Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sean Kinney, CEO of 1 Stooge Ent., located in Santa Ana, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is 1 Stooge Ent. We are idea purveyors for studios, companies, and individuals to fine-tune their presentations & IP, from preparing performers or making a PowerPoint pop; using our proprietary procedures, we make any production or presentation more prolific (and obviously with more “P"s)!
Award-winning creative consultants for companies helping with idea development, production, accounting principles, sales, branding and marketing with a focus on a lateral reach to ancillary markets. We regularly work as film fixers, creative consultants, or ghostwriters for every major studio or their employees/shows. All our senior staff is award-winning writers, producers, and directors. The only small independent company that can boast that, as far as we know.
Most of our customers are by referral from agencies, businesses, and other creatives. We help with unusual creative problems when others get stumped. If you need your film to have a worldwide premiere in VR while your merchandise store opens simultaneously as your NFTs go into auction, with a humorous twist… that is us. Our customers range from trial attorneys needing story consulting to working with Apple on output compressions from iPhone-created media. Every day seems new, and every day our customers are different.
Tell us about yourself
I started off at the age of seven, wanting to be the next Charlie Chaplin. I kept looking for ways to grow and learn. At a certain point, I was performing a lot and started to get asked to do more based on my suggestions. I opened up my company to have a structure in which I could do that “other work” effectively within a financially and legally sound structure. Creative ventures can slip away from business structures too easily. Having a solid structure to work inside of keeps creative ventures easier.
Each day is different, and I try to focus on the creative challenges. We can all get bogged down in the business of the work, but if you prioritize the work and get creative with it, your day will always be fun. I try to hire good support and use as much automation as I can for tedious business things. These smart moves seem logical, but we get a lot of jobs because other companies get bogged down in such things. When you have an Intellectual Property issue, and you have a horde of attorneys trying to figure things out, all while your price tag is skyrocketing, most people lose their creativity to stress.
We thrive in these situations because we focus on the fun and trust our business staff to crush the problems. Knowing this frees up the creative side, and overcoming such problems is always a daily fuel for positive accomplishment. Find ways to stay in the fun, and stay confident in your progress. Hard work is hard work, find that kind of hard work that makes you happy, and every day will be self-motivating.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I see accomplishments in a few ways. Did we complete the task? Then we are accomplished. Did we win recognition from an outside source (like industry awards)? Then we are accomplished. Are we continuing to grow as a business? Then we are accomplished.
My favorite: Did the client directly tell us, “you saved the day” or “we couldn’t have done it without you”? This is my personal favorite accomplishment.
Money will come and go; awards, while great benchmarks, don’t pay bills. Client satisfaction is the best way to keep you relevant and working with continuous growth.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
For me, it is the trust. Make a process for what you do. Identify all the patterns of success and failure for your specific business, and follow those. Our particular business demands change so much, and it can feel all new. You have to trust yourself, your leadership, your team, and your past performance to know you will overcome as you always have. It can be scary knowing that most businesses fail within the first 3 years. We work production to production, and a single flop can put a company under in our industry. You can too easily feel the stress of all those jobs and families that are counting on your success. In a creative business where you are so dependent on a client’s trust, just one piece of outside advice can ruin everything you have worked for.
I once had a client’s cousin tell them how to do my business, the project failed epically. Everyone said they should have done X, Y, and Z. All the things we recommended. In an industry where an outside person can derail months of work, you start to question everything, and that trust can easily be shaken. Starbucks does not have to worry about a single person giving their opinion. You have to have a clear roadmap and process for being your best. Get advice from others who have done it already, and trust yourself to be so clear, others cannot argue with your logic. This level of faith, passion, and handwork will pay off. Just trust.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- My Uncle Kennan always said to look for gaps in the market and fill them. There are many opportunities in business that can be streamlined with new technologies. Finding where there is a need and finding a profitable way to fill that need is always a winner. When you start a business, I like to recommend that you look for a fit to your skillset. Nothing wrong with opening and selling off a business, but for steady growth, make sure it is a business that will grow in a direction that is harmonious with you.
- Make sure your business is going to stay in demand. Cars only run on fuel; make sure you run a business that is not limited to a single criterion. I was told to look for a business model like a bar does. When times are great, people drink and celebrate; when times are bad, people drink and commiserate. Bars always have a demand, and both scenarios can exist at the same time in the same location, that is an odd type of power. Everyone needs creative media and solid branding. My consulting and abilities to produce keep me in demand. When businesses start, they need help with branding, marketing, media based on those, press releases, and creative ways to raise brand awareness, and we do all that. On the flip side, when things go wrong with businesses, a creative consultant can help mitigate the exposure, prepare an apology speech, and get the apology out in front of the bad press. I found a way to make my business relevant and offer our services in just about any situation without a single criterion. Make sure your business has a multi-faceted approach to serving your clients, or it can’t run all the time.
- Growth looks different for everyone. I focus on getting new clients. I get a lot of repeat business because of my integrity in my work. I know if I get a client, I will grow that relationship, and my business will grow. Technology changes a lot in media production, and we have to constantly learn new things, equipment, and avenues depending on trends. Don’t confuse this with growth. Getting a new building does not mean you will get more clients, it means you got a new building. Get the building when you have outgrown your last one. You can measure growth when you have too many clients and need to grow to meet the demands. You grow by treating your clients well and meeting their needs in a mutually profitable way. Focus on a great product, interaction, whatever you offer, and growth will come. There are times, like in a pandemic, when the market changes; be adaptable. Look for others who have made clear growth in the direction you want and use that as a roadmap. History is a great teacher. There is another business or person that has already done it, and their path is a clear set of directions for you to follow. Growth is predictable and repeatable; just find a similar model to what you are doing.
Where can people find you and your business?
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