A Conversation With Sunil Godse

Sunil two book logo (1)

Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Canadian writer and extremely successful business consultant Sunil Godse at the launch for his first book, Fail Fast, Succeed Faster. Sunil has long counselled others about the importance of accepting, and even embracing failure and gut intuition. He claims we are so busy touting the goal of success that we forget about the values and lessons learned through failure and our ability to tap into our intuition as a method of sound decision-making and growth. With his new book, Gut, available now, Sunil travels the globe talking to groups about his books and what he’s learned about these two vital aspects of life. Welcome Sunil!

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

******

Q         What is the premise behind Fail Fast, Succeed Faster?

A         The premise is very simple. By learning from the failures of others, or even better, by being prepared to overcome your own hurdles, you should be able to reach success much faster in whatever you do.

Q         In preparation for this book, you interviewed many people, including some very prestigious business men and women. What is the thing that surprised you the most about the disclosures, and why?

A         What surprised me the most was how quick these prestigious interviewees were in giving me an interview despite their very busy and hectic schedules. On top of that, they were so eager to share their negative experiences. This was so surprising because I thought that they would have been afraid to reveal some of the weaker moments in their personal and professional lives, some which led to drastic financial losses and in one case, a bankruptcy. I am so pleased that this was not the case.

Q         What life lesson has been the most difficult for you to learn, and why?

A         The hardest life lesson for me is in prying myself away from the professional arena to spend more personal time with my family. It sounds like a cliché, but what I have learned over the years is that when you are doing what you love, then there is no such thing as a work/life balance. What I need to learn is to make sure I swing the pendulum a bit in the direction of having quality time with my family; given all of the projects I seem to dip my fingers into. It is a constant battle for me, as I need to trade off doing what I love professionally for loving moments with my family. What I have realised in the past few years is that what remains for a long time after you are gone are memories of times together with friends and family, not the accomplishments you achieve as life passes you by.

Q         Why did you want to write a book about failure?

A         I have made a career of helping people and businesses overcome their failures. I am also very aware of the incredible statistic that over 90% of small businesses fail within the first two years, which is ridiculously high in my opinion. People want to run a business for various reasons, but don’t always understand what it takes to run an actual business. For example, someone may love cooking and know how to cook exquisite and tasty meals, but running a restaurant business means that one needs to think about things such as financing, pricing, food wastage percentage, marketing, presentation, logistics, staffing, wastage, and many other issues not related to the actual cooking of the food. Without this knowledge, or having partners who have this knowledge, the business faces a steep uphill battle from the moment the doors open for customers. I know this first hand, as I ran a Mexican restaurant with other shareholders for over two years without knowing anything about cooking tacos. This is because I ran the restaurant as a business and left the cooking to chefs and sous chefs. As a result, the business was profitable from the first day we opened.

Specifically writing a book about failure came about as I saw a real need to educate those looking to get into business. With blogs, articles, and some research articles here and there, it became clear there was no single reference to outline some of the common mistakes entrepreneurs and business people make along the way. So, like a good business idea, I found a problem that people were willing to pay me to solve! That is how Fail Fast. Succeed Faster. was conceived.

Q         In your second book, Gut, you address the issues of trusting your instincts, or “your gut”. Can you give us an example of when you either did or didn’t trust your instinct that resulted in a life-changing outcome?

A         Launching my consulting career was solely based on intuition. Despite graduating with an engineering degree, my intuition “told me” to leverage my degree and help companies find operational efficiencies. I approached one company and told them that they only needed to compensate me if I found annual savings. So, if I found nothing, I made nothing.

In three months, I found $90,000 in savings and this was my first successful consulting paycheque. This changed my life and propelled me to start my entrepreneurial career running a restaurant, a wholesale clothing company, a retail clothing company, and a Mexican restaurant. This experience also gave me the opportunity to consult for other companies.

In addition, I regularly use my intuition when it comes to solving problems for my clients. With some time needed to educate myself on the circumstances that led to the problem, I usually know what the solution is. The rest of the time is implementing the solution to the problem.

For example, there was a company that was in trouble despite having a very strong business model. After some investigation, my intuition was to regain the trust of the employees, which they had not had from current management, and utilize basic policies and procedures to help sustain the growth of the business model. These, combined with the regained trust, allowed me to help grow the company from $300,000 to $2.5million in 2 years. These consulting wins are also life-changing, as they lead to other larger consulting opportunities which I may not have been able to reach.

