Creating and then sticking to a daily routine has been the single biggest improvement to my productivity over the last few years. When I don’t get enough sleep or don’t stick to that routine, I take a huge hit in what I get accomplished. On those days, I’m better off calling it a day and taking steps to get back on track for tomorrow.
David Anderson is the CEO at Chimaeric, a boutique production company that specializes in crafting cinematic content for brands. Chimaeric produces video content for a wide variety of companies including Learfield Sports, the United Artists Initiative, and Mizzou Athletics. Chimaeric also works with advertising agencies in the creation and execution of creative ideas. David has a broad range of experience including producing, directing, editing, and color grading for films and commercial productions.
Where did the idea for Chimaeric come from?
Chimaeric started as the production division of an ad agency. I was hired by a startup as its first creative director due to my experience in print design, photography, and film. My passion was motion pictures, so we invested heavily in commercial production and put ourselves on the map through high-end television and corporate projects. When the agency made a pivot and didn’t need our services in-house, we spun off into our own company.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I try to start my days off with a few hours of writing once I get to the office. Sometimes, it’s related to a project; other times, it’s just a method of getting all the junk out of my head so I can start my work with a clear mind. Then, I work for a few hours on the most creatively demanding project that’s next on my to-do list.
By lunch, most of my inspiration is depleted, so I check email, catch up on odd jobs, and put out any ﬁres that have popped up during the morning. In my head, I’m very productive every day, but in reality, that level of productivity varies from day to day. Some days, I’m on ﬁre and get a tremendous amount of important work done; other days, I just get a tremendous amount of “stuff” done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring things to life by (digitally) writing down everything that pops into my head, prioritizing those thoughts in action steps, or filing them as something to come back to in the future. I then do everything within my power to stick to my daily routine. If I follow my schedule and keep myself from getting distracted, I can consistently make progress on everything I’m working on.
I’ve found that the key to seeing projects come to fruition is to keep the important ones prioritized so they’re top-of-mind. I then put in regular work to move them forward.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m stoked about the shake-up that’s happening in narrative video content. Thanks to services like Seed&Spark, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter, independent storytellers are finding passionate audiences that help them fund and market their projects. Sites like Vimeo that allow filmmakers to showcase and even sell their films are also very exciting. The traditional barriers to creating high-quality narrative content and then connecting with fans willing to purchase that content are rapidly crumbling. I think that’s awesome for filmmakers and their audiences.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Creating and then sticking to a daily routine has been the single biggest improvement to my productivity over the last few years. When I don’t get enough sleep or don’t stick to that routine, I take a huge hit in what I get accomplished. On those days, I’m better off calling it a day and taking steps to get back on track for tomorrow. Otherwise, I end up wandering around the office aimlessly, like I’m auditioning for “The Walking Dead,” and get absolutely zero accomplished.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
A few summers after I graduated from college, I moved back to my hometown and worked a few part-time jobs until I found something better. I worked at a video store as one of those jobs. The hours were so-so but — for a budding filmmaker — the perks couldn’t be beat. At my six-month review, I got outstanding marks in all areas — I was clearly killing it.
Then, the district manager told me that I needed to shave my beard if I wanted to continue working there. This wasn’t an “I haven’t showered or shaved in five years” beard. It was well-maintained, trimmed daily, and rather dapper, as I recall. It was completely within the guidelines of the employee handbook, and there had been zero complaints from anyone about my appearance. For whatever reason, the district manager just had a personal distaste for facial hair, and he demanded I shave it if I wanted to continue working there.
I handed him my keys, thanked him for the opportunity, and told him I didn’t want to work for a company that put its personal prejudices above the quality of the work. That experience certainly played a huge role in helping me define what I wanted out of the culture and leadership of any company I would work for or help create.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
My situation is unique because we had a fully operational video production division before we became our own company. If I were building this from the ground up today, I would definitely make different choices about when and how I invested in assets and human resources. I think the company would ultimately look very similar to how it looks now, but I’d take a different path to get there.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Ask questions when you don’t know the answer. Don’t pretend to understand if you actually don’t. Early in my career, I found myself in discussions in which I felt (and probably was) way out of my league. I was an artist who kind of stumbled into helping start and run a business. To play it cool, I would nod and smile when something that I didn’t know or didn’t understand came up; then, I’d jot it down and go research it later.
