Cooks and Trees

Too many cooks in the kitchen. I hear that phrase a lot. Companies or groups with many people putting their hands on it, diluting it, confusing it, and sending it off course run the risk of destroying or burying beautiful things. Understandably, too many people pissing on the same tree does not help the tree grow. Be wary of committee projects, even democratic projects. Too many people with too many opinions can result in too many compromises. And if I’ve learned anything, compromised products are seldom successful.

That said, be careful blaming the opinions or the people involved. It’s not necessarily the cooks’ faults for having opinions; it may very well be the kitchen’s fault for having room enough for too many cooks. If you open the door to that level of collaboration, it must be organized. Fortunately, there are such things as hyper-collaborative companies and organized brain trusts (Pixar is my favorite). With strategy and structure, an over-staffed kitchen could be a very great thing. Do not blame the people; blame structure.


Running a Studio vs. Production Company [Film Friday]

Most businessmen and women in Hollywood think they have what it takes to build the next big label. Most producers think they know better than the studios and can do one better. But there are fundamental differences between building a studio and building a production company.

Production companies see life picture to picture and rarely lock their future in place. Some production company heads have long-term goals, but most are contingent on the success of the company’s material slate. That’s true for all content creators, but production companies fall short by investing all eggs in the movie basket.

Studios take a bigger piece of the pie. The difference between production companies and studios? Studios have assets and scope. Successful studios operate more like landlords and parents than artists or producers. They own backlots, prop houses, sound stages, post production facilities, restaurants, libraries, other companies, equipment, hardware, software, websites, networks, satellites, and more. A sizable portion of the sustainable revenue comes from operating and renting out these assets. Furthermore, most studio executives speak in slates and four year periods. They work hard to see into the future and see past the big fat movie release in front of them. Strong studios invest in things other artists use to tell stories, and they also invest in long-term strategy.

Are you in it for the movie game alone? Or are you in it for the big picture? The long haul? Decide what you want to build. Do not lie to yourself about what you care about.

Put It On Paper

Having difficulty making a decision? Map out the options on paper.

Want to make a commitment? Put it on paper.

Spread an idea? Share it on paper.

Trouble sleeping at night? Empty your thoughts on paper.

Upset at someone? Express your feelings on paper.

Worried you will forget something? Remind yourself on paper.

Overwhelmed? Sort everything out on paper.

Plan to grow a business? Strategize on paper.

Want to change the world? Start on paper.

You need to separate yourself from your thoughts to organize, prioritize, and realize them. Paper is the oldest trick in the book. No pun intended.

The Mission Statement

The most powerful tool in business strategy is your mission statement. It’s the philosophy that inspires your team, communicates your mission, markets your products, and makes you stand out. It’s a tool that gets everyone on the same page. Having a mission statement is not only good leadership advice, it’s just short of necessary to operate and succeed.

I feel like the mission statement is business strategy 101, and I should not need to explain this to people. But alas, it has come to my attention that many companies (including the company I work for) use no such tool. Crazy to me. It’s so simple, so inexpensive, and so effective. All it takes is a few words. Seriously, people. Write a damn mission statement. No excuses.

Internalize Your Goals

What’s the point of telling people your goals?

You could tell to collect feedback or talk it out. But do you really want to risk someone dissuading you or talking down? It could hurt your goal.

You could tell to seek praise. But you haven’t succeeded yet, so what is there to praise? Few people in your life will really care enough to give you the glowing support you are looking for. The lukewarm response might put you down and choke your inspiration. It could hurt your goal.

You could tell to keep people updated or manage expectations. But what if your plans conflict with the interests of others? They might try to talk you out of it. If you mislead others with your plans and then fail, you can damage your relationships. The pressure and uncertainty can bog you down. It could hurt your goal.

You could tell to have others hold you accountable. But what stake do other people really have in your goal? Are they reliable? By passing off accountability for your goal to another person, you pass off responsibility for your goal and distance yourself from it. It could hurt your goal.

Think hard before sharing your plans with others. Depending on who you are sharing with and the reason why, it could be a good idea – or it could be fatal. I am often guilty of sharing my plans without purpose, and I am beginning to notice effects.

By telling other people, you separate yourself from your goals (as if you already accomplished them … but you haven’t). You only make it harder for yourself to succeed.