Q         What has surprised you the most during your writing journey thus far, and why?

A         What has really surprised me is that I continually meet people who, after they read my book, attend one of my speaking engagements, or meet me, openly share their stories of learning from failure,  trusting, or not trusting their intuition. Everyone has a story to share, which I find absolutely fascinating.

A recent example is when I was in Stockholm talking to a crowd of over 200 people at a conference about intuition. A woman approached me after my talk and told me that her intuition spoke to her in a dream, telling her that her husband was planning to leave her. She had absolutely no clue that this was happening. After making a few phone calls, she discovered that her husband was in fact surreptitiously trying to sever his relationship with her and their children. She quickly began protecting her assets, which she said was “in the millions of dollars”. She specifically told me that had she ignored her intuition, she would be penniless and homeless today. I was stunned to hear this.

Q         You already operate a very successful business consulting firm, Radical Solutions Group. Why take on the myriad challenges of writing a book?

A         Being a serial entrepreneur and business consultant, I have been surprised by the lack of knowledge in the entrepreneurial process and the sheer dedication needed in taking a seed of an idea and turning it into a viable business. As mentioned before, something needed to be done to help educate those looking to start a business regarding the potential hurdles they might face right from the start.

With this thought in mind, I went through my rolodex to begin the process of interviewing people of interest. The rest is history, so they say!

Q         Where do you see the opportunities for people to tap into their intuition and utilize it more successfully in their personal and business lives?

A         People really need to take a step back from their extremely busy lives and take the time and opportunity to discover how to trust their intuition more efficiently. Put very simply, they need to listen to their intuition and take the steps to overcome the hurdles that curtail their intuitive abilities. Having clients overcome these intuitive hurdles is something I have been doing regularly for both my coaching and consulting clients with great success.

Q         Do you have a few strategies to share with our readers for moving beyond failure and into success?

A         The first thing people need to do is to redefine failure. Failure is an end state. I suggest people call the failures what they are; mistakes. They can then change their focus to find out what hurdles were encountered when making those mistakes. Finally, they can use their intuition to overcome those hurdles, or avoid them completely the next time they get in that same situation. If they can do these steps, success is a few short steps away.

Q         What do your family and friends think about your new writing and public speaking career?

A         My family fully supports the decision, as they see the passion I have for this new-found career. They have also seen the successful results from those who have used my services. Many of their friends and colleagues have heard of the book or my media appearances and have wished me luck through my family members. My family often tell me how proud they feel when they talk about me or my accomplishments. That really puts icing on the cake for me!

Q         Could you explain why you chose to self-publish rather than traditionally publish your books?

A         I had spoken to a lot of people about the book writing business before I even started thinking of putting a book together using the same process as any business venture I might get into. In the end, the book and the other aspects of publishing a book, such as conference organization and speaking engagements, had to have a good return on investment. Given the economic realities of the publishing industry and knowing how I wanted to market the book and my speaking opportunities, the control had to be on my side. This meant that self-publishing was the best route for me to go.

Q         What’s next for you Sunil?

A         I am continuing to speak, run conferences, and coach both personal and professional clients. I am also mentoring a number of entrepreneurs and have a wonderful family who keep me sane. This means I’m extremely busy, but I am so fortunate to be doing what I want and love to do.

Learn more and connect with Sunil Godse here:

Twitter: @sunilgodse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SunilGodseAuthor

LinkedIn: ca.linkedin.com/in/sunilgodse

New website!: www.sunilgodse.com

Radical Solutions Group Inc.: www.radicalsolutionsgroup.com

Advertisements

Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits

Leanne Hoagland Smith

Because of my own background in sales and marketing, when asked by Christina Hamlett to interview author Leanne Hoagland-Smith, I was intrigued. Once I delved into who Leanne is and what she’s accomplished thus far, I came away extremely impressed. With over 30 years in sales and a Masters in Science from Purdue University, Leanne knows what she’s talking about when coaching clients and writing this book. In addition to penning Be The Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, she’s the author of over 4000 articles, a weekly business columnist for the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, and a contributor of various business journals.

********

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q On the surface, your subject matter seems to be sales, but what would you say is the point you really want to get across to people who hire you or purchase your book?

A To stand out in the crowd be it in sales, in being hired, or in one’s personal life, requires adherence to solid, personal core values that are non-negotiable. Additionally, your beliefs drive your actions generating your results. If you want better results, look to your beliefs, invest time to assess through reflection, speaking with mentor, or taking physical assessments. From those assessment interactions, you will gain immense clarity as to what you need to do. Then you can have exceptional execution because you have taken the right action steps in the right time frame.

