After 75 episodes, co-host and co-founder Yury Nabokov is moving on. In this special episode, Yury shares some of the lessons he’s learned from working with Maine business owners and his team at Machias Savings Bank.
Rich: All right. All right. All right. This is a very special and monumentous episode of Fast Forward Maine, and it’s not all good news. My co-host, my partner, my friend, Yury Nabokov, well, this is his final episode. He is he’s leaving the state and he’s leaving Machias Savings Bank for greener pastures. As if there could be greener pastures than Machias Savings Bank or the state of Maine. But here we are.
So Yuri, why don’t you just get us started? What’s going on right now in your life?
Yury: Well, everything is moving fast. But before we dive right into it, I actually want to say ‘thank you’ to you, Rich, and to all the listeners and the supporters of Fast Forward Maine movement for the years and the time that they gave us. And the time and their contributions to our success was recognized recently by New England Financial Marketing Association. And FFME was named as the Best Educational Program. So thank you Rich for working on launching this and thank you to the listeners and the supporters for believing in us and giving us your time. So this award goes to you guys.
Rich: I forgot to mention that. So tell us a little bit more about the award and the group that gave it out, just so people understand what’s going on.
Yury: Perfect. Yeah, that’s right. The New England Financial Marketing Association is basically a governing body that monitors the performance of marketing teams that operate inside financial institutions in New England. And every year they conduct different types of contests. They have different categories that can be a website redesign, maybe a social media engagement program, educational program, and they also have a category for the rising stars. So this year when I looked through the categories that were available for submissions, one of those categories that stood out was Educational Program.
Because it was launched with the partnership with flyte new media and Machias Savings Bank, ultimately the aim is to educate. We’re not here to sell. We’re not making any money off of this thing, it’s just on our own will and accord. We strongly believe that the businesses in Maine may benefit from the information we give freely and openly, whether it’s the podcast, whether it’s the webinar, whether it’s the Success Summit. So, yeah, I was shocked. Well, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t shocked, but I was really pleasantly surprised when I received the letter stating that we were among the finalists. And a few nights ago I attended the virtual gallery event where they announced the winners, and I was really moved.
Rich: Hey, how come I wasn’t your plus one? I would have dressed up. I wouldn’t have shaved, but I would have dressed up. Obviously, that’s very cool. We’re psyched that we got that kind of recognition, and you and I have both spoken in front of that group in the past. So just a very cool thing to be noticed for the work we’re doing because, yeah, we’re not getting paid for this. We do this because you and I are both champions and cheerleaders of entrepreneurship, especially here in the state of Maine, but really anywhere. This is what kind of jazzes me up.
So I know that you’ve got some life lessons that you want to share with us here on your final episode, so why don’t we dive in? Why don’t you start with one of your stories?
Yury: Perfect. Well, the first story is basically the inception of my journey in the United States of America 12 years ago. When I arrived in 2008, May 17th, I found myself working in a community store in Stonington, Maine, Deer Isle Maine.
But to get to the point, I was closely working with the business owner every single day, open to close. He was there every day 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM. I was learning work ethics from him, I was learning leadership, management. Then funny thing, I was learning negotiations because I was present every time he had meeting with his vendors where he was negotiating pennies and stuff.
So it wasn’t amazing experience, but towards the end of that summer he approached me and said, “Yury, your travel program is about to end. What are your plans?” And I was like, well, you know, I don’t really have any plans. I have to go back, my visa is about to run out, and I wish I could stay and go to college in America. Even though I already had a degree from University in Russia, I wanted to learn marketing and public relations from the professors in America. Because every class that I had in Russia, they were just simply books translated from English into Russian. So I wanted to learn from the originators of the art.
And he said, “Well, why wouldn’t you give it a shot?” I’m like seriously, if I give it a shot, I don’t have money to pay for it. So it’s like, all right, do me a favor. Find the program that you’re interested in, apply, and see what happens. Well, I only did it because he asked me, I had no plans for anything good to happen. But again, we’re talking about it 12 years later and I’m an American in America.
So when I came back with the two acceptance letters, he asked me which of the programs would you be interested in? And New England School of Communication had a marketing communications program that I was just in love with. They had digital marketing, social media, photography, design, videography, everything that I could possibly think of. So I explained the benefits of the program. Well, the best I could explain it in my half English/half Russian. So he said, well, you know, what’s stopping you? I said nothing really changed between the time we talked about it and now. I’m still $10,000 short just to pay for my first semester. So he paused and took his checkbook out, he wrote me a check, he handed it to me, and he said, “Go make me proud”. And that’s basically the beginning of this incredible journey.
