Scaling Up Your Business? Lessons from a Failed Attempt at Scaling up my Video Production Agency

In 2016, my company True Film Production had its best financial year ever. Sales had almost doubled, we had pushed the boundaries in creating an amazing service for our clients, and those clients were raving fans of what we had to offer. Not surprisingly, the more success we experienced, the more responsibility we had to bear, and the more problems we encountered.

We decided to take the profits when we hit our all-time high in 2016 and reinvest them to grow the business in 2017. While our expectation was a consistent upward trend, we experienced the exact opposite: a downturn. We had failed miserably, but why? More importantly, what are the lessons we can learn as we take our business from startup to scaleup?

1. We didn’t have the right infrastructure or the right people

When our company was incredibly profitable, we made the mistake of thinking that we could just throw money at our problems and that would be enough for them to get solved. We started hiring more people in sales and marketing to bring in more clients without putting much thought into it, and also completely ignored the operations side of the business. Clearly, we were wrong. Our company didn’t have the operational rigor to handle more sales, and we found ourselves cramming to deliver the same quality of service.

Our employees started to experience the stress of being stretched too thin among multiple tasks, and the uncertainty that comes with a lack of guidance for their next steps. What we learned here, was that we first needed to build our operational capabilities, identify who was accountable for what results within the company, and then begin to scale up sales. That way, roles within the company would be defined and morale would not suffer because of the absence of a clear vision.

Video production startup planning growth


2. We didn’t have a solid plan for the future

It’s one thing to have a goal in mind, and it’s an entirely different thing to have a plan in place to achieve that goal. In hindsight, I can clearly see from my personal experience that my team and I met eye to eye on where we wanted to be, but were not so aligned on how we were going to get there. While it’s good to have the end in mind, it goes without saying that execution is everything.

This is why now, we break down our yearly goals into quarterly goals , and those into monthly goals , and those into weekly goals , until we are specific enough to hold ourselves accountable. Measuring progress is just as important as reaching the goal you set, because in that way you would be mastering the process of improving instead of being laser focused on the outcome. In the end, the goal matters, but so does the roadmap.

3. We didn’t know our why

In the midst of working and achieving, sometimes we forget why we do what we do. My team and I got to that point throughout the highs of 2016 and also the lows that followed shortly thereafter. We lost our sense of meaning, and with that, drive and motivation on the team. I wasn’t able to lead properly because I had lost sight of the why, and my team wasn’t able to perform because I didn’t motivate them enough. We became just another video production company, and our service lost its personality and uniqueness.

At that point, I started to scale back the company and rebuild from the why. I brought my team together, and we joined forces to envision the new version of the company, what we called: True Film Production 2.0. Through asking the right questions, we drilled down to the core offering we provided, which was creating stories that matter and helping companies with an inspired communication approach. We were able to find who we are as a team, instead of defining ourselves by the videos we produced.

Inspired by our passion for visual storytelling, and years of video production experience, a passion project was born. True Inspirations tells the stories of people, their journeys, the obstacles along the way, and the passions that inspired them to push forward. Some of our videos have gotten more than 3 million views combined, and this is a testament to how much authenticity resonates with an audience. Simon Sinek has famously said that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” and that is what I’ve experienced running my company for 7 years.

In conclusion, the short moral of the story here is to: think of what you want, think of how you’re going to get there, and never forget why you do it all in the first place.