My Best Advice to Small Business Owners


The first thing you need to start with is all of these hats that you're wearing, what is the one that you have to get rid of that will change your entire business overnight.


When I started the company back in 2006, Google hadn't bought YouTube yet. We didn't even shoot in HD, we didn't shoot in HD till 2009. But when I started the company, it was only me, it was only a camera for quite some time; a year and a half, two years. And the problem is, I wanted to grow and I wanted to scale, but I didn't have any money. So the first thing I did was I hired a PA for minimum wage, and that PA was going to help me; theoretically, they were gonna help me carry stuff and they were going to be my second for shooting so I didn't have to hire freelancers, and they were there to help me edit and do all of this stuff. And I had the PA for maybe six months because ultimately, guess what happened? One, the recession ran out of all of our money, all of the cash on hand disappeared, and two, the PA couldn't actually do anything without me telling them what to do and checking what they were doing and having the processes, everything else.


So I hire this PA thinking, “Great, they're cheap and affordable”, I could throw stuff at them, but they couldn't actually do anything, and it wasn't a good hire. And so when it came to my first real hire, what I really did was I sat down and looked at all the different hats that I have to wear; I have to wear the video director hat, and the video editor hat, and the salesperson hat, and the scriptwriting hat, I have to wear all these different hats. No matter the industry you're in, no matter the size of your business, you have to wear a lot of different hats. And I thought, what is the biggest thing that's holding me up? I need sales and I need revenue to be able to build a team, I need better directing and things like that so my work quality can increase. I need more editing so that way, you know, I'm not spending so many hours editing, I need sales and marketing and finance. I need all of these things.


But here's the thing: I went to film school and I loved editing, even though it took a lot of time. I could craft a really great message. I'm not going to give that up yet. You know, I do want to hire a Producer and Director, but if we have no projects, what am I paying that person for? Right, so I went out and found one that was actually freelance. You know, Roland, who's been with me for nine years now, started freelancing with me as a DLP because I could kind of make up the directing side, but I was a terrible GOP. So I found a freelancer for that. And really, as I started to work through this, to me, it all came down to sales.


You know, I wasn't at the time, great at sales, I needed to get a lot better at it. And so I thought, I'm going to go out and hire a salesperson, and that salesperson is going to make sales. And then we're going to make those sales. And we can go ahead and make the stuff and then I'll edit it. And essentially that's how I grew. I looked at my business, looked at each different category, each different hat I wore, and thought, what is the domino play? What is the play where it takes a lot of effort and a lot of work to push this one domino over but then after I do that, every other one seems like a no brainer? Then the recession happened. I ran out of money. So I went out and got a loan for $50,000, I didn't pay myself for six months straight. Now I'm married. I had a mortgage at the time, I had two kids under the age of four, and I didn't pay myself for six months, it was really hard.


But I took this loan that's $50,000 loan and I went out and hired a salesperson, I paid him nonstop. I paid him every single paycheck, I paid him. And I drew and drew and drew on that. And I didn't pay myself until I thought we could get comfortable enough for me to pay myself two grand here, three grand there, or whatever it was. That was the big domino. You know, it was hard. It was a lot of work. It takes about a year and a half to start to get some sales up first to be able to pay myself and then for me to say like, you know, I'm so busy editing, I need it. I'm too busy editing, I need to hire an editor. And then it became well, I can't produce every single project, we're not getting too busy because I have to help with sales and management and all this. So now they're going to be a director.


And then every single hire after that was just hiring the next natural place very organically, going from one team to two teams, going from two teams to three teams, going from one editor to two editors, to three editors to four editors, to five, going from one motion graphics person in art direction to two, it's all just grown from there. But the first thing you need to start with is all of these hats that you're wearing, what is the one that you have to get rid of that will change your entire business overnight?


What is the domino decision that you're going to make that you can push over with tons of effort and tons of risk and tons of hard work, but if it works, and when it works, and when it goes over, every other decision is easy after that? That is my approach to growing and scaling a service-based business where you are the main person, but guess what, you want to build that team. You want to grow that team, you want to go to the next level. Growing and scaling your business by being better at sales and better at marketing. Better customer experience is important to you.


Mark

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