How doing 7 ordinary things can lead to extraordinary results [Net Prophet]

Stuart Forrest

Stuart Forrest

In business, to be a success does not mean you have to be an extraordinary person. The truth, it turns out, is that you can actually achieve great success by doing seven very ordinary things.

For Triggerfish CEO, Stuart Forrest, this is a proven fact because by his own admission he is “very ordinary”. Triggerfish Animation, a Cape Town based film and entertainment company, is the producer of the animated feature films “Adventures in Zambezia” and “Khumba”.

Speaking at this year’s Net Prophet tech conference, the animation producer outlined seven very ordinary things that could lead to extraordinary success.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

Forrest talks about thinking about your dreams as a child and looking at the lessons you learnt when growing up. He calls this: “things we learnt in kindergarten”. His story, he says, comes from playing with his father’s stop-motion camera and realising that by collecting multiple images he could animate them. So what do you want to be when you grow up?

Get up and try again

Chances are you will fail and once you get into the great big dream you will realise it’s quite hard to actually sustain it. The key for Forrest is getting up and trying again.

“Within a year of our buying into the company, we realised that the new fandangled computer-generated animation was completely consuming the market, and as our reputation for producing children’s TV for Sesame Street grew, the commercials agencies who were our bread and butter began looking at edgier animation companies to introduce their clients to,” he recalls the first days of Triggerfish.

But with no real client base and no income, the company nearly folded, with the original partners eventually leaving to do new things. But things changed and they often will, he advises.

Be patient

One of the key things to remember when building a company is to be patient with the pace that things are happening at. About six months into the development of Zambezia, the company realised that it had no real business model for selling a 60-minute TV short. “So we took the bold move to convert the production into a 4-minute pilot which we’d use to raise funds to create a full length feature film,” says Forrest.

This was brand new for South Africa. He reckons that by looking at each process separately, it seemed more and more feasible that, given enough time, it was possible to pull it off, if they took one step at a time and were willing to take several years to see it happen.

Make friends and share

“Triggerfish seemed the obvious vehicle to produce the film, as its ten-year reputation with Sesame Street was something that was well-respected in the international industry, and it was a hard enough job convincing investors we could actually pull this thing off. But Triggerfish had no capital and I was the only active employee,” says Forrest.

So the company restructured, giving away some parts of the company and that has made all the difference in the business. The lesson here, he says, is the importance of understanding what the business needs, and getting the right people to help it achieve that.

Tidy your room every day

Getting money brings pressure so keep everything tidy.

“We found ourselves in the amazing position of being the only company on the continent creating a feature film, so we could really hand-pick the very best talent available — because nearly everyone in the industry wants to work on features.”

Appreciation goes a long way when working in a startup environment and Forrest feels that working with a top-class team is amazing but those people cannot be overworked and must be celebrated.

Be polite. Be honest. Say sorry.

“In the midst of this you’ve got creative decisions to make every day, which are very subjective and usually quite emotional, you’ve got 80 artists who invariably are experiencing things in their lives that you need to engage with, and you’ve got nervous investors and sales agents trying to direct the process as much as possible,” he says.

The right relationships is important and keeping those positive can sometimes be hard. He reckons that diplomacy makes a huge difference in keeping relationships alive. He advises honesty when dealing with all parties, especially investors.

Ask an adult to help

Always ask for help because there are people out there with a wealth of knowledge and experience, says Forrest.

“One of the advantages to being a small studio from Africa doing something quite pioneering is that there was no shortage of people who were willing to help. We had a script consultant from Pixar, a script editor from Aardman, we got marketing advice from Dreamworks, production notes from the producer of the Lion King, and had many other consultants offering input.”

Though he warns that in some ways, too much input can be crippling too, but the choice is good to have.



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