NAME: Terence Lee
TITLE: Owner/Executive Creative Director
LA-based Roger (http://roger.tv, @RogerTVLA), a mixed-media production studio specializing in motion design and animation. Recent clients include Lifetime, AMC, Disney XD, Burger King, Utah Transit Authority, and Mobile Roadie.
WHAT FIRST INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN COMPANY?
Many moons ago when the motion graphics landscape was a much smaller place, a few of us had the desire to create an environment that we all wanted to work at day in and day out. We also wanted to create an aesthetic that we could call our own and hopefully, get clients on board with our approach to projects.
DID YOU HAVE TO FIND INVESTORS?
Initially we had investors ready to help start Roger, but when it got down to the contract negotiations, we went in different directions and decided to go it on our own. It made the start-up a much smaller operation in the beginning, but we were able to grow organically at our own pace. Ultimately, it was a better process for us.
WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACED IN THE BEGINNING?
The biggest challenge was learning to reconcile being a creative and a business owner at the same time. I didn’t realize that once you have a business there are so many questions that need to be answered other than, “Does it look good?”
You find yourself being concerned with budgets, people and management more than getting to make cool stuff. As we’ve grown we’ve learned how to balance our creative and our budgets.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF RUNNING YOUR OWN COMPANY?
Watching a company that started in an apartment kitchen grow to where it is now has been quite a ride. The goal was to make Roger a type of place we wanted to work at — which means making work that we’re proud of and being able to balance that work with our lives. I believe that we’ve been able to create that here, and that’s been the best part.
The hardest part is stepping away from the office for vacation. We schedule our vacations, but when it comes time to leave, it never feels like the right time. I find myself writing work emails, getting on conference calls on the beach and chatting with everyone online. After a couple days of bugging my staff, I realize that they’ve got it handled and I can actually relax.
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE STAFF IS HAPPY?
We take great care in hiring the right people here. They’re all exceptionally talented, but are also amazing people. We all get along and that always makes for a happy environment. In addition, we always have creative projects in the works that allow the team to flex their creative muscles and keep us all inspired.
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE CLIENTS ARE HAPPY?
We really take care of our clients. It’s a quality of the studio that I’m really proud of. We know that we can make every project really stand out. In order to do this, we collaborate with our clients to come up with great solutions that everyone is excited about.
In addition to great creative, we also have a great production team that will make sure we deliver everything without a hitch. All of this creates a close relationship of trust that makes the job fun, even if we are under tight deadlines.
IF YOU HAD TO DO IT OVER AGAIN, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
I would have spent the money on a higher-quality ping-pong table in the beginning. We went through two of them before we got a legit one. Those ping-pong matches get surprisingly physical! It’s not only a fun excuse to let off some steam, but it’s also a great way to bond as a group.
ANY TIPS FOR OTHERS THINKING OF DOING THE SAME?
Start a business because you want a business. Enjoy the victories and learn from your mistakes. Have fun and be patient.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT HOW THE INDUSTRY DOES BUSINESS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Rates for good talent are constantly on the rise while overall budgets for projects are shrinking, which makes it difficult to produce the desired creative. At times we have to push ourselves with late hours or compromise on the final product, which isn’t a good feeling.
There should be some standardization across the industry that dictates budgets and rates based on a scale, so we can sign off on budgets more quickly and get on with the business of being creative.