What Does Exponential Growth Really Look Like?
I've got some really exciting Muse news to share with you today.
But more than that, I wanted to share with you my own struggle with growing Muse and the question I've asked myself again and again over the years:
What does significant growth actually look like?
Not what is the baby step forward, but how can we grow years in one single step?
I’ve been a filmmaker for some 13 odd years now and I’ve often asked myself that question.
And over the years, the answer has evolved.
Early on, growing quickly was a technical exercise: learning the Steadicam, mastering everything about the cameras, knowing how to work with natural light and when/how to add lights to a scene.
Then later, the mastery became more about the business side: How could we find an connect with clients? How could we land budgets that are sustainable? How can we find clients who are as committed to story as we are?
But at some point, after years of pushing and expanding myself, the answer stopped being about me. I realized that the next phase of growth would require collaboration. It would require finding people who can match or exceed our skill sets, so that together we can do so much more.
As filmmakers it's easy to feel like an island: a one-person-band, who needs to manage nearly every aspect of what we create. Not only can that be lonely, it’s also extremely limiting for your potential impact and personal growth.
But knowing that is one thing. Acting on it requires a long hard look in the mirror, asking hard questions, and being real with the answers.
This is what I personally went through last year. After 13 years of filmmaking, I needed to sit down and really ask what about the craft that I found the most passion in, where my true skills resided, and what my biggest weaknesses were. And in turn, what were the things that could - and should - be done by somebody else?
What could - and should - be done by somebody else?
The question of where we most need support can be a tricky one because we get so used to doing it all. We make it work, we adapt and we learn and slide into whatever role needs us.
But when I sat down and asked how I could significantly grow Muse and where I needed the most help, the answer was pretty darn clear. The business side. Actually managing the finances, profit margins, burn rates, and tracking all of that alongside of a business plan.
I’d done things like this in the past, but it wasn’t my passion and I wasn’t particularly skilled at it. And so we’d do these huge initiatives – product launches, multi-state education tours - and we would come back home having broken even financially.
So I started to quietly reach out for support. I put up ads on AngelList offering equity and sharing my story. I was rather blunt in my approach – I talked about how running and growing a business can be mighty lonely and that I’d love to find somebody who could partner with me in scaling this impact.
The ad stayed up for a good six months. I’d met some folks through it, but nothing ever felt right.
Then she emailed.
Rebecca was real, she was honest, and she offered an amazing invitation: let’s have coffee and see what’s there.
We met at my favorite breakfast spot in town, J&M Cafe, and talked for hours. I had no idea what was going to happen next, but Rebecca’s passion was palpable, her energy infectious, and it was clear that she had a knowledge in many areas that way surpassed mine. And that was both humbling and incredibly exciting.
Rebecca & I attempting to ice skate and take a selfie video at the same time.
Clearly she needs some more practice.
We decided to partner on a short term project. She’d help relaunch our updated Muse online course. To be honest, I still wasn’t totally sure if she was interested in a larger partnership or if she was just amazing at sales (and landing the contract to relaunch the course).
But her effort and intention over the weeks that followed made it incredibly clear just how sincere she was. She worked three times more than outlined in the contract, she took on more responsibility than she had too, and she had an incredible ability to take complete ownership over anything that could have been done better.
More than any of that, we just clicked. We almost immediately started joking at how easy it was for the two of us to align on a decision or a direction.
Then the course launch came to an end and it was time to ask – what’s next? Rebecca flew to Hawaii, where we were on a shoot, and we took a few sessions to sit down and brainstorm where this could go from here.
I don’t think either one of us intended it, but when we sat down and asked what a partnership would look like, and what each one of us would do, the answer was surprisingly clear.
I want to tell stories. I want to dive deeper into the psychology of it all. I want to push our creative. I like to mentor and help others grow, but my strength isn’t in the management of a team, nor that of a business. And she is great with people, loves business, and she is really darn amazing at it.
When she asked me what my dream role would be, I had only one answer: Chief Storytelling Officer. And with that, it clicked that she could become the first CEO of Muse Storytelling.
It’s not easy to give up a large part of what you’ve built. To give up the equity, the control, and to share that vision and drivers seat with somebody else. But Rebecca is one of the most talented and driven people I’ve ever met. And when I ask myself how do we grow significantly, the answer is quite simple. It’s her.
This has been many, many months in the works and I couldn’t be more excited to share with all of you that Rebecca is now the CEO of Muse Storytelling.
Of course, I’m just as involved as ever in Muse, but now I have a partner to share the joys and the burdens of business ownership with, and to help push me past some of my own limitations.
And with that, Rebecca, take it away!
Despite Patrick’s concerned look, I did NOT crash the drone into the river!
Aw, thanks Patrick! And hello Muse Community!!
I need to start with just a moment of gushing.
A year ago, absolutely no part of me could have guessed that I would be here today. I’m not a filmmaker by training and I’m not really even a film buff. But I am so happy - and so proud - to be part of Muse’s future and to be Patrick’s partner. It is rare to find someone whom I trust, respect and laugh with as much as I do Patrick. And it’s rare to find a company so poised to do great work and to spark positive change in the world. I simply can’t wait to see where we go.
Now, the past eight months have been a whirlwind, in the best of ways. Muse has been growing like crazy. I’ve been thrown into the deep end to learn about filmmaking. And we’ve been maturing as a company.
But best of all? I see so much opportunity. Breathtaking amounts of opportunity.
(And I bet there is for your business too!)
You see, I come from a startup background. And the last time I worked for a company - I owned the revenue line - we went from just over a million to mid-8 figures in 4 years. A team of 5 to a team of 80. Crazy growth.
I know how to spot opportunity and I know how to capitalize on it.
At Muse we want to grow with intention and purpose. We’re no Scrooge McDucks and we don’t want to grow, just for the sake of swimming in gold coins! In fact, we want to grow our impact and our reach more than anything else.
But, here’s the thing: simply breaking even is no way to grow your team, your impact or your reach.
Profit is freedom and flexibility.
Profit is the ability to hire A-players and to compensate them well.
Profit is the ability to say NO.
But I know that a lot of business owners struggle to do more than break even. Muse has.
They struggle to find clients and to close deals that are profitable. They struggle to manage the finances while also running the business. They struggle because they don’t really have a plan - or if they do, they don’t know how to fix it if something goes off script. They struggle because hiring is hard and creating a culture that fits your organization and goals is harder.
Profitable growth is hard.
And that’s where I come in.
Muse has always been a place where we share our learnings – about storytelling, filmmaking and business – and over the last 8 months we’ve been doing a lot of learning.
I’m so happy and excited to be here at Muse and talking with you today! Let’s get to work!