Producer vs Entrepreneur Series – Part 1

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Is there a difference between a Producer and an Entrepreneur?

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is look into that question. I’ve always wanted to compare the two, because I believe the two roles are incredibly similar, even though they don’t appear related on the surface.

What I hope to do in this series is to show that the skills of a Producer and an Entrepreneur are complementary. The topics I plan to cover in the series are below. I may adjust as I go if you guys are asking about specific topics. After all, I want this series to be useful for all of you:

1. Overview – Producer vs Entrepreneur

Let’s start with clarifications and assumptions, because the terms “Producer” and “Entrepreneur” are interpreted differently by people. For this series, I will focus on my past experiences and what I’m more able to talk about. I’ve mainly been involved with producing films, so I will focus on that medium. As an entrepreneur, my past startup experiences have been mainly in the tech industry with software and online products/services.

To me, a Producer oversees a film from ideation all the way through its theatrical release – the ‘Exit’. The Producer is still involved after a release – franchise anyone – but for the purpose of this series, there needs to be an ‘end’. A Producer may also have multiple films at different stages that they’re producing. Producers are known to be involved in multiple film projects at different stages, even if not all the films are produced and released.

To me, an Entrepreneur comes up with a product/service idea to start a business with and is usually involved until an ‘Exit’ – an IPO, M&A, Selling Stake or Closure. There’s another term that people will also use when talking about people who start businesses – Startup Founder. Why did I use Entrepreneur, instead of Startup Founder? We could go a few rounds discussing why we should use one term or the other, but for this series, I have one main reason – multiple projects. A Startup Founder is tied to ’one’ specific startup, but an Entrepreneur could be involved in multiple projects at different stages.

Over the next few posts, I’ll compare and contrast Producers and Entrepreneurs at different stages of the journey that will need to be completed before the eventual ‘Exit’.

A brief overview of the different stages —

2. Market Research – Are There Customers?

Without Customers, Producers and Entrepreneurs would not survive. Any film / product / service they produce would need an audience willing to pay to watch or use, respectively.

Producers find stories that audiences want to watch. Entrepreneurs find product / service ideas that customers want to use.

How do you know what audiences and customers want? The only way to truly know is to research, research, and research. Testing with a minimum viable product (MVP) wouldn’t hurt either. I’ll go into what those MVPs can look like for a Producer and an Entrepreneur.

3. Building Teams

Whether it’s your Film’s Director or your Startup’s CTO, the people you surround yourself with will have a major impact on the odds of success for you.

The key is to always look for the best people for the project at hand, regardless of financial resources, initially. Look for the best people, worry about whether or not you have the financial resources to keep them employed later. I’ll go more in-depth as to why that is later, but I will tell you that your passion will help here.

4. Budgets and Projections

Finally getting to the dollars! Knowing your numbers is important as these are the numbers you’ll be showing potential investors, but also the guide for you as you execute.

Investors will want to see that you’ve done your diligence and given a good estimate of the amount of money you’ll need, as well as what you think the revenues might look like. After all, investors invest to increase the dollars they have through a return on their investment (ROI).

Budgets provide a roadmap for how the funds will be spent and what your runway looks like. Producers and Entrepreneurs will rarely, if ever, spend their money exactly as they budgeted. Likewise, rarely, if ever, will the revenue also come in as projected.

Whether or not the numbers match what the initial budgets and projections were isn’t as important as always knowing your numbers as you move forward with your project.

5. Pitches & Decks

Pitch Deck – that’s what this section was initially labelled, because my first thought went to the ever important Pitch Deck used in the first presentation and/or the Leave Behind Deck.

Then I remembered an even more important ‘pitch’ – the Elevator Pitch. There’s no ‘deck’, but there is a ‘pitch’ and it deserves to be discussed, because this usually comes first. Producers and Entrepreneurs must always be prepared to give the elevator pitch 24-7. There is should be no reason that any Producer or Entrepreneur is ‘not prepared’ to give the elevator pitch.

6. Investment Deal Terms

This might be the ‘least fun’ part of the journey, but definitely not the ‘least important’. If you don’t know the business side, your numbers, how to negotiate, or anything else that affects the terms in the deal – have a team that does. For the deal, you’ll want an experienced lawyer.

You could make the greatest product since the wheel, but if you have a bad deal, you won’t make a cent. On the flip side, you could make the worst film since MOVIE 43, and with a bad deal, you could be personally liable for any investor losses.

7. Production / Execution

This is at once the most fun and the most stressful part.

If you’ve gotten this far, that means you have completed all the previous stages and now you get the opportunity to execute on your plan. Let’s take a moment here, because you’ve just reached a stage that thousands of others have not been able to reach. If it wasn’t so corny, I’d say “You now get to make your dreams come true” – oh wait, I just said it.

The stress comes now too, because all your stakeholders are now counting on you to make their dreams come true. While you want to please your stakeholders, you’ll also need to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

8. Exits & Returns

The ‘Exit’ is what all Producers and Entrepreneurs have an eye on, no matter what they say. Yes, what they’re working on can be a ‘passion’ project, but they have investors who are looking for a return on their investments. In order to have returns, you will still need customers (Market Research stage).

Producers want to see audiences watching the films on the big screen. Entrepreneurs want to see customers using the products/services.

That’s It For Now

I hope that you’ll stay with me for the rest of this series. Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter list and get emails when the next part of this series drops.

In the meantime – keep reading, experimenting, and learning – because that’s what will provide you the foundation for making the most informed decisions possible as you continue on your journey.

I’ll continually update this post to link to the specific posts as I write them, so be sure to bookmark this page to be able to come back to it and get the latest.

Here’re also some great books to read as you start your business. They’ll motivate and provide key advice to avoid the pitfalls of starting a business :

Another great resource is Blinkist. They distill books into audio and textual ‘blinks’ that will give you the core ideas of nonfiction books in 15-20 minutes. It’s a great resource that I use daily if I want to give myself a refresher on books I’ve read. Also offers a great “test drive” into books that I’m thinking about getting to read. I use it on the road when driving or sitting on the subway. It’s great, because it’s not too long and not too short. They have a Free 7-day trial, so you can try it out for yourself and see if it’s good for you.

Walt Disney – one who was both Producer, Entrepreneur, and Leader