Arthur Swidzinski: Compelling Video Marketing Content that Resonates with the Masses
From Documentary Filmmaker to Entrepreneur
In the fifteen years since the skateboarding expedition, Swidzinski metamorphosed from avant-garde documentary filmmaker into owner of a high-end multimedia marketing agency that serves top U.S. and global brands. His agency, Stone Watson, provides high-end multimedia services to clients including healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson, Japanese videogame maker Sega Corporation, and video colossus Netflix. Clients also include a stable of mammoth Chicago brands, including the elite Kellogg School of Management, the Chicago White Sox Major League Baseball (MLB) team, the Chicago Blackhawks National Hockey League (NHL) team, and the Chicago Bears National Football League (NFL) team.
He attributes his success to his curiosity: “I always wanted to start a business, always. Since high school, I was obsessed with what made a person successful.” Swidzinski asked dozens of high-achieving entrepreneurs for their insights, “How did someone get from A to B to Z? I always ask that question.” Looking back on how he built his company to this point, he doesn’t see dramatic strategic moves; rather, he points to a series of small steps. “It’s almost like the stars align. It really is. Things just keep stacking in the right direction. You meet the right people at the right time, and there are some crazy coincidences.” As he reflects on his path, you can hear the echoes of the 20-something skater: “I don’t know what it is, but it’s pretty cool.”
The Secret Sauce: Relationship-Building
What makes Stone Watson unique, Swidzinski explains, is the company’s approach to client relationships. The agency integrates with the client’s existing marketing and video teams and works to create a fluid rapport. “A company’s brand is number one. At Stone Watson, we really understand that, and our client knows that we care deeply about their brand.” The agency works hard to learn the client’s comfort level – whether they want an artsy, edgy feel, or if that’s risky for their brand.
Swidzinski relates, “We look ahead and see what their customers like, what they don’t like. We anticipate the needs of our clients really, really well. If we have an idea that pushes the envelope in a direction that the company is not going to feel comfortable, then we’re not going to do it.” Stone Watson delivers highly innovative video, but only when that is what the client wants. “Not every brand needs something that is crazy and wild; some prestigious brands just need to show their messaging in a simple, elegant way. That’s something that we do well, too.” In contrast with the mercurial reputation of many creative agencies, Stone Watson reassures their client that they will deliver on deadline and without excuses. They align with the needs of the high-stakes marketing teams they serve.
Entrepreneurship is Hard Work
Serving elite clients is not easy. Swidzinski laughs, “Really fun things happen at Stone Watson, for sure, but it’s a lot of hard work. I mean, if you think hard work is fun, then it’s fun.” He describes long hours, 7-day work weeks, and difficulty taking any kind of vacation. “When you start your company,” he says, “I think you just have to grind. I mean, there’s no way around it. You have to prove yourself to your clients.” He explains that Stone Watson has had to demonstrate the ability to manage large budgets and deliver on promises. This has meant answering client calls at all hours and enduring sleepless nights to meet last-minute deadlines. “The pressure is hard. It creates anxiety. But we want to establish a name for ourselves as leaders in the industry.”
Make Every Client Feel Like One of One
Swidzinski reports that the biggest challenge in building on Stone Watson’s momentum is finding a way to make every client feel like they are the only client. He explains, “As the company grows, as we gain more clients, we also have a lot of happy, satisfied repeat customers. The challenge is to maintain the customer service and the quality as we scale.” As the business grows, he finds that he needs to spend more time recruiting talent, making sure that new employees share the company’s culture of doing whatever it takes.
Turn Your Gift into a Business
Swidzinski explains that he found his passion early in life. He says, “I think everybody has a gift. Everybody has something they can offer the world. And for me, I think that that’s always been video.” By his teens, he was filming videos and creating multimedia. He recalls, “It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do.” Like many entrepreneurs, Swidzinski says that he enjoys the creative control that comes from running your own company.
Asked what his advice would be to an aspiring entrepreneur, Swidzinski recommends following your passion: “Take whatever your gift is and turn that into a business.” He remembers making $15,000 in revenue in Stone Watson’s first year, working out of his parents’ house. During that time, it was hard to be patient. “It’s going to be slow to start,” he warns. “It takes time, and it takes a lot of effort. And some of that is not fun. The fun happens later. The fun happens after the hard work.”
While running his own business is hard work, Swidzinski says he finds it much more rewarding than working for another company. He says, “There’s no greater feeling than when you create something for a client, and they come back to you and say, ‘I don’t know what we would do without Stone Watson.’ As a business, you get more recognition for your efforts, and a little bit more respect.” He explains that the client’s recognition is an important reward for the long hours and late nights. “At the end of the day, the accolades make it all worth it. Just knowing that your clients are satisfied – that’s a beautiful thing.”
HollywoodChicago.com. (2018). Podtalk: Arthur Swidzinki of film ‘Shred America,’ premiering in Chicago on March 24, 2018. Retrieved on April 11, 2023, from https://www.hollywoodchicago.com/news/28358/podtalk-arthur-swidzinki-of-film-shred-america-premiering-in-chicago-on-march-24-2018