Q People often struggle with how to be unique, and forget that they are intrinsically unique by nature. What advice would you give to those seeking to bring their “red jackets” out of the closet?

A Return to your core values, know what those values are, and live by those values. Those who consistently demonstrate unwavering positive core values are noticed because so many people short cut their values because “everyone else does it.” I would also add; demonstrate emotional intelligence, because Zig Ziglar said it best “sales is the transference of feelings.” What he implied but did not say was that everyone is in sales. We are always transferring feelings. When we transfer those feelings with emotional intelligence, we are the Red Jackets.

Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about yourself since you started coaching others and writing this book, and why?

A Sales is truly a simple process. My sense is sometimes we make sales too complex because of all the nuances to the latest and greatest sales fad, and fail to understand Ziglar’s words and emphasis on feelings. Within all that complexity, we lose sight of what we do well, our own authenticity, because we are trying to emulate someone else.

Q Who would you say is/was your greatest mentor, and why?

A My greatest mentor is my Swedish grandmother. She showed me how having a purpose and a plan really make a difference. I did not realize how her story was so essential to my own business. As I grew older and realized how much she accomplished with her clarity of purpose, I recognized what I needed to do.

Probably my second greatest mentor is my father, who was a lifelong salesman. He shared with me practical insight that is just as true today as it was 50 plus years ago.

Q Women are particularly vulnerable to the fear of appearing too pushy when dealing with clients, bosses and co-workers. In some cases this extends to just about every aspect of their lives. What advice would you give these women?

A First, we can only control our own behaviours. My sense is there is too much emphasis on what others think, and so a self-fulfilling prophecy happens. ‘I cannot say this because someone will think I am pushy.’ The reality is, a man can say exactly the same thing and be viewed as assertive.

When women learn to leverage their innate emotional intelligence and refrain from keeping their emotions out of any sales conversation, success does happen. There is a direct connection between active listening and emotional intelligence. These are two skills that women can leverage to increase their sales results as well as life outcomes.

Q Writing a book often seems easy for those who’ve never tried it. What were some of your greatest take-aways from that experience, and why?

A Writing a book is a commitment to time. Schedule a daily goal to write 750-1000 words. Non-fiction books are at a minimum 30,000 words, or a book that can be read on a two hour plane flight. Within a month you can have the bulk of your book written. Then start the editing process. One piece of advice; do not try to edit and write each chapter. Write the entire book and then edit it once or even twice. Let your flow, flow. Editing restricts that natural flow.

Q I love the title, and the image it conjures, of the Red Jacket. How did you come up with it, and what does it mean to you?

A The idea came during a discussion with a colleague while we were talking about how small businesses need to differentiate themselves. He mentioned standing out in the back of the room where people are rushing up to you to learn more about you. At this time, I mentioned “kind of like wearing a red jacket with a lot gray suits milling around.”

What the Red Jacket signifies to me is differentiation, not only in one’s solution, but in one’s presence. Today we hear the word disruptor. A Red Jacket disrupts the landscape because everyone else is in black, gray, or blue suits. Wearing a Red Jacket also gives an internal confidence and strength.

Q Can you give us an example of a funny or difficult situation you encountered when conducting a seminar, webinar, or book signing?

A When I first transitioned from training and development into executive and sales coaching, I was approached at a business to business networking event by a “certified coach” who asked who “certified me”. My response was “my clients.” She then again said, “No, I mean what organization certified you?” I responded “My clients, through the results they quickly achieve, certify me.” She then replied, “Well, results are not everything, and you are a fraud.”

Given she was also a practicing psychologist along with being a certified life coach, I was amused by her comment. She obviously lacked emotional intelligence not to mention some basic sales communication skills.

My answer to her statement of my being a fraud was “You are entitled to your opinion. Obviously my clients do not believe so, because they hired me for results.” What is interesting to note over the last 18 years; I have been only asked if I am certified by other certified coaches, and never once by a client.

Q  Many companies utilize “rewards” of everything from experiential adventures to items with strong perceived value for their employees and clients to encourage engagement. What rewards would you say work the best, and why?

A People buy from people they know and trust. They first buy on emotions, justified by logic. Salespeople are people as well. Letting people know they are doing a great job by offering support sometimes will go far further than extrinsic rewards.

