I Love Movies.
That’s something you should know about me up front.
For me it goes beyond the casual past time. Growing up, my family life was filled with movies. In fact, no matter how much life caused stress or distance or any kind of separation in my family, the one common ground we had to talk about were the movies.
In fact, my brother teaches Film Production at a local high school. At this school he works with his students to create an original feature-length film each year. He has done this for about 10 years now. But the first time he attempted this, it failed miserably. The movie was only half shot and never even made it to the editing stage. He has since learned from this mistake and gone on to make several more student films.
I asked him why that first movie project failed. He said, “The two students who came up with the story both wanted to be the director.”
“Why would that make a difference?” I asked.
“Because,” he replied, “we did not have a producer.”
Even people casually familiar with movies could name some big name directors: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Alfred Hitchcock, etc. And when you think of these names you can conjure an image of the director standing behind the camera giving orders to the cast and crew to shape the vision of the film.
But how many average Americans can name famous producers?
Not as many people know or understand what it is that a producer does. And yet, without a producer, the movie would never come into being. Even with the greatest director, a film will never be finished and released without a good producer.
And that is why when it comes to running your business, you need to be a producer rather than a director.
In terms of filmmaking, a director is in charge of using all of the audio/visual tools at his or her disposal to execute their vision. They direct actors’ performances, direct the work of the film crew, and choose how the camera will capture the events we see on screen.
When it comes to most small businesses, it begins with some specific idea or vision. The entrepreneur has a very specific idea for what they want their business to be and to execute it. They actively direct their employees and decide what goods or services that business will provide. And often the drive to create this business comes from some spark of inspiration. The entrepreneur imagines how their business can provide a unique portion of the marketplace and thus become a success.
And yet many small business struggle. The entrepreneur is executing their vision as best they can: their employees are doing their jobs, revenue is coming in, and the quality of the product is strong. But despite this, often the business will experience cash flow problems. And the entrepreneur will not understand why.
That is because often the entrepreneur is acting like a director, not a producer.
On the film set, the director is in charge of how all resources will be used to make the movie. But the producer is the one who makes sure that the director has everything they need to execute their vision.
The producer is in charge of all the practical aspects of the film process. That is not to say that the producer’s job is not creative. Far from it. The producer works closer in shaping the film with the director. The director has a very clear idea of what the movie should be in his or her head.
But the producer’s job is to bring that vision from thought to reality. The producer makes sure that the cast and crew know when they are needed, secures all necessarily locations, procures all necessary props and equipment, and keeps track of the film’s budget.
My experience working with small business owners is that they are passionate about their business and they work hard to make it a success. But they do not have a concrete understanding of all of the important moving parts that are required to make their business work. That isn’t to say that they are unobservant. This is simply a matter of focus and attention, not intelligence or aptitude.
For example, someone with a talent for cooking may want to open a restaurant. They understand the expenses of labor and materials and the income from the food. Their focus is on making the best quality menu that will bring in the most clientele. They are thinking like a director.
But with a producer’s eye, that entrepreneur looks beyond those initial numbers and direction. The producer looks at all the non-obvious costs like phone systems upgrades, equipment maintenance, keeping the business up to fire code. A producer-minded entrepreneur takes a step closer to look at all of the day-to-day necessities and expenses and takes a step back to see the cumulative effect of all the businesses assets and liabilities.
On a film set, most directors could tell you what they want to do, but they may not know how exactly how all of their budget is being spent. The producer would know. And while a producer may have a large staff to which he or she delegates these responsibilities, that producer will still understand how that money is being taken in and used. The producer has a wider and deeper understanding of the entire endeavor and has a hand in every part of it. That isn’t to say that the producer must micromanage. But the producer is the one who really takes ownership of all aspects of the production. And in the same way, the entrepreneur must take ownership of all aspects of his or her business.
When it comes to your business, you need the creative vision of a director. But if you want to know your business intimately and make sure that it has a future, you must get to know it like a producer.
On Oscar night when they announce the winner for Best Picture, it isn’t the actors, the writers, or even the directors that accept the award.
It’s the producers.
That is because the producer is the one who takes ownership.
And when it comes to your business, you need to be a producer and take ownership in order to truly make it great.
And while directors may get more name recognition and accolades, the reward for the producer is a film that succeeds on every level.
In order to have your business succeed at every level, you must think like a producer.