This is a follow up story for DSM. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
What’s up…again…Starter Story family. Hope everyone is healthy and doing well. My name is Darren Magarro and I’m the founder of DSM. We’re a full-service marketing agency in Mahwah, NJ. We’re an AOR (Agency of Record) to 95% of our clients and handle all of their marketing strategy and execution as well as creativity. Soups to nuts…our job is to make our clients’ lives easier and seamless.
2021 was DSM’s second-best year in the company’s 15-year history. Remarkable in and of itself considering all the craziness in the world right now. The last three years of the company’s history have been its three best from a monetary standpoint and that is 100% a testament to the team we have and their skills/passion for their craft. To put it into perspective, this team has pretty much been intact since 2019 and has nailed down 3 Inc. 5000 awards, and had three of its best years ever. DSM hit the 15-year milestone on February 7th and it’s remarkable how a company of 15 people has risen to every challenge with grace, dignity, and accountability. I say this with total transparency…I AM BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE TO HAVE THESE FOLKS AS MY PEERS.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Considering no one gave me/us a manual on “how to navigate a 100-year pandemic and we closed out 2021 with our second-best year ever…I’d say that we’re doing good. Could we be better, sure…but our team worked hard to ensure our existing clients were exceeding previous. In addition, we’ve onboarded several new clients with that we’re extremely excited to be working within 2022. We’re very blessed and thankful to be in the position we’re in…but we’re not getting complacent. There’s still a lot of work to be done and our goal of 15% growth in 2022 is something that as a group, we’ve spoken about and are excited to get cracking on.
Not only has the team worked exceptionally hard to streamline our sales/marketing process but we’re seeing the fruits of these efforts pretty much every single month. As we have grown, we’ve always run pretty lean and efficiently…we’re now at a place where our processes are easily duplicated and pretty much seamless. Our marketing tactics are attracting the right consumers and we have a team that knows what, when, and how things are expected. Together, we’ve had almost three years working through this process and we each know our part and execute flawlessly. It’s pretty amazing to see it all coming together after basically having to recreate it from scratch in 2019.
In addition, I’ve spent a lot of time personally during the pandemic to meet new folks (from all different walks of life) and started my series called “Homage”. This series is dedicated to simply saying thank you to people that have helped me in my journey. I lost my mentor in July of 2020 and this was the perfect opportunity to not let any more time getaway and not say thank you to these folks. We’re on episode 21 and it’s been received well by folks that I didn’t even know. It’s been a wild ride…but we’ve come through it better, stronger, and tighter as a collective. I can’t say enough about our group at DSM and how they’ve excelled under very difficult circumstances.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Biggest lessons…TOO MANY TO COUNT. The last two years have been super humbling and yet being able to lead through such a challenging time has afforded me so much opportunity as a boss and owner and person. The most important lesson that I’ve learned is to control what you can and not worry about the rest. I know this sounds like a lesson you get taught when you’re like 10…I missed that memo. Starting a business from the ground up and then growing it over the last 15 years has been the greatest lesson in humility, sacrifice, joy, pain, and courage a human can go through. I count my blessings each day that I am called to lead and feel deep in my soul that “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad leaders”.
There is nothing that will prepare you for the highs and lows that come along with taking the responsibility for others’ lives - both professional and personal. This is a tremendous responsibility and honor.
If you’re just starting…I can say with 100% certainty that being yourself, owning that, and being available to jump in the fray and be uncomfortable is paramount to growth - personally and professionally. Without failure…there is no learning or growing. Try something…if it doesn’t work, understand why and “flip the frame”. Not saying to be careless but there is certainly something to be said for “the process”. I’ve learned that time and time again over my entrepreneurial journey. Will probably have 10 more lessons to learn tomorrow. The key to good leadership is to learn and pass the knowledge along to those behind you. Hopefully, if everyone did this just a bit more than we now do…the world would be in much better shape. That’s a fact and I’m standing by it to my grave.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Our goal has not changed, great product, great service, great humans, and overt accountability. We work hard at what we do and our team is second to none. In addition to that, they’re not perfect. What we do in marketing is subjective and what one person treasure is another person’s trash. We see this every day. When you’ve gone through as many experiences as I have, you sort of get a feeling about what works and what doesn’t, but you need to always be open to new ideas and methodology. That’s the subjective part of our business.
What isn’t subjective (and man, my team knows this) is brutal honesty, transparency, and accountability…both to our clients and each other. We work too damn hard each day to not do it in spades. Our team is like a big family and we take care of one another. Now…that’s not to say we don’t push each other’s buttons and get on each other’s nerves at times. I’ve had some major blowouts with other members of our team. At the end of the day though…I’ve also made sure to jump on every grenade for them so they know that when things are going wrong…the bucks stops with me, not with them. That is what I am called to do each day, and that (I hope) is what my legacy will ultimately be whenever “this journey” comes to an end. I love what I do…but I love the people and relationships most. No hedge drops mic…leaving the room now.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I’m a big audiobook guy…I tend to fall asleep if I’m reading a book at night. My “Big 3 in 2021” were:
- Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
- Beastie Boys Book by Mike Diamond and Adam Horowitz
- The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage by Brené Brown
Next up for me is The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit by Mel Robbins. In the cue for my vacation next week with the family.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
One of the best lessons I’ve learned over the last 15 years is “nothing is ever as bad as it seems and nothing is ever as good as it seems”. I know this sounds cliche, but it’s the truth folks. Take it from someone that had to learn this the hard way. Owning your own business is an emotional rollercoaster. There is nothing that will prepare you for the highs and lows that come along with taking the responsibility for others’ lives - both professional and personal. This is a tremendous responsibility and honor.
That said, YOU MUST TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Learn balance and discipline. IMHO, if you’re a good leader that values the folks that are in your employ, they will always “go to the mat” for your endeavor. This is not coming from a selfish place, rather it’s coming from a place that places “The Golden Rule” upfront and centers on everything you do. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself. This rule has been paramount to our success and is why I believe so many people overcomplicate their business. You will find that leading with being a good human being, and then following with a few really simple rules like:
- Don’t spend more than you take in
- Document your processes so they’re easily duplicatable
This will make all the difference to keeping your sanity as well as laying the groundwork for your relationships, thus attracting like-minded folks who “buy into the mission, not just the money”.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
DSM has provided an update on their business!
Over 1 year ago, we followed up with DSM to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
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