Welcome to Interview #3 of our Manager Interview Series! This series deep dives into the creative and commercial lives of some of the most successful managers in the creator economy!
For this interview, we spoke to Benji Sudmann!
Could you introduce yourself?
I’m half German half New Zealander but grew up in a bunch of countries including Egypt, The Netherlands, and China.
What got you started in talent management? What led you to your current role?
One of my best friends was an Artist and needed help with the business side of things. Working with him in high school & early college years really opened my eyes to the world of management.
I continued helping him on the side as I started a more traditional ops job in tech (after graduating university) but always knew I wanted to make the switch eventually.
I was about to start a new job at TikTok in Shanghai in early 2020 which fell through due to covid. Around the same time I saw that Zack was hiring at One Day and decided to get in touch with him - things worked out and here we are.
Walk us through some of the key daily tasks you perform for your clients?
This generally varies from client to client but overall most of my time goes towards managing brand-partnerships, running internal operations, and thinking about what the next play should be for our clients.
What's the one thing most people don't know about what talent managers do?
That management isn’t just about helping your clients bring in revenue but also being there for day to day stuff - the line between a work/friend relationship is very blurry.
What are some of the recurring challenges you face as a manager?
There are challenges on all ends but a big one is working with brands that don’t really understand creators. We’re always trying to find a balance between what the brand is after and how it really organically fits into our clients’ content and how we can maintain a high level of artistic integrity.
What are some of the tools you use to streamline your workflow? walk us through your current tool stack.
There are a bunch here - the biggest ones are Notion, Google Calendar, and Superhuman.
What are some of the common traits you’ve seen among successful managers?
Out of the great managers I’ve met, the most common trait is that they have a very strong entrepreneurial spirit. They also have the ability to continuously keep the ball rolling on multiple fronts (that may not seem super important at the time but add up as a whole), while still having a birds-eye view of the entire business.
What are some of the most pressing challenges creators face today?
Hard to give one answer here as this is probably very different from creator to creator. One big thing that we try to help our clients with is figuring out bottlenecks in their operations and scaling their teams. Going from a 1-person show to building a proper media company can oftentimes be tricky, especially if there is zero guidance.
How do you help clients diversify their revenue streams?
I’d say there are two ways we help our clients here. The first way is maximizing the return on the content they’re already creating - this can be in the form of brand deals, appearances, shows, content syndication, launching additional content formats, etc. The second way is more long-term focused - building businesses outside of the creator’s personal brand that can stand alone and won’t (in the long term) require the creator to create content.
What is the most practical advice you can give to creators who are just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Chances are that you haven’t found the perfect product-market fit when you’re just starting out, and that’s totally fine. Even if you have - don’t feel like you have to stick to just one format forever.
What are some of the common traits you’ve seen among successful creators?
Very cliche here but being hard-working is and always will be the most important trait. That along with courage to try new formats and really be innovative with your content.
What is the best way to scale a creator’s career?
Figuring out a product-market fit for your content and then doubling down on what works.
When do you decide it's time to onboard a team? How do you go about it?
Once you realize that your time is being spent on the wrong things. Try to understand what you’re good at and what got you to where you are - double down on that and try to find people to help you with the other tasks.
Beyond a manager, what is the first role that a creator usually needs to hire for?
Really depends on what kind of content you make, but generally the first step would be an editor or a producer.
How do you know which creators to collaborate with?
A lot of the time this comes down to how well you get along with others. If you like their content and also like them as a person, that's a great place to start.
What is the current Achilles heel of the creator economy?
Creators not really owning their audiences.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing when you got started, what would it be?
If you keep a positive attitude and put in the work, good things will happen.
What's coming up next for you / your clients? anything you’d like to plug?
A few things - two that are coming up soon are a big push for Pizzafy (a CPG brand we started with Airrack) and the launch of a long-form talk show with the Cheeky Boyos.