CEO Chat

Jose R. Bandujo, Founder and Chief Creative Officer,

Bandujo Advertising & Design Inc., New York, NY

Q. What did you want to be when you were a little kid?

A. I always wanted to be an actor. But alas, like in all immigrant families, actor would need to be preceded by a degree in medicine or law first.

Q. What does your company do?

A. We’re an advertising agency, so we work with a range of clients to develop creative for campaigns across traditional, digital and direct marketing channels. We’re fortunate to have worked with major brands and organizations over the years, including Chase, Condé Nast, Citibank, Mercer Advisors, ESPN, Hugo Boss, Time Warner, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Showtime, Hearst and Greenberg Traurig, along with the cities of New York and Philadelphia.

Q. How long has your company been in business?

A. I try not to admit it, but I started it way back in 1993.

Q. Can you tell us about why and how you started the company?

A. I worked in the corporate world for close to 10 years but always knew I wasn’t cut out for company politics. I’d spent years coming up with “new ideas” to start my own business, until I attended a conference where a speaker talked about how the most successful companies aren’t necessarily from new ideas, but instead from doing something that’s already being done. The key, though, was to do it differently or better. 

After some careful planning and budgeting (and of course putting a bug in my colleagues’ ears that I’d soon be open for business to remove their ad agency headaches), I decided to take the entrepreneurial leap.

Q. What has been your biggest business challenge in the past year?

A. Our biggest business challenge this year has been remote work. During the COVID-19 shutdown, many employees moved out of New York City for cheaper rents. Because we had to, we made the physical separation work. But now, as I try to run a creative shop that provides clients with its best work through the collaboration and sharing of ideas, Zoom isn’t going to cut it long term. 

We’ve started to address this by bringing on new hires who are enthusiastic about working together in person in the office. I was worried that job postings requiring non-remote work would dampen responses. Interestingly, our latest job postings with in-office requirements have still gotten hundreds of applicants.   

Q. What is one thing that makes you stand out from your competition?

A. We like to joke that what makes us different is my brutal honesty. But in reality, I’ve created a culture in which employees are empowered to provide our clients with honest opinions and recommendations, even if it means we make less money. That’s quite unique in the ad agency business. 

Q. What’s your favorite place in the world you’ve ever visited?

A. As a gay man, it’s probably cliché, but I have to say Provincetown (Massachusetts). There’s just so much joy, friendliness and freedom in that town that it’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Q. What is one piece of business advice you would offer your LGBTQ+ peers?

A. Honestly, my business advice would be the same whether you’re LGBTQ+ or not. And that is that every human being deserves to be respected, heard, valued and treated fairly in any work environment. But if you’re not getting that, it’s up to you to figure out how you can change your circumstances.

How to connect …