Returning The Blog to its Roots

I have now written 50 posts on this blog, and thought it be a good time to look back on what I have learned.  I started writing this blog over a year ago, and somewhere along the way I lost track of that reason.

I feel I lost my way after I started working with my first client.  An interesting thing started to happen when I would sit down to write a post each week.  I had so many exciting things I wanted to write about, but I realized that I was filtering everything out.

Since I had a client I was afraid to post something that they might read.  What would they think of it, and would they change their mind about wanting to work with me?  My posts were more often written in the tone of my struggle, and how I was trying to figure things out.  Was this what I wanted my clients to read?  I wanted my clients to see me as an expert, not as someone that was just starting out who still had a lot to learn about running an animation company.

Even worse, what about the potential clients that were coming to my website for the first time.  Would they click on my blog, and realize I don’t know what I’m doing and they might decide to look for the next animation company?  I originally thought my blog would help personalize my company, but now I was thinking that it instead might be turning clients away.

I started to second guess the purpose of the blog. Should I take it in a different direction where maybe I could write about industry related topics to show my expertise in the field?  Should I write about the products and services my company offers, and why their business should hire us for all their animation needs?  Should I be using the blog more as a marketing tool then a person diary?

I started to try out these different styles, and before long the blog was all over the place.  My blog was like a ship without a sail drifting away going where ever the current would take it.  It had no direction, and I feel I lost my way.  I was no longer being true to the reason why I started the blog in the first place.  That reason was to share and record my journey in starting an animation company.

As the subtile states “The greatest success story, or the most public failure”.  It’s not a sales pitch, or an industry article, but instead a true life story about my thoughts and experiences.

Although I feel writing industry articles that show our expertise in the field, and marketing posts to help sell our services are important for my company this blog is not the best place for them.  I also feel that this blog might not be the best blog for my business, so I will be making some changes.

First, I will no longer have a link from my company website to this blog.  If a potential client is on my website I don’t want them having easy access to this blog.  I realize that they might find it if they search the web, but I don’t want it linked from my company page.  This blog will no longer be a company blog, but it is instead a personal blog from the founder of the company.

Secondly, I plan to create a new blog that will be the company’s blog.  There you will find articles relating to the animation industry that will show potential clients our expertise.  The blog will also have marketing posts that will highlight the services we provide, similar to one of my previous posts “Why Small Businesses Can’t Afford Not To Have Animated Videos On Their Websites“.

I would also like to open up the company blog to guest writers if they have something to write about the animation industry that fits with the companies brand.

Some of the posts from the two blogs may overlap, but I feel this will be the best option going forward.  Please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section below.  Also, please let me know if you are interested in contributing as a guest writer for the company blog.


If you have not already, please join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  Also, if you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

Building An Animation Company’s Leadership Team

I have been working on my business plan which forces me to take a look at the details of the company.  From this I have been doing a lot of thinking about my leadership team, or should I say lack of. I have for some time been wanting to bring on more people, but how do you know what would be best.  The people you have on your team is key to the success of any business, so it is a big decision.  So let me share with you my thoughts on building my leadership team.

I’m sure I’m the only one, but I have always been fascinated with the hierarchy of companies and their org charts.  In larger companies with hundreds or thousands of employees it is very important to have very clear titles and job responsibilities.  They also help everyone understand a reporting structure which is increasingly important as a company grows, and adds more people.  In a smaller company the reporting structure might not be as complex as The Walt Disney Co, but it is still important for everyone to have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities in the organization.  It also helps your clients understand the structure of your business.  When you start a company on your own you have to wear all the hats of the organization.  If the company is doing well you may have to bring additional on additional people to split up the responsibilities.  Bringing on the right people to fill the role of that initial leadership team is vital, and is what makes or breaks your company.  Who you bring on also help to define the culture of your company.

apple_org_chart_large11If you look at a org chart for a corporation you will notice that everything is very departmentalized based on functions and responsibilities.  For example look at the org chart of Apple Computers from when Steve Jobs was CEO.   As a smaller company it does not make sense to be so departmentalized.  Instead fewer people take on more functions and responsibilities.  You might be wondering what the ideal number of people you should start with, or what tasks each of them take.

