Here is my advice on how to get ahead in any industry. It may not translate into actual dollars, but it’s worth more than that.
Change your idea of “networking”.
I would much rather play the long game, so to speak. If I can slowly get to know one good person as a real human being – even if it takes four or five years to be able to call them “friend” – I will invest in that opportunity over a party filled with celebrities and influential bosses any day.
Because what good are “connections” if they don’t even necessarily like you? There are thousands of people who do what you do, and they’re probably better at it. But to make a real friend, without any expectations – that’s unique.
To be able to have one person turn to you when they’re in trouble and know they can trust you to ask for help – that fills hearts and makes life-long impacts.
Connections for their own sake are empty, much like fame for fame’s sake. Unless you’re a sociopath, the feeling you get in your gut from using people is a sick and sour one.
But friends who help friends simply because they care – that’s a solid foundation for big things. Those are the real connections you’ll reap the benefits of in business and elsewhere for the rest of your life.
One of those relationships is worth one thousand shallow business card exchanges.
So when you’re at your industry conventions and festivals, I encourage you to skip a few official schmoozing events to pop out for a drink with the people you’ve met. That’s where you’re more likely to start something lasting.
Dear people in charge of production studios,
You need to take care of your crew first. I can’t believe it needs to be said.
If you have to choose between your crew or your client, you must choose your crew.
A healthy and content crew will take care of your client for you. They will care. They’ll have pride in their work and want people to be happy with it. Like a child who respects their parent, they will want to do you proud.
A broken employee who feels that no one in charge cares about their well being will give up. If they know the client is more important to you than them, they know that you will throw them under the bus the first time you have to decide who to keep on your good side. That is a recipe for burning bridges.
A client will always want more for less. ALWAYS. A client without limits will never stop demanding more from your crew. But that’s your fault. You set the limits (or didn’t).
Choosing your client at the expense of your crew will break your crew.
If you believe people are tools to be used, broken and thrown away, then by all means, choose the client. But do it knowing that is exactly what you’re choosing -to hurt and use up good people for an extra dollar or a little prestige.
Even if money is your bottom line, I suggest you do the math.
Take care of crew = client cared for by a happy crew. You end up with a client AND a loyal crew.
Take care of client at expense of crew = loss of a crew and hundreds of burned bridges and a business you can’t sustain with constant crew turnover and a client who keeps demanding more for less.
And even if all you care about is networking and impressive connections… you have no idea who the talented minds who work for you will go on to become. In this industry your employee on one project may be your boss on the next. …or your client.
Loving and caring for people, no matter what their status, isn’t just a pretty idea with distant, philosophical rewards. It actually has practical value.
I wish this didn’t need to be preached like some radical new idea. But this is a serious problem for my industry (and any corporation, really) and it doesn’t need to be. This just makes sense.
Clients need limits (duh), just like children with access to cookies need limits.
And nothing should be built on the backs of broken people. THEY are your talent. Without them your business would not exist.
Treat them as though you know it. Be a good boss. An infinite amount of office pizza parties cannot make up for choosing clients at the expense of your crew.
(Some things that contribute to “choosing a client over crew” include: unreasonable deadlines, unreasonable quotas, under staffing your crew, paying your crew too little, unlimited revisions for the client – essentially, all of the things that you want to offer to win a client, but that your crew will suffer for.) When you write a contract for a job, always consider who will be staying evenings and weekends in order to fulfill the promises you’re making.
If you have a business with employees and your mantra is “the client is number 1”, then you’re on the wrong track. There’s no arguing it. You are either setting yourself up for eventual failure, or you’re consciously choosing to build your own personal success on the backs of broken spirits. Which, to me, equals a much greater failure. That’s my math.
If this is what you’ve been doing and you haven’t realized the direct and consistent consequences (the hard working people it’s hurting), then don’t fret. I’m not calling you a villain of a boss. Just start making it right. Care for your crew in a real way – as if they’re real people with real problems. Your brother, your mother, your child. We can’t blame someone for something they didn’t know. Just start now.