That’s the 12 year old me, pioneering my way in a state of the art Sinclair C5 (on a caravan park). Despite clearly being at the cutting edge at such a young age, I decided not to follow a career inventing futuristic transport and opted to follow the path of design and animation. As Mighty Giant turns 12 this month, I wanted to reflect on some of the things I’ve learnt along the way. The journey from colouring in, to managing a studio of amazing and talented people.
These are some of the things I learnt on the journey, or things I wished I’d known before, or the things I would want to pass on as advice, neatly packaged into a dozen
Spend more time worrying about your people than worrying about sales. Sometimes as a business owner you are so busy chasing clients, you can forget how people are coping with creating the work. I have been guilty of this in the past. The last few years has seen a big shift in focus here.
Our biggest mistakes have always happened on jobs when we’ve been rushed and had to make last minute amends. We would end up running faster than we could manage. There’s nothing that annoys a client (quite rightly) more than sloppy mistakes. It’s not an excuse, but a 2 minute film has 3000 frames in it, and tired eyes can miss things. Check it, check it again, then send it. It’s pretty much always quicker to do that than make the mistake.
Some of the most stressful times have come when deliberating. “Should we buy x”, “should we hire x”, “is x a right fit?” On reflection I’d say in almost every situation, once the decision had been made, the stress became significantly less than before. If you’ve deliberated, you’ve considered it. Make the call and move forwards.
I bang on and on about this, but working in blocks of 25 minutes has been a game changer. We all know how distracting work is – emails, slack, messages. And how destructive those distractions are to focussed and creative thinking.
Sorry about the old bit David (Crawford), but having a sounding board/non exec/consultant/therapist has been vital over the past few years. The advice and (therapy) sessions, especially as a sole business owner, have been game changing.
I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with the MPA for a few years now, which brings with it a load of sharing of experience and knowledge. Having other people in a similar line of business to chat with is massively helpful, and amazingly cheap for what you get back. One thing to watch though – join the right ones! There are a lot out there, and some will be expensive, and not suited to your business. You need to find the crowd that works best for you and your company.
Over the years I’ve started to notice how diluted awards have become. How many do people really remember, or check on? Also I’ve seen a number of highly successful companies that enter none; they simply don’t play the game. It can be a fun night out, sometimes. They can raise your profile, a little. But if they’re not for you, don’t get sucked in. Or only enter those that truly have a value and importance to you and your company.
An obvious one, and one of the first rules of business, but only once you know it. Money comes in, money goes out. You need more money in, than out. That was the original plan, and the first 2 years of business we didn’t have a cashflow. Thanks to some early business training I got some grounding in these basic finances. If you can find training like this, take it! How we ever made decisions without one is astounding.
If you’re lucky enough to smash every target, and have only had continual growth from day one, hats off to you. However, some of our 12 years have been up and down. We’ve grown, shrunk slightly, grown again. We’ve had amazing years, and some not so amazing. When I’m asked “How’s business”, if it’s quiet, I say it’s quiet. Because that other person may also be going through a rocky period. And it’s good to be able to share that.
We decided about 3 years ago to do more internal work. It’s not easy, as clients are always the priority. But being able to think outside the brief, try things clients aren’t asking for, has massively developed us as a company. And more importantly, is fun and fulfilling.
For the first few years I felt lonely being the sole founder. It still can be, with no business partner to bounce things off, no-one to share the tough decisions with. But over the years I’ve started to see it as a strength. If, like me, you have no business partner then it’s important to speak to other business owners, and especially find those that have started out on their own. Lunchclub during Lockdown has been invaluable to me for this. Sharing stories, tips and advice. If this is you starting out, give me a shout!
It’s a phrase coined by other famous companies, and I could find out some horrible truths here (especially on a post that allows comments). But I’d hope that I’m fair and kind to people. I’m very lucky to work in an industry full of people who are, nearly all the time, a great bunch to be around. We should remember how lucky we are to be surrounded by people that really care about what they’re doing. It’s a surprisingly small industry, and it’s much more fun to be kind, and to help others along the way.