. The work is an obvious reason as well. We change people’s behavior, revolutionize the category and make some truly breakthrough work. I’ve also loved gadgets since I was a kid, so working for a consumer electronics giant that also happens to be the seventh-ranked brand in the world is a dream come true. Finding human truths, influencing consumers’ behavior and shaping the future and people’s relationship with technology is the hottest profession in the building. 

What keeps you up at night?
Working around the clock and managing a lot of projects across many time zones is a challenge, but it’s not a nightmare. Finding a clever way to resolve a complex project, addressing an unresolved issue or finding a solution to a problem is what calms me down and helps me fall asleep … eventually. Reminders, calendar notifications, deadlines, staffing, time zones, airplane engines, fasten-seatbelt chimes, low-battery beeps are all distractions, but they don’t keep me from sleep.

How do you know when you/the team have hit the “right” idea?
You know you’ve cracked it when you can describe an idea without having to read it, when you can articulate it clearly in a sentence or two. Work like that gives you goosebumps when you present it to the client, because you know you’ve nailed the brief. When you feel like that about the work, you know the consumer will as well. And I am privileged I have a lot of that! 

What are you working on right now that excites you most?
Most of our work is highly confidential (we use code names for literally everything we are working on today), but it’s obvious that our team is already working on projects that will redefine the role of consumer electronics fits in peoples’ lives. Creating work that fundamentally changes what people do with their mobile devices and defines how technology will shape our future is truly exciting.

What takes a campaign from good to great?
Great teamwork. Everyone’s involvement. When everyone is motivated to push for the idea and make it brilliant. Not presenting to each other, but working together in one room with a shared mission. Building on top of each other ideas in the room makes truly fantastic work come to life. Every project by the Samsung team is a proof-point of that.

What has a high-profile project taught you that you’ve since applied to other work?
Doing fundamental brand work, building a brand ethos while launching a lot of product campaigns simultaneously, requires a lot of brilliant thinking. Great brands stand for something and against something. As Mark Tutssel, our global chief creative officer, says, “Without tension there is no traction.” Embracing those tensions – cultural, social or technological – is indeed a fundamental engine for every brand’s success, and I try to make sure they go into all of our work.

When/where do you do your best thinking?
My days are packed with meetings, and staying focused, in a job where regular distractions happen every minute, is often difficult. Knowing that’s what I’m up against, I like to start my day at 7 a.m. with a run along Lake Michigan or near whatever hotel I’m staying in with a set of noise-cancelling headphones plugged into my ears. Not answering calls, just enjoying the beats and letting my thoughts flow free. I wish I could record the thinking from my runs and play it back when I get to the office though.

Do you have any personal routines that help you foster creativity?
I travel a lot, but I never watch movies on the plane. It’s the small airplane screen size that bothers me. Instead, watching movies on a huge screen with surround sound at home or in a theatre is my special time, my routine, if you will. Movies and stories are my biggest inspiration. I dedicate the time on the plane to catch up on my sleep deficit, and to think. White-noise, pen and a notebook are my only instruments of inspiration at a 35,000-foot altitude.

What’s on your to-do list for the rest of 2017?
The first half of 2017 was the craziest six months of my career. Not that our account isn’t already tough, but the circumstances of managing the business were really peculiar during that time. For the next six months, I’d like to focus on hiring a few more high-performing team members, finding more time to think about future development and getting wider exposure in the industry for the whole team. On a personal front I also want to go on some dates — that’s on the ground, not on the plane ;-)

Who or what inspires you and why?
We work in a team of rivals. R/GA being our partner on many fronts gives me a special kick and inspiration to do more, do it better and do the best. The dynamic spirit is amazing. A new normal for the industry. Two entirely different entities, ruled by different leadership styles can work together in one room, go for dinner, have a drink and return to the same room to continue working. The collaborative atmosphere is amazing. One minute, you’re in the judge’s seat providing feedback on your rival’s work, and the next you’re the one being judged. Then, after all that, you’re both joining forces to evaluate the client’s work. Everyone deserves to experience that, it’s like a legal drug.