we are on our own.what now?
Me and my colegue worked for a few years in a big production company.He was Art director there and I was compostor/editor.We started our own company this year doing broadcast design and post-production.At a former job we had a lot of people coming strictly because we were there, knowing what we can do and make with tools there. Unforunately those people were directors/DOP`s and producers, but not the owners of the advertising agencies who at the end of the day decide where to go to do post-production. These people that we know say that we are good and they would like to work with us but it is their agency rule to not to change a horse that is winning, and beside that who knows what kind of deal they have with the company that works for them last 5 years - thats our former boss. How to approach these agencies?
Should we send them a demo reel of things that we done before and say - hey we`re the guys that worked for you before, but we are on our own now, please consider us for your next job?!
This also goes for the large companies that do bussiness only with the one post-production house for a few years in a row - and they are more or less satisfied with them.Is there a way to penetrate the barrier and even try to present them who we are and what we do, so they can count on us too?
If anyone has the similar experience or some kind of advance how to won the clients back, it would be highly appreciated.
[kicki] "If anyone has the similar experience or some kind of advice how to win the clients back, it would be highly appreciated."
I realize that this may startle and even offend some people here but these clients are not and were not "yours." Winning them back is a distortion of the facts. The accounts did belong and do belong to the company you worked for.
Sure, you could focus on trying to take them away from the agency but then you are immediately going to branded as a "scab" company and not many legitimate large clients wish to do business like this.
It's a "karma kinda thing." They see that if you will do stuff like this to your former employer, then what will you do to them when the opportunity arises to cut their throat to your advantage?
I do not mean to be hard and I am truly not trying to insult you, merely give you a picture of the situation from a viewpoint you may not have considered.
You can waste a ton of time, effort and money trying to get these accounts and I will guarantee you that you will be lucky to get one -- really lucky. The odds are that you will end up with not a single one.
Build your own business. Don't ravage someone elses.
Focus on building relationships with companies whom you can serve as you come out of the gate in your new venture. Maybe you won't be getting rich right away but you won't be building a reputation as a scab company with whom few will want to do business.
Over time, some of the companies you wish to work with may see your efforts and they will ask for an RFP or a presentation from you -- if they do, then pitch them with all the professionalism and intensity you possess. They called and they are now asking. If you go after them right now, you will be building a reputation that will hurt you in the long run and stack the deck against you in a way from which you will likely have little chance to recover.
That's my two cents, maybe someone else will see it differently...
Thanks for your advice Ron,
that was also my opinion, that`s why we did not tried to approach these people in past six months.
And I do not think that these clients were ever "ours" they were their clients that were extremely satisfied with the work we did for them.I apologize - that was badly formulated sentence.
Surely we are building our own business and we have few clients that are pleased with us but it`s a like doing a comercials for local deli store, after you`ve done few for a microsoft.
So your advice is to stay put and not even try to aproach these agencies on a open field and let them know that we even exist anymore?
I would also ditto Ron's advice and give my own.
Look for leads/networking groups in your area, join the Chamber of Commerce for your region(more than one if it applies), and like Ron said...build your own business.
The reason I say this...I am doing just that. I relocated with my family and production company 5 months ago to a new region. I have no less than 6 projects that are headed toward contracts as we speak. Two of them as leads from the local Chamber and the rest from two seperate leads groups that I have joined or attended.
I will be honest...I don't think I have ever worked the "business" side of my business so hard before, but it is really paying off and is pushing me way out of my comfort zone and making...dare I say it...more of a sales person out of me, as well as my old roles as a DP, Producer, Editor, and video guy extraordinare...lol.
Another suggestion, as well, if you did not burn the bridge with the former employer...pursue a "strategic alliance"...if they have overflow work or still want to offer your services to clients that were happy with your work...offer them a cut rate so that they make a percentage good enough to "resell" your services.
Also, I am not sure of what all the services are that you offer...but what I am seeing is that people are more likely to use me when they see that I am a "one-stop-shop". I offer concept to final product, be it on tape or interactive media...I handle it. Now if I don't do it myself...I sell it as though I do...again via strategic alliances that I have with good, reputable people that I can trust, resell their services, and I still get a modest percentage. I am honest with my clients if have to "farm" services out, but they also know that they are not paying more because of it and I still handle the logistics.
Sorry to ramble, just what has worked incredibly for me.
Good luck to you...I think you will be very rewarded with what you are doing...I know I have. Just don't burn bridges and remember that the most solid looking lead will probably not work out, but the most obscure lead will...just seems to be the way it goes for me...lol.
