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Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?

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Matt ShermanWho did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 18, 2008 at 4:08:38 am

Just wondering for those who have their own production company, who did you hire first? We (the two owners) are stuck because we're decent at sales, graphics, admin stuff but really need to bring someone in to unload part of it. Some say the best thing they ever did was hire an admin assistant. Some say their best decision was a dedicated sales person.

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Todd TerryRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 18, 2008 at 7:03:56 am

I started our little company a little more than a decade ago as a one-man shop. My strengths were the creative side (directing, shooting, editing) but my weaknesses were the business side.

My first hire was a part-time administrative assistant/secretary. She handled billing, various paperwork, and such. It worked fairly well, freeing me up to concentrate on the creative side that was actually bringing money in. She was only around about a year or so though, when she gave up her two part-time gigs (mine and another one) for a full-time opportunity elsewhere.

My next hire was a general manager for the company, who became responsible for everything except the creative side of the business. He does all the invoicing, pays bills, coordinates schedules, books jobs, and generally keeps the gears grinding. This has worked out great. In addition, he is a creative guy who has become a very good producer and writer in addition to the duties he was hired for. This person worked out so well that although he started as an employee, he eventually became a junior partner in the company (when my original junior partner decided to retire, he bought her interest in the company).

Our next full-time hire was an editor. Previously I had edited everything myself (in addition to directing, shooting, and writing). Adding a Senior Editor position (and finding someone who is very creative and actually a fair better cutter than I am) took a lot of additional weight off of me. I still direct everything we do (and shoot almost everything), but I am now not saddled with cutting it all myself.

Along the way we have also added to part-time contract employees, who are used as needed... an art director/graphic designer, and an additional producer.

This "hiring flow" might not work for everyone, but has worked very well for us.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Rick DolishnyRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 19, 2008 at 3:31:56 pm

Hire the bookkeeper or someone to handle the paperwork.

Dedicated sales person that gets tired real quick. Unless you're offering something everyone will want to buy if they know it's available, you're going to have to concentrate on being available to take in what comes in the door. You don't sell widgets, you bring peoples visions to life. Sales guys can't help you with that, but if you're stuck in a room reconciling your bank account instead of doing market research, that's not the best use of your time as a creative pro.

Here is what I think of when I think of creative inspiration. :)

Rick Dolishny
Discrete Editors COW Leader

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Joey GroahRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 19, 2008 at 4:13:39 pm

A bookkeeper, part-time/one-a-month/whatever suits your needs, is a good first step. Minimally I'd suggest an accountant for at least your first year in business.

Five years in, we have a once-a-week "office manager" coming in to reconcile the books, monitor invoicing and receivables, and go through general managerial work with us. We also have a (local) bookkeeping service that handles quarterly filing and our payroll. Earlier in the year we tried a national bookkeeping company but had a number of issues, and going local made a big difference.

The amount we're paying out to these services is minimal for the expertise and experience we get, as well as the time that's freed up for the creative work and client interaction.

I'd also suggest exploring legal services. We found a lawyer we like (someone involved in local organizations we got to know), drafted some standard contracts that are modifiable, and have someone who knows our business and can answer questions quickly and informed when we have them.

Incidentally, we've just hired a business development/sales person with a background in sales, and a personality and reputation that meshes with ours. We have some specific markets we'd like to grow. Both parties are viewing this period as a trial with concrete goals that are negotiable as we go, and are stoked by the prospects.

Good luck with your growth.


Joey Groah

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Bill DewaldRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 19, 2008 at 8:22:06 pm

[Rick Dolishny] "Here is what I think of when I think of creative inspiration. :)

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Wow... I kept waiting for the punchline... And I bet that Zep track took $$$ to license... (beautiful photography, tho.)

Here is what I think of when I think of creative inspiration:

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Brendan CootsRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 20, 2008 at 10:23:01 pm

Admin assistants can be great, but unless they are already experienced in the business side of your industry, you could find yourself spending the same amount of time guiding, training and managing any assistant-level employee as you currently spend doing the things they would be hired to do. Been there, done that. Also, you should have a plan as to what you and your partner will do with your newly found free time, or you will just end up paying someone else to do your job with no overall increase in productivity and a substantial increase in overhead. In small business land, this isn't a good idea.

Depending on the situation, I tend to think bringing in a salesperson is a good first hire unless you already have more work than you can handle. This will generate the revenue needed to pay extra salaries and will ensure your second-string employees (such as an admin assistant) have the work to keep them busy and earning their keep. Hiring in a top-down fashion (revenue generating positions first) makes sure you aren't wasting money having employees with little to do.

Hiring editors, animators and other production crew is a good long-term strategy, but you must have the revenue there to justify a full time hire. Generally speaking, if you spend more annually on contract editors than a full-time editor's salary would be, then hire one. Otherwise, you risk bleeding cash for no good reason. You also risk high turnover if employees have little to do and always feel like they are struggling to justify their jobs.

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

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Timothy J. AllenRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 23, 2008 at 7:49:03 pm

It's my opinion that a good administrative assistant is a revenue generating hire.

This person can generate and follow through on your invoices to make sure that they are paid in a timely manner. They can arrange for bookings while you are busy with other clients, they can do all that "front office" stuff that takes time away from you doing what you are most effective at doing.

There's no point in having a salesperson if you can't track and follow through on the process part of booking and "accounts receivable". (...and they can keep you out of trouble with "accounts payable at the same time".)

You just have to make sure that you get an assistant that takes the job very seriously and make sure that you both are clear on how he or she will be vital to the company's success. A good AA (or Office Manager) is worth the weight in gold. A poor one is an anchor that will drag you down quickly.

Start out with a part-time 2 or 3 day a week position. I'd suggest going through a well-respected temp agency that vets employee's well and has a reasonable "buy-out" option for the new hire's contract in case you find someone who really shines.

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Mike CohenRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:32:13 pm

We've been around as a company since I was in grade school, but in my experience, I will say the following:

When I was made a manager of about 10 people, I hired an admin assistant. At first this worked well, for sending correspondence, keeping in contact with clients and doing some project management. But this person did not work well under pressure, and as projects piled up, she fell apart.

An admin's duties should be carefully spelled out before hiring.

We have had a few sales guys over the years, usually with the same result. They take about a year to make contacts, then have a productive year or two then fizzle out. A vested interest in selling and servicing customers is important. This goes beyond commission, which can on occasion result in bookings that are not in the company's interests. Being a owner/co-owner makes the interest of the company more obvious. Commission-based sales runs the risk of putting commissions for the sales person ahead of the company's bottom line. Again, this needs to be clearly spelled out. Most companies give a sales person a quota with an understanding that failure to make numbers = no job.


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Alexey PekarinRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 27, 2008 at 4:45:16 am

Hi Mike,

Could you please provide a job description that you have for your admin assistant's.
Reading from the previous messages it is pretty clear that many creative guys who opening a company want to get admin assistance not only to save on time but to make sure that the admin job is done in the right way. And as those of us who looking for admin assistant aren't usually good with these things we wouldn't be able to tell them what to do unless we know. :)

Thank you

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Matt ShermanRe: Who did you hire first? Sales, administrative, graphics....?
by on Oct 30, 2008 at 6:29:41 pm

Thanks for your insights into your own companies. This is a tough time to expand but as we move forward I think improving our product might be the best thing. Adding a PT graphics/editor to allow one of us to step back into the business development role. I personally enjoy that side and also realize I'm not as good as I should be with the graphics/editing role.

We live in a college town with the main University having a good New Media program so maybe should start by hiring a 10-15 hour a week intern.

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