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IAM2039 – CEO Unlocks Business Success Through Building Relationships

Podcast Interview with Juma Bannister

In this episode, we have Juma Bannister, the co-founder and executive creative director of Relate Studios. Juma shares his business journey, notably discussing his transition from working as an employee to becoming an entrepreneur.

The discussion delves into Bannister's experience in the creative industry, particularly in photography and corporate marketing, emphasising the value of networking and long-term relational approach to business.

Juma also detailed his company's transition from being solely a photography studio to a strategic marketing and production company. Significant points from this episode include Bannister's philosophy of focusing on one business goal at a time and the importance of defining leadership roles early on in a business partnership.


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Full Interview:


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Juma Bannister Teaser 00:00

And so we help people figure that out how they're going to use the content, how they're going to target the people that they want to buy from them. And right now, we're in the middle of a couple of planning a couple of big content strategies for people.

So that's what we tell people, this is the content you need, this is how you can use video at the center.

Intro 00:20

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:57

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Juma Bannister.

Juma, it's great to have you on the show.

Juma Bannister 01:04

Gresh it's great to be here. I know you're still waiting for my podcast episode with you to come out, but in the meantime, we can do something like this and catch up.

Gresham Harkless 01:12

Yeah, absolutely. I love the opportunity to be in on Juma Show, and I get to talk a little bit more about that. We get to flip the table, so to speak, so I can hear about all the awesome things he's been working on, he's doing and just the empire that he's building as well, too. So before we, of course, jump into the interview, I want to read a little bit more about Juma so you can hear about some of those awesome things that he's been working on.

Juma is the co-founder and executive creative director of Relate Studios, a strategic marketing and production company. He's been working in creative industries for over 21 years serving corporate clients, mainly in finance, energy and tech industries. Over the past 3 years, he's created over 550 pieces of content and hosted over 70 episodes on his live show, the useful content creation show where he interviewed content practitioners and creators from all around the world.

When it comes to marketing, he believes the true purpose of content is to build long-term relationships. As Juma said, and I said, too, it was definitely a pleasure being on a show. I want to give him a little shout out as well, too, because it had to be one of the most enjoyable episodes that I've been on, just because you can tell that Juma did his homework. He's all about the relationships. As I read about it, he says, so he definitely talked the talk and walked the walk.

I was reading a little bit more about him and he said that relationship is part of his DNA. He said relationships are at the core of building anything significant, and he's an extremely talented and creative individual. I think you might even mention in an interview that your dad was also a creative, was an artist as well, too. So, he has a wealth of knowledge and I just want everybody to buckle in and hear about all the awesome things that he's working on.

Are you ready to speak to the I Am CEO community, Juma?

Juma Bannister 02:48

Of course, of course. Let's go. Let's go.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:50

Let's get it started then. So to kick everything off, let's rewind that clock a bit, and hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Juma Bannister 02:57

All right. So my story is very interesting and at the same time, it's normal. So I didn't really desire to be in business. That was not my first thing. I was a very good employee at all the jobs I worked at and was very willing to help build something that was not my own. It just so happened that when I continued to build my skill and talents that it began to lean towards that. So I always had like side jobs and side hustles and things of that nature, but it was never something that I said, okay, I'm going to do this for a while, and then I'm going to make it a full-time thing. But what happened is that the very last job I had before I went full-time was at a company that the CEO of that company was very supportive of me.

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He said you can't be in two places at once. If you feel like you need to do this, then you can't do that. So you have to make a decision as to what you want to do. He described it as, he believes in God, so he says God is not schizophrenic. He wouldn't want you here and another place at the same time. So I said, that is so very true. And so while I was at that company, that was the longest job I'd had for about four years. Entering the company, I knew I was going to leave eventually. I developed my skill inside of that, and the skill that I didn't have when I entered the company was photography. While I was there, I developed that particular skill inside of the company. Interestingly, I shot that CEO's wedding. I shot his daughter's wedding. I shot his son's wedding and a lot of the people in the company at the time.

So it ended up being a place for me to grow and develop. When I left and I went full time, I went full time into wedding photography initially, did that for about three years, built up the business and then had a business partner changed the entire business over into a marketing company, more focused on video, and we've been building that off for the last 12 or so odd years. And of course, the business is not the same as it was at the beginning. The business has changed now to focus on some of the upstream things inside of marketing, like content strategy, and we do a lot of consultations on videos, but we also produce the content. Hence the name strategic marketing and production company.