I found a theory of the 3 types of people you need for a startup, that I found interesting.  It is hard to track down who originally stated this, since different resources credit different people, so I apologize not giving the proper credit.  I also believe this was geared more towards tech startups, but it could also work for an animation company.  After all technology is a huge part in the production of CG animation.

According to this theory the 3 ideal people to start a company is The Hustler, The Designer, and The Hacker.  The Hustler has the grand vision, but also have their feet firmly on the ground.  They figure out how to make a good idea into a successful business. The Designer or sometimes referred to as the Hipster is the creative genius.  They make the product or service look good, and make it cool.  The Hacker is your programmer, and MacGyver of the group.  They build the ship, and make sure it keeps running at peak performance. If you take a look at the early days of Pixar you can easily point out these 3 types of leaders.  The Hustler being Steve Jobs, the Designer being John Lasseter, and the Hacker was Ed Catmull.

So how can this help me with designing my dream team?  I don’t think there is one secret formula for what makes the perfect team.  The truth is that it all comes down to the specific needs of the company, and what makes the most sense for their unique situation.  If you look at my current responsibilities in the company they would include, visionary, creator, marketing, sales, communications, technology, and finance.  As my company grows I think of who I should bring on board to help take the company to the next level.  The first person I would like to bring on would be a creative director.  Someone that is a creative powerhouse in story, animation, and design that can lead the company creatively.  With cg animation being very technical they would also need to be very tech savvy with a understanding of the pipeline and animation tools.

Additionally I would hire a tech consulting firm to help with additional technology needs we may have.  With the help of my CPA I fee I have a pretty good handle on the financial needs. I feel that covers a lot of the major needs of the company for right now.  The next team leader I would bring on board would help with marketing, sales, and other business admin functions.  Their main focus would be on the marketing and sales to help bring in more clients.

I will be starting a search for these key players to help me with the company.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or feel you might be a good fit yourself.


If you have not already, please join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  Also, if you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

Why Small Businesses Can’t Afford Not To Have Animated Videos On Their Websites

Are you the founder of a small business?  Do you work at a small business?  Have you ever thought about starting your own business?  Chances are pretty high that you have said yes to 1 or 2 of these questions.  Forbes estimates there are about 27 million small businesses in the United States.  A small business is defined as any company with less then 500 employees.  Over 50% of the working population works in a small business.

With so many things competing for their customers attention it is very challenging for a small business to stand out. In this post I wanted to talk about a service my business is offering to small and mid-size businesses that will help them gain more loyal customers.

It might not be true for all industries, but I feel it is important for the majority of businesses to have a website.  I know when I first hear about a business I instantly look them up online.  Before buying a product or service I want to research on my own to find out everything I can.  I don’t think I’m alone on this, and this brand awareness is a trait of Millennials.  This is becoming more important for the kids of Generation Z.  So for the owners of small businesses their online presence should be something they are paying attention to.

When building a website for your small business it can be challenging, and there are many things you have to think about.  First you setup your website to have all the information that is needed to help visitors of your site understand your product or services.  You may have spent time and money designing your site to look professional to keep your visitors engaged long enough to transition to being customers.  You may also have created a blog to attract more people to your company’s website, and doing everything you can to build your online presence.  You may have a good amount of traffic coming to your site, but they are not staying long, and those visits are not converting to sales.

This might be because your website is not engaging enough to keep their attention.  55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on websites. This is where my company can help, since time spent on a website increases 600% with video.  Having a video can also help make your company look fresh, and more engaging. Adding a video to your website can help in many ways other ways such as increase your companies website SEO(Search Engine Optimization). The higher your SEO the greater chance your company’s website has on showing up on page 1 when people search for specific keywords.

A lot of people see reading as work, and it is a growing expectation that when visitors come to a website that they will have the option to watch a video.  Around 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and if you don’t have a video on your business’ website you may not hold your visitors attention long enough for them to understand your product or services.  It has been shown in studies that people actually comprehend and retain more from watching an audio and visual presentation then they do from reading alone.  This is especially important if your product or service is new and unique and might require some explanation.