Chameleon Mobile Video Productions
"It is not the light at the end of the tunnel that we should seek...it is the courage to take the next step in the dark that we must find."
Clearly, I would be in the minority with my point of view on this specific point, but then again I
Great advice. Two aspects of this situation which haven't been touched on: (1)how to deal with being impugned by your previous employer; (2) how to let people know your new situation.
When you aren't around to defend yourself you might be blamed for everything that goes wrong. When I left one job, partially over my opposition to pursuing a major contract, the company went ahead with the contract. About a year later the contract blew up with a loss of about $800,000, much as I predicted. A few months after that, one of my friends "inside" told me that the company was saying that I had been in FAVOR of the contract. Implication: I'd been canned and good riddance, instead of, I'd left and coulda saved them a bundle if they'd listened. Damage to reputation: I don't really know, but I bet I didn't get a few calls as a result.
Also, your old employer isn't going to tell anyone that you are in business.
So, if you have valuable contacts from that job, make sure you stay in touch. You can tell them you aren't soliciting THEIR business because you know that they are happy with XYZ Firm, but you are open for OTHER business, and if they know of someone else who might use your services, please let them know...
I agree with most of what's been posted on this thread, but I do have a comment about employees breaking off to do their own thing.
I've had many good people train at my shop and then spread their wings; it's just the natural order of things. Usually, they are very successful. Sometimes, they come to realize that the "business" part of the business is not nearly so attractive from the captain's chair, but usually they are successful on their own for the same reasons they were successful working with me.
I am a supporter of everyone who's ever labored here; they've all worked hard and deserve whatever rewards they can earn after they move on. True, they are competitors, but they are also colleagues and friends; we rent gear to them and help all we can. I definitely tell anyone inquiring that they are in business and recommend them when I can.
I'm actually hired by a few of them from time to time and that's always very gratifying. When you become an old dog it's nice to be treated like a favorite uncle!
Best regards to all,
[Leo Ticheli] "I am a supporter of everyone who's ever labored here; they've all worked hard and deserve whatever rewards they can earn after they move on."
I couldn't agree more.
When a former employee takes the knowledge given them and uses it to target their former employer's client list -- well, then in my book, that's playing dirty.
There is a big difference between employees growing their own business and those who walk out with the client list and numbers and then use it against their former employer.
I am glad that Kicki made it clear that this was not her new company's focus, as it appeared to be at first -- it makes it a lot easier to offer ideas and assistance to someone starting fresh.
I, for one, would be hesitant to offer anything more than a cautionary tale to someone whose goal was to cannibalize their former employer's client list.
Your mileage may vary.
[Michael Munkittrick] "Now, far be it from me to claim that I
Interesting things being discussed here. I can see Ron's comments very strongly, but there are, in my opinion, sometimes exceptions.
Many moons ago in the olden times, I was offered a job in the desert. I was currrently working in the gorgeous seacoast city of San Diego. My employer in San Diego knew I was leaving and gave me a fond farewell. Two of my clients asked him where I went and he told them. They then brought their business to the desert so I could continue servicing their needs. I never felt in this instance that I had violated a trust. Of course I didn't actually ask them to follow me.
After 10 years at the facility in the desert I was offered a position at a brand new facility. My employer knew I was offered that position and again I left with a very good relationship. I did inform several of my clients where I was moving and that to continue doing business with me they would have to decide on paying a much higher rate. Most did some didn't. I along with my former employer knew if they hadn't followed me, they would probably have eventually gone somewhere else anyhow since that employer was unable to continue they high quality of service the clients that left were use to receiving without spending a lot of money to upgrade the equipment which he was told was the only way to keep me there.
Soooooo, there are some instances that it really isn't bad business practices to go after clients of a previous employer, but I will admit these instances are rare.
[Charlie King] "My employer in San Diego knew I was leaving and gave me a fond farewell. Two of my clients asked him where I went and he told them. They then brought their business to the desert so I could continue servicing their needs. I never felt in this instance that I had violated a trust. Of course I didn't actually ask them to follow me."
This is a far cry different than targeting a former employer's customer list. I do not see a single unethical thing in what you lay out here and I don't believe for a second that the scenario you present violates a trust.
The problem arises when an employee knows that they are about to leave -- either because they have the desire to leave or may be getting let go for some reason -- and they take customer lists and other things that are actually the property of the company they are leaving.
