Business Monday

Filmmaker’s business needs to focus on the day-to-day

cjuste@miamiherald.com

When you hear the name Freddy Rodriguez, your first thought might be of the actor from Los Angeles who has appeared in television shows like “Ugly Betty” and “Six Feet Under” and in movies such as Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse.” But there’s another Freddy Rodriguez in Miami. He’s not an actor, but he has been trying to grow his award-winning film and video production company, which has been incorporated for five years. Along the way, he has been nominated for an Emmy Award 15 times, winning seven. From his new offices at The LAB Miami, a trendy co-working space in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District, this Freddy Rodriguez, owner of 66 Films, wants to make his mark as a filmmaker and as a successful entrepreneur.

“I have a problem that I think is common with many creative entrepreneurs,” Rodriguez said. “I am so busy doing the day-to-day work, I don’t have time to do much else.”

When he’s in work mode, Rodriguez retreats to his studio, which he has affectionately dubbed “The Cave.” Rodriguez admitted that he can easily find himself there for months at a time working on everything from commercials and short films to social media videos and corporate branding spots. His clients include Norwegian Cruise Line, Visit Florida, The United Way and the Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.

After a month or so ensconced in The Cave, Rodriguez has found that when he came up for air, he hadn’t attended to any other aspect of the business.

“Our main problem is really finding a way for me to hand off control of some things to others without compromising quality,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a challenge because I am a hands-on person and my goal is always to deliver top-notch, award-winning work to our clients.”

66 Films, Inc., incorporated in 2011, has three partners but no employees. Freelancers are used as needed, but Rodriguez hopes to create local jobs in Wynwood in the near future as he eyes a possible expansion of the company. The company’s annual revenue has fluctuated historically between $85K to $100K, according to Rodriguez.

“The creative part of the business is what I love,” Rodriguez said. “Where I need help is on the operational side of things.”

To get the help he was looking for and find solutions, Rodriguez visited the counselors at the Miami-Dade office of SCORE, a national nonprofit organization comprised of retired volunteers who have built successful businesses in the past.

“I reached out to SCORE to find a way to streamline the processes involved in running my business, bring in more client business and promote the work we’re doing to build a successful brand,” Rodriguez said.

SCORE identified four advisors to help 66 Films streamline its operations by learning how to delegate, how to network both online and off to grow the company and how to use social media to build a solid brand. SCORE volunteers use their business skills and experience as successful entrepreneurs to offer mentoring services to small business owners free of charge.

The SCORE team included Sam Carson, a New Yorker who came to South Beach when he retired in 2003. He has more than 30 years of experience in sales and business management. Orlando Espinosa is a longtime SCORE counselor and owner of Emineo Media. He has experience in marketing, branding and social media. SCORE also brought in the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist 66 Films. Althea Harris, who has worked with the SBA since 1998, is the assistant district director for marketing and outreach in Area 1, which encompasses Miami. She has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and working with small businesses. Heather Hines is a retired Navy petty officer, specializing in communications. She also works as a public affairs specialist for the SBA. Hines has more than 20 years of experience in public relations.

After working with 66 Films for just under three weeks, the SCORE/SBA team went to work helping the company find new ways to operate the business efficiently while building a strong brand focused on creativity and client service. To accomplish the company’s long-term goals, the counselors recommended the following:

Delegate key aspects of running the business to others: “Freddy is typical of people with talents in a creative field and they are trying to use their creativity to run a successful business and need help running it. Because he is so focused on serving clients with great work, he needs to develop a plan to delegate tasks to others,” Carson said. “From talking with him, he has a lot of passion for what he does, but delegating is really the only efficient way to run a business because one person cannot do everything that it requires.”

When it comes to tasks like client coordination, invoicing and other more administrative functions, Carson recommended that Rodriguez pass those on to others who he can either hire as employees or use on a freelance basis.

But Rodriguez was hesitant because he didn’t want to scrimp on quality. He had an issue with finding people who were as dedicated as he was.

“I know he doesn’t want to delegate his work unless he finds someone as competent as he is,” Carson said. “But this is a learning curve and Freddy will have to change his thought processes if he wants to grow his business. He needs to create a plan and identify people to take over administrative functions at first and then have them take on larger projects once they’ve been properly trained.”

For Rodriguez, it’s more about convenience. “When I do something myself, I know it’s done right. I don’t have to worry about quality,” Rodriguez said. “But I take Mr. Carson’s advice to heart and understand that I need to make a change in this area and share the day-to-day responsibilities of running the company.”

Carson suggested Rodriguez develop a formal training program for new employees that entails showing them everything there is to know about the business and its commitment to quality. The training program should focus on all aspects of the business and not just a particular department to help new hires see the bigger picture.

“The company is small now so by focusing on showing employees how everything in the company fits other together, 66 Films can help them establish goals including sales targets, new revenue objectives and future growth ambitions,” Carson said.

Hines recommended that Rodriguez take a role that involved managing the company versus devoting so much time to churning out client work.

“In the military, you go into a job knowing that you are grooming your replacement,” Hines said. “After 16 years in the military, you take a more hands-off approach to do the day-to-day and focus more on the management of your entire team. This approach would make delegating easier for Freddy.”

Optimize website content and utilize social media: When Rodriguez approached SCORE, one of his major concerns was that neither his website, nor his content, were ranking particularly high on search engine results. In typical fashion, Rodriguez designed the site — www.SixtySixFilms.com — himself using a template from WordPress. While the advisors agreed that the company’s website was great in terms of how well it was organized and how impactful the imagery was, they all advised Rodriguez to give the task of promoting his website online through specific keywords and phrases to a professional with a track record of results in this area.

