The 7 Steps to Building A Great Team
It’s no secret. I have an amazing team working on my show, “The Positive Controversy!” I brag on them all the time. There’s no way the show would be what is it without their hard work and expertise.
I get asked often, ‘how did you build your team?’ To be honest, initially I was clueless and didn’t have the answer. Which let me know one important item immediately: God had handpicked each person on my team.
Let me go back. First, I’m a faith person. I seek God daily for direction in my life. One year ago, I heard God tell me to create a web show pilot. Having produced my own stories, worked for several news stations, I knew a little bit about producing digital video, but definitely not an entire show. I wasn’t sure how I was going to create the show, but I knew I had to be obedient to what God said.
To start, I told my great friend who’s also a producer, Squeaky Moore about the idea. In her genius way, Squeaky began to think of things that would make the show great. Not long after Squeaky and I discussed ideas for the show a few more times, I asked her if she would produce the show and she accepted! Squeaky has been a producer on many different projects. Not only was she talented, but she was skilled to produce my show.
Once Squeaky came on board, it was time to compile all of the other members of the production team: Camera man, lighting, sound, editor, and production assistant. Thanks to Squeaky’s work in the film industry, she had relationships with directors of photography (DPs), videographers, sound engineers and editors. One by one, Squeaky reached out to her network and told them about the show and what we needed.
Our first show was truly an experiment. We had no blueprint or reference to compare the show to. Our goal was to complete the first episode and use it as a test to examine we actually needed. We also didn’t know how much the first episode would cost. That didn’t stop me from creating a budget. We didn’t have unlimited resources to get the job done, so we have to work within what we had.
Another important piece came together before we taped our first episode. A close friend was celebrating her birthday and I reached out to wish her well. Jenna Bond and I first met 11 years ago interning for a media company. We hadn’t talked in several months, but when I reached out, we caught up on projects we were working on. She told me about wanting to do produce web content in 2014. Eureka! I told her about the my idea for the show and from there we agreed to meet to discuss the synergies of working together. Jenna’s background included writing for former President Clinton, and creating content for several media outlets. In talking to her, I got even more excited about the potential of this show idea. There was no doubt, Jenna needed to be on the team. I asked her to come aboard as the “Content Producer,” and she accepted! One simple birthday wish bridged a gap in order to make the show work. I couldn’t take the credit for how things came together. God definitely orchestrated that piece too.
Lastly, we needed a production assistant. Someone to help every person on set and helped make things run smoothly. I’ve been a production assistant before and while it sounds lowly, this person is a key role in the running seamless. We decided our first episode would tackle the lack of diversity in fashion. Spring Fashion Week was coming up and we knew the perfect people to profile and contribute to our episode. Over the last year, I spent it working in Texas and traveling back and forth to New York to visit my husband. During one of my visits I met an interesting young woman named Blessing (yes that’s her real name) who inquired a lot about my work on TV. She asked me a ton of questions and truthfully, when I met her, I thought she was a little nosy, but very endearing. Blessing and I kept in touch through email until I moved back to New York permanently. She confided in me that she was interested in a career in fashion. Who better to work on set with a room full of fashion experts?! I reached out to Blessing about assisting the crew on set and she accepted! With little direction and lots of people tugging at her she owned her role and made everything run so well! I’ve never been more thankful for someone being nosy 🙂
Now we had a videographer who also handled lighting, a sound engineer, producers, a production assistant and an editor. Since this was the first episode and we had a small crew all of the producers took on multiple. Along with producing, writing the script, I also cast the talent. Squeaky managed the production, crew and giving take direction; Jenna refined the script and booked the filming venues. Everyone had to be very flexible to accomplish the first shoot. With no clear blueprint, we had to become a team as we worked together.
After we finished our first shoot, we got to see what worked and what didn’t. What kinks needed to be ironed out and what we could do to make the show a better production. All the changes didn’t happen at once, but gradually, throughout the season we made the necessary adjustments.
We shot a total of six episodes. By Episode 3 (http://kristenlpope.com/positivecontroversy-mental-illness-depression-and-suicide-in-black-males/) we had a new set space gifted to us! We were pleased with the first two episodes, but not satisfied with the backdrop. We reached out to some places and friends about new venues to shoot. Sometimes you never know what God has in store for you until you ask! My dear friends’ ended up allowing us to use their home to film! Their home completely changed the feel of the show and gave it a more intimate and polished look! We also went from one camera man to three camera and added a green screen open to the beginning. Check it out compared to the first episode. (http://kristenlpope.com/positivecontroversy-kanye-beyonce-diversity-in-fashion-business/) You’ll see the difference!
Another major change was our editor. We started with one editor, but the agreement didn’t work out. There were no harsh feelings or bad blood, but the vision didn’t translate well and we had to move on. Keep in mind, the people you start with might change. Everyone that signs on at the beginning might not be the people you work with at the end.
Our 5th and 6th episodes were formatted much different than episodes 1-4. This was because of the subject matter. It required the team to be extremely flexible and solution oriented. Everyone really had to think on their toes and own their area of expertise. Thank God for an amazing team!
Once we completed our six episode goal to compile a pilot season, it was time to celebrate! This team had worked so hard, sometimes under very uncertain circumstances. My husband and I hosted a wrap party for the whole crew at our place. It was the culmination of such an amazing and wild ride! One word from God turned into a complete pilot season of an online show!
Your business or idea may not be in television or media, but these fundamentals are universal!
Step#1: Seek out people who are genuinely interested and believe in your vision. Not only will they help bring it to pass, but they will also work hard and sacrifice with you to get the job done!
Step #2: Seek out people who are skilled at what you need accomplished. It’s nice to work with your friends, however, in order to create a successful product, you really need people who skilled to work in the area your company needs.
Step #3: Put your pride to the side. An old boss once told me if you’re the smartest person in your circle of friends, then you need a new set of friends. Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who know more than you. Keep focus on the bigger picture: creating an excellent product!
Step #4: Set a budget and stick to it! When you’re first starting out, hiring a team can get expensive when you have no reference to compare it to. Negotiate! Most people are willing to work within your budget if the project is long term and they believe in it!
Step #5: ASK! Ask for what you need! People generally tend to want to help out, they just need to know what it is you need.
Step #6: Be Flexible! Everyone who starts on your team, might not end on your team.
Step #7: Celebrate your team! They work hard. They share your struggles when they take part in your vision. Let them know that they are appreciated and valued!
Now as we look ahead to the next season, I have a blueprint for how to make a web series. There’s still more to learn, but like the saying goes, “Team work makes the dream work!”