Henrique ParanhosFounder and CEO of WEbrand Agency
Addicted to creativity, Digital Marketing, copywriting and everything digital, Henrique Paranhos is the founder and CEO of WEbrand Agency, a totally remote digital Marketing and web development agency.
Besides that, he has developed and launched software in the market, is a digital Marketing trainer in several national schools, has a petsitting business, is co-founder of the #RemoteShift movement, Outstanding Portugal and the social project SOSvizinho.
Having developed digital Marketing strategies for some of the largest brands in the market – like Honda, Redbull, Burger King, Leaseplan, Carnext, Paul Hartmann, General Motors, Opel and Adidas – Henrique Paranhos is one of the special guests at PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS' Connecting Stories.
1. With an extensive resume, can you tell us a little about your journey and professional experience?
I was born in Coimbra, the city where I studied and where I started working at the age of 17 in cafés, bars and nightclubs. After a somewhat troubled academic career, where I attended a college course that I later realized I didn't like, frustration led me to try a design and webdesign course. There I had the opportunity to get to know the Adobe tools but, above all, to realize that there were more possibilities and areas in the market beyond what I had considered ‘conventional’ until then. With the evolution of Internet use in Portugal, I began to realize that in a few years new professions would appear on the market that until then did not exist, which led me to sign up for a Digital Marketing workshop (an area that in 2010 was taking its first steps in Portugal).
From then on I was a self-taught, as in almost everything I did in life. I explored Mailchimp, started doing email marketing and social network management campaigns as a freelancer, set up my first Facebook ad campaigns and started launching my first digital projects. I learned to master WordPress and the basics of HTML, CSS, Analytics and SEO. I read a lot, observed how brands were behaving on the digital and realized that this was the area I wanted to work in the future.
After an incredible professional experience in a Coimbra newspaper, where I was responsible for its digitalization, I finally came to Lisbon in 2014. Already in the capital, I worked as communication manager in a renewable energy company, where I grew a lot as a professional. After that, I went through several agencies and advertisers, large and small, and learned from the best professionals in the area, to whom I owe a lot for their patience in accompanying me and making me evolve. Before my adventure and incursion for entrepreneurship, I was responsible for Digital Marketing in a national insurance company, from where I also keep excellent memories.
However, I was not satisfied with the routine of work in the office from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and with the immense time lost in travel, fuel spent and endless meetings, so I got it into my head that I would be able to open the first full remote company in Portugal. That's where WEbrand Agency was born, a Digital Marketing agency of which I am the proud founder and which delivers every day digital campaigns and strategies for some of the best known brands in the market.
2. What led you to enter the area of Digital Marketing?
It was my curiosity and a workshop that I did at ‘old lady’ Flag from Coimbra. And also the frustration. The frustration of not having finished my degree in Civil Engineering at the age of 24 and having no idea what my career and professional future would be. I just knew that I didn't want to finish that course or work in the area. I saw my friends (fortunately all smarter than me) finishing their courses and starting to work and I stagnated there, in Coimbra, where there were (and are) no great job opportunities. And how many of the people who read this article will not identify with this story? There are many of us, certainly. I had the luck and ingenuity to come across a Digital Marketing workshop and was soon delighted. And that's when the click was made that this is what I wanted for my future.
3. You created, about two years ago, a Digital Marketing agency. What were the main challenges found?
To begin with, there is the same challenge as for any other portuguese company, which is to be in a country that applies one of the highest tax burdens to companies at european level. But I will avoid this subject.
As I had the opportunity to write above, WEbrand has the particularity of having always been remote, something that was a dream of mine some years ago. But this also brought challenges that I didn't even imagine at the time.
In our case, besides managing a remote company, we have the additional challenge of being the first portuguese remote company to pay taxes in Portugal. And this is indeed important to mention, because there may be remote companies that operate in Portugal or with portuguese employees, but that are registered in other countries. And this has a lot to tell. First of all because until the pandemic arrived, and before the Remote Shift conference, which we organized in 2019 to talk about remote work, this subject was not on the agenda. Neither the law nor the labor code predicted the existence of a company in Portugal that did not have a fixed location where employees were physically present.
In other words, we had to be pioneers and "pave the way" in relation to practically everything, from the very first contact with various entities such as the IEFP, Social Security, lawyers, accountants, insurance, occupational medicine, etc., which did not recognize this work model and which required us to adapt the legislation to our specific case because we were full remote. For example, in the beginning we were denied hiring with support from IEFP because the trainee would not be physically by my side, tutor of the internship. This is because the internship contract says that the trainee has to be accompanied in person by his tutor. As if a tutoring and a good follow-up depended on a physical distance... Another example is the logistical complexity of ensuring mandatory medical consultations at work for a team composed of employees who are in Aveiro, Coimbra, Viseu, but also in Colombia and Brazil. In short, a challenge.
I could also talk about the opportunities and clients (great brands) that we lost in pitch when we assumed ourselves as remote, because they thought we were a group of freelancers and understood that this gave us little credibility in the face of a ‘traditional’ agency. After these years, I assume that, in some contexts, I preferred not to mention the fact that we were remote, because I understood that this would be unfavorable for us in front of some clients.