It's one thing for clients to *want* to follow you because of a relationship they have with you. It is quite another when the relationship is with the company and the former employee targets these clients -- which most will not respond to but some will, due to low-ball pricing or other incentives that attract the client.
[Charlie King] "I, along with my former employer, knew if they hadn't followed me, they would probably have eventually gone somewhere else anyhow since that employer was unable to continue the high quality of service the clients that left were used to receiving without spending a lot of money to upgrade the equipment which he was told was the only way to keep me there."
Companies that will not invest in their own future or in their employees, are prone to failure anyway -- they are playing a defensive war and that never works. If you will not develop new markets and opportunities, then the very ones that were once yours will evaporate eventually.
Best regards, Charlie.
I agree with most of what I've read in this thread. However, I'd like to point a few things out:
- The clients did not go to that production facility because of you. Had you not been there, someone else would have, and the possibility exists that they would have done as well as you since it sounds like the owner had provided the tools and the place needed to do the job. The reality is that you were there because the facility was there, not the reverse.
- Are the demo materials taken from your projects at your old job *really* yours to use? Is it your intellectual property, or does it actually belong to the person/people who were paying you the agree-upon rate to do the work?
- This is why NDA/Non-compete clauses are needed.
Now, all of this is from the perspective of a facility owner, but I truly believe that it's a two-way street. An employer should make an effort to keep employees happy (and productive), and an employee should try to understand and meet the needs of the employer. It's not always going to work out, but just as your former employer doesn't have the right to attempt to prevent you from being a success, neither do you have the right to attempt to take the business away.
I am a business owner. For over 15 years I was a freelance director-editor. Now I own a video publishing company. The following rant applies to businessmen, not freelance artists. In my younger days I actually fell for the bull**** line that it was wrong to compete against previous employers.
Your previous employers call you scum for "stealing" clients. Yeah? Well, how come they do it all the time?
Almost every single business owner I know began their business by
Geez, but no hard feelings, right?
I began my business by starting my *own* thing, not leeching off of someone else's product. But then again, I started 15 years ago right out of college.
And yes, I have turned away clients out of ethics, but no, I haven't ever spoken negatively with clients about former employees. Seems to me that would come across as less than professional and be counterproductive.
[mannfilmz] "Your previous employers call you scum for "stealing" clients. Yeah? Well, how come they do it all the time? Almost every single business owner I know began their business by
Thank you for that post, Ron!
I've found that ethics do count. We have never called on the clients of someone who brought their work to us, nor will we ever.
Over the past twenty-five or so years, we've "lost" some business to former employees of my company; so what? If someone else can better serve a client, they deserve the business. In most cases, we retain our clients because we do good work and we've developed a good relationship with them in many areas. Most clients need all of our services and enjoy working with several people on our staff, so it's difficult for a new boutique shop to serve them as well as we can.
By the way, we don't use non-compete agreements; I really don't think they are enforceable in our business and I would think it's a mistake on many levels to prevent someone from earning a living from a client who wants to hire them. What good is that? Short-term gain against your most precious commodity. Just seems petty and small to me. It surely won't make the client in question have warm feeling for you and I doubt they would be bashful about letting the community at large know about it.
The people I know in the production business are good and ethical people; those who care only about "business at any cost," don't seem to stay around long. In my market we have a sense of community; there's not a doubt in my mind that I could call on any of my competitors to borrow a critical piece of gear in an emergency, and I believe they feel the same way about us. For certain we are all very generous with business advice and technology sharing.
Am I harmed by helping a competitor? Is my competitor harmed by helping me? I think not.
Thanks again, Ron.
Director/Cinematographer... OK, I also have a little piece of a production company.
I personally would not go after an existing current client list but possibly companies that used us 2, 3 or 4 years ago and have not been heard from since. At the company where I work, some decided to go in other directions while some simply do not know what options are open to them.
Since a part of selling is establishing a positive relationship with a prospective client, striking up a new conversation with an old employer's client from the past may not be crossing an ethical line.
At what point is a client no longer a client?
In the real world, things can be complicated, but I do have a pretty simple rule of thumb; if you have to think about whether or not something is ethical, it probably isn't.
The most erroneous homily every coined is, "nice guys finish last." In point of fact, nice guys usually finish very near the top, if not first.
Personally, I tend to subscribe to "Leo's Rule" and have never gone after a client of any company that has sent me work.
This industry is just too small a community and you will lose in the end if you develop a reputation wherein you can't be trusted when a competitor flips you some work because a) they know your area of expertise and respect you; b) they are too busy and need your help; or, c) they are testing you with a small job to see how your ethics work before they flip you a larger job.