Handwritten notes encourage engagement. People appreciate you took the time to physically find the card, write the card, and mail the card.

Again, we sometimes get lost in all the hype and just fail to connect with people. Yes, people want some sort of incentive, but first they want to be remembered. President Teddy Roosevelt said “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Q What would you say is a company’s greatest ROI (return on investment), and why?

A That is such a simple question to answer: Your people are your greatest return on investment. If you have hired the right people with the right talents making the right decisions for the right results in the right time frame and within the right environment, you will receive the greatest return on your investment.

Q How important would you say social media is to business, and what is the biggest mistake you’d say businesses make with this new contact/engagement method?

A Social media is important for any business that wants to grow. As mobile takes greater and greater presence in the B2B and B2C worlds, not having a social media presence will have your business behind the flow, and possibly even dying on the river’s bank.

From my experience there are four big mistakes. The first one is not engaging in social media, believing it is not for you or your business.

Not understanding that social media is a marketing channel and can deliver exceptional ROI with a minimum effort is the second big mistake. Here is where automation tools such as HootSuite come into play.

Expecting social media to deliver instant results ranks as the third biggest mistake. As in any marketing effort, slow and steady wins the race. Social media is not the quick fix to bad sales results.

Finally, social media does require engagement and sharing. The old one way marketing channels have been replaced with a dynamic two way channel. If all you do is spew your sales pitches and never share the social media marketing efforts of others, you will fail, and fail miserably.

Q What’s next for you Leanne?

A First is relocating the office from outside of Chicago to Northwest Arizona by the fall of 2015 provided as they say, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” Second is to continue to offer an even stronger voice for small business owners with fewer than 20 employees who are in aggressive growth mode and require support to help them overcome people and process problems. Third is continuing the Red Jacket series. However, due to the forthcoming move and current client activity, this goal is in temporary hiatus. Fourth is to further market the Career and College Success Boot Camp for high school seniors and juniors. Our country needs good, ethical, and results driven leaders. Also, our economy needs leaders without excessive college debt. This Boot Camp provides a leadership foundation that most high school and even college experiences do not offer.

Author of Be the Red Jacket – http://bit.ly/1Q9mnV
Website: www.increase-sales-coach.com
Twitter: @CoachLee – http://bit.ly/1k0SPRa

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/ADVANCEDSYSTEMS

LinkedIN – http://www.linkedin.com/in/leannehoaglandsmith

2014 – Small Business Journalist of the Year – http://www.edayleaders.com/home

2014 – Best International Sales Blog – http://bestsalesbloggerawards.com/p/26/hall-of-fame.html
2013 – Top 25 Sales Influencers – http://labs.openviewpartners.com/top-sales-influencers-for-2013/
2012 – Most Influential Dame in Social Media for Indiana

Editorial Note: Although we’ve yet to meet in person, I had the privilege of including Leanne as a savvy contributor to my two most recent business books. She’s a true pro to work with and it was a pleasure for us to put her in the You Read It Here First spotlight. – Christina Hamlett

Business and Baby at Home!

Sarah_OBryan

I’m really pleased to introduce and welcome Australia’s Sarah O’Bryan, author of Business & Baby at Home! More than just an author, Sarah walks the walk of a savvy “mumpreneur”, as she juggles three young children at home while continuing to build her home based business, Lasso Creative, as a Graphic Designer. As if that weren’t enough, Sarah is also comfortable in the media, engages audiences during her public speaking talks, and writes insightful, helpful articles in various publications, websites, and blogs. In today’s interview, we get the chance to know a little more about this fascinating woman.

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

*******************

 Q Sarah, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what lead you to write for and about work-from-home entrepreneurial mothers?

I’ve always been a firm believer in creating your own blueprint and leading with passion in life. I guess that’s why my husband and I were knee-deep in a gigantic dream-home reno at the same time I moved Lasso Creative into my home studio, and gave birth to my first child. Similarly, my third babe was born on the cusp of my book launch. I juggle the latest design project alongside the world that is Business & Baby at Home (Finch Publishing, 2013). This includes an appearance on the Today Show, contributing to numerous magazine features on the topic, and writing articles for Australia’s biggest women’s network, Business Chicks. Business and Baby at Home (Finch Publishing) is an extension on the way I run my business. It’s my way of passing on inspiration, innovation and the business acumen that I use to build my brand on a daily basis. The book is a set-up and survival guide for work-from-home parents, with a positive and engaging message that I believe is vital in today’s society.

