I was talking with a guy the other day who has been running a successful video editing business for many years now.  His company specializes in corporate shoots, which can be anything from commercials to internal office videos used for training.

He was telling me about their methods and why they’d been able to do so well, when he said something that really surprised me:

“We’re stuck in our ways.  The video editing business has taken a pretty hard hit this year, and we’re not doing very well.  But our methods are tried and true, and we stick to them year-after-year.”

Those weren’t his exact words, but they’re pretty close.  The thing that surprised me was that his voice swelled with pride when he said that.

Why on earth would someone be proud that they’re stuck in their methods? A company that doesn’t test, experiment, or take any risks is a company that will never be the industry leader.  He might think that the recession is the cause of his business’ downturn, but there are still opportunities out there that he’s missing.  So why not try something new?  Why not venture more into online video?  Or better yet: he could market his business as the best online video company in the state.

Why don’t more companies have an evolutionary mindset?  Force a mutation into your business’ DNA to differentiate your company from all the others, instead of just playing it safe.  Because if there’s one thing that’s become very clear to me over the past few years, it’s this: playing it safe will always yield mediocre results.

If you don’t adapt to the changing environment, your business will die.

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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Video at Book In A Box. He lives with his wife and daughter in Austin, Texas.

This Post Has 3 Comments


    If you’ve been in business for more than a decade, I think it’s safe to say you should be well past the mentality of trying to get it up and running. That’s when you need to strive for perfection while also trying new things.

  2. Richard

    I can understand mainly sticking to what works best, but if he isn’t doing so well it might be a good time to at least try something new on the side.

    It can be a lot of work to get a business working smoothly at the start, but that doesn’t mean that once you do you can stop improving. Maybe he’s just stuck in the “getting this to run like a real business” mindset and can’t see beyond that…

  3. Gerald Croteau

    I think this was an interesting post because I am fascinated by the power of video to tell a good story.

    Now that a cheap digital camera and youtube has made it possible for the average Joe to create an online video in the technical sense, those tools don’t make it easier to tell a good story and make it appealing.

    My company is supposed to be in the depths of a big recession, and yet we are hiring staff and growing our business. While I can see us potentially using outside expertise, I think you are absolutely right that companies like the one you discuss need to look at things in different ways. There is a market for all these goods and services he is offering, but it takes new approaches and positive changes to make the connections that lead to business transactions. Purchasing anything is difficult, and especially with video production etc, its sometimes difficult to understand pricing. I don’t understand why companies ask for a lead, my budget, etc, before setting expectations about the cost. I know they want to price discriminate, but I would guess this doesn’t work too well.

    A video production company playing it safe would ask for me to fill out a contact form and then try to anticipate what price I would pay once I spend some time talking to them. A company taking risks would throw out a number or a package deal, and not be afraid of undercharging someone who might have paid a little more.

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