Another great part about videos is that they are versatile.  They can easily be added to your website, be shared through email, YouTube, and other social media sites.  There are statistics that video increases conversion rates on emails by 200% to 300%.  When you are competing for business every little bit helps, and this is hard to ignore.

Animated videos have additional benefits. Research has shown that people connect emotionally with animated illustrations, because it reminds them of their childhood. It being a time in their lives that they were more receptive to new information, and as a result video-viewers are 85% more likely to buy your product or services.  Complex messages can be distilled into clearer ideas that are easier for viewers to understand when watching animated explainer videos.

I’m going to start reaching out to small businesses to see how an animated video can help their business.  Not only will I get to make a lot of fun animated videos, but I will also get to help other small businesses.  These videos could be in the form of a commercial that they can post online, or even broadcast. They can also be in the form of explainer videos that help explain their products or services with illustrations.

I think I’m going to start by making an explainer video for my company to explain this service.  These types of animated videos can be made for as low as $1,500 depending on the length and complexity.

If you started your own business contact me to see how an animated video can help your business. Contact me!


If you have not already, please join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  Also, if you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

My Marketing & Advertising Hat

As I mentioned before when running your own business you often have to wear many different hats.  The hat that I have been wearing the most lately is my marketing hat… specifically the advertising one.  You might be thinking to yourself that marketing and advertising is the same thing.  Although they are often thought to be two words that describe the same thing they are in fact different.

Before moving on let me quickly explain the difference as best as I understand it.  Think of marketing as the whole pie, and advertising a slice of that pie.  It is often the most expensive slice of the pie followed by public relations and market research, but it is still only a piece of the pie. Marketing consists of market research, public relations, sales strategy, media planning, and the general process of preparing your product or service for the marketplace while advertising is the part of making your product or service known to the marketplace.

If you are still not completely clear on the differences that is OK, and you are not alone.  What is important is that advertising is a big part of any business’s marketing plan, and can be done through many different venues such as print, television, radio, and internet.  Knowing which venues would be best comes from the other pie pieces such as market research.

Although, I’m still working on my overall market strategy I have started to focus on my advertising options.  I first looked at how I was currently finding new clients which has mostly been relying on my website, and word of mouth. Looking at my options based on my target market, and what I can afford I can pretty much rule out radio and television.  I think radio can be a good option for a lot of businesses, but might not be the most successful for my type of business right now.  While I’m able to create my own commercials, airing them on TV would cost more then what I plan to spend right now.  Similar to radio, with television I might be paying for an audience that is very general, and not targeted enough.

Business_CardsPrint is one of the avenues I’m currently exploring.  The business cards I had printed are a form of advertising, since it is a way of getting my company name and services out to potential clients.  I upgraded from my home printed cards, since it was important for me to send the message that we are a professional company where quality is important to us..  They are printed in full color on both sides on a heavy card stock with a silky finish.  I have attached an image of them, but you only really feel the quality when you hold one.

Also in the realm of print advertising I have been looking to get direct mail fliers printed that I could send to ad agencies.  I will start by finding what ad agencies work in animation that don’t currently have an in-house animation group.  I would then find who at the ad agencies is responsible for bringing in outside production services, so I could send it directly to them.

I have not looked into getting into printed magazines yet, but if I did I would focus on magazines that are targeted towards people in the marketing and advertising industries.

The last venue is internet.  I have been focusing on this venue since it is often the least expensive, and is the best suited for targeting a specific market.  I have been using my Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter accounts to market, but I feel those are mostly for branding and public relations.  The free services may get me a client or two, but once you start getting into target marketing is when you have to start paying.  Which might be a good option for my business.  I have already signed up for the free listing in the online YellowPages as well as looking into some other online listing services such as LA411 where they specifically list production companies.

