I worked for 10 years in the film and television business as a development executive. I've spent the last two and a half years as co-founder of Stroome, an online video editing and publishing platform and 2010 Knight News Challenge winner. You might think that these two things wouldn't be related. Actually, they're more closely connected than you'd suspect.
Recently, I was asked by Jason Nazar, founder of Docstoc and a big supporter of the L.A. entrepreneurial community, what lessons from my entertainment background have been helpful as I've transitioned into the digital space. A link to that video can be found at the bottom of this post, but I thought I'd share the three key takeaways with you here:
CONDENSE YOUR BUSINESS TO A 'LOGLINE'
As you hatch your idea and begin growing it into an actual business, a lot of people will want to hear your story. And when they ask, you're going to want to tell it quickly and succinctly. And here's the kicker: It's best if it's communicated in a sentence. Yes, that's right -- a single sentence.
In the entertainment business, it's called a "logline," and it's composed of three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Think of it as Act I, Act II, and Act III.
In the first part of your logline, you need to state the problem. What is it that people need? Not that they want -- what is it that they need? There's a difference, and you should always be addressing a need, not a want.
In the second part of your logline, identify the obstacles that need to be overcome. Preferably those obstacles will be solved by the service you are offering or the product you are building. After all, that's why you threw caution to the wind and got into this racket, isn't it? Because you have the answer to the problem that needs to be solved?
By the time you've reached the end of your logline, you need to articulate how you plan to overcome those obstacles and ultimately solve that problem.
Beginning, middle, end. Quick, succinct, and to the point.
So the next time someone asks why you are so feverishly committed to doing what it is you're doing, don't fall into the trap of responding with an elaborate description of your business. Tell them a story. Because at the end of the day, you're mapping out a journey, and you want whomever will listen to take that journey with you -- or at least you want them to understand why you have just boarded the occupational equivalent of "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."
EXECUTION IS EVERYTHING
There's an old adage in Hollywood that "ideas are a dime a dozen." To a large extent, I think that applies to entrepreneurship as well.
People invest in people. Whether you're talking to venture capitalists you want to invest in your company; trying to bring on a critical team member you want to help you realize your vision; or recruiting new customers to buy your service or product, people are buying you first and your idea second.
I think that's why so many actors tend to work with the same directors again and again. There's a comfort level there. They don't just think the other person can pull it off; they know they can. And it's probably why a serial entrepreneur who's had past success but who may have stumbled on his most recent endeavor will almost always get funded before an unproven entrepreneur with a "great" idea.
Simply put, ideas are only as good as the people behind them. So sell yourself first and foremost. And make sure when you're doing that, you sell them on the fact that you are are the only person who can pull it off. Execution is everything.
'NO' IS JUST ONE STEP CLOSER TO 'YES'
While it can be wildly rewarding, make no mistake -- heading out on your own is tough. A large percentage of the "no's" you're going to get as an entrepreneur likely will come from the people you're trying to get to fund your business. And in my experience, VCs and studio execs are cut from the same cloth. Both are in the business to say, "no."
When I was reading scripts at DreamWorks, HBO and VH1, I had to pour through 100 before I found one that I would even consider taking to my boss. Similarly, most VCs look at 100 deals a week before they find one they take up with their colleagues. With that kind of volume, you can understand why saying 'no' is the answer you're most likely going to get when approaching a VC or angel investor.
My advice? Don't take "no" personally. In fact, think of it as one step closer to "yes," because now you know the numbers. So go out there and get in front of as many people as fast as possible. The faster you rack up the "no's," the faster you'll get to "yes."
A FINAL THOUGHT
All entrepreneurs bring an array of diverse experiences to their current endeavor. And if there's a key takeaway here, it's this: Those experiences -- as disparate as they may seem -- are actually some of your best assets.
So don't discount your past experiences. Instead, you should embrace them. Because at the end of the day, it's those unique experiences that are going to be the biggest contributor to your future success.
This article is the first of 10 video segments in which digital entrepreneur, Tom Grasty, talks about his experience building an internet startup, and is part of a larger initiative sponsored by docstoc.videos, which features advice from small business owners who offer their views on how to launch a new business or grow your existing one.