But the reason I wanted to share that is because for me, it is always an example of who Americans are; hardworking, believing in opportunities, and actually creating opportunities for other people to create opportunities for people moving forward. And over the years, Vern stayed my close friend. He’s been always my trusted advisor. He was at my graduation, he was at my wedding. I talked to him and I said, “Well Vern, can you explain to me why you do what you do? I understand, you could do any multiple things for me, but you decided to do that thing.” And the lesson here, and the lesson that I learned from him, he said a very simple thing, “Yury, all I want is that one day you will do something similar for someone just like you. I want you to be in the position to make the difference.” So that is the first lesson that I learned, that not simply changed my life, but changed the entire trajectory of my life. And it’s something that I’ve been carrying in my heart since the beginning of my journey in the United States of America. I always try to be in a position to make a difference for anyone who I interact with. And Rich, I’m sure after hearing that lesson, you can see my relationship with you and what I was trying to do in my relationship with you and the program and some of the things that we did over the years.
Rich: Absolutely. And I think we’re all glad that you happened to connect with somebody who definitely represented the best of America. I mean, I’d love to say we’re all like that. That’s not always the case. But you’ve found somebody who had a great work ethic and really took you under his wing and saw your potential. So that’s absolutely fantastic.
Great story, Yury. So I know you’ve got some more lessons for us. What’s the next thing that you want to impart onto our audience?
Yury: The next lesson would be, what you do says more than what you say.
Rich: All right, love it. How did you come to this realization?
Yury: It’s pretty simple. After I got into college, my academic advisor towards the end of the semester, she called me in the office and she basically said, “Yury, are you excited being here?” I was like, “Of course I am! That was my dream.” And she said, “Well, what you say and what you do, don’t really correlate. Because I’m not really seeing the impact of you being here. I see your grades, but I don’t see your impact of being here.” You know, I got defensive. I was just like, you don’t understand I’m foreign and I’m learning the language. She’s like, “I don’t need your answers. Go think about it. Just show me what you’re capable of.”
I left that meeting thinking about it, and you know, the beginning of the next semester was a totally different story. And let me just walk you through the list of things. I got accepted into the MBA, I was elected as the Vice-President of Student Government, I got a job as a resident assistant with Nancy Roberts. You know, she was the academic advisor. We started Public Relations Student Society of America, and we grew that student organization into one of the most impactful and one of the most needed organizations. I joined Greek organizations.
Rich: It sounds like you went from just checking off the boxes, to really kind of creating a whole journey for yourself.
Yury: It was a totally different experience. She also encouraged me to join Bangor Regional Leadership Institute. So, I wasn’t just making a difference on campus, I was presented with the opportunity to do it off-campus. And it all started with a simple question, “Are you happy or excited to be?” And what’s the difference between getting good grades versus making an impact while you’re here.
Rich: Awesome. All right. Hit me with your third lesson.
Yury: All right. Well, the third one is pretty powerful, I think, and a lot of people will relate to it. So the third lesson is, doing your job is a requirement, but choosing how to do it is the difference between ordinary and the extraordinary.
Rich: So how did you come to this realization?
Yury: So a few years into building the social media program, I had Machias Savings Bank, we were running a social media contest, which was “Light Up the Town”. And it was pretty simple. Submit a photo of your Christmas decorations, ask your friends to vote for it, and the submissions with the most votes would receive a gift. A pretty substantial gift, I might add.
So when we finished the contest, we announced the winners. The next day I got a message from a person, and it was a very personal message. His name was Mike Oppenshaw. He was telling me about his personal story how he was battling cancer, how this event gave him an opportunity to take the money and donate it to a local cancer research center in Brewer.
And I was doing my job; I read the message and I responded to him. It was a kind response, but it was a very shallow response. And I moved on to check it off my to-do list. Well, in that transition between sending that shallow response and checking my to-do list, something happened. I picked up the phone, I called the President of the bank and I said, “Hey, Mr. Barker, here’s the situation. This guy is taking his money that he won from us and he has given it to a nonprofit organization. He’s teaching all these lessons to his daughters. Is there anything that we can do?” So we organized an internal fundraiser. Mr. Barker got on the phone with the leadership team to launch the program internally. While he was doing that, I was continuing doing my “job”. I picked up the phone, I called all the local media news loud lids outlets to make sure that they would come to Machias Savings Bank to highlight Mike’s story.
