Creating a Strategic Plan for the New Year!

As we wrap up the year, it is a great time for you to take stock of your business and turn your attention to the future. What are your business goals for the new year? Now is the time to work on a strategic plan so you know what kind of plans you need to accomplish those goals. A strategic plan may sound like something only big companies do, but it is a great tool that any size business can use to thrive and grow.

With a strategic plan, you want to answer the following questions:
1. How is your business performing?
2. What business goals do you have for the new year?
3. What are the best ways to accomplish your goals?

Here are some key steps you can take to plan out your goals for 2019.
1. Review the current state of your business. Assess key areas in your business, such as operations, finances, customer engagement, and capacity for growth. Identify what has worked this past year and what you can improve on. Also identify what worked well and scale that too.
2. List the 3 most important objectives for your business over the next year. These should be important “big picture” accomplishments that will lead to profits and future achievement. Examples include sales quotas, performance goals, etc.
3. For each objective listed above, identify your responsibility in achieving the objective. WHAT will you do? HOW will you do it? WHEN will you do it?
4. Decide if you need to re-position your business story. How are you positioning your business, services, products to your potential customers? Is your story clear and consistent? If not, you may want to re-assess your brand story and marketing strategy.
5. Lastly, consider your personal goals too. If you are a small business, founder, or entrepreneur, your business goals are generally intertwined with your personal goals. Do you want to buy a house, spend more time with your family, maybe take a big trip? What things do you need to do in your business to achieve this personal goal? You should factor this into your strategic plan.

Creating a strategic plan will help you map out where you want your business to go and is an excellent way to plant the seeds for success in the new year. Keep this document handy throughout the year and revisit to keep you on track.

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A Reminder to Entrepreneurs: You Can’t (and Shouldn’t) Do Everything Yourself

As entrepreneurs, we think we are the only one who can get the job done. It is difficult to let the reins go and let other qualified people help us. But if you don’t learn to allow others to assist you, especially in areas that you are weak in, you will surely become overwhelmed and frustrated.

Accept the fact that you can’t do it all by yourself. You need a team. Studies show that one of the biggest challenges for many entrepreneurs is building a solid team to grow their brand and business. To determine where you need help, you must honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. The right team must include people who have skill sets that complement your skills and can help the business grow. The benefit of team members is they can also contribute information and resources that you may not have.

Your “team” can take many shapes whether you are bringing in co-founders, hiring staff, or outsourcing tasks. Whether it’s choosing a co-founder, hiring an employee, or selecting a vendor, using a solid and well-defined set of core values is a great place to start. Your core values determine your priorities, goals and the decisions you’re willing to make. Anyone you bring aboard must understand and share those same core values.

Delegating and outsourcing tasks to the right people so you can focus on what’s really important for your company can be a of great value. Just as finding the right help to hire is crucial, entrepreneurs must carefully choose the people they outsource tasks to. Communication is the key for interacting with all employees, both full-time and independent contractors. Being on the same page is the best way to ensure a successful partnership.

Most importantly, you must trust your team. If they were hired or chosen to perform a certain role and are qualified to perform in that role, then you must let them do what they are skilled at and stop constantly checking on them. Trusting them to fulfill their roles without watching their every move shows faith and allows the team to grow. It also shows great leadership.

I recall being on a business flight soon after launching my own practice and sitting next to a very accomplished business man, who also happened to be a NASA engineer – yes, an actual rocket scientist. We began to chat about our professions and I shared with him some of my early frustrations with running my own solo practice. He asked me what I liked the least about my job and I told him it was time-keeping and billing. He advised me to outsource that task immediately explaining that the time I was wasting avoiding the task on top of the time I was taking to complete the task was a complete drain to my overall bottom line. It wasn’t rocket science. Basically, it would cost me less to outsource than it was costing me to do it myself. This was a big light bulb moment for me as a young attorney and a huge turning point in the success of my business.

So, the other lesson is not only can you not do it all yourself, but you shouldn’t. It isn’t worth it!