Like Leo says, we are an industry that is built on relationships. Those who can't and won't do the steps necessary to build these positive and cross-feeding relationships, are usually those individuals/companies who come and go in this industry. The old-timers in this industry know the importance of the old entertainment industry edict: "It is not what you know, it's who you know." It's still true today. A variant on this might be: "It's not what you know, it's who knows you -- and knows what they can expect."
Those who swim with piranhas usually end up bleeding at best or become lunch for bigger piranhas.
Firstly, I would like to thank you all for your posts and comments it was a pleasure to read them all.
I learned a lot from you, and I have a better understanding of a business side of our job now.With some of you I do agree, with some I dont`t but as we all know there is lot of angles to look at the same thing.
As few of you have said, best thing is if you leave the former employer with a smile and a handshake,but in our case it was not that way.As mannfilmz have written there are other people too.First thing that I was asked when I came to that company was - who are my former clients and how much of them can I bring to them. Next thing was a "deal" that we made that I will be paid more if I bring some new business to them. That also never happened I was payed always the same, except one time when I was payed less than I deserve because I spent to many hours and it was as he said "my opportunity to learn at his facility".Sure I spent a lot of hours finishing a piece but who have said to me how much hours did I have to finish it? It was a first film what was done DI way in our country and he took all the credit for it, not even mentioned my colegue and me who spent 3 months doing cc and visual effects for it.
I did not agree also with a statement that we were like inventory in a facility and that people were coming for the facility itself and not for us. For God`s sake there is 5 shops with smoke and flame in our country why did they come exactly to ours?
And yes I think that as long I do not sign a contract that I give up my creative rights from the works that I`ve done they are mine to show as a proof of my creativity and talent.
So, this employer have hurt us on more on one occasion and yes he is a real shark in business,
but he owns a biggest production company in town (for 10 years and counting) and he is doing just great so the statement thay bad guys loose at the end in our case is wrong too.
Business etics up or down it is just question of honesty and peaceful sleep at night. I choose to be honest and to sleep well, and that`s what I`ll do.I am going to pursue my own path and find my own clients and I`m not going to reject any clients be it ones from former employer or someone new.
And I will do my best to do the work a twice as good as I did for him, because as I have said earlier in a subject we are on our own now!
Once again thanks to all of you, you are great source of wisdom for us that are starting now.
[kicki] "First thing that I was asked when I came to that company was - who are my former clients and how many of them can I bring to them.
I'd chalk this up as a lesson...
A company that asks this of you is likely unscupulous and if they would ask this *of* you, then they will be just as apt to do unsavory things *to* you.
This is borne out by your next statement...
[kicki] "Next thing was a "deal" was made that I would be paid more if I brought some new business to them. That also never happened I was paid the same -- except one time when I was paid less than I deserved because I spent too many hours and he said it was 'my opportunity to learn at his facility.' Sure I spent a lot of hours finishing a piece but ... it was the first film that was done DI in our country and he took all the credit for it, not even mentioned my colleague and me who spent 3 months doing cc and visual effects for it."
This is to be expected when dealing with people of this calibre. Chalk it up to experience and decide if you really want to do business with people like this. If you do, you can expect more of this. If you do not, then read my article "Clients & Grinders" in the library here at the Cow, as it has many points which may save you from some of the inter-personal disasters that might have come your way if you hadn't read it. I don't claim that it can save you from all of them but it can help in many cases.
In closing, remember that all of us get cheated sometimes. It is how we react to it that defines our own character and ofter our success or failure. Do not forget that with every successful client you develop, you are sending a message that your former employer's words are not true and that your words are as good as gold and that your work and work ethic can be counted on.
It may not look like it when you are just starting out but you stand a great chance of developing a stronger company than your former employer -- I know, I have done just that. I once got cheated out of a business by a company that had millions to draw on while we had little to fight them with. One day, our company was six-times larger than they were. We did it one client at a time and with nothing more than trying to play straight and do what we believed in.
There are always schmucks in the world, as they say here in America: "Don't let the bastards get you down." Be true to yourself and your own beliefs, compete against yourself and strive for doing the best you can do. Let them do what they do. The market will decide who they want to do business with. If you build good, solid inter-personal relationships and never offer an excuse for a missed deadline but do all you can to never miss a deadline and do great work -- your story and effort will speak for you and you will succeed.
Oh, and don't forget: Signs don't sell anyone. Get out there and make some presentations and do not think that being busy is being profitable -- not all jobs are good jobs and some are just "black holes" to push time and resources into.