Q What would you say has been your most difficult personal or professional lesson to learn?

I’m very ethical in everything I do, whether personal or professional and I’ve always had the natural assumption that others will behave the same way. It’s tough when you have to work with people who don’t share the same values. You’re left feeling let down and disappointed. I’ve learnt that it comes down to being mindful, and accepting jobs where values align for both parties.

Q If you could invite any two people to dinner, who would you choose, and why?

Frida Kahlo was a game-changer and has always fascinated me. She lived by her own set of rules, was a true artist and an amazingly resilient human being. I really admire resilience in a person. I would also invite Oprah Winfrey, because she’s such a wealth of information on life and business, has amazing connections, and is a true beacon of success. We share a common trait… she also loves food, so the table would be abundant, the music playing and the drinks flowing.

Q We all have aspects to our lives or our selves that aren’t well known. Could you share something about yourself that not many people know?

Most people tell me that I’m really relaxed and laid back, but it’s really the opposite. My mind is constantly ticking over, brainstorming new ideas and dreaming up my next goal in life.

Q As a woman on the move, I’m sure you have many, but what would you consider is/was your greatest WOW moment, and why?

Seeing the words of how my life works in print which lead to chatting to the stunning Lisa Wilkinson on the Today show, one of our national breakfast programs here in Australia. Being on set with the cameras, lights and crew was such a buzz! I was called on as an advocate for working from home and having that all-too-frightening discussion with your boss negotiating the move. It was new, challenging, and I felt completely in my element.

Q We seem to be seeing a global trend in this area, but why do you think so many women are choosing to work from home?

I think there are a few factors at play regardless of where you live. The first is the rise in the cost of living, real estate prices are sitting at an all-time high, and the weekly family food shop is an expensive exercise. For many, it’s just not an option to be a stay-at-home mum. Secondly, I think women want to retain some independence, and have an interest beyond motherhood. A lot of us enjoy our chosen professions, and want to stay connected with it. Others find becoming a mum is the inspiration for starting a new business. Plus, the world is changing, it’s now more acceptable to work from home, or create more unique work practices. Technology is continually evolving to support flexible work arrangements.

Q Working from home can seem like the ideal dream job, but what do you think are the biggest obstacles new “mumpreneurs” face and aren’t prepared for?

A lot of mums tell me they don’t feel supported by their partners or family and friends. In some cases, there’s an attitude that what they’re doing is not a proper job; particularly in the early days, when the business may not be making a huge profit. Support is very important. I talk in the book about adopting an equal-parenting approach, but also an equal approach to all the responsibilities of running the household. The other factor I’ve found is having the determination to persevere, even when you feel disillusioned. You can often hit roadblocks or speed-bumps, and it can be tougher than you think to get the business moving.

Q Time management and scheduling have to be the cornerstones for any successful entrepreneur. Could you give us an example of what a regular day for you looks like, and how you juggle all the various demands?

My day always starts with a cappuccino! I then get the older kids ready for school, and all the other usual family demands in the morning. Once the school run is done, and the baby is settled, I check my current work-in-progress schedule to figure out my priorities for the day. Then it’s all about ticking off the to-do list! I may design a new logo or brochure for a client, respond to a journalist or pop some material on Facebook or Instagram. I use my little one’s sleep schedule as blocks of work time. It’s great for client phone calls and is a really productive way to work, as you know you have a deadline the moment the baby wakes. By the afternoon, I’ve made progress. I always make time for some afternoon tea, park or play time with the kids. If my husband is home on time, he’ll make dinner and do a few household chores while I play tag and head back into the studio to finish any major projects off. It took a while for us to get the balance right, and while every day is different, we always end the day with dinner at the family table.

Q What do you think are some of the mistakes people make when starting out, and why?

The old saying, ‘do what you love, love what you do’ is a huge factor in finding success. Do something you’re passionate about because this is what will keep you motivated when you lack enthusiasm or are feeling exhausted. People often forget that whilst they may look like it on the surface, not many businesses are over-night success stories. Years are spent planning, working, networking and building businesses, and hopefully it’s done with joy in people’s hearts because they are doing what they love to do.

Q Really making any new business a long-term success is tough. What do you think is the secret to success for those who choose to work from home while raising a family?

