October 3, 1996 (Day 1) To Do List:
Purchase Desk at Staples… Purchase computer at PowerMax… Purchase phone at Fry’s… Secure Post Office Box… Order a business phone line installed at the house…
Then ask myself… now what do I do?
I honestly don’t remember how one started a business when the internet was dial up AOL, and the premier browser was NetScape, with access to web pages that were primarily column based text. Most businesses did not have websites. Most websites were topical.
There was no “place to go” when you started a service business without a storefront. Advertising was the Yellow Pages, and it would take three months before the new phone book was out. There were a lot of cold calls on the phone and physical sales calls, stopping by at businesses in person, to call on potential customers. My calendar was a leather-bound Daytimer. I did have a cellphone, but calls were something like eighty cents a minute, so it was used sparingly.
A lot has changed in twenty years, and now I can say that Jungle Media has been there through it all. My first editing system had 18GB of hard drive space and those drives alone cost $6,000. The junglemedia.com domain name was secured in February of 1997. Having a technology background, I was familiar with the internet then and I realized that the domain name was an important asset.
Since that first day, I would estimate that I have shot over 2,000 hours of footage, hundreds of interviews, hundreds of individual program titles, hundreds of customers and many sleepless nights, worrying about feeding my family without a paycheck. My children are now in their 30’s and somehow I have managed to keep the doors open without interruption.
Over the last few years, I have been asked about my secret to “success” which always makes me laugh. It seems like there have been too many of those sleepless nights to consider the last twenty years successful.
However, with hindsight, there are a few things that I would say have been good ideas. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Never assume that anyone is going to find you. Always assume that it is a part of your job to think about, plan for and execute a sales and marketing strategy. It doesn’t need to be a grandiose ordeal, but it does require the discipline to place your own future into your own hands. No one owes anyone anything. If the phone is not ringing, do something about it!
- Remember that people buy your services not companies. Whether working for a small business or a large corporation, it is how you treat the person you are working for/with that determines your own success. Businesses come and go and people leave their jobs and move on, but a positive work relationship is always remembered.
- It doesn’t matter the size of the job or the accuracy of my estimate for a project. At the end of the day, if I am not happy with a program, I shouldn’t expect the customer to be satisfied. Usually, it takes that extra ten percent that I never get paid for to take a project to the finish line. Most clients never see this. If I quote 60 hours for an effort and it takes me 70, that is an investment that I consider worthwhile. The few times that I did not go the extra mile, are the few regrets that I have.
- Never bid low on a project assuming that the “next one” will make it worthwhile. I don’t know if it is karma or some other mysterious force, but clients who can’t afford my service are usually not happy with the result no matter how low the bid, and those clients have never come back for another project. The best projects are always the ones where the investment from the customer is significant for them (regardless of the actual dollar amount), and it is my job to do whatever it takes to make that investment worthwhile to them.
- Don’t take myself too seriously. I am not a surgeon or a soldier or a minister. I help people by creating professional communication that helps to convey an idea. While I always do my best to give them honest advice and my best effort, at the end of the day, it is a video program. If they want three extra bullet points and a red border instead of a blue one, I don’t consider it an insult to my creativity or some other nonsense. Some of my best programs have never been seen because the customer wanted to add lots of their own ideas. It is their money. If it makes them happy, my job is to serve.
- When you love what you do, there is no need to worry about retiring or hitting it big. When I was in my 30’s and 40’s, the world that I worked in was all about getting rich or striving for early retirement. Well, since that didn’t happen for me, I used to wonder if I was doing something wrong. Now, I am at the point where I never think about how long the work week is, I never regret getting up in the morning, I never get tired of writing scripts, shooting footage, editing or creating graphics. I look forward to spending time on my office. I love being in charge of my destiny. It is my sincere hope that there are many more projects and customers to come. In fact, I have noticed that the last few years have been the most enjoyable. I wonder what happens next?
Thanks for reading my words and being a part of my business life. I wish all of you the best of success. I think the following thought is attributed to Confucius, “Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life. “