“Service, Good Works, Good Money” How to Run a Purpose Driven Business, with Vic Drabicky

I had the pleasure of interviewing Vic Drabicky, Founder & CEO of January Digital. A digital marketing agency & consultancy specializing in retail, luxury and beauty, January Digital’s clients include Cole Haan, Diane Von Furstenberg, NARS, Oscar de la Renta, and Peapod. Vic’s proudest accomplishments in 2017 were the birth of his adorable and already brilliant son, January Digital making the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies and January Digital’s new offices in NYC and Dallas. The order changes based on how much sleep Vic gets each night.

What is your backstory?

After graduating from college, I was deadest on being a newscaster. A quick career writing copy for the news changed my mind, so it was back to square one. After bouncing around between freelance writing assignments, I was lucky enough to stumble into a job as one of the first employees at a newly formed small paid search agency called Range Online Media. Range was founded by two remarkable women — Misty Locke and Cheryl Pingel — who spent the subsequent 9+ years building an incredible company and teaching me the right way to do things. Truly outstanding, they had an enormously positive impact on me both professionally and personally.

After working at and learning from Range for approximately a decade, it was acquired by a large advertising holding company. I knew that working for a massive agency wasn’t for me, so I left without a plan .. or job. Eek!

Thankfully, I landed a consulting gig with The Moret Group… and with that, my own company was created by happenstance. Thanks to the selfless help and support of Moret Group’s Arthur Lachman, I was subsequently able to sign Stuart Weitzman as a client and hire my former teammate and work wife, the incomparable Megan Jones, to help me both manage the work and figure out what to do next.

For the following year, Megan and I worked around the clock without a company name or office. Working anywhere with free Wifi (thank you, Starbucks!), we put away every cent and spent our freetime defining and refining the the vision of what our company would look like. After about a year, we were able to clearly articulate both our offerings and the culture we wanted to create.

Fast forward five years and I am truly proud of our team and what we are building. Nearly 40 strong, we have offices in NYC and Dallas (Megan Jones, employe #1, runs the Dallas office), have been profitable every year with no external funding, work with and are trusted by some of the most incredible clients in the world including DVF, Oscar de la Renta, Cole Haan, Club Monaco, Fenty Beauty, NARS Cosmetics and Vineyard Vines to name a few. We have worked incredibly hard and made more than our share of mistakes, but have also had a lot of fun along the way too.

Share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career.

Not sure how many are appropriate to put in print, but there are a few that immediately come to mind.

Now that I have a bit of distance from it, one of the funnier instances was the time really early on in my career when I mismanaged my budget and accidentally overspent by $200k in one month. At the time, it made me want to hide in a dark room while dry heaving and breathing into a paper bag. In retrospect, it’s ridiculous that I was keeping track of a million dollar budget on a scrap of paper with the added handicap of not being so stellar at math. Thanks to my epic failure, JD has a thorough system of checks and backups to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Are you working on any meaningful non profit projects? How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Bringing good to the world is one of the key pillars our company is built upon.

We believe it is our duty to be “people for others,” which led to the creation and implementation of our Good Works program. While constantly evolving, the program is made up of three key elements:

  1. Service. Our entire company is required to perform community service monthly. In 2017, our employees donated 1,000+ hours of time by volunteering at Genesis Women’s Shelter (for abused women), Austin Street Center (an emergency homeless shelter) and 826NYC (an educational enrichment organization in NYC).
  2. Good Works. The premise is simple: if you see someone in need, you are encouraged to “do good” and help — buy food for someone, give supplies to a disaster relief drive, whatever is needed, no matter the cost. Anytime you do that, January Digital will reimburse all costs — no receipt needed, no questions asked. Our employees have responded extremely well to this and average more than 100 acts of good each year. While we aren’t changing the world in a massive way, each little bit positively affects us, the person being helped, and hopefully others who see the act happening.
  3. Good Money. At different times throughout the year, we give employees cash to seek out opportunities to help people. Most recently, nearly 50% of our team proactively set out on Christmas morning to find people in need of a pick me up. Employees sought out no frills restaurants with wait staff working the lonely Christmas morning shift, ordered one small item like a cup of coffee, left an enormous tip (averaging $100), and walked out. While a small act, helping someone in need on Christmas morning helped cheer quite a few people up.

While the program is regularly adjusted, the core elements remain the same. My hope is that as the company grows our impact will continue to grow.

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I would like to think we have helped quite a few people through our direct giving and by volunteering at organizations that serve thousands of people. That said, I am not sure we focus on just one individual long enough to know their story. Our focus is on how can we quickly and simply make an impact on someone’s day and move on.

The downside is that we don’t often get to know the full impact our work has on individuals. But on the flip side, I think there is something really nice about that. It gets people to focus on performing the act itself rather than focusing on the pay-off.