So that's my story in a nutshell.

Gresham Harkless 05:14

Nice. I love you sharing that story. It sounded like what steps you needed to take and you had that opportunity to build your skills to get prepared for that step that you end up taking ultimately.

Juma Bannister 05:26

Yeah. It was an interesting process because I knew going in that I would leave, but that was the job I had for the longest. That CEO was so very supportive of me, and I learned so much being in that business apart from my own business. That is the best place I've ever worked because I learned so much from him, the team and the leadership team as well.

So I think if I hadn't gone there. I would not have been the business person I am today. I think mentorship was a big principle inside of that experience.

Gresham Harkless 06:01

Yeah. So I know you touched on it a little bit, but I wanted to drill down a little bit more into, how you're working with and serving your clients.

Can you take us through what that looks like and what that process is?

Juma Bannister 06:09

All right. So, we used to be a full-on photography studio, but right now we've transitioned to more of the marketing parts of it, although one could argue that photography is a component of marketing. It's an outcome. It's a collateral that you get. So my business partner, he teaches marketing and he's a qualified marketer. I have learned in the trenches along the way, and I've developed myself by active learning and also by doing some different sorts of study. And the best way to learn for me is to actually do it. So what happened over the last few years inside of businesses that we transitioned from providing the end part of it, which is the visual part of it going up the supply chain into the content strategy part of it.

So now what we do to serve our clients is that we help them develop to plan to execute on their content mainly inside the video space, because we believe that when you're developing a content strategy right now, that developing a video first content strategy is one of the ways that many people should go, not everyone, but many people should go with a video first content strategy. We help people figure that out, how they're going to use the content, how they're going to target the people that they want to buy from them. Right now, we're in the middle of a couple of Planning a couple of big content strategies for people.

So that's what we tell people. This is the content you need. This is how you can use video at the center. Then we take that stuff that we tell them on the planet we make and then we go and we produce the other parts of it. So we both in the planning phase and in the production parts of creating content.

Gresham Harkless 07:53

Yeah, I absolutely love that. Do you feel like your secret sauce, it could be for yourself, the business or a combination of both, is it that ability to first of all, have that strategy, but also understand how the relationship building goes hand in hand.

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Do you feel like that's part of what sets you all apart and makes you unique?

Juma Bannister 08:09

Yeah. So the relationship path is very big, both from a where the clients come from perspective and also from our ethos, what we believe in and how we treat with content and everything that we produce is a big deal for me. You would have read that in my bio that is something that is important to me, that relationship aspect of it and also helping our clients to build those long-term relationships. So taking a piece of us and showing clients how to do that.

Now another part, another aspect of that is the relationships that we built inside of shooting weddings, interestingly because it's so strange when we were in our twenties doing that business, everybody getting married was around that age. So we met these people we could relate because we were around the same age. Some of them became good friends, and then they transition into their corporate life, their corporate job, they open businesses, and now we have this pool of people that we know who, when they're looking for something that we can provide, they come and said, I know you shot my wedding five years ago, but I have this business. We need to do some marketing in this area. Can you do it?

The answer to that question, obviously, is yes, and the reason they can trust us is because we were there on the most important day of their life already. So they know they can trust us. We were there when they were at their most vulnerable. So they know they can trust us. So that's already built. So many of the people who we do work for now, we did work for them, but the context has just shifted, and so we took them across. So that aspect of relationship has sustained the business as well as the new part of it, which is how do you take this content and build relationship with people that you don't know in order to build that trust so that they can buy from you later on?

So those are the two aspects of it.

Gresham Harkless 09:51

Yeah, that makes so much sense. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book or even a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Juma Bannister 10:02

I think the thing that I have struggled with for a long time that I figured out, I think people may have mentioned this already is a known thing, which is that you try to focus on one thing at a time. When I was younger, I used to when they were in school, they would give the reports, my report for school, it always used to say, I do good work, but I'm too restless. I do good work, but he's too restless. He does good work, but he's too restless. I don't want to sit still. Now, maybe back in those days, if they were diagnosing ADHD, they may have diagnosed me, but in those days, you're just restless, right? Or you're miserable or whatever they call it. That had gone straight into my adult life, right?

