When my partners and I started Go Media many years ago, none of us had any formal business training. What we had was a passion for design, a willingness to work hard and the belief that we could figure out the business stuff over time. And for the most part, we have been wildly successful. We’ve been featured in design magazines around the world. We’ve been building a robust community through the Zine, Arsenal and WMC Fest. And we’ve worked for many companies large and small. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. Go Media has always struggled with profitability. In 2009 when the economy collapsed we were forced to lay off four employees. And since then the company has been stagnant (in terms of annual cash flow.) And due to this stagnation in sales, our staff (including the owners) have had to accept below market wages. Last year we lost one of our very best employees to a company in California because they offered him over twice his current salary. This was a terrible blow to our company and our hearts. We knew something needed to be done.
Our strategy of “figure it out over time” business education has been working to a large degree. We have learned a ton. In fact, I’m writing a book about everything I’ve learned while building Go Media. However, there comes a time when asking your staff to “hold on till next year for a better salary” starts to get old. We realize that we needed to make a change. And after 10+ years of trying to figure it out ourselves, we’ve realized that maybe we don’t have all the answers. We need some outside help. About the time we were coming to this realization I received a flyer in the mail from AIGA for their Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders course at Yale University. In a snap-shot, it’s an intensive week long business course at Yale created specifically for “leaders” in the creative industry. It sounded like exactly what we needed.
The course has an application process and a hefty fee. At the time it seemed like more than we could possibly afford. But my partners Wilson and Jeff felt very strongly that the knowledge gained would well outweigh the costs. So, we decided to make the investment. One thing about surviving in business – you must continually fight. You must work constantly to improve your service and build more efficient business processes. If you just wait around for things to get better on their own, you’ll be out of business soon.
So, as part of my desire to get as much value as possible out of my trip to Yale, I’ve decided to write this series of blog articles. Each night after I’ve finished with my classes I’m going to recap my experiences for you. I’ll be including some useful tidbits of business information along the way. Hopefully this trip will help more artists than just Go Media.
My experience so far
After being accepted into the program, I’ve received regular correspondence from Yale. They set up a Linked In group so the participants can get to know one another. They also have a nice website that includes general instructions, class itinerary, professor information and additional registration information. The website also has prerequisite reading – tons and tons of reading. I got started last week and still have a pile of case studies to read before heading to Yale on Sunday. Lastly, I’ve received a call from the faculty program director. He asked me lots of questions about Go Media and what I hoped to learn from the course.
I’m very excited about this opportunity to learn. I’m dearly hoping to gain insights necessary to push Go Media to the next level. Our staff is amazing and truly deserves leadership that will deliver on the promises we’ve made. And I’m eternally grateful to my partners for pushing me to do this. So, keep an eye out for articles each day this coming week as I share some of my new found business perspectives with you.
More information about this program can be found here: www.aiga.org/business-perspectives
Next post will be coming tomorrow night!