“In this competitive world of supporting your child as they achieve their acting goals, sometimes we forget who is the boss, the CEO. You, as the Parent, need to firmly establish yourself as the Chief Executive Officer for your child’s business.”
This concept may seem foreign and cold when you consider that we are in this game to help our children pursue dreams, but it is a GREAT model for doing business with kids in Hollywood. Hollywood IS a business! This concept allows for parental knowledge, control and management. It allows you to focus on the BIG, long term picture of their career and not dwell on the daily frustrations. It also helps avoid disappointments—you won’t expect other people (agents and managers) to do things that they are not prepared to do within their job tasks. Best of all, it allows you to protect your child, the most important thing to all of us.
Think of it this way:
Your child is the “product”. Their talent, their look, everything that makes them buyable. Your “consumers” are casting directors, directors and producers (not other moms, and generally not the public because they are not able to “buy” your product—they just view it).
Your agent is the “sales department”. They are in charge of checking the want ads (breakdowns) and “selling” (submitting and pitching). That’s ALL that is in their job description…don’t expect more. Don’t expect them to be dealing with finances (like tracking down lost payments or Coogan deposits) or with legalities (like commercial conflicts, really complicated contracts, etc). They close the deal.
Your manager is the “marketing department”. Their job is to create appealing packaging for your product, the child. They should be advising on photos (that will be turned over to agents to use), coaching and classes (that’s presentation), what markets are wise to pursue (student films, leads only in big features, expansion into music, etc). If you don’t have a manager, you will have to do this yourself…it is VERY do-able, but you will have to learn about the basics of marketing. As your career progresses, you may add another member to the marketing department—the publicist.
Your business manager is the “CFO, Chief Financial Officer”. Most often, parents do this job themselves, but it is VERY important and deserves a lot of attention and big a learning curve. Tasks here involve taxes, Coogan, tracking down paystubs, residuals, making wise choices about how much money to spend on marketing, etc. It also requires a basic knowledge of entertainment accounting systems.
YOUR JOB AS CEO
Like any small business starting out, you will often be a one-man shop, doing most tasks yourself. You probably invested the capital for this business from your own pocketbook, but intend for the business to eventually be self-sufficient and grow. As your business grows, you would normally add a sales staff first (the agent) and then add other specialists to fill in gaps in your expertise or knowledge. OR you might choose to package your product first (get a manager), before heading out into the market. Eventually, you might add a publicist, a lawyer, etc. But you wouldn’t do that until your business is solidly in the black—like any small business.
The “Parent CEO” concept requires a few things of you:
- You must commit yourself to being in charge. You cannot be badgered or intimidated into making choices that are not good or productive for your child.
- Like any CEO, you must have a realistic vision for the company, and you must find staff who share that realistic vision. You need to establish goals for the future.
- You must commit yourself to learning. You must learn enough about the jobs of your employees (agent) to supervise them well (by knowing their activities, but not micro-managing and thus bugging them all the time!) and give them the communication and tools that they need. It is difficult for any business to get good help. It is difficult to find people that truly share your vision. You must be patient, and usually good employees will eventually come around and continue to improve the product. If an employee (agent) isn’t doing their job, or isn’t sharing your goals, give them a chance to improve, and then move on to new employees. It’s part of doing business.
- You will have to personally LEARN the small business tasks that you will have to handle yourself. If that is the CFO job (because most of us cannot afford a business manager) you will have to learn some basics. You are the legal trustee of your child’s earnings—so you MUST give proper attention to this area. Sometimes, you may have to out-source pieces of this—taxes for example.
- You need to know when to quit. Not all businesses are successful. Most aren’t—that is a fact. Even the very few successful products have a shelf life of only a few years. So you either re-package, improve the product, or get out of the market. Quitting is OK. It is not a failure. Any entrepreneur will tell you that business is a risk and you just LEARN from each experience. In this case, you need to set up your business, as a parent going in, with the knowledge that it WILL end. And that’s OK. It needs to end when either: it is not successful and your capital is running out, OR when your product is not usable anymore (because your child doesn’t want to do it anymore).