So what I do is as a CEO or somebody who runs a business, is I try to tell people, don't try to focus on multiple things when you are looking to accomplish a particular goal in a particular time frame. Forget everything else. Focus on this one thing. There's no such thing as multitasking. It just makes you less productive. So if you're doing one thing, do one thing, and in order for me to do one thing, sometimes what I have to do is take the thing that's on me and give it to somebody else to do, which I'm sure you figured out, right? So take the thing that's on me and say, you do this while I'm doing this. I know this was originally meant for me, but you can take on this responsibility. So I will have the room to do other things that are important.

And so as a hack, I would just say, focus on one thing at a time. Don't get too distracted by other things, even though they're looming over you, because sometimes they loom and you feel the pressure of it. Lock the pressure out. Focus on one thing.

Gresham Harkless 11:44

Yeah, that's so powerful. What would you consider to be a little bit more of what I call a CEO nugget? That could be a little bit more worded with a similar piece of advice. I like to say it might be something you would tell your favorite client, or if you have to do a time machine, you might tell your young business self.

Juma Bannister 11:57

Wow. What would I tell my younger business self? I would definitely tell my younger business self to just be patient. There are things that will happen that you don't like, but be patient and allow for the process, but don't  let the process run through you, engage with it. And so I would see because I have a business partner that, and this is specifically for people who want to have business partners not employees, but people who they partner with, we have to look at our particular personalities in the beginning. I would say in a case like that, you have to be clear about who has the last word, who's the primary leader even though you're in it 50/50 and the money is split 50/50. Defining who's the primary leader and then out of that defining roles is very important.

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I know some people don't believe in partnerships. Some people actually speak against it strongly that they want to be the only person who is able to run and make decisions. I'm saying in a partnership, you still have to have a primary leader and that person has the last say. But if you are building a partnership with someone, define that at the very beginning, at the outset, don't come in ignorance and say, it'll be all be fine. It'll work out. No, we find it at the beginning at the start. Who is the primary leader? Where does the vision come from? What is the touchdown point? For where we're going and how we're building this business. If that person is identified, then we know where the direction for the business and the nature and the values of the business come from.

And then you're okay to build and the other person has to agree and come alongside and build that. They have to align themselves in that way. So this is just advice for people who want to build partnerships. Define it from the outset, let it be clear, and then you can build it together.

Gresham Harkless 13:46

Nice. I love that Juma. Now I wanna ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. Our goal is to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So Juma, what does being a CEO mean to you.

Juma Bannister 13:57

Yeah, I think the main thing is being selfless and sacrifice that you are not building. You're building it for you, and you're taking the most risk, so you get the most reward, but also that you're not building it in isolation, and that it is selflessness and sacrifice that's required. Because I think about the people all the time. I think about the people who work for me all the time. They go to bed and sleep, and I think about them.

I think it's very important as somebody who's running a business as a CEO that you don't ever get disconnected from that, because depending on the size of the business, let's just suppose you have a thousand employees, you're not going to know everyone personally. But you have to have this understanding that those people are extremely important. Every number has a life connected to it. I think for me, it's really selflessness and sacrifice at the core. Business savvy is important, the ability to network is important, strategy is important but the people, in my mind, are the most critical thing.

Gresham Harkless 14:57

Absolutely, I love that, being able to have that selflessness and sacrificing. I truly appreciate that definition. Of course, I appreciate your time even more. So what I want to do now is pass the mic to you just so that you can let us know if there's anything additional you want to let our readers listeners know, of course, how best people get all of you find out about your show, all the awesome things that you and your team are working on.

Juma Bannister 15:19

So, yeah, I think I would love it if people could listen to you on my podcast that's coming up soon. So they can find that by going on any one of the podcasting platforms and searching useful content is Useful Content Podcast. If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, do that as well.

I'm the guy with the red background. I have a black background. Usually, I have a red background and a red shirt. So I'm like doing a different thing today but other than that, just check me out and listen to the episode with me and grassroot, which will be coming out sometime early next year. Yeah, we can connect there.

Gresham Harkless 15:54

Awesome. Thank you so much Juma, to make it even easier, we're gonna have the links and information that show notes.

I appreciate your time and look forward to having you on again and have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Juma Bannister 16:03

I want to put a plug for where I am right now is a studio. It's a full-fledged studio. I want to plug them because a relationship again, I wouldn't have this. I'm sitting down in the business owner's office chair right now and I'm thankful for him allowing me to record here.

Great. Wonderful conversation. Thanks, Gresh.

Outro 16:20

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast. Powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at

This has been the I Am CEO podcast with Gresham Harless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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