And you know that little change in my posture, the way I was doing my job and what I decided to do with what I was presented with, turned into an incredible opportunity. Mike and I became friends, Lisa and the girls became part of my family now. And so that was just a simple change between doing your job and deciding to make a difference with some extraordinary changes in life and extraordinary experiences.
Rich: Very nice Christmas story. Love it. All right. Lesson number four.
Yury: Well, this story is about the person you know as well. But my lesson here is, be a hero to your mentors.
Rich: So that definitely seems like a reversal in terms of what people might think. So what’s the story behind that?
Yury: Fairly interesting story, and I’ll try to impart it very quickly. I had an opportunity to teach social media and digital marketing at NESCom, and one of the students who was taking the class was Cody Chaiasson. He wasn’t just a brilliant student, he was a passionate practitioner.
And let me explain you this. I would go to work at Machias Savings Bank, and from work I would drive to NESCom and my lectures would be 6:00-9:00 PM. Well, after those lectures, Cody and I would stay and talk about marketing for hours. And we’re talking about 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock at night. But I was also curious about what he was doing. So I asked him to show me a couple of things that he worked on. So over that semester, Cody and I partnered on a couple of things. We started working together. I gave him an opportunity. Well, I don’t want to say I gave him an opportunity, I was presented with the opportunity to hire Cody while he was a college student.
But when he came to work at Machias Savings Bank, we were totally geeking out about marketing, digital, all sorts of things, health, self-improvement. But the important part is that he was so driven, and I knew that the corporate environment wasn’t for him, but at the same time, he was continuing to educate me on how to pursue your dreams. And even though he viewed me as his mentor and he was learning from me, in reality I think I was learning way more from him. And the little lessons that he taught me, really altered the course of how my character has changed.
And in addition to these kind of changes in this dynamic, I also wanted to take our listeners on the quick transition. So we went from a student/instructor relationship to an employee/manager. And then at the end of the journey, of course, we became good friends. But last summer he called me, and he asked me to officiate his wedding. So we started a long time ago at school, and we finished being a family. And that is an incredible experience. And this is what happens when mentors find their heroes.
Rich: That’s a nice story. And obviously you can just take away from this that you can learn from anybody. I mean, obviously the “power structure” of a mentor/mentee relationship is that it flows down to the mentee. But when it’s done right, it sounds like it can go in every direction.
All right, Yury, hit me with your number five.
Yury: Well, the number five is something that I hope everyone will practice and everyone will cherish. I know I will. So the lesson is, legacy is not something that you leave behind, but what you will instill in people now.
And I can take you on a long, long, long experience of my interactions with Traci Sanborn. I met her because I became a Vice President of Student Government, and her daughter was the President of the Student Government. So that’s how I met Traci, and that’s how my journey with the bank started. But over the years I learned a tremendous amount of things from her. And in one of the very recent conversations, we were talking about the concept of legacy and what legacy is. And I wanted to impact what it means for me, what I learned from her, what is Traci’s legacy that I’m going to carry with me.
So when we started the transition, when we started to build kind of a customer centricity maturity model here at the bank, I was overseeing the development of the program. I was managing the CX program – I still am, for a little bit longer – but it was one of those days, as you know, when we had a massive meeting, we had vendors, we had managers, we had employees, and it was going on and on and on about what are we going to do. And a few minutes before the meeting started, I got a call from Traci. When I picked up the phone and she’s like, “Hey, did you know that this customer has an issue?” And I was like, “Yes Traci, I’m well aware of it.” And she’s like, “Well, what are you going to do about it?” And I got into my strategies, my meetings, my people employees were doing this, you know, chaotic coordination of launching a space shuttle. And she said, “No, I want you to hear this. What are you going to do for this customer?” Right then and there a senior executive zoomed in on the issue at the level that required my immediate attention. While I, on the other hand, a manager, completely zoomed out, looking at this 30,000-foot problem trying to build a space shuttle. And in the reality, what mattered to me the most is that at the end of the day it’s not about the complexity of the program. It is about the essence of your being and what truly matters to you. Those types of things are leaving the impact on people who are close to you, or people who are working with you, or for you.
So Traci is through and through, she takes care of her people, she takes care of her friends, she takes care of her family. For her there is no difference between a family friend, or a customer of the bank, or a member of the community. If she can do something for you, she would. And she also did the same thing for me.
