• Elana Duffy

Quick tips to building a start-up business team in any field



Those of you who regularly read the posts here on the Present Tense Blog (or at least those of you out there who know enough to trust Elana and Frank's acumen and check in from time to time) probably recognize that my expertise does not lie in business. I know marketing and creative stuff, but that nebulous-yet-profitable world of "business" is not my bag. So it would probably come as a surprise that I am the co-founder of a relatively new but already successful production company. Tomahawk Pictures, if you're interested.

Since our launch at the start of this year, we've been working on more consistent shoots with increasingly bigger budgets with even more scheduled in the near future. So while we may be new, and I may be the lead creative on the team (so about as far from doing the actual "business" work the company requires as possible), I can still identify some of the key factors that have helped us get off to such a solid start. Most of it, I find, starts with planning out the team well.

Everyone Needs to be Creative - Getting a business off the ground, regardless of size, funding, or industry, is no easy process. And whatever amount of capital you think will get the ball rolling is definitely not going to be enough. So every person you're working with needs to have the kind of mind that can find creative solutions. From the technical side to the management side, you need people who can get things done in ways that help you squeak in under budget no matter how complex or demanding the gig. Our sound engineer, editor, and cinematographers are as sharp minded as those of us who make up the writing staff.

Not Everyone Should Be "A Creative" - A lot of new business, particularly in the media and entertainment world, tend to suffer from the problem where every ground level co-founder and employee has the same set of skills. Writers tend to mix with other writers, producers with other producers, and so on. If every single member of a company wants to succeed at the exact same job, every job will devolve into everyone scrambling for credit and jockeying for position. While all my coworkers are creative as the previous point requires, we all have different jobs within the film industry that we love to do and want to keep on doing.

Be Ready to Expand - When that moment does come when you get the big call from the dream client (or at least a client with a dream-sized budget), you want to be ready. If there's a piece of equipment, type of software, or employee with a particular skill set you need, it's better to have it early on even if you don't put it/him/her to use right away. Much better than having to explain that your product will be late because you don't have what you need on hand to get the big projects done.

But Don't Get Cocky - There's a fine line between the gear and personnel you need to have to tackle big jobs (or tackle small ones well) and stuff you just want to have. Don't spend money you don't have yet, or even money you do have, on luxuries and unnecessary overhead.

Have at Least One Organized Person - Believe me, this is an important one. Especially if you're not the organized one, which I am most certainly not. No matter how like-minded, diverse, and creative you are as a group, at least somebody has to be in charge of making sure the right things get done in the right order and on time to boot.

Obviously I'm no expert when it comes to starting a successful business. Our company is just getting going and, while we're off to a great start, we still have a long way to go before we're really and truly profitable and sustainable. But even so, for all the above reasons, I can confidently say that we have all the makings of a great team with a great chance of making it in the long run.

Paul Mooney is a contributing writer to Present Tense LLC. With a background of film, screenwriting, advertising, and a healthy dose of the Marine Corps he has many stories to share. He is a freelance writer and producer living in New York City. You can follow some of his other writing on Task & Purpose, and some of his witticisms on Uniform Stories. Paul is also the writer and director for Vetted, a television comedy highlighting the follies of veterans transitioning in NYC, and edited the first Present Tense ebook.

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