This seemed like it made me look smarter, but I later realized I was missing huge opportunities to learn from a knowledgeable firsthand source within a real-world context. As my confidence grew and I began to feel like I belonged in the room, I became more vocally curious. I realized my experience and opinions were important. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be at the table.
For me to give thoughtful insight, I needed to understand the context of what was being discussed. I discovered that no one expected “the creative guy” to have experience or knowledge in areas in which I had no prior experience or knowledge. Incredible, right?
They were anticipating follow-up questions and were happy to help me understand. This not only made my ideas more valuable, but it also allowed me to learn a lot about operating a business that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Developing a better understanding of finances has helped me grow my business. This seems like an obvious one for most businesses, but I came into the world of entrepreneurship through the back door. I was an artist, solely focused on making cool shit that moved people emotionally. That was it.
When my division was spun off and I was put in charge of everything, I discovered quickly that I needed to get my head around the money side if this thing had any chance of surviving. I deal in moving images — not numbers — so the transition is still a work in progress. Chimaeric is still open, so I’ve figured a few things out. Gaining a relatively firm grasp on the accounting part of the business (shout-out to my amazing accounting tutors) has allowed me to see what the future could be and prepare Chimaeric for that growth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My whole journey as an entrepreneur has been a series of failures. Being part of a company that lives and breathes as a startup culture, I see failure all around me. I also see a lot of success. I try to seek diverse counsel on things I’m struggling with and then weigh that advice against my own experiences and ideas.
I think I reached a level of Zen when I realized I couldn’t control everything. When something doesn’t pan out, it’s okay to take a day to mourn the loss, but then I have to put it behind me and move on. I can’t change the decision I made yesterday, but I can certainly learn from it and make a better one tomorrow.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
In high school, I was on a path to become an actor. I’d had a fair amount of success acting in high school and had every intention of moving to New York and giving it a go. I even had an audition with an NYC acting university during my last semester of school. For whatever reason, I called and canceled three days before the audition. When it came to crunch time, my heart just wasn’t in it. I couldn’t see myself in that career for the next 50 years. From that point forward, I was 100 percent focused on ﬁlmmaking.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Dropbox Pro and Vimeo Pro are the backbone of my project work. Dropbox allows me to easily back up project ﬁles so I have a spare in case something goes wrong with a machine. As a project nears the end, clients will often have lots of little tweaks to polish the ﬁnal product. Dropbox allows me to have the most recent version available to me, no matter where I am. I can make these small adjustments and keep the process moving forward. This is also where I share and receive project assets with clients and vendors.
Besides beautiful video hosting, Vimeo Pro automatically creates a branding-free review page for all of our videos. I can send this review link directly to a client. With password protection and mobile integration, this lets us share in-progress work and get feedback quickly.
For my personal sanity, I use OmniFocus 2 on my iPhone. I originally balked at the price, but —after taking the plunge and using it for a week — it quickly became an indispensable part of my life. With this app, I process all of my thoughts into projects, action steps, and reference material. The Siri integration is magical. When I think of something, I just tell Siri. It shows up in my OmniFocus inbox, where I can process it later and assign it a project, a context, a due date, and even a location.
Every morning, I check my projects and decide what needs my energy that day — and off I go. Every idea, every to-do item, and every personal or work project is processed and stored by this little app.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’d recommend “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” by Austin Kleon. I know this isn’t a traditional business book and is primarily aimed at creative people, but I think that there’s a lot of great advice that applies to entrepreneurship. Being a creative who has to come up with fresh ideas on a daily basis has a lot of parallels with being an entrepreneur. Everyone is looking to you for inspiration and expecting everything you do to be brilliant.
This book gave me perspective on the importance of shaping an atmosphere that is conducive to great work and developing a routine that helps me create within that space in a repeatable and sustainable manner.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I’m on a huge Simon Sinek kick right now. I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs are familiar with him and his book, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” I’m a fan of the book. Researching Vimeo and YouTube, I found a lot of great talks highlighting his thoughts on great leadership and the responsibilities of leaders to provide clarity, inspiration, and protection for their people. His thinking has helped me reevaluate what my team needs and expects from me on a daily basis and what I can do to meet those needs.
I also love everything that 99u puts out. I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of their publications.
David Anderson on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-anderson/12/536/363
David Anderson on Twitter: @dj_eh
Chimaeric on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/chimaeric