I’ve found one of the biggest issues is knowing when to switch off. I know for me, a huge amount of self-discipline is required to not constantly check my phone, or think about the design project I’m working on. It’s really important on many levels to know when to take the work hat off, or vice versa, take the parent hat off when you’re working. It’s about being present, living in the moment, when your children are telling you about their day, or being completely on task when you’re working to meet a deadline. Work/life balance is never achieved, it’s just maintained.

Q Everyone wants to know; what are some of your best tips for mothers who want to successfully run their business from home, while still being a hands-on parent?

Keep a work-in-progress (WIP) list at all times so you have a record of your jobs. Update this throughout the day so that nothing slips through the cracks. Go over it at the end of your workday to help you switch off and relax, knowing that everything is in place. This also means you start your day with a clear direction of what needs to be done first.

Set reasonable lead times for yourself so that when you’re particularly busy you’re not overly stressed trying to deliver on time. It’s better to surprise a client by getting a job done early rather than it being late. If it’s taking longer than you expected, retain clear communication with the customer, assuring them you’re doing the best you can and that they’re a top priority.

Set short and long-term goals for both personal and professional achievements. These may be setting financial benchmarks, acquiring a number of new clients, or getting to Pilates once a week. It’s a huge encouragement and as you tick them off they give direction to keep you on track for where you want to go.

Maintain a strong routine that enables you to get your work done. A lack of routine can result in shapeless and unproductive days with no progress. We all know as a parent, you can get to the end of a day and think where did the time go? So create and stick to a routine that works for you and allows blocks of time that you’re working through your WIP.

Q How can we connect with you in social media?

Website: www.businessandbabyathome.com.au

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/businessbabyathome

Instagram: SarahOBryan_

Twitter: @SarahOBryan_

Thank you so much for your time today, Sarah! You’ve given us some great insights, tips, and encouragement on women/mothers working from home. Congratulations on the success of your book, Business & Baby at Home, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours!

 

Editorial Note: Sarah O’Bryan is also one of over thirty experts featured in the newly released Office for One: The Sole Proprietor’s Survival Guide. (https://www.createspace.com/5029312)

 

 

The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget

Guerilla_Rep_Front_Cover

In 1909, the first feature film produced in the United States was a four-reel production of Les Miserables. Producers, however, didn’t think that the American public could sit still for any movie lasting more than an hour and, consequently, released it that year in separate one-reel installments between the middle of September and the end of November. Over a century later, movies continue to captivate us…and that’s without even knowing the multiplicity of elements that not only go into getting those films made in the first place but also getting them in front of an audience. Ben Yennie, author of The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget, gives us a peek behind the magic curtain of modern cinema.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

**********

Q: When did you first know that you wanted to play a dynamic part in the making of movies?

A: Despite the fact that I’ve always loved movies, movie making came to me in a very roundabout way. For most of my high school years, I wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. I had spent a lot of time volunteering with the kids in the high school’s program and I thought that was the direction I wanted to head in. At the time, my high school required every senior do a senior project. I had taken a video production course at the beginning of the year and decided that I would do a video on how to take care of one of the kids who was transitioning into a nursing home. While I was editing the video, I realized that I liked the process of filmmaking more than I liked the subject I was making the video on. So, I decided to go to film school.

Q: Did you originally see yourself as an actor, director or producer?

A: As with many others who enter film school, originally I saw myself as a writer/director. I had a knack for writing scenes, but pretty shortly into film school, I realized I was a really talented producer. I loved the social end of producing, and enabling creative people to be creative. As I went further into film school, I found that I understood finance very well for a filmmaker. The processes behind distribution and finance fascinated me. With that in mind, I transitioned more towards the deal-making end of producing. One thing led to another and eventually I ended up as a Producer’s Rep.

Q: Who or what were the influences that crystallized the choice for you?

A: One of the biggest influences was my first producing teacher, Bill Brown. He was also the person who got me to go to the American Film Market the first time. It was really under his tutelage that I took those first steps towards being a producer. There really aren’t many people who go to film school to be a producer. It’s not all that surprising, given most film schools’ producing programs aren’t all that good.

Q: What’s the best industry advice anyone has ever given you?

A: It’s cliché, but it really boils down to this: the film business is really about who you know more than what you know. The film industry relies heavily on social capital. If you are well liked and have good relationships with powerful people in the industry, you’re going to be far more likely to find success. The reason you go to the American Film Market is to meet the people you want to know and establish relationships with them. But remember, while you want to know a lot of people, the real trick is knowing the right people. In order to know the right people, you need to build a good reputation.