You and Leo are Gods among men...I ditto all that you have said. Great posts and great advice.
I always tell my clients and associates..."Without my integrity...I am nothing"...like you said Ron, we are in reality a very small community when it comes to "word of mouth" and "degrees of seperation".
We are are all well served to keep that in our minds at all times.
Chameleon Mobile Video Productions
"It is not the light at the end of the tunnel that we should seek...it is the courage to take the next step in the dark that we must find."
Along with what I stated earlier, let me add some that any may not hae er heard of happening.
My biggest competitor for several years was my best friend. If I was oerbooked and soeoe needed time I would send them to him to do the project that I did't have time to do. He did the same, sending me his overrun. Each of us knew that the othr was going to do everything in his power to make that client a permanent fixture, within certai guidlines of course.
It was almost like a game with us, what clients can we steal from the other. Funny thing, I don't believe either of us ever took a client from the other, because they appreciated the fact we were willing to take the chance of losing them by sending them to a competitor in order to service their needs.
In reality we solidified our standing with these clients.
I short, I believe you can be ethical, and still be extremely competetive. Ya just have to do it with class. Oh by he way, we always told these clients that the competitor was our best friend, but what would it take to get them to come back to us, cutting rates is not an option.
Very well said.
May I add that if a client is wooed away by a fresh face (or a familiar face), then you may need to work on your relationships with your clients.
In my book, those aren't "relationships"... those are one-night-stands.
Just my 2 cents... arguably worth that.
I had a similiar experience.
I worked for an agency that had an account that relied on me for creative. When I left the agency to work at another agency, I kept in touch with the client; asked them how their kids were, talked about the weather, and if they were happy with the work they were now getting.
Eventually, they came to the new agency I was at because they were happy with my work and not the agency's work.
So, keep in touch with your past clients. Bump into them when you can. Give them a call and chat. And, sneak into the conversation your doing the same great work you've always done, except you're out on your own now.
Remember, Jay Chiat arranged many 'coincidental meetings' with Nissan executives - he knew where they ate, played golf, etc. and would 'run into them' to chat. Eventually, it paid off - he got the business.
Go for it!
Throw a Party everyone welcome let everyone in town know you exist be friendly with your old employer be cool and creative not agressive in chasing business, be different be alternative then potential clients can make their own minds up if they want to move business from your old employer to you.
What a great topic! About ten years ago I left my position with the leading post house in our market, but at that time they were changing their business plan to service only their inside clients and were getting out of the post-house business. My decission to leave meant taking the outside clients and their tape library, and it solved what senior management considered a problem. We remain on good terms to this day, and I still pick up some of their overflow work.
Over the next decade a number of staff graphic artists and editors left to open their own shops. The relationship between an editor and their regular clients is a strong one, and when staff exited to start their own botique I assumed that their regular clients were going with them. I kept close tabs and strong relationships with them, and provided the heavy-lifting support services that they needed like telecine or smoke and flame work, plus duplication.
Two years ago we sold the operation to one of our larger clients. After hanging around through the transition for a couple of years not knowing how I fit in or what my job was and watch the focus turn from outside clients to internal projects, I packed up my desk, bought a Final Cut system, and joined my former employees and co-workers in the world of botique edit operations. At last count their were six of us.
Have I agressivley gone after the former big shops clients? Nope, but some of them have come looking for me. For some clients I still go back in to the old shop as an on-line guy and do a day as a free lancer, and try my best to take the high road and not drag them over to my new place... but they're starting to realize that they'd be better served in a different atmosphere.
I most certainly go out of my way to respect the other small shops in the market. These guys are friends, and I respect there talents and what they provide. I truly enjoy being able to recomend them to folks when it's a job that I can't handle, and we can openly discuss problems, technical issues, and work to help our clients and the industry by helping each other.
Kind of a rambling post... but I wanted to add my thoughts as someone who seems to have spent equal amount of time on both sides of the issue.
[Chris Cardinal] "I started to read some of the rather long replies to your question and nearly passed out."
Yes, some people suffer from very short attention spans and so you have to keep things very short and simple for them. Usually, one idea at a time and never introduce anything above the most simplistic and rudimentary of ideas or they will get confused and maybe even suffer severe physical reactions -- sometimes, even to the point of fainting.
Luckily, there is a cure: Turn off your TV and read a book. It will be painful at first but with practice, the body can be trained.
Kindly, in hopes of a cure.