You must absolutely believe that you are capable of being successful in your business. There are a few people in any given field that are gifted or unique, but the majority of successful people are ordinary people that have a strong belief in themselves and their ability to succeed. I have found that those individuals who I thought were extremely intelligent or talented were pretty ordinary and down to earth when I got to know them. And, some individuals are successful even though the odds are stacked against them. They simply believe in themselves and are focused on what they want to achieve. And perhaps they are doing things a little bit differently than other people.
John D. Rockefeller said that the two most important requirements for business success are patience and foresight. You have to be patient. In business, there's a "too soon" and there's a "too late." I know this truth all too well. My natural tendency is to charge in, but the loss of time, thousands of dollars, and a bruised ego have caused me to be much more patient these days. We have all grown up during a time when the most complex problems of life can be solved during a 30 minute TV show, and we tend to want quick solutions to problems. In business, this can be deadly.
Products and services take a while to catch on in the market place. It's important to be patient and plan on it taking maybe two or three times as long as you thought for your product or service to catch on. Since we know and love our own product or service, we tend to think that everyone else feels the same way. Trust me, people are not going to flock to your door simply because you are in business. You may say, "This doesn't apply to me," but when you have to sell your house or car to cover your loss, it's a tough pill to swallow. People change their minds about products and services very, very slowly. Be prepared both mentally and financially to wait. I, like most small business people, started out under-capitalized. Believe me, it's tough. Be methodical. If you keep doing the right things in the right way, over time you've got to be successful. There are three main reasons why businesses fail: 1) lack of knowledge, 2) lack of support, and 3) lack of money.
You also need to have a business plan. In business lingo, the business plan is called a "Proforma." This plan is the road map necessary to get financing and help you run the day-to-day operations successfully. Most small business owners never take the time to develop a formal, written plan. Everything is in their head. I personally believe, and it's taught in business school, that if would-be entrepreneurs would simply write an honest Proforma, they would not go into business for themselves until they had the product, market, and funding necessary to succeed.
I also suggest that you find a mentor or group of successful entrepreneurs to look over your plan and make suggestions. Attorneys and CPA's have their place and should be consulted at the appropriate times, but my personal experience is that lawyers tell you what you can't do, and CPA's tell you what you've already done. For this service, they charge a lot! Learn what you can about the law and accounting; it can be invaluable. Also, talk with someone who has been where you want to go, even if you have to pay for their knowledge. It will probably be a lot cheaper in the long run!
A business is like a child. It develops a unique personality, and no matter how many children you may have, each one is different. It's the same with business; each one is unique. They all have phases they go through, from infancy to maturity. Business is as much an art as it is a science. The key requirements for business success are practical experience, judgement, foresight, and luck.
It is important that you do your market research to find out if there is indeed a need for your production company. Whether you want to sell your services as a producer, writer, voice talent, or studio, find out if there are people in your market willing to pay for the service. Look at the competition to see if they are beatable. Can you do the job cheaper, better, or faster? Do you have the financial resources available to sustain both you and the business while you're building a customer base? Can your customers pay on time, or will you have to finance them in order to get the business? The job of the business leader, the entrepreneur, is to combine resources, labor, materials, and capital into products and services and get them to the market. If you're doing business right, the market place will let you know.
As you decide whether or not you want to start your own production company, ask these questions: Who will be my customers? Who will be my biggest customer? What do I have to do to satisfy them? How valuable is my service to my customers? It also would be a good idea to approach prospective customers and find out what they want and would be willing to pay you to provide.
While you're at it, ask if there is a different way that you can package your product or service in order to expand your customer base and remain profitable? It's important to identify what you do better than anybody else. If you can't answer that question, then you're not ready to go into business. If you're not ready to take the "big plunge" into a full-time business, you may be happy to know that today there is a new type of entrepreneur on the scene. They're called "intrepreneurs." These are individuals who have an entrepreneurial spirit but want to work for a larger company. They will typically look for ways to make their employer's company more profitable through new products or services. These individuals will often be given new titles, funding, and the authority to bring these products and services to market, and it can be an excellent and fun way to enjoy what you're doing without spending any of your own money!
Doing everything possible to make your radio station or production company more profitable makes you a more valuable person. If you wish to earn more, you must concentrate on increasing the value of your services. You are rewarded in direct proportion to the value of what you do. The market only pays superior rewards for superior goods and services. It pays average rewards for average goods and services.
In summary, if you feel like you've got the entrepreneur bug, assess your abilities, contacts, and personal resources. Ask some tough questions about your abilities, and be honest with yourself. If you have to borrow money to start your business, be prepared to answer some tough questions. Set your goals, make your business plan, and write it all down. It's amazing that what seems to be grand in our minds often seems to pale on paper.
And finally, if you really want to start your own production company, don't let anything get in your way. Stay focused and work your plan. Next month we'll get down to the nuts and bolts of starting your own production company.