Creative Business Wrap – March 2023

This month, I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new venture: Fletcher Sharpe Corporate Advisory. Co-founded with Ben Fletcher (MD of Generate), and advising on merger & acquisition (M&A) opportunities for creative industry companies.

Ben and I, in our different capacities of accountant and consultant, have been fortunate enough to see inside a range of deals relating to sales and purchase of creative businesses. Sometimes it will be a small company being approached by a larger buyer, and sometimes a company looking to merge with another of similar size. It’s interesting and complex work, and as we’ve had a long-held ambition to be in business together, we saw this as an ideal opportunity to formalise something we were already doing. Plus, we think there’s a gap in the market where creative industry companies are looking for M&A advice from people who understand their business.

You can read all about what we’ll be offering at our website (with branding and design by the magnificent Sixheads). And if you own a creative business and would like an idea of what it’s worth, or a discussion about what your future options are, we’re ready to chat. Feel free to spread the word!

Check your financial wellness

Lots of media coverage at the moment on interest rates and the increasing cost of living. It’s expanded my financial vocabulary to include “mortgage cliff” (a steep rise in interest rates when low fixed rate terms expire), “mortgage prisoners” (those locked into mortgages exceeding the value of their property) and, more helpfully, “financial wellness”. This article defines financial wellness as “effectively managing your economic life”. It encompasses how well you’re able to meet your financial obligations, control your finances and feel secure about your future financial obligations. It makes an interesting case for employer-sponsored financial wellness programs that, like workplace physical fitness and mental health programs,  can benefit both staff and businesses through increased productivity, loyalty and retention.

But how financially well is your business? This article in American Express talks about what that state is, and I particularly like their 3 key questions business owners should ask themselves:

  • How am I managing my business expenses?
  • Is my accounting system set up properly and do I understand its output?
  • Do I know important accounting terms?

It’s basically about being financially literate and in my experience, creative managers and business owners who understand the numbers have a competitive advantage over their competitors. I guess whether you’re thinking about your personal or business finances, the basics are: get informed, make the changes you need to and plan ahead.

Tell a convincing story in your video pitch

Those who have just finished their EOIs for Screen Australia’s Enterprise Business program will know the pain of having to make a 4-minute video pitch. It really tests your ability to distil your message and tell a convincing story. Looking around the internet, you’ll find many videos with titles like “5 top tips to make a winning video pitch”. But I didn’t get past the first minute of most of these, as the presenters consistently failed to get to the point quickly enough. Poor sound and lighting and clichéd scripts also lost me. Plus it’s like any other pitch – you’re putting forward an argument that someone else should invest money in your project, so it’s got to be convincing and compelling and show how you’ll achieve a result which benefits both parties.

From the world of crowdfunding comes this article on Indiegogo. It clearly sets out the planning process for making a video pitch (as opposed to filming yourself on your iPhone at your desk at the last minute). It offers a template for your positioning statement, which is a brief orientation to your product that will help you (and your backers) understand who you’re speaking to, and why your product is perfect for them. It suggests some story arcs to present your story convincingly to the customer or funder, and also covers the pros and cons of using a full-service video agency to produce your pitch video.

In-flight entertainment is now the cake, not the icing.

One of the few things to look forward to on a flight is catching up on some viewing. I hadn’t recently considered the size of the market inflight entertainment and the opportunities it presents to screen content makers and producers before reading this article: Why Streamers Are Getting on Board with In-Flight Entertainment. It’s now a $250 million to $300 million-a-year industry, that puts films, TV, music, and podcasts in front of a relatively affluent audience held captive for hours at a time. It used to be that these type of “ancillary rights” were the icing on the cake for screen projects, but they’re now becoming significant sources of recurring revenue.

Airlines are competing to get new content exclusives for their passengers and will pay more for movies and series that have not yet been released on streaming services. The streamers are keen to hook subscribers into staying with them in the long term.  In the future, we’re likely to see airlines and studios push content to you as individual passengers, all designed to tie into loyalty programs and subscriber platforms.

Things to do this month.

Some quick and easy steps to take this month to help grow your business.

  • Do you have debt and/or credit cards on the balance sheet? Put a plan in place to reduce these by the end of the financial year.
  • Are your key suppliers locked in and working well with you? Work on strengthening these reciprocal relationships. A key lesson from COVID is that your future business might depend on them.
  • Reach out to 5 former clients and say hi. (Ones that you enjoyed working with, natch!) Ask what they’re working on and tell them what’s on your plate. Keep those lines of communication open and see if any opportunities emerge.
  • Focus on your own professional development. What do you want to learn this year? Micro credentials can often be more time effective than full qualifications and with a generous injection of funds from the federal government to TAFEs and other vocational training providers around the country, many are free or greatly reduced at the moment.  

Easy listening

Finally, you might want a break from analysing your budget spreadsheet and worrying about if AI taking your job, so here’s some quick and easy listening that I’ve enjoyed:

  • It all adds up – a Podcast by SMH and Age finance journalists who give credible and practical tips on personal finance and explain budgets and investing in a conversational style.
  • Am I black enough for you ? 10 Years on is an audiobook of Anita Heiss’ memoir of a city-born Aboriginal academic, writer, and activist, who hates camping and only recently started learning the Wiradjuri language. She has written everything from poetry to Koori Chick–lit and manages to address the serious questions about Aboriginal identity and literature with directness and humour. 
  • After some initial scepticism, I’ve really enjoyed Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus, about how mobile technology and social media has robbed us of the ability to devote full attention to the things that matter, and has stoked anxiety in the process. Written in with a practical and hopeful tone and offers some practical remedial actions to try.
  • The Harmonic Resonators are a family band from Aotearoa New Zealand singing classic country and pop covers in Te Reo Maori. Like toast with vegemite and avocado, it sounds like a strange combination, but worth a try. ????