Things Are Getting Better

This past year Tweedee Productions has done work at several manufacturing companies throughout Wisconsin.  We’ve crisscrossed our great state from Fennimore to Green Bay, Milwaukee to Rice Lake for various clients.  Most recently we shot at a plastics manufacturing plant in Baldwin.  The news that we’ve been hearing is that “things are getting better.”  Companies are hiring, working multiple shifts and cranking out products.  The owner of the plastics company told us that they have been working 24/7.  In some cases, employers cannot find enough qualified workers to fill the jobs they have.  Not a bad thing in the short-term.  Nationally, recent economic reports have been encouraging.

It’s been interesting commiserating with other business owners over the tough times we’ve all gone through.  Many have told us that 2008-09 were the bad years which was also true for us.  In some cases business virtually ground to a halt and many of us wondered if it was wise to keep the doors open.  In our case, I’m glad we did.

During what has been called the “great recession” the thought occurred to me that the companies that are able to weather the storm will be stronger in the end.  When operating in a bad economy, you learn real fast what works and what doesn’t.  You learn that all major decisions are critical and that there’s not much room for error.  Ultimately, you learn to have faith in your skills and that things will get better.

Fortunately for us, our business survived.  The lessons learned over the past few years have paid off.  The last two years have brought us great success as we’ve experienced sustained growth for the past 30 months.  We’re now able to do the things that I love to do like rewarding our employees and giving back to the community.  I realize that many folks have suffered, careers were lost and companies closed.  I’m grateful we have been able to continue on.  I feel the best is yet to come!

CEO/Founder, Tweedee Media Inc.

It’s the people, stupid!

We just had an excellent initial meeting with a potential client here at Tweedee Productions.  As our meeting went on, I began to realize what a great team of people I work with.  I also realized that I didn’t have to do much during the meeting.  I was free to relax, listen to our new friends, react when I needed to, and not think that I had to “make” the sale in the end.  As many small business owners know, this is not always the case.  Usually the owner has to make the sale, perform the work, and then take out the trash at the end of the day.

When I first started out in business 12 years ago, I often thought that being a product driven business would be preferable to a service based one.  I thought that by selling a product I would see immediate results.  How many widgets did we sell today?  How full is the cash drawer?  How many customers came in today?  Immediate results.  Buy product – resell – buy more – repeat.  But, as we all know, selling a product is not always a guaranteed success.  Remember Circuit City anyone?

Tweedee Productions is a service based business.  As such, I’ve finally come to realize that what we sell (or what our customers buy) is “us”.  They buy “us” because we provide a unique service that’s not widely available for one thing.  They also buy “us” because of our unique talents and abilities.  But most importantly, I would suggest that they buy “us” for who we are as people.

It’s interesting to note that our potential client never asked about our technical capabilities – apparently not an issue for them.  I believe that first and foremost, they liked us as people.  Sure, we can provide whatever technology they need, that’s the easy part.  But the most important thing to them was working with a company that can tell their story.  That’s what we do best.  We are a company of individuals with strong storytelling skills and decades of combined video production experience – things that you can’t learn from a book or acquire from a software program.  We are also good people.  A big “thank you” to all of my co-workers for being as talented as you are.  Now it’s time to take out the trash.

The Tweedee Team

Gregg Schieve, Founder, CEO and guitarist, Tweedee Media Inc.

Religion & Politics

Religion and politics are two of the subjects we try to avoid on the Tweedee Productions company blog.  I’m going to break that rule.  Well, sort of.  I’m going to talk about politics, sort of.  In this political season, it only seems appropriate.  Let’s talk about flying a candidate’s flag – a.k.a. the campaign yard sign.  As a citizen of this country, I fully enjoy the freedom I have to express my opinions.  Yet, as a small business owner, I wonder how wise it is for a small company to display a particular candidate’s campaign sign.

Don’t get me wrong – any business large or small has every right to declare allegiance to a particular political philosophy.  It’s as American as apple pie and Ted Nugent.  A drive around our fair city will confirm that many businesses use their public visibility to promote a particular candidate.  But I always wonder who within the business makes the decision to support which candidate?  The owner?  Does the staff vote on it?  Does everyone who works there share the same point of view?  Will they like me if I shop there?

But I find the most important question is, why alienate as much as half (or even more) of your customer base by publicizing your political viewpoint?  I for one, feel less inclined to support a business that displays a political philosophy that is different than mine.  It’s almost as if that business is saying it doesn’t want “my kind” as a customer.

And equally important is the notion that your employees may be pressured into supporting “your” candidate.  Are they allowed to display a candidate’s sign from an opposing party?  Can they openly express their views without repercussions from management?

It’s for these reasons that as an owner of Tweedee Productions, I do not believe in displaying political signs at our place of business.  I do not want to alienate our current nor limit our potential clients based on my political views.  Most importantly, I do not want my co-owners or employees to feel that they have to agree with me politically.  Our employees have every right to openly support any candidate they wish while at work.  And I truly appreciate the diversity that opposing political viewpoints bring.

Anyway, enough politics here on the company blog.  Next week, the election will be over, and we’ll get back to talking about exciting stuff like the latest video codec.

I’m Gregg Schieve and I approve this message.  If you’re wondering how swing politically, check out my personal Facebook page!

this is cool – part 2

check this out – tweedee productions has its own bar code! yes – bar code! if you use an android smart phone, you just scan this bar code (called ZXing) and it will take you magically to the tweedee productions web site. google came up with this cool idea. you can make a ZXing code for just about anything you want to share… we are placing our code in conference print ads, on envelopes  – it has a ton of possibilities. check out the google ZXing site for the details…. and get scanning!

sandy thinks honesty is the best policy.

sandy is trying to stay trendy.