Then there are other more specific challenges that we found along the way where we could only learn from our own experience. One of them is that the time difference in projects with employees from different time zones does not work in a remote agency with our size. When dealing with large, demanding clients, mostly in the Lisbon time zone and that meet a traditional schedule from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the team allocated to this client must be available at the same time interval. This is because the urgencies in the requests are constant and we cannot be waiting or dependent on a colleague who will only start working six hours later.
But it's important to point out that, despite the countless challenges, it has been an incredible journey.
4. How has the agency evolved?
We had sustained growth until 2020, when we began to experience some difficulties that became more serious with the arrival of the pandemic. Many people are surprised by this, because if there was a company that was prepared for remote work it was us. Right. But if, on the one hand, we were prepared and almost nothing changed at that level for us, our customers were not. And with clients connected to the tourism sector, travel insurance, coworks and events, we were forced to slow down when they all stopped. And I recognize the months from March to July 2020 as one of the most difficult periods of my life (and those who know me personally know what I'm talking about) and it was consequently difficult for the agency. Once again, we were able to rise to the resilience of an incredible team that also made sacrifices to get through that phase. In the second half of 2020, we restructured and have been reconquering more and more clients and partners that trust us with their Marketing and Digital Communication.
5. As founder and CEO of WEbrand Agency, how do you see entrepreneurship today?
We have excellent examples of portuguese entrepreneurs and companies that have done an incredible job in the last years in different areas. We should be proud of examples like Barkyn, Undandy, Landing.jobs, Stratio, Forall Phones, Infraspeak, DefinedCrowd, Feedzai, GoParity, Talkdesk and Unbabel, just to name a few. And we also have the “silent” entrepreneurship, far from the spotlight and the big stages, which is done by men and women in their family businesses (a large part of the portuguese business fabric is made up of micro-companies), strongly crushed by taxes, bureaucracies and the impact of the pandemic.
Both of the examples I have given are changing the world in a way, even at different scales. And this is for me the best thing about entrepreneurship. There's still a clear way to go, namely in what concerns the mindset of the general population and the way they see initiative and entrepreneurship. However, I prefer to focus on the good examples I mentioned, which serve as an example and guide my working days.
6. You run a petsitting business, you are co-founder of the #RemoteShift movement, Outstanding Portugal, and the social project SOSvizinho. How do you reconcile everything? Is there a secret?
The secret is work. A lot of work. Which is not exactly a secret, because it is within everyone's reach. But there is more.
I try to be extremely disciplined with my time and my productivity. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a company and want to launch a project decades ago, without Internet, without smartphones, without social media. And I see how lucky our generation is to have so many tools at our disposal today. So I use them to make my work faster, more productive and as efficient as possible.
It is important to emphasize that, apart from petsitting and training, in none of the other projects I am or have been alone. And that's the great secret that allows me to leverage my projects – to always have an incredible team of people who put up with me and accompany me.
7. What projects do you have in mind for the future?
I have many. When I'm not thinking about work and involved in new projects, it's because something is going on.
I always have some project running and I have others in planning for the short, medium and long term, and as a rule they all start from a remote and exclusively digital base – the digital and the remote make us more agile and fast and allow us to follow the unpredictable changes in the market. Being the core of my business WEbrand Agency, we have already launched two software products in the market, WElead CRM and Premium Sponsored Pages, and more recently we created Outstanding Portugal, a platform to promote surprise getaways to support national tourism in post-confinement. At the moment, I am focused on sustaining the growth of these spin-offs and I have the project to be even closer to our current customers and partners in 2021.
In the middle of this, it may be that during this year some more interesting projects will emerge. As an entrepreneur, I believe that we cannot live alienated from the world around us and that we have an increased social responsibility, so I am aware of the consequences of the pandemic on the economy and I very much want to be able to make our contribution to help minimize the crisis that is coming. And that's what I've been working on at the moment.
8. As PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS is the leader in the development of digital billboards and multimedia kiosks for the international market, in your opinion, how can digital marketing determine the success of a company and/or brand?
I see Marketing as an art that companies, from the smallest to the largest, need to master in order to expose their products and services to their consumers in the best way. Given the current context, it is inevitable that this art has a strong digital component and, therefore, it is crucial that brands invest in this channel.
Still, I think we have a long way to go in Portugal. There is still a huge ignorance of the tools available and a chronic resistance to the use of innovative technologies and the digitalization of processes. Some companies and organizations still prefer to allocate hours of the day of their employees to do manual and repetitive work, when this could be done by a machine or software and that employee allocated to functions with other cognitive and reasoning requirements. Likewise, many companies still prefer to invest in static communication solutions and of which they cannot measure the return when, through digital, we can measure everything in order to optimize actions.
Therefore, I understand that the market in which PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS operates is deeply complex and difficult to penetrate, which only demonstrates the resilience and merit of your company, which should make us all portuguese proud.
Connecting Stories is an editorial space led by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS which consists of conducting exclusive interviews, directed at influential personalities who work in different sectors of activity.
The project, conceived by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS, includes the publication of success stories, through small interviews with influencers who want to share details about their projects, opinions, plans for the future, among other subjects.
The idea is to connect stories, share knowledge, develop networking and generate content that can provide new visions, opportunities and ideas.
Founded in 2000, PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS is a world renowned Portuguese IT company, manufacturer of indoor and outdoor multimedia kiosks, self-service equipment, digital billboards, interactive tables and other digital solutions, for all types of sectors and industries. To know more about our story, click here.