And the last few months, I’ve been living in Downeast Maine, continuing to learn from Traci, and she’s continued to take care of me. And not because I’m an employee of the bank or a friend or a family member. I’m just the person who needs help, and she knows that she’s in position to do it.
Rich: So if I’m hearing you correctly, I think as you talk about legacy is something that you’re living rather than something you leave behind. What I’m hearing is once you know who you are, and it sounds like Traci knows who she is, is that you live that every day. You’re not thinking about how people are going to look back on you. You just make sure that you are living those responsibilities and those credos every single day. And that’s how you make a more immediate impact on people and really change the trajectory of their lives.
Yury: Absolutely. That’s this legacy that I’m going to carry with me. And hopefully, I’ll be able to share her legacy with people that are around me.
Rich: I’ve definitely heard it, as you shared those five lessons with us. You know, one of the things that I’ve heard is how important relationships are and all of those stories are about relationships. And obviously when we talk about Fast Forward Maine and helping growing Maine businesses, a lot of the conversations end up being a little bit specific around tactics, techniques, even strategies; how to generate more leads, how to get more business, how to be more financially stable, whatever the case may be. But at the end of the day, your growth pattern from immigrant to entrepreneur and beyond, has really been based on not just some lucky connections that you’ve made with people, but also what you’ve made of those connections. And in terms of taking away lessons, and even if you might be a little bit defensive initially, listening to what other people had to say, and continually working towards that self-improvement and helping the people in your life around you, Yury.
And I’ll just say, we don’t have an official mentor/mentee relationship, but you know, I’ve always been interested in the way that you have been growing as a person, growing as a businessperson, and just have to say that I’m really impressed with everything I’ve seen over the last 5 to 10 years that we’ve known each other.
Yury: Well Rich, it’s generous of you, but I think I learned a lot from you. And one of the most important lessons I think is that regardless of your successes, regardless of your street cred, or having a social media celebrity-type of status, when I met you, you’re the same way that I know you now. You were kind, you were honest, you didn’t hold anything back. You gave me everything you had, and you engaged with me like an equal. There wasn’t some kind a patronage or you weren’t pontificating about how I should do social media or what I should be doing.
You told me that, “Hey, this is what works for me. And this is how I go about it.” And I was like, “Wow. A guy like him was talking to a dude like me. I’m still a student and he’s interested in me as much as I’m interested in him.” So, you know Rich, that relationship, this dynamic, there shouldn’t be a status, there shouldn’t be a role. You know, we’re all diamonds in the making, we’re all gurus in the making. And if I can push you forward or you can pull me forward, that’s best for the two of us. Because at the end of the day, it’s not staying in some kind of silo. We are sharing it because for us, it’s not about how much we know, it is about what other people do with the knowledge that we give.
Rich: Well, I don’t ever feel comfortable with people complimenting me, especially on recording, so I’m going to have to stop you there. And this is not the end. Obviously, this is the end of a phase in our relationship together. It was great fun putting on the podcast. The podcast is going to continue even after you have moved on to even greater things.
Yury: As it should. As it should.
Rich: Yeah. I always wished that, even though it wasn’t a podcast, I always wished that there was this kind of advice and help when I was first starting my business, because I certainly didn’t know what I was doing. And I’ve been doing it now for 24 years, and sometimes some days I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing the best I can. But the idea of putting out content that’s going to help people grow their business, especially here in Maine, I think is critically important. So we’ll continue doing what we do best and just getting great information out there to business owners.
So as you look forward, what do you see for the next couple of years for you, Yury? What’s the game plan, or are you just open to any opportunities that arise?
Yury: I mean, I have different ideas as you know, we talked about some of those in private. But what I know for a fact is that I’m moving to Dallas to be closer to my family. I’m not thinking about any particular jobs right now. I’ve been in marketing, I’ve been doing banking for the last 10 years. But what I’m going to do now, I’m just taking a month break just to see what the world is all about and to make sure that I’m still the same Yury who’s passionate about life, about people. I’m going to go check out museums, geek out at some art galleries.
I don’t know, if they have fashion shows, I want to check those out as well. You know, maybe go connect with some authors and local libraries. You know, just dive into art and see what Dallas is all about.
