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drastic times=drastic measures.

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grinnerdrastic times=drastic measures.
by on Jan 26, 2007 at 8:18:31 am

Life's a puzzle. Pieces cannot be forced. Stepping back and revaluating the pieces solves lotsa frustration sometimes.
We all get comfy with a workflow sometimes and often, that work flow can change without our wanting it to for reasons beyond our control. Success may revolve around how we react to such challenges. Being able to change things up a bit is key.
Deep down, I have always wanted to just work from home. Unsupervised at that. Careful whatcha hope for ;).
For the last several years I have been able to count on seeing the same client(s) over and over. More hours than I wanted most of the time. What agreat problem to have. Times changing as they will, they finally realized how much money they were spending and brought their stuff in house. Doah! Eggs in one basket, now an empty basket and a mondo overhead. Whats a one man band to do?
I did what I wanted to do in the first place. I sold off everything in the building and took the Avid and my HDV camera home. I offered those same clients, not only a lower rate for both production and post, I offered flat rate package deals for turn key productions. No more budget surprises for them. Happens all the time, a client goes into a project expecting it to cost about 5k and after the producer, director, shooter, audio dude, extra day of shooting, editor, revisions, ect it goes waaaay over that.
They dug it and I am all busy again. With less than half the overhead, it's turning out perty sweet and I seldom have to miss tucking the kiddoes in at night now. I'm getting to shoot and direct more now, which I love and I am finding with lower overhead comes less stress in general.
So what did I learn from this? To look ahead for these changes. Try to act, not react. Our workflows sometimes become habitual and it becomes easy to take that for granted sometimes. Tunnel vision can be fatal to a small business and this opened my eyes alot.
I have to admit, this was my first big surprise. It's all come too easy up till now. Twas really good for me.
a little humble pie is always good every now and again.
I'd like to hear more stories of change in these changing times. How you've countered surprise.

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Mark SuszkoRe: drastic times=drastic measures.
by on Jan 26, 2007 at 4:48:21 pm

The thing about clients taking their projects on in-house has always been cyclical. If they know what they are doing, it can work out, but the trend I see is more and more outsourcing everything, particularly but not exclusively post. Particularly as the cost of the computer gear drops while the complexity of learning it and mastering it creatively increases.

I get asked pretty regularly by some of my clients, and other business people about what it would take for them to do for themselves what we do for them. They get so comforable working with us, they take on this "how hard can it really be?" mentality. Like you might after watching too many home-fix-it and renovation shows in a row, then driving past a Home Depot on a Saturday. Which is why plumbers and electricians make such tremendous weekend overtime money:-)

They try to commoditize the creativity like they do the hardware, but these guys often fall into the trap of thinking if they buy a copy of all the hardware and software we have in our shop, they will automatically be as competent as us, only cheaper. This has not proven to be the case for most. After wasting all the time and money, they still come back to us to fix or re-do their in-house projects.

First off I ask them what business they are IN. Are they in the widget business, or the video business? Do their sales guys take flying lessons and build a Lancair, or just buy an airline ticket to the sales call destination? Grow and pulp their own trees, or buy the paper at Office Max? If they only make a video a couple times a year, hiring full-time onsite staff and laying out the capital for a studio and everything is a waste, when they can have it just when needed by outsourcing. I see most corporate places in the middle and lower end going to just a guy with a phone being their "video production department", acting as in-house coordinator for all the out-of-house functions. This is just how everything is going on the biz world.

In my job, I work for a sort of hybrid insource/outsource: we're an internal agency, but we serve all the other clients as if we were their personal facility. Because they almost never all need something at the same time, they time-share access to our services and expertise, but don't have to share a lot of the expenses. It's the most cost-effective system they can have.

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Steve KownackiRe: drastic times=drastic measures.
by on Feb 5, 2007 at 6:46:01 pm

It's been a while since posting, busy is good. First I'll say I admire and follow Grinner's words from years ago on what's important: Husband, father, business. Follow this.

Second is to know what kind of person/business person you are - do what you're good at and hire people to do or teach you the rest.

My problem is that I like to dabble in all of it and that doesn't always make money - takes a long time to learn new software for one simple job. From 1991-1999 I built up a nice shop with 6 people, but left home each day quoting "its off to the daycare center". My wife hated that comment and she pointly said "then change it". Just so happened that an issue of Industry Week came that day with a story of a company how nobody saw the vision or understood their mission. I was relating. He let 300 people go, hired back the best and was lean and mean and happy again. If he could, I could. I gave everyone 6 months notice about me going solo again and of course the good ones placed themselves quickly, the ones you needed to unload stuck around till the end.

Since '99 I have a home office of 300 SF with 2 edit stations, a graphics station, a 5-VCR dupe rack and a DVD duplicator and as of 15 months ago, 1 employee (this allows me to get out and do fun stuff!). Have a full van of location gear too. This lower overhead creates a low-stress environment. Clients love coming over and all the animals come to visit too.

My rates are not influenced by my location because I'm selling what's on the reel not my digs. That kinda lends itself to that other post about the smaller cameras - if somebody questions the size of something, just point them to the monitor. Chances are the image they see they couldn't create themselves.

I have the freedom to take on freelance shoots, or directing only, or producing only and have a few pet projects/partnerships that I work on too. I would love to just direct live events, but that would require too much travel and away time, so I do it 2-3 times each year and that keeps me happy.

I don't have (by choice) the workload to hire another full-time director/editor and would love to find a freelancer in my market to work on our gear, but that hasn't been easy. So I'll take on enough creative work that I can handle the directing/producing/shooting/ tasks and shoot seminars to keep revenue steady.

Am I off track with the original request? Changes in the business world: yeah, make sure when you feel clients are going to "go it on their own" you charge consulting fees right up front to help them select a camera and microphone - you know your days are numbered. But we do edit most of the schlock the bring to us; we spend so much time fixing things it would've probably been cheaper to hire us to shoot it in the first place.

So yeah, things keep changing and you need to bounce around. We have a DSR300 (oldie but a goodie DVCam) that still makes lots of money, but rent whatever the client requests (that's been stated in alot of posts). I don't always keep the latest upgrades unless they are guaranteed to work (downtime is tough on a small company).

And so ends my list of random thoughts.

Daily affirmation: computers are our friends.


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