“This is a perfect example of a task that Freddy can delegate to another person to get done,” Espinosa said. “We advised him that it’s important to identify tasks like this that can be done by an outsourced professional to help the company achieve tangible results.”

Hines recommended that Rodriguez start following others in his industry on Twitter and Facebook and comment on their posts. She also recommended that he use social media as a management platform to share the company’s work.

“His accolades and his body of work validate his talent and people need to know about that in order for the business to grow,” Hines said. “Social media is one of the most cost-effective, best ways to do that.”

Hines encouraged Rodriguez to set goals for his social media outreach and create content calendars in advance.

“There are a lot of automated solutions out there like Hootsuite that this company can take advantage of,” Hines said. “If you create your content in advance, you can use these tools to automate the posting function and save time.”

There was a consensus in the group that Rodriguez needs to resurrect the company’s old Twitter feed. But Rodriguez had a problem. The Twitter handle @66Films, was being used by another company of the same name that hadn’t tweeted anything in over two years.

“We had a Twitter account some years back,” Rodriguez said. “But we weren’t really using it and focusing instead on Facebook, Vimeo, LinkedIn and Google Plus.”

The advisors recommended ditching the Google Plus page, which had only 24 followers, in favor of creating a new Twitter feed. The group also recommended reporting the handle as dormant to Twitter and requesting that it be transferred. Otherwise, Rodriguez should explore using a new handle like @66FilmsMiami.

Hines encouraged the company to spend just 30 minutes a day prioritizing engagement on social media to grow its following. “Engagement is critical to promoting this company,” Hines said. “In as little as 15 minutes a day, Freddy can see what’s trending, make comments on posts that are of interest to the company and share content. There are always themed months, holidays and other observances that can be part of the content creation.”

Think strategically and focus on new business opportunities: Rodriguez spends most of his time on the creative side of the business, which makes it difficult to focus on developing opportunities for new business. Harris of the SBA had three pieces of advice for Rodriguez to make the task of bringing in new business easier. First, Harris recommended that Rodriguez read books written by entrepreneurs to increase his knowledge of business ownership principles and strategies for growth.

“Freddy is highly creative and not geared toward the strategic thinking he needs to grow the business,” Harris said. “He can start with books on entrepreneurship and educate himself on all aspects of running a successful business.”

Next, Harris encouraged 66 Films to dust off the company business plan and focus on the data hidden in the company.

Harris said that he has five years’ worth of data available because he incorporated in 2011. “He should then use the data to determine where he earns the most margin; whether he can afford to hire employees; and where the profit centers are in the company.”

Lastly, Harris recommended exploring the federal government marketplace as a potential source of new business. “Not only does the massive Department of Defense buy filmmaking services, but so do several other agencies like the Department of the Interior and the Office of Personnel Management,” Harris said. She suggested that Rodriguez use the wealth of resources that the SBA provides for small business owners.

Hines suggested that Rodriguez and his team look into securing speaking engagements, mentoring others and volunteering as avenues to not only promote the company, but share his knowledge and help others.

Rodriguez was thankful for the advice provided by the SCORE/SBA team and wants to continue working with it to ensure that the company’s goals come to fruition. He also had words of encouragement for other small business owners.

“I’m the product of a father who sold hot dogs on Southwest Eighth Street and a mother who worked as a clerk at the courthouse,” Rodriguez said. “If I can do it, anyone can. My experience with SCORE has shown me that there are a lot of resources that creative entrepreneurs can tap into locally.”

The makeover

The business: 66 Films, which was a freelance operation before it incorporated in 2011, is located at The LAB Miami, 400 NW 26th St. in Miami. The company provides film and video and production services to corporations and individuals.

The challenge: Finding ways to give the owner of the business, Freddy Rodriguez, the opportunity to delegate responsibilities to others so he could devote his time to the creative side of the business.

The experts: Sam Carson is a retired entrepreneur with experience in sales and marketing. Orlando Espinosa is a SCORE counselor and owner of Emineo Media in Miami. Althea Harris is the assistant district director for marketing and outreach in Miami for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Heather Hines is a retired Navy officer and public affairs specialist for the SBA with more than 20 years of experience in communications.

The makeover: In just under three weeks, the SCORE team worked with the SBA to find ways to help the company streamline its operations, improve its social media presence and build a strong brand. They worked with the owner, Freddy Rodriguez, to develop a plan to promote the company and find the time to explore new business opportunities.

About SCORE

Based in Washington, D.C., SCORE is a nonprofit with more than 12,000 volunteers working out of about 400 chapters around the country offering free counseling to small businesses. There are seven chapters on Florida’s east coast, including SCORE Miami-Dade, with more than 90 volunteer counselors. Counselors from SCORE Miami-Dade meet with small business owners and offer free one-on-one counseling as well as dozens of low-cost workshops. SCORE Miami-Dade also offers a Season Pass, which includes the opportunity to attend an unlimited number of workshops during the year. To register or learn more, click on “Local Workshops” on miamidade.score.org. To volunteer or learn more about SCORE, go to www.score.org or www.miamidade.score.org.

How to apply for a makeover

Business Monday’s Small Business Makeovers focus on a particular aspect of a business that needs help. Experts in the community will provide the advice. The makeover is open to full-time businesses in Miami-Dade or Broward counties open at least two years. Email your request to rclarke@miamiherald.com and put “Makeover” in the subject line.

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