Q: So tell us how you made the transition from filmmaker to entrepreneur.

A: Well, if I’m honest, it’s not much of a transition to make. Filmmakers and entrepreneurs have a lot of the same skills. They’re both able to assemble a team, lead that team through long hours, and overcome any obstacle to create a product. However, filmmakers often lack a thorough understanding of marketing, sales, or financing. I happen to be fascinated with these aspects, so the transition was pretty natural. After putting in some time at The Institute for International Film Finance, I was able to see where the existing educational system was lacking and help to create a company that enables filmmakers to pursue a career independent of the studio system.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

A: There are two things. The first, success is not a sprint, nor is it linear. It’s a long journey with many ups and downs until eventually something takes off. You just need to keep going, keep trying, and do whatever you can to pursue your goals. It’s not about your daily progress, or even your weekly progress. It’s about your monthly, quarterly, and yearly progress. The most important thing you can do is keep your long term goals in place, and try to move them forward a little bit every day. You can get discouraged if you don’t feel better off than you were yesterday. If you keep building, you’ll grow a little bit every month and year.

The second thing is that as you go, you’ll realize your own imperfections and want to change them. If you really want to move past them, then just decide to do so. Committing to massive behavioral modifications overnight is unlikely to stick. It’s far better to focus on being just a little bit better every single day. Even if you’re only 1% better, it will accumulate over time into massive, sustainable transformation.

Q: Tell us how you ended up as a producer’s rep and what, exactly, does this involve.

A: I have a few relatively rare and highly valuable skills in the film industry. Agents tend to like me, as do many of the distributors I’ve worked with. When it comes down to getting the film in the can, there are thousands upon thousands of details that need to be sorted out, and I lose interest. So, I focus my efforts on helping filmmakers navigate the waters that are generally choppiest, and require a highly specialized skill set that I happen to have a knack for. There are plenty of filmmakers who can make a great film, there are far fewer who understand how to market those films and help them actually make some money.

I shifted focus to enable people to create films and get them distributed. And that’s what a producer’s rep does. He or she’s essentially an agent for filmmakers and films, helping them get packaged, funded, and distributed. I’m still new to this, so I concentrate on packaging and distribution over financing. Financing is a place I’d like to move into in a few years though.

Q: Since you focus on distribution and finance, do you ever miss making films?

A: I do occasionally. But, honestly, I’m more interested in episodic content at the moment. I think that’s the way the market’s heading and I have a few ideas that I’m currently developing. Nothing will be ready for prime time for quite a while, though.

Q: Why did you decide to start going to The American Film Market?

A: I started going to AFM on a recommendation by a friend and mentor, Bill Brown. It took a few years, but eventually I took his advice and booked a greyhound bus ticket to LA. I stayed in a shared bathroom hotel with my then producing partner, and did it on as tight a budget as was humanly possible. The next two years I attended were even more successful. By my fourth year, I had 55 screener requests for the 5 films I was repping. Success builds upon itself.

Q: This month marks the debut of your first book: The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget. What inspired you to write it?

A: A lot of the inspiration was from some continual good-natured ribbing from another good friend and mentor, Tony Wilkins. I attended a workshop of his, where he spoke of how he wrote his first book and then encouraged me to write my own. After a few months, I finally decided to write it. Now, just under a year later, I’m a published author!

Q: So where did the name for it come from?

A: I was on the floor at AFM introducing myself, and I met a fairly powerful series creator who ran a fairly big crime show on Fox. I introduced myself as Ben, and said I was a Guerrilla Rep. He loved the name, and we entered into a bet on who could make money with it first. Well Tony (different Tony), I win.

Q: Give us a brief teaser of what readers can expect to find inside its pages.

A: My own ego aside, the most useful things in the book are probably the parts I didn’t write. The contributions from the 6 distributors and the extended interview with Daisy Hamilton are the best part of the book. It’s practical advice on distribution straight from the horse’s mouth. The first 16 chapters are relatively in depth pieces of practical advice on how to find success at the American Film Market, mixed with some personal anecdotes and advice garnered on the floor of AFM. However, the really useful information is the tips from the distributors and financiers.

Q: What did you learn about yourself over the course of writing the book?

