For the last 10 years, John and Lauri Oliva’s digital production company has found a good niche in a saturated market. They have two big clients, Bank United and VITAS, along with a mix of others that have kept them busy.
But a toehold isn’t what they want anymore. The couple want their business to grow.
“We don’t want to be Paramount,” John Oliva explained, but a “boutique studio,” with a solid and steady clientele. “The last thing I want to do is set goals and we achieve nothing,” added Lauri, his business partner and wife.
So the pair turned to The Miami Herald and Broward SCORE, their local chapter of the nonprofit organization that offers free counseling and training to small businesses across the country. SCORE sent a three-man team with expertise in sales, marketing and business strategy. And what they discovered is what plagues many small businesses.
While the Olivas are very good at what they do — making videos — they have little time left over to create a road map for their future business.
“In the past, we’d go through these plans and strategies,” John said. “We’d go through the process because business was slow. And once business picked up, the plan was out the window.”
But as the team pointed out, in order to get anyplace, you have to know how to get there.
“Vision is important,” explained Leon Schor, a retired strategic marketing consultant who for 18 years was a partner at L.E.K. Consulting, a global management consulting firm headquartered in London, and SCORE counselor. “What do you want this to be? X amount of money? X amount of clients?”
John Oliva started Digital Cut Productions in 2003 after leaving a successful career in television, where he had a number of jobs behind the camera that involved photography, editing and production at stations including WPLG in Miami, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. and WEVU in Fort Meyers. Over the years, he’d won numerous awards: three Emmys, a National Press Photographers Association Award and an Associated Press Outstanding Video award.
But after 20 years, he decided to strike out on his own and, like his grandfather, become an entrepreneur. Digital equipment also made it possible for a lone businessman to open up shop.
In 2006, after 15 years in corporate public relations and marketing, primarily for the healthcare industry, Lauri Oliva joined her husband as his executive vice president.
The pair have worked independently or with freelancers over the last six years to build a strong business, mostly in Broward County, with clients as varied as corporate banking and consulting, law firms, healthcare, nonprofits and education. But lately, they’ve realized that with only the two of them manning the business full-time, they’re not being strategic about where they want to go. They were juggling every task without realizing that some things could, and should, be farmed out. They also needed help with sales and finding new clients, so they could concentrate on the work.
Their first assignment from the team was to draft a business plan, and one that they would take seriously and continue to use over the years.
“I had no idea how to do a budget for five years and [Schor] said do it for what you want to be. So if you want to be a $1.5 million business with five team members, then plan your sales and numbers for what you want to be and that’s a process we’d never done,” John Oliva said.