• Disclaimer: This is an internal email that we are sharing in the interest of helping others.
I figured it was time to send one of my semi-(ir)regular motivational-ish emails.
I hope all is well with everyone and you are all enjoying life at The Finish Line. If you aren’t please let us know, we want to continue to improve and you are the most important thing to the company, without you, more importantly without you bringing your best to everything you do, we wouldn’t be what we are. You could say you are our unfair advantage.
What does that mean?
Well, as you might expect from someone building and growing a business I read A LOT of books and listen to podcasts, read articles, speak to venture capitalists, angel investors and other business people in trying to figure out what helps to grow and build a strong business. Something that comes up often is what the unfair advantage of the business is. Ours is our talent. We have an incredible bunch of people who make up The Finish Line and that is something all of our clients speak highly about and this ultimately grows our business. We don’t advertise, aside from getting in magazines here and there and our social media campaigns we operate through word of mouth.
Building a business based on word of mouth is a tricky thing, word of mouth is your biggest enemy when things don’t go well and isn’t particularly helpful when things do go well. I like to break this down by talking about good and bad experiences in terms of points. If you do well you get +1 point, if you do bad you get -10 points. This can be applied to anything in life, you give your other half 10 foot rubs, you then stay out a bit too late and come home in a state, you lose 10 points, you do an incredible job Onlineing 10 episodes of a series, then 1 episode gets a fail in QC and all anyone remembers is the one that failed, you go for an amazing meal 10 times at this restaurant, you have a shit waiter once and you’re never going back. It’s a frustrating thing but it’s true and I bring this up now just as a reminder that we are all in this together. It is our constant aim to keep adding up our +1 points so we are in good shape when we have a -10. We are only human, -10s happen. I’d love our clients to only ever have +1 experiences but from time to time they won’t and when that happens you can be sure we will have been working hard building up enough +1 experiences for that not to taint our reputation. Which brings us back to unfair advantages.
When I started The Finish Line I realised very quickly that my unfair advantage was that I could use any piece of post production software. At the time of our launch it was just me and I was able to operate FCP (Classic & X), Media Composer/Symphony, Color, Nucoda Film Master, DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premier-After Effects-Photoshop, Smoke… and the list goes on. This was my unfair advantage as it made me instantly available to almost anyone for post production work so I was always busy and could work as much as I wanted to, it also helped us to build our client base very quickly.
The reason why I could use all of these systems was from a really short conversation I had with the Online editor who trained me. We were changing from being a FCP facility into being an Avid facility, something I was very vocally resistant to. I had been training on FCP since I was 17 and at 23 was told next week we will be on Avid. I raised my concerns with him and he said something along the lines of “If you can’t apply your skills to another piece of software that does the same thing you must be pretty shit at your job.”
Obviously this was a massive wakeup call and in that moment I shook off any concerns I had and just got on with it. From then on I just jumped face first into any piece of software I had the opportunity to use. What I learnt was that your talent doesn’t go anywhere when you jump onto a new system, you know what you want to accomplish and for the most part you approach that in the same way you always have. The biggest surprise and the best part is that I actually got better at operating other software, learning Avid made me better at FCP and knowing FCP made me better on Avid, knowing both made it easy to learn Smoke and then learning Color made it easy to pick up Film Master, learning Film Master made me better on Color (more recently Resolve and Baselight) and the list goes on. Every single tool I learn makes me better at the tools I previously used and the tools I previously used make me better at the new tools I’m learning.
Obviously being thrown in at the deep end with a client in the room is not ideal, it certainly makes the fact that you need to learn the tool a reality but the stress that this creates is most unpleasant. That initial learning curve can be mitigated by taking some time to learn the tools that are out there and getting to know the ins and outs of the various systems so it’s less of a shock to the system when you jump onto a new set of tools. You need to always keep in mind you already know how to do your job, you wouldn’t be part of our team if you didn’t so all you are learning is a different tool. Second is that you are a professional – doctors, architects, lawyers, accountants etc don’t stop learning and neither should you.
I do my best to make training materials available and obviously the systems at the office are there anytime you have availability to jump in and do some training. I’m also trying to find time for one on one training with everyone so we can do training together but at the end of the day it’s up to you to take the bull by the horns and learn all the tools you can to give yourself an unfair advantage. If you are great with clients, know the most tools, deliver beautiful work and are enthusiastic about what you do you will always be in demand, accumulating +1s and there is nothing that can stop you.