The Virtual Company

We have a tradition here at Tweedee Productions.  Almost every day at about 2:30, a small group of us will walk down to Ground Zero Coffee Shop for an afternoon shot of caffeine.  The short walk gives us a chance to talk about things outside of the office.  Our conversations range from our families, to the Packers, to the latest Hollywood movies – conversations that usually have nothing to do with work.  I appreciate these walks and talks, and realize the benefits they have for the rest of the Tweedee team.  Which brings me to my point in a round about way. 

I just finished reading an article in the April issue of Inc. Magazine titled The Office Is Dead, Long Live The Office (I know, I’m a little behind in my reading!).  For those of you unfamiliar with the magazine, they pride themselves in writing about up and coming companies, industry trends, and various business models that make some companies seem all too cool.  So the editorial department at Inc. decided to live out a concept that it would typically write about – the virtual office. 

For those of you over 50 (like me), a virtual office or company is one that exists without formal headquarters.  Its owners, executives and employees all work in separate locations, many times from home offices.  They stay connected via a myriad of cool electronic devices, web cameras and free software.  And many of these virtual companies, as reported in the Inc. article, are multi-million dollar virtual companies.  

So after working as a virtual office for one month, the Inc. team produced a 10 page article about the pros and cons of virtual companies.  Pros and cons like less overhead, more individual freedom, confused family boundaries, more legal costs, and a seemingly cooler work vibe.  But what I found most interesting was the effect that the virtual office had on the Inc. staff.  Some people loved it – working at home in PJs, working from a coffee shop, coming and going as they pleased.  Others not so much – it was easy to become distracted from work, and mostly they felt lonely and disconnected.    

That last notion hit home with me and was summed up by the comments from Inc. Magazine photo director Travis Ruse.  His reaction made me appreciate what we have here at our non-virtual office.  Travis said, “My job really became just about my job.  I missed the distractions and surprises that my co-workers bring to the day.  Part of working is the social aspect of doing something collaboratively.  I missed that very much.”    

I started Tweedee Productions 12 years ago in a home office.  That lasted less than 6 months.  I needed a place – an “office” – and much like Travis, the collaboration of working with and bouncing ideas off of my office mates.  I would have trouble working in a virtual company today no matter how cool of a trend it continues to be.  Here at Tweedee “world headquarters”, we have the freedom to set our own hours.  We are very generous (by American standards) with vacation time.  Yet we all come together at a specific place, at a somewhat specific time and make good video.   How much cooler can that be? 

Gregg Schieve, CEO and Founder Tweedee Media Inc.    

Sandy Kowal and Steve Donovan on the Tweedee coffee walk.

the perfect client plans ahead

it’s probably pretty obvious, but i think video is the best way to tell your story…

sandy kowal - trying to stay on top of things

but before you come in to chat about your production here are six things all clients need to think about:

first of all, who is your audience and how will they watch it? is your production something the whole world will potentially watch on the internets or is it for a more local audience? do you need a TV commercial or do you want a DVD to hand out to your clients? there may even be ways to make your project multi-purpose… we can help you brainstorm all the options.

#2: what’s the focus of your story? will you need scripting help or will you provide the script?

#3: where will we shoot your video? do you have a location or do we need to find one for you?

#4: what style are you looking for? do you want an active documentary style story or something more highly produced? will you need a green screen? if you’re not sure we can provide some direction for you.

#5: will your production need graphics? will you need graphics that are animated? are you able to provide us with your graphics? we’re more than happy to help if you need some creative input.

and, finally #6, what is your budget? some of the stuff we’ve already talked about will have an impact on your bottom-line. it’s a good idea to come in with a general idea of what you’d like to invest in your production.

congratulations!  you are now the perfect client and we’re ready to give you the perfect production… let’s get started! we’re ready to help you tell your story.

How’s Bidness?

Business has slowed down a bit for us in the last few weeks.  After a fairly robust spring for Tweedee Productions, I fear that the lazy days of summer are upon us.  You know how it goes.  The client who says they’re moving forward with a project doesn’t get back to you for weeks because they’ve been on vacation and their boss has been on vacation and the guy making the ultimate decision has been on a remote island in the Pacific “finding” himself. 

When business is slow I unfortunately and unfairly tend to blame myself.  I start to think about unrealistic things like we should be “doing something” about business being slow.  We should react…how?  We need to…what?   

In reality there’s not much I can do.  Business usually happens on its own schedule regardless of when we need it to happen.  Obviously, all businesses need to react and adapt to a changing economy.  If they don’t they won’t be around for long.  But, some experts will tell you that it’s easy to over-react for the sake of “doing something”.  In our last economic downturn many well-known corporations slashed their workforce in response to a bad quarter, laying off talented and experienced people, only to find business improve a few quarters later. 

Believe me, we have felt the effects of the great recession of 2009 here at Tweedee Productions.  I’m not minimizing the economic events of the last couple of years nor our response to them.  But it’s easy to over-react when business “gets a little slow” given the backdrop of the financial world in 2009.  I have to remind myself that we’re in this for the long haul – keep a steady hand on the rudder. 

We’re fairly lean at Tweedee to begin with.  We’ve got the “right people on the bus”, to quote business guru Jim Collins.  The talented team of individuals we have in place is essential for providing our clients with the high degree of service they’ve come to expect.  We need to be confident that our approach is the correct one, that there will always be economic storms, and we will be able to ride them out. 

I just need to relax and enjoy the summer.  Besides, business will pick up.  Right? 

Oscar knows how to relax.

Gregg Schieve, CEO and Founder Tweedee Media Inc.