Q Manning – CEO of Rocksauce Studios

Everything you do leads to where you are. Make any change, and everything can collapse. It’s the butterfly effect. Sure, I wish I’d had more business savvy back in the day or that I’d had more sales capability during the company’s first few years, but the truth is, I’m where I’m at because of the lessons I’ve learned to get here. It’s better to not second-guess.

Q Manning started his career as a self-taught graphic designer and web developer. Before long, he was leading creative teams for companies like WhisperWire, HBMG, and LIN Digital. With a diverse background including a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film & Television from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Q is on a constant quest to find the magical hook in each project to help it take the world by storm. You’ll find him hanging out in the Rocksauce creative loft, drinking coffee, or singing karaoke.

Where did the idea for Rocksauce Studios come from?

Our idea was to make clients happy. Seems crazy, right? But you’d be surprised at how many companies out there are only interested in getting a project, building the bare minimum, and washing their hands of the whole ordeal. The truth is that sometimes we love the apps we build more than the clients do, and that’s OK with us. We make apps with beautiful brands, great interfaces, and a solid hook that makes consumers loyal. That’s pretty rocksauce, if you ask us.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

It depends on your definition of productivity. My checklist may not be finished by the end of the day, but my team is in a good place, and projects are moving in the right direction. My job is seldom one of just sitting behind my desk, thinking of visionary ideas. I’m in the trenches with my team, involved in meetings, on the phone with clients, and helping to make sure that everything is living up to Rocksauce Studios’ standards.

How do you bring ideas to life?

You can think of an idea, but that doesn’t mean you should build it. My goal is to make sure our projects are serving their purpose: to ensure that users have a smile on their face. Otherwise, why bother? Every feature we add, every color we choose, and every transition we design must serve the purpose of the application. Give users what they need when they need it, and do it well.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Voice-controlled everything. It’s the holy grail of any technology endeavor. That moment when I simply say, “Send an email to IdeaMensch,” and things appear on the screen is glorious. My only limitation is my imagination, and the tedium of typing or clicking is reserved for the rare occasions when vocalizations are insufficient. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer every day.

What’s one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Again, being productive is a matter of definition — so you need to define what productivity means to you. Starting anything from scratch is a huge undertaking. My plan is to always break things into manageable chunks that I can tackle one by one. A brick wall isn’t hoisted into place; it’s placed there brick by brick. Productivity is the same.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

Right after graduating high school, when I had zero skills and all the hubris of a typical teenager, I took on a second night job as a barista for a bookstore. My day job was working at Mazzio’s Pizza, and that was pretty great. I love making pizza; it was always my fallback job.

This bookstore made me shave my beard, so all I had was a mustache. Not a good look for me, clearly, as I’ve now flipped that and rock the Abe Lincoln. But the worst part of all was that it was my job to clean up both the men’s and women’s bathrooms for the store. The bookstore employed more than 20 employees, who were forced to wait for me to clean the bathrooms at 2 a.m. every morning. It was ridiculous.

I complained to the manager that I was tired from the late nights, and he said, “Drink some lemon balm tea.” I quit the next day.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Everything you do leads to where you are. Make any change, and everything can collapse. It’s the butterfly effect. Sure, I wish I’d had more business savvy back in the day or that I’d had more sales capability during the company’s first few years, but the truth is, I’m where I’m at because of the lessons I’ve learned to get here. It’s better to not second-guess.

As an entrepreneur, what’s the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Be ready to pivot. If no one is buying what you’re selling, either you’re selling the wrong thing or you’re selling it the wrong way. Know your audience and tailor to them.

You start your business with a plan, but be ready to change it when people want something a little different. No one’s ever been the king of the mountain by being rigid and refusing to deviate from the business plan he created before he’d ever taken on a single customer.

What’s one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Help clients achieve their goals. Your success is tied directly to your clients’. That sometimes means being blunt with them, guiding them in the right direction. Sometimes, it’s listening to their expertise if they know a field better than you do. Find out their needs — even if they contradict what they’re asking for — and show them why you’re serving their goals.

What’s one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

We tried to start a film production company right out of college. We were terrible at it. We didn’t have any of the business acumen to make it successful; worse, the economy was headed straight into the toilet at the time. Plus, I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t as strong a leader as I am now, and these failures help you understand how to be a better leader.

What’s one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Go into any decent-sized urban area, and rent a large building with a well-equipped kitchen. Allow smaller home cooks who are looking to get their businesses off the ground to rent time slots in the kitchen. This will give them the ability to have a sanitary, state-inspected area to create their product — without having to invest in the massive overhead needed.

What’s the best $100 you recently spent and why?

I recently spent $100 on a great evening with friends at a local Italian restaurant called Italic that’s operated by Drew Curren, one of the most talented chefs I’ve ever met. The food was fantastic, and the company was wonderful and — most of all — inspiring.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We’re a Mac-based shop, and we live and breathe the Adobe Creative Suite. As far as online services go, Box has been a huge benefit to our company — for both our distributed and internal teams — as it provides syncing across multiple devices, security, privacy, and great sharing options for our clients.

What’s the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Becoming Steve Jobs” by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. Plenty of good books are out there on marketing, running companies, leading a sales team, and whatnot, but you sometimes need to see that one of the most successful people in history was a human being who doubted himself as much as anybody.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

George Orwell has had a profound influence on me, both in the way that I look at the world and in the way that I’ve chosen to operate my company, with “Animal Farm” and “1984,” in particular, making an impact.

Everyone who runs a company decides to do things differently or be like the “farmers” who came before. It’s not enough to want to make a difference; it’s the execution that matters.


Q Manning on LinkedIn:
Q Manning on Twitter: @qmanning