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10 Years in the Business: A Reflection by the Owners

John films in an abandoned warehouse as a light shines into the camera
John filming with our Ursa Mini in an abandoned power station.

There’s something truly special about counting by 10. There’s a legitimacy gained when you can refer to a chunk of your life as a decade. I think it’s that smaller spans of time can be too similar. Sure, a lot can happen in a year or two, but a couple of years can also pass without much measurable change. Ten years, on the other hand, contain things like new presidents; new marriages and babies; and moving from the “hip young crowd” to the “slightly out of touch crowd” that listens to music most millenials haven’t heard.

Just recently, we celebrated our 10 years in business with an awesome party attended by the most awesome people. Under the DJ’s lights, with a mouth full of doughnut and hand full of cheese curds, I couldn’t help but be a bit nostalgic.

I’ll never forget the drive from Beaver Dam to Madison where, after picking up Phil from a car accident scene (another story for another post), he and I talked about the possibility of starting a business. “Yeah, we could totally do this. Right? I mean, every business starts somewhere.” I’ll forever be encouraged remembering Ryan’s response when I called to gauge his level of interest in partnership – “I’m 100% committed… however far this goes.” And I’ll always be grateful to the mentors I had while moving through entry level production positions while slowly growing a company on nights and weekends with my friends.

Someone asked us at our party, “Did you think you’d be here after 10 years?” I honestly don’t know what I thought. I’m sure I had hopes for some of the types of film projects we’d be able to produce, but I know that I had no idea how rewarding the¬†business¬†would actually be. I think if I was speaking to my past-self from 10 years ago, I would be most proud to hear that I get to go to work every day with amazingly talented people that make every project awesome and every work day fun, and that we’d not only have a great group of clients, but that we’d consider them partners and call them friends. The people I work with today make building this business worthwhile so I’m looking forward to many more decades of this!

-John

Ryan thinking deep thoughts, like super deep

Ten years seems like a lot. In the past ten years alone, I’ve: gotten married, bought a house, had five kids, celebrated my 10yr wedding anniversary, and done some amazing things! (Astute readers will note that you can’t get married and celebrate a 10yr anniversary in the same ten years, it would take ten years and a day. To you I say, great work, but the time frame of this reflection is a combination of Backflip’s 10 years in the business and the proceeding five months that it took to write this post. Things tend to get timey-wimey when you wax nastolgic.)

Aaanywho… Ten years is a long time, but in some ways, it doesn’t seem like that long at all! For the first five years, John and I were primarily working Backflip on nights and weekends while providing for our families with other full-time jobs. This is the first age of Backflip. In those first five years we slowly created our voice. We figured out how to operate a business, sell products, and do business taxes (of which I did for many years, oy).

This was progressively harder to do as we got more clients and couldn’t contain our work to off-hours. One thing led to another (the worse type of literary ellipsis) and John went full-time. I followed shortly after. This marks the second age of our business. It was in this period that we hired additional staff. We hired our first producer. We brought Phil, original founder, back on, and we hired a separate editor. This was a big step for us as it became the responsibility of someone other than John and myself to maintain the Backflip creative voice. Shortly after this, Scott descended from on high to take over all the businessy work, and to help turn us into a well oiled machine. A process which is always ongoing.

Through the years we’ve expanded our offering to web, print, and digital to better provide a complete branding experience. Now I feel like we’re entering the third age of Backflip: the creative Agency age.

But that’s enough business talk. It’s always best to end with some whitty anecdote or personal story…. Ok, barring that, this will have to suffice.

Through the years I’ve heard it all: I’m not ready to start a family, I’m not ready to switch careers, I’m not ready to start the business, etc. The hard truth is that you’re never ready. Sad to say, you’ll never have enough money, you’ll never be financially or emotionally prepared, that one thing will always be in the future. And if you wait until you are ready, you’ll have missed your chance. That’s the hard truth. The soft truth (there has to be a better phrase for this) is that you’re ready right now. It’s always in hindsight that I’ve realized I was never ready for the major decisions I’ve made in my life, but I trusted in God, my family and friends, and myself.

So get out there and do that thing. You’re the only thing holding you back.

-Ryan