By Rachel Wang- Freeman & Member of Guild of Entrepreneurs
I love the vibe of the Trampery, there is an energy and buzz with business owners, the self employed and new ventures working away to disrupt, create and design new products and services late into the night. When I was asked to be part of a panel discussion for the Pathways programme I jumped at the chance to support these exciting new enterprises.
Having set up my own business, Chocolate Films 17 years ago with Mark Currie, I have been through many of the challenges that new businesses face today. I have also been an audience member at events like this, trying desperately to find out the answers to how to make it a success, but often leaving feeling more confused and disheartened than before!
I have also seen many experienced business experts showing off about their own accomplishments at these types of talks, but this doesn’t really help when you are starting out. I wanted to give clear advice that was constructive, supportive and inspiring… and from the feedback I received after the session, people were feeling pretty excited.
I had three points I wanted to pass to the audience.
- Relationships are everything. I’ve been running my businesses for seventeen years, and during that time pretty much everything about our business and industry has changed. The way people watch, view, make and use films have all transformed unrecognisably, and they are now changing faster than every. The only thing that is a constant is the people.
People who we have met along the way keep turning up in different jobs and environments. Someone we met as an intern ten years ago helped land us our most prestigious client.
So the most important thing is to value and nurture relationships. Just be nice to people.
- Find people who LOVE what you do
Getting the right people to work for you is so important, and you need every person to be great.
For every job we advertise we get several hundred people applying – I think that’s the nature of working for a video company. They tell us how great they are and shows all the good work they’ve done, but in a competitive world of freelancers, everyone can do that. But we have some tough competition for the best people and we want people to grow and develop and stay at Chocolate Films. So now we focus on finding the people who go out of their way to show that they don’t just want a job – they want to work for Chocolate Films more than X factor or the music videos. And we test them on this to make sure. We ask them to make a video to show why they’d be good (90% still apply without this). We make sure their values align with ours. And that means that we employ everyone from Cambridge grads to people who’ve never been to university. The main thing is they’re committed and love what we do.
- Take all advice, tips and wisdom with a pinch of salt
When we started out, I used to go to meetings and seminars where media experts would sit there and share their knowledge. For the first couple of years of Chocolate Films, we tried to do as they advised, but then we just veered off in our own direction, doing what we thought was sensible. So now we run our company successfully doing everything that we were told not to do (and are still told not to do). We employ people on full time contracts, rather than short or freelance contracts. We never let people work for free. We hardly ever rent kit – we always buy. We don’t hunt down broadcast commissions – we prefer to build great online content. We use our profits to support our social mission, which is to run creative education workshops for children and young people in digital video production.