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Option vs. Shopping: What’s the Difference

The film and television industries have become increasingly informal in recent years. In the past, producers would enter into a written “Option Agreement” with writers, authors, content creators, or life rights owners (the “Rights Owner”), under which they would pay money to exclusively option the film and television rights to a screenplay, book, life rights, or idea (the “Property”). However, in today’s market, producers will frequently enter into a so-called “Shopping Agreement” (also sometimes referred to as a Producer Attachment Agreement) which gives the producer the exclusive right to “shop” a project to a third-party entity to finance or produce the Property for a set period of time – this entity could be a network, financier, studio, or other production company. While both shopping agreements and option agreements can apply to the development and acquisition of the Property, the application and terms of each are quite different.

Here are the basics:

OPTION AGREEMENT

An Option Agreement is an agreement between a producer (such as a movie studio, a production company, or an individual) and the Rights Owner for an exclusive, but temporary, right to purchase the Property. The Rights Owner in effect is agreeing to sell his/her Property to the producer for a price (the “Purchase Price”) which is to be paid within a specified time frame (the “Option Period”), and in exchange the producer pays the Rights Owner a smaller price (the “Option Payment”). Therefore, in a traditional Option Agreement both the Option Payment and the Purchase Price are negotiated upfront. Options are exclusive and usually last for an initial period of 12-18 months. After the expiration date, the producer no longer has an exclusive right to buy the Property, and the Rights Owner can option it to a different producer. Most option agreements specify the prices of additional extensions (most commonly one extension, also for 12-18 months), should the producer be unable to put the project together in the originally specified term, and choose to extend. The fee for the first option period is normally applicable to the option exercise price, while the fee for the extension (if exercised) typically is not applicable, though that is not always the case. The Option agreement may also address other terms related to what the producer will pay the Rights Owner for ancillary rights that flow from the original Property such as sequel rights, merchandising rights, etc. if the Option is exercised and the Property is purchased.

SHOPPING AGREEMENT

On the other hand, a Shopping Agreement usually has a much shorter term, generally 6-9 months, and there may not be any upfront monies paid. Typically, the producer simply promises to use his/her best (or even good faith) efforts to obtain an agreement from a network, financier, studio, or other production company to produce, develop, and/or finance a project based on the Property. In exchange, the Rights Owner grants the Producer the right to “shop” the Property for the length of the term to obtain such an agreement with a third party, but if the producer cannot establish negotiations or attain financing for the project before the term is over, he/she is no longer attached as a producer unless the contract is renewed. The producer does not own or control the rights to the Property, they only have the exclusive right to negotiate and set up the Property with a third party. The Rights Owner and producer agree that if, during the shopping period, there’s interest in the project, they will each enter into negotiations with the interested third party. The Rights Owner will negotiate for the sale of the rights (possibly an option, sometimes a straight purchase), while the producer will negotiate his/her/its deal as producer (or Executive Producer, Co-Producer, etc., as the case may be). The Rights Owner and producer further agree that neither will circumvent the other by entering into a deal, unless the other has also entered into a deal.

WHICH IS BETTER?

So, which is better? In true lawyerly fashion, I’ll say, “it depends.”
In some instances, an option is the better approach. It provides better protection for the producer, some up-front cash and greater certainty about the purchase price for the Rights Owner, and is the more established deal structure. By expending some money to acquire the option, the producer is “putting his money where his mouth is,” which generally means he is more committed to take action to develop the Property. However, there are situations in which a shopping agreement can be valuable. If the producer is well-established, with strong relationships, and the proven ability to get projects set-up, then it may be more beneficial to the Rights Owner to retain his rights and enter into a short-term arrangement with the producer to see if he/she can secure a deal for the Property.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, every deal is different, and should be evaluated on its own merits. Whether you’re on the producer side or a rights owner, the first step is to get a lawyer… not just any lawyer, but a reputable entertainment attorney. They can help walk you through and educate you about the process and your rights. They will handle things you never imagined would need to be handled. They will ask for compensations and protections that you didn’t know existed. They will ensure you get the most favorable deal possible and you will be better off for it.

[This article is not intended to be legal advice of any kind. It is purely intended for the purposes of general education and general discussion.]

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