Today I was looking at Google AdWords.  I was a little surprised how difficult it was to get a price for what it would cost.  They kept saying it only costs you when someone clicks on your ad.  That’s nice and all, but how much does it cost me when someone does click on my ad?  I finally got an average of what a click would cost.  I guess it changes based on how much money Google wants to make off you that day, or something silly like that.  I was told it would be around $4 a click for my business in the target markets that I’m looking at.  I was expecting it to be a few cents per click, so I was a little shocked to hear that amount.  If I did this I would have to include on the ad a message saying, “If you already know me, please don’t click this!”  I can just see having over 100 clicks from my very proud parents.  I love you Mom & Dad, but you just cost me $400!

Well, this all gives me some things to thank about, and a lot of decisions to make.  I might try a few different approaches to see what works the best.  I will set a monthly budget for what I can spend per month on marketing and advertising, and make sure I stick to that.  I can easily see this getting out of control if you don’t watch it.  Who knows, maybe I will learn that it is more cost effective to keep with word of mouth only.  I feel like I might have to start with some marketing to get my brand out there, and then maybe I can rely strictly on word of mouth.

I would love to hear anyones feedback on marketing and advertising.  If you have any suggestions of on this topic that you would be willing to share please leave them in the comments.


If you have not already, please join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  Also, if you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

Learn it, Master it, Redefine it!

Several years ago I wrote down 3 phrases; Learn it, Master it, and Redefine it.  Whether it is learning a new skill, or starting a new job this explains how I approached new things.  It was frustrating to me that I always felt others would be able to jump into new tasks much quicker then I could.  I often was a slow starter, but would eventually catch up, and often surpassed others in understanding the task.  After reflecting on how I approached new situations I saw a pattern in myself that helped me understand how I work.

I’m a visual learner, so when I first approach a new assignment someone can explain it to me in great detail, but I would not be able to pick it up.  I realized that I have to discover it myself by visually breaking it apart into smaller parts.  It is a joke among my friends that I use excel spreadsheets for everything.  It is an easy way for me to visually lay out all the details, and see how everything relates to one another.  This is also why I like to schedule everything out, since I can visually see my day.  For larger tasks this goes far beyond excel sheets, and calendars.  I break down every aspect of the task, and really analyze every detail until I completely understand it.  This is why it takes me so long to pick up new things, but also why I feel like I might have a better understanding of a task then others that did not take the time to analyze every detail.

Once I truly understand the task I then start to master it.  This often just requires time, and practice that there is no substitute for.  When I start this phase I might not be the best at the task, but I can talk about it like I’m an expert.

Once I feel I understand the task inside and out, and able to perform the task at a level of mastery I start to analyze the process.  After I truly understanding and master something I start to notice the imperfections in the process.  I begin to think of ways that would improve the process, and more efficient ways of completing the task.  I’m never satisfied with the status quo, and I’m often looking for better ways to do things.

This is the process I tend to go through with every new challenge I face.  Currently I’m in the early stages of learning how to run my animation company.  I have never had to find clients, bid on projects, understand accounting, taxes, growing a company, or setting up a production pipeline.  The way I have been learning to do all these things is by looking at my competitors to see how they do it.  I mimic them to get a complete understand of their way of doing it.  I feel this is an important step before I start to redefine the way my company runs.

If you ask me what makes my company stand out from our competitors I would have to say that right now there is not much of a difference.  The more I learn about my competitors the more I will be able to find better ways.  It is at this point the company will start to take its shape, and will become uniquely its own company with its own culture.  This not only gives me a base to start from, but it also helps me under stand my competitors.

This is all incredibly important to me, since I don’t want to simply be a reflection of an existing company.  In order to be successful you have to find a way to stand out from the background.  I know that my process might take me longer, but I feel it will give me an advantage over my competition.  Lets see if my theory works.

Last week I spent a lot of time reaching out to both clients, and reps. I have also been doing a lot of research on the leadership structure of some of the other animation companies.  I’m making a plan for what I feel would be best for my company at its current stage.

This week I will continue looking into finding new clients.  We are starting on a small project with one of our existing clients, but that should not be more then a couple weeks of work.  This Wednesday I will be attending the DreamWorks Animation’s Home cast and crew screening and wrap party.  I’m excited to see how much the movie has changed since I left in July.  It will also be nice to get to see my old friends and co-workers.  I will let you know how it went in next week’s blog post.


If you have not already, please join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  Also, if you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.