Get Out of Your Team’s Way
Chapter Nineteen Excerpt: Startup Muse available from Amazon
This weekend a friend of mine reached out to me and asked me to fly to Mississippi to help him shoot a music video. While I was there it occurred to me that making a music video is a lot like building a startup. The producer comes up with the idea, determines what resources are necessary, raises the needed capital, and recruits the talent required to execute on his vision. In my experience, the hardest part for a video producer or a startup founder is stepping aside and letting their team do their jobs. There is a point in every endeavor, entrepreneurial or creative, where the founder or producer turns into a facilitator in service of their team.
The job of a CEO or a producer is to recruit the right team to execute on their vision and get out of their way — this is especially important when dealing with creatives. When I’ve attempted to manage the output of creatives I have always been disappointed by the results. Your job is to recruit the very best talent you can find and share your vision effectively. If you do your job right, more often than not, you’re going to be pleased with the results if you simply stand back and let them do their jobs. If you attempt to “guide” the creative process the most likely result is that you’ll get EXACTLY what you’ve asked for — in most cases you’ll be disappointed as they’ll simply deliver EXACTLY what you insisted they deliver — no more, no less. If, instead, you give your team creative freedom they’re going to work harder than you can imagine to fulfill your original vision regardless of the amount of work it might take them to get it right. Their reputation is on the line and they’ll do whatever it takes to safeguard it. For example, for one project we paid a creative for a day of work — he spent a week to get the result he wanted without asking us for a penny more.
If your project is big enough you might consider hiring a coordinator or project manager with experience in the particular trade (graphic arts, software development, video production, etc.) to serve as a buffer between yourself and the creatives. Your creatives will feel a lot more comfortable explaining why they’re going to have to change your original vision to someone besides you; in almost every case your creatives are going to be right and having a buffer between your baby and those you’ve hired to birth her will make the birthing process much smoother. On the flip-side, you’ll be able to ask questions about the process and the status of the project without interrupting the creatives — you’d be surprised how disruptive a simple question can be.
Once you’ve written the script, approved the shot list, and the budget your primary job is to ensure the team is well fed — never underestimate the power of food. There are always a million problems that will arise and as the producer or CEO your job is to find the best solution so your team can keep working. For example, earlier this week one of our stars wrecked the Vespa we were going to use in a particular scene — someone (the producer) had to find an alternative by lunchtime — he managed to find a classic Studebaker. Halfway through the shoot it ran out of gas and someone (the producer) had to run to the gas station to get gas. There will be no shortage of issues and your role will be to mitigate them. Trust your team and make sure they have everything they need to succeed.