Rich: And your energy, Yury, is definitely infectious. And I’ve always appreciated your love of entrepreneurship. I think that’s one of the reasons why you and I have bonded. I remember a couple of years ago when you came on the Maine Brew Bus for Agents of Change, and all you did was pepper Don with questions about the entrepreneurial side of brewing and distilling. And I thought it was kind of funny, but it was also very sweet and exactly who you are.
So it’s been an absolutely great ride with you. And before we get to the ‘fast takes’, I just want to say it’s been an absolute pleasure having you as my co-host, Yury. I couldn’t imagine any of this happening without you. So thank you sir. Much appreciated.
Yury: Thank you, Rich.
Rich: All right. This is the part of the show where we share our ‘fast takes’. This is going to be the 74th and last time we’re going to do this. We’ll have to come up with a new schtick next week, I guess, or they’ll just be my ‘fast takes’. But anyways, this has been episode 74. And if you want to get all of Yury’s lessons in written format, you can head on over to our website at fastforwardmaine.com/74. That’s right, we did 74 episodes together. That’s quite an achievement when most podcasts don’t last more than 10 episodes. So like I said, this is the time that we do our fast takes. So Yury, even though these were your lessons, what was your ‘fast take’ for today?
Yury: Would it be okay if I share, two?
Rich: Yes. I guess since it’s your last show.
Yury: Thank you. I knew you would say that, so I came prepared with two. The first ‘fast take’ is actually about Fast Forward Maine. Two years ago when we started, we were sharing ear buds, sitting in the corner. We didn’t have equipment, we didn’t have community. People didn’t even know that we existed, we didn’t even have a name when we started. Two and a half years later, I’m not saying that we’ve arrived, but I’m saying that we’ve witnessed the difference, thanks to people. So my ‘fast take’ to those who are listening and thinking about starting something on their own. It doesn’t matter where you start. What matters is the process, is the journey. Because it may take a week, it may take a year, but if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it doesn’t really matter how long it takes as long as you are in the process. So that was my ‘fast take’. And Rich, thank you for the Fast Forward Maine platform to allow me to witness this and learn this lesson and experience this ‘fast take’.
My personal ‘fast take’ is that I think it’s important to have a personal success formula. And my success formula that I wanted to share from those five lessons that you just heard from me, is that effort plus output equals outcome. And let me unpack it just real quick. Effort is the energy, the quality that you put into your work. But just because you’re doing something really, really well, it doesn’t mean that it produces any results. Right? So the output is the actual product of your efforts, something that is being created. And a lot of people very often stop there. However, I think the critical element, and this is kind of like the path to success or to make a difference, is actually arriving to the outcome. Why did you start? Why did you put your energy into something? What did you create, and what difference has your creation made in the lives of people? So for me, that simple three-word formula – effort plus output equals outcome – makes the world different.
Rich: Sounds good.
Yury: So Rich, now it’s my turn to ask you, what was your ‘fast take’?
Rich: It comes back to what I’ve mentioned earlier, which is it’s really all about relationships and being open to them. And you and I, we met up at Bangor. I think it was where I was giving a presentation and you were handing out some giant oversized novelty check to somebody through Machias Savings Bank, and we kind of clicked and we stayed in touch.
My relationship with you has been insanely positive on a number of different fronts, including you’ve given me and my company opportunities to get up on a bigger stage and do some really impressive things, because of the support of Machias Savings Bank. First with Agents of Change, now with Fast Forward Maine. And certainly I hope it’s been a relationship that’s gone both ways.
But as I think back on so many of the things that we ended up doing, were definitely a combination of us coming up with ideas together. About pivoting away from Agents of Change to create something that was more for business owners. I had been wanting to do a podcast for years about business in general, not just about marketing. You were the one who actually had heard the story that I bought the domain Fast Forward Maine 10 years ago, and didn’t know what to do with it and said, “Why don’t we call this new venture Fast Forward Maine?” And I don’t think I would have realized, I wouldn’t have put two and two together, even though it seemed so obvious as soon as you said it.
And, and just your enthusiasm has been really infectious as far as getting the word out there about this content. And so as I look back, just not on this one episode but on all the episodes, my ‘fast take’ is relationships are everything in business and in life, and you really do have to be open to what other people are saying. And other people are feeling because you’re going to take lessons from them, whether they’re your mentors, your mentees, your customers, your vendors, your coworkers, that so much of life is just built on understanding what people want to do, helping them get there. And everything starts to fall into place when you follow that model.
And that was my ‘fast take’ for the first 74 episodes of this podcast.