A: I had a fair amount of detractors when I started writing who said that there’s no way I could add anything useful to a book. I almost caved to them. What I learned over the course of writing the book was that I really do understand the subject matter, and on this particularly narrow field, I am something of an expert. It’s definitely a bit of a transition to that role, but it’s an exciting and rewarding one. There’s an excellent quote by Flannery O’Conner that says “I write to discover what I know.” Writing this book allowed me to discover that I know a lot more than I thought I did.

Q: The film industry is really tricky to break into. What motivates you to keep going?

A: That’s a really good question, and I honestly wonder myself sometimes. There’s this sort of compulsion some people have to create. Storytelling is just in some people’s blood, and some of those storytellers gravitate towards the tools that only visual media have. Personally, I love the feeling of being plopped into a sensory deprivation tank and being told a story with moving images, and being a part of that is really exciting for me. I think within every filmmaker lies a dreamer, and it’s the dream that keeps us all going. For me personally, I love being someone who helps people’s dream come true. There’s a certain magic in that.

Q: What qualities do certain filmmakers have that make you want to represent them?

A: There are a few qualities I look for when considering whether or not I want to represent a client. The first is honesty. If you lie to me, I’m not very likely to work with you. If you continually misrepresent yourself, then I’m not likely to invest my time in you either.

The second is stamina and dedication to a project. Filmmaking is a marathon, not a sprint, and if I’m repping you, I need to know you’ll be there to help us promote. The world of filmmaking is becoming more and more about building a community and a fan base around yourself, and if you want to have success, you need to make yourself a part of it.

The third, and the holy grail, is some sort of talent and creativity. Just because you have the tools to say something doesn’t mean you have something to say. However if you have this in spades but not the other two, I can’t help you. This is a business, and business relationships rely on trust.   I need to be able to trust you and know that you’ll deliver on what you say you will. So while you need to have all three of these things for me to work with you, talent and having something to say is not the be all and end all of my search for good clients.

It’s surprising, but it’s not always the best film that lights up the festival circuit. It’s the one that can generate the most buzz. This factor needs talent and creativity, as well as hard work and dedication.

Q: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

A: Honestly, I hate the current power structure. The fact that the industry functions on back room dealings at restaurants and film festivals is far from desirable. The general lack of transparency is alarming, and keeps new money from entering the business at the rate necessary for sustainable growth. If you don’t have an in to the industry, it can be very difficult to break in. I really don’t like the fact that if you piss off the wrong guy then your whole career can be kaboshed. I suppose this is true in any industry, but it’s particularly egregious in the film industry. One of my life goals is to disintermediate the industry, even by just a little bit. If I can do that through my ventures, then it’s a career well spent.

Q: Where do you think film production will be in the next 10 years?

A: At this point, even three years out is hard to predict. Ten years is nearly impossible to estimate, even for the most involved in the industry. But, since you asked, I’ll give a guess in broad strokes. If current trends continue, I think the really quality content is going to shift towards the episodic format and there will be an ever increasing focus on mobile and home based viewing. I think that finding success as a filmmaker will involve getting listed on some of the bigger aggregators and growing your own personal fan base to the point that you can build a stable income stream from selling your content to your fans. Then, the filmmaker will need to continue to grow by getting listed in festivals, larger aggregators, host community screenings, and work primarily independently of the major studio system.

Success will require filmmakers to build a cult of personality around their work, even more so than it currently does. The really difficult part will be rising above the ever-increasing level of white noise and oversaturation that’s flooding the market. In essence, the most valuable asset any aggregator or promoter will have is a truly engaged list. I think community and niche market distribution will be increasingly important, and a new realm of community screenings in atypical screening locations will become prevalent. Screenings in the backs of restaurants, schools, anywhere with chairs and a projector will be more and more common, and it will be on the filmmaker and promoters to spread the film.

Q: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I’m absolutely addicted to Karaoke. I’m pretty far outside the standard demographic for it, but it’s probably my biggest vice. In fact, the launch party for The Guerrilla Rep will have karaoke. Just because I like it.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Quite a lot. We’re really stepping up the game at The Producer Foundry, and I just got promoted to Vice President of Sales at Taal, a mobile app that enables employers to take video interviews on any iOS or Android device. I’m also still repping films, running a blog, and starting to develop the next book. I’m really excited about all of it, but less excited about the lack of sleep it’s sure to lead to.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I’d just like to thank everyone who made this book possible. I’d also really like to thank you for interviewing me. I’m looking forward to reading Office For One. *

 

Interviewer note: Ben is one of several dozen experts who contributed fantastic chapter content to my upcoming business book targeted to today’s sole proprietors.