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Development - Create A Profitable Business From The Start

Development - Create A Profitable Business From The Start
Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

The Development phase in a creative project or business is essential to do deeply and completely. It can set you up for success or failure from the start.

Take for example a feature film that costs $300,000,000 to produce, and another $200,000,000 to promote and advertise before its release.

You’re “in the red” $500,000,000 before you even start casting, filming, or your opening weekend.

Not only do you have to make $500,000,000 in the box office (ignoring the many other ways movies can make money...), but you need to make closer to a billion dollars just to break even because the theaters take 40-50% of every $10 movie ticket.

That means you need to get 100,000,000 people to the theaters, again, just to break even.

There are only a few companies that have ever done this for their movies. They are the major studios, they have massive budgets, and it’s not the model we’re trying to model through this book.

So if you start with an idea that is going to cost $300 million to produce, realize that the likelihood of it a) getting financed, b) getting produced, c) getting distributed, and d) making a profit is basically zero.

When developing your business, or a core offer, you have to think about the economic reality surrounding your market, your industry, and your business.

Are you in a growing market? (Horror movies are all the rage right now...) Is it clear where the audience is and can you easily reach them? (Putting your trailer in front of other horror movies, or advertising to them online). Do you have leverage in that space concerning partners, audience, or distribution?

At the development stage, you’re also thinking about who not how - a concept that’s been promoted by authors and coaches like Dan Sullivan and Jim Collins. A movie is not something you can successfully create on your own. The closest thing I can think of is Paranormal Activity, which was an extreme outlier and still, despite its $15,000 budget and Oren Peli acting as the Writer, Director, Producer, Cinematographer, and Editor, the movie still required 9 actors, and a crew of ~30 people to produce it.

Large creative projects benefit from a team of people, whether that means partners in the business, investors, brands like actors, production companies, directors, writers with an audience built in, or distribution partners. All of these should be considered and added to the production at the development stage, for several reasons. Specifically, though, it makes your film more valuable.

If you have a-list talent, a distribution agreement at the start, and an audience of 100 million people you can reach for free, how easy does it become to raise the money for this project? Exactly.

As a business owner, aka a “producer”, you need to thrive in the development stage, but it can’t stop there. You have to then take responsibility for every other step of the project from financing, production, post, and distribution. Again, a gap in any one of these areas leads to an unprofitable - or unfinished - product or business, and you’ve got to take responsibility for ensuring those gaps don’t exist in your business.


For the Development stage, look at all of the ways you can create a profitable product or business from the start. What brand partners do you have access to? How will it be financed? How will it be produced? What’s the budget? How can you get a 5-10x return on that budget? How will it be distributed? What leverage can you bring to the table to make this project successful?

Take a few minutes and write out answers to all of those questions on a current project or project that’s still in the idea phase. See how much development there still is to do and do it before moving to the next step.

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