by Sterling Tarrant
Two guys were working on a roof when their supervisor walked up to them. This was one of those supervisors who didn't really know how to give out praise. He'd often look around, shuffle his feet and roll his head around while quickly mumbling the words, "goodjobtoday." You know, kind of like Barney Fife did when he was explaining the features of Mayberry's Maximum Security Cells to a group of sticky fingered six-year-olds. Anyway, these two guys were doing a really good job this day. They were working fast, working smart, being good workers. The supervisor wanted to come up and really show them how he appreciated them. "I know," he thought, "a really good slap on the back often pushes out the chest. That's what I'll do. Give 'em a really good pat on the back. Make 'em feel good. That'll be appreciated by them for the rest of the day." So, the supervisor walked up to the guys, patted 'em hard on the back, and bellowed out his appreciation.
Unfortunately, the slap knocked the guys off balance and they fell off the roof.
This story illustrates a well known radio principle. Sometimes you get so good, and so appreciated, that someone has to come along and push you off the roof. What happens then is up to you. You can either fall flat on your face, or you can fly. This month, let's look at some guys who got pushed off and are flying.
Bumper Morgan started Bumper Productions in San Antonio back in 1986. In 1989 he went out on his own in Nashville. Since then, he's grown to over one hundred clients. What pushed him off the roof? "I saw a lot of people getting fired on Christmas Eve. Radio stations laying off people motivated me." In the case of security, we all know that radio stations don't often provide it. Morgan states that he has more security working on his own that he did in radio. "Security, and a lot of good home cooked meals," Morgan is quick to add.
Mike Carta, the CEO of M.A.C. Productions in Austin, Texas agrees: "It was a relief to get out of living and dying by one tenth of a ratings point," he says. Carta grabbed sixty clients the first year he went out on his own. He now has close to two hundred worldwide. "I was doing two full-time jobs for quite some time, and it got to a point where I needed to direct more attention to my clients. I had gotten some encouragement from a number of people, so I decided to give it a shot."
Both Morgan and Carta were able to start their client list while working in radio. Morgan says he's deeply indebted to both KTFM in San Antonio and Y107 in Nashville for letting him work late at night on projects that allowed him to get the capital together for his studio.
Once they knew they were going to start their own business, what did they do to plan it out and finally put it into motion? Mike Carta says, "One weekend I sat down and made a list of what I needed to do. I prioritized it. It certainly wasn't a move to say 'I'm gonna do it' and then one day jump ship. I set realistic short and long term goals." He also said keeping an ear to the ground on changes that were happening in the industry was important. "I had saved some bucks and made the right purchases. I was able to get some excellent equipment at near brand new condition. It just worked out. I think back at it and say 'someone was looking out for me.'"
Bumper Morgan's wife and business partner/voice talent/graphic artist/bookkeeper Kim offered this: "A big part of the decision was we were able to generate more income. Actually, when we started Bumper Productions part-time, we made more money from radio salaries, but the time invested in that was so much greater. We saw the value of taking that time and applying it full-time to Bumper Productions, and by doing that we saw our money quadruple compared to what we were making in radio."
But is it all as sweet as Aunt Bee's Sunday dessert? "I don't think a lot of people realize what is involved," says Carta. "You start a new business. You're on your own. You've got employees, equipment, and you're now buying tape. You're now being responsible for your own existence and your family. There's a lot of pressure. Morgan offers this: "I have my own pressure from my clients, but I don't have a salesperson waling down the hall wanting a cassette dub in the middle of the afternoon when I'm in the middle of a deep thought process. The business side is very serious, though. You have to know how to deal with collections because if you don't get paid, you eat it. You need to get at least half cash up front." Just a note: dealing with collections will be the subject of another Q It Up altogether. If you have some ideas, fax or e-mail them to me.
So, would it be worth it to you to start your own agency, production house, maximum security cell tour business? How about it? Have you built a client base? Are you getting encouragement from those clients? Do you have a way to pay for the studio? Can you make enough to survive. One thing I suggest you do is reread some of your old RAP issues. Just looking back I see How to Start Your Own Production Company, parts one, two, three, and four in the November/December '92 and January/February '93 issues. If you've always wondered what you should charge for your work, there's no better article than I Thought Production Was Free! by John Pellegrini in the December '93 issue. John Dodge has written some great articles if you're thinking of branching out on your own. Check Out No Guts, No Glory in the September '93 issue, Is It Time For A New Job? from February '94, and What is Success Anyway, and How Do You Get There? in the July '94 issue. From last year, Lynn Walford offered Money Making Ideas For You And Your PC! back in September.
These are incredible resources. Plus, when you go back and look through these issues, you'll hopefully remember how appreciative you are of your job, whether you're in radio or out flying on your own. After all, appreciation is like two guys fixing a roof; you know when you need it, so you can keep from focusing on the drips.