Steve Lazuka of Interact Media
Meet Steve Lazuka, founder of Interact Media
, a software company.
What is Interact Media?
Interact Media could be considered many things. But for the most part, it’s a software company. What makes us unique is that we are a software company run by a bunch of ex-agency owners with a deep history in the SEO and content marketing industry.
How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been focused on content for a while. Back in 2000 in Los Angeles, I was VP at 24/7 Media’s SEO division and I saw that the current SEO methods were not sustainable and could not last forever. I realized that the only way to build a solid business was by focusing on content creation. It seemed like no one else wanted to focus on content, because it was very complicated and involved a lot of labor and project management. However, I learned the hard way over time that creating good content was the only way to get one’s own goals aligned with the search engine’s goals.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
When I first started Interact Media, the plan was to start another content agency, like my last company in LA. I was planning on building a better content platform so that we could use it ourselves to manage our clients’ content projects and writer network. Before starting to build out own platform, however, I decided to look around and see if there was a platform already out there, designed for agencies needing to manage content on a large scale for many clients, and was surprised to find that there was nothing out there. I also began to talk to other agency owners and learned that every agency I talked to was struggling with how to manage all their content projects for their clients. It seemed like everyone was trying to piece together their own system using eight different tools and resources. It seemed like there was a desperate need for a content platform that combined all these resources into one place, but designed specifically for the unique needs of an agency. We decided to invest heavily in a solution and within 18 months after launching Zerys for Agencies
, we had over 600 agencies signed up and using the platform.
Where did you find your first employee?
When first forming Interact, I first approached my most trusted, respected, and talented people I worked with at my last company out in LA. Luckily, they all agreed to go into battle again with me. Being able to start a company with people I know and trust 100 percent, from years of experience working with each other in the past, has been one of the biggest reasons for our success so far in my opinion.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
It looks very different than the typical day in the typical office. I chose to build Interact Media very differently than what I experienced in the past. I’ve worked in corporate offices before and had over 70 employees at Infosearch. I came to appreciate a less stressful work environment where people can focus on their work and not be distracted with office politics. So, for the time being at least, everyone at Interact works remotely. We designed and built an internal work center everyone uses to see exactly what they need to do and get it done from anywhere. We always tell people we don’t care where they are or how they get their work done. We only care about results. Everyone here appreciates the freedom that comes from working remotely. It can be a challenge to maintain a team spirit and sense of community when you’re not seeing each other every day, but technology has come a long way and makes that a lot easier than it used to be.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Chardon?
Where to run your business is a personal choice that each business owner will have to make. After experiencing the hustle and bustle of LA and after having four kids, I was ready for a change. I grew up out on the outskirts of the city, just where city turns country, so I consider myself somewhat of a country boy at heart. In between designing software and holding meetings, I’m outside weeding the garden and feeding our baby ducklings. Being able to get away from the computer every few hours and walk outside helps me recharge the batteries every so often. Eventually, we may need to get an office. But for now, I appreciate being close to home and being able to experience my kids growing up.
What resources or organizations in Northeast Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
There are many top industry players in the Northeast Ohio, including Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute
and Content Marketing World
, as well as Kuno Creative
– all internationally known content marketing gurus or agencies.
What inspires you?
Watching my kids playing and laughing. Being outdoors in nature. Being a pioneer and designing things that no one has ever built before, and then hearing from clients that it has helped them solve major problems. The people that inspire me most are the ones that achieve great success in life, but have still somehow been able to remain humble and down to earth.
What founders do you admire and why?
I admire Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot, because they are pioneers that are revolutionizing internet marketing.
What’s next for you?
I don’t like to plan out too far ahead. I live by the philosophy of, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get lost.” I have an exciting vision of what Interact Media can become in the next 12 months, but I’ve learned that given how fast things change in this industry, it doesn’t make sense to get too married to any plan, no matter how great it sounds on paper. More than anything, I just try to feel things out day to day and go by instinct.
Interview by Joe Baur