Born out of the friendship between Co-Founders CEO Jonathan Dalli and the late Jonathan Chetcuti, The Concept Stadium was founded in 2010 as a boutique creative marketing, branding, and communications agency. Today, the CEO intends to build on the company’s momentum, continuing to offer bespoke as services as a responsive, people-first agency that places integrity, reliability, and creativity at its heart.

“My personal hashtag is #allwehaveistime,” Jonathan Dalli, the CEO of The Concept Stadium, states firmly. “I’m a strong believer in giving the team, clients and mentees the time, space and resources they need in order to be the best they can be.”

Jonathan’s philosophy has been wrought by years of experience in the marketing sector, and by his self- professed passion for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In fact, he wrote his thesis on the subject for his first degree in Management. “Time is all we really have, so, here at The Concept Stadium, we love to give back to people,” he stresses. His role at the firm – which he established with his late business partner and close friend, Jonathan Chetcuti – is very people- centric. “It’s my role to manage a team of people who are excellent at what they do,” he smiles, “and to lead them in a way which makes business sense.”

He describes his position as “not authoritarian”, but rather a “listening and challenging-based” one. His is a role that prioritises a personal touch and being sensitive to the needs and challenges of those he works with. “I still deal with clients personally, even though the company has now been running for more than 10 years. It’s the part of the business I enjoy the most; to see client activations taking off and bearing fruit is immensely satisfying to me,” he says. “It’s always and only about the people around me – those internally, working with the company, and those externally, our clients. I love seeing people succeed.”

The CEO’s open and generous attitude leading a team of ‘commercial creatives’ has paid dividends over the years, as the company has gone from strength to strength. Officially launched in 2010 as a boutique marketing and consultancy company, the firm was established by the two Jonathans, who had already been working together for a couple of years, setting the groundwork and building the foundations for their agency.

“I used to work in marketing roles for other companies and had the opportunity to travel extensively, which was exciting,” Jonathan explains. “Then I met my late business partner. We wanted to offer something different from the other players in the sector and position ourselves as a marketing partner, sitting with our clients and being true collaborators with them. We wanted our creative credentials to shine and to lead the business to success,” Jonathan attests.

From a team of five in 2014, the company grew to 20 in 2021 – and the clients grew with the firm. “It was a small office at first but we started to become known in the sector. We had strong retention among our staff and clients kept coming back. It’s been exciting – when you win a creative pitch, it’s fantastic. It makes those sleepless nights worth it and it gives you a great personal, team and business buzz,” Jonathan laughs, recalling some of the firm’s milestone moments. “As a case in point, a few years ago, we were chosen by Qatar Airways to launch their Doha to Malta route – I mean, one of the biggest airlines in the world, choosing us, a small agency in Naxxar – that was incredible!”

Today, The Concept Stadium is a well-oiled machine with a strong management team, “which removes dependency on myself and allows staff to nurture their leadership skills,” Jonathan shares. The outfit has expanded to operate across six business verticals: branding, design and audio-visual, web UX/UI, digital and socials, public relations and events, and strategy and communication. “We are a fun bunch, but we are also KPI-driven – and we monitor data on a daily basis. We also became ISO-certified in 2016, which pushed us to further streamline our processes,” Jonathan attests, adding: “I believe a lot in being disciplined in work.”

The CEO is also exacting on himself, waking up early to “get things done” and heading to the office to tackle any challenges in quick meetings with the team. He calls these “internal scrums and huddles”, and ensures that they are time-bound and directed towards a solution. “I insist on this, otherwise we simply go round in circles,” he says.

However, the journey has not come without its difficulties. In 2020, Jonathan Chetcuti lost his brave battle with illness, at the young age of 41. “2020 was difficult. We were trying to cope with the fallout from the pandemic and we knew Jonathan was unwell. It was a very emotionally charged time. It taught us, as a team, to be resilient and reminded us that we need to pull together,” Jonathan says.

The sadness at the loss also shifted the team’s mindset. “There’s definitely been a change in perspective since Jonathan passed on. We have learnt to be more grateful for the simpler things. We’re happy to be alive, to have a good and healthy life, and to be able to work in our home country. And we’ve learnt to prioritise the human element to business. We’re still a commercially driven organisation – and that’s important – but not everything is driven by the bottom line. We’ve also understood, for example, that it’s the little wins every day which make everything worthwhile,” Jonathan shares.

Looking ahead, the CEO aims to continue putting emphasis on the business’ personal approach and is excited about new developments on the horizon. “We ensure our clients grow and that we’re their partner in that growth. So, for instance, if a client phones me at 8pm, I see that as a sign of trust and collaboration, and that they value our input in critical times,” he says.

“You have to be extremely agile in marketing,” Jonathan continues, “and we are very receptive to change. We respond to market conditions and we decide if something makes sense for us and the brands we manage.” The CEO also sees a shift in the industry occurring, with increasing digitisation emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. “The internet is where we do business and socialise; the pandemic has shown us how the world is at our fingertips and what an efficient tool it can be in this line of work.”

In light of this, The Concept Stadium will be moving towards further internationalisation over the next few months. “I see us working more with foreign partners. This will help not only us but also our local clients, particularly when it comes to increased market penetration, acquisitions and product diversification,” he continues.

In Jonathan’s view, the entire sector in Malta would do well to work together. “I would like to see more collaboration between industry players, since this brings about innovation,” he says. “I always say that every day is a school day, and that’s because we need to be constantly learning. We need to show people that their brand exists within an ecosystem and a community – that there’s a bigger picture here.”

Over and above these business goals, Jonathan aims to realise personal targets that are close to his heart. On the one-year anniversary of his late co-Founder’s passing, Elaine Bonello, Jonathan’s wife, and he set up the Jonathan Chetcuti Programme, which donates to a promising athlete in memory of Jonathan’s love of sport. Jonathan was a well-loved fixture on the Maltese volleyball circuit – known for his team spirit, joyful personality and passion for the game. He represented Malta three times at the Games of the Small Nations of Europe (in 1999, 2001 and 2003), and played twice at the European Volleyball Championships (in 1998 and 2002). This year, Richard Schultheis, a promising young sailor chosen by the Maltese Olympic Committee, is the happy recipient of the contribution. “This will honour the legacy of a beautiful human being,” Jonathan smiles.

This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2022 – an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders.

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