Case Study:

How BOLDLY Had an Award-Winning Breakthrough Year Without Going Broke

Last updated May 2020
By Natasha McLaren-Doerr, CPA and Cecilia Gordillo, CPA.

2019 was a breakthrough year for our client BOLDLY!
Congratulations to the four producing partners of BOLDLY: Shelby Manton, Geoff Manton, Sebastien Galina and Kristoff Duxbury.
As a Canadian commercial production company, BOLDLY won awards in 2019 for:
1. Best Company by Small Business BC Awards
2. UK Music Video Awards (UKMVAs) for “Best International Alternative Video” (shortlisted)
3. “Top 30 Under 30” for Shelby Manton
They also made a PROFIT throughout 2019!
How’d they do it?

Let’s dive straight in…

Why Most Canadian Production Companies Fail

To succeed in show business, you’ve also got to succeed in the “business” aspect, NOT just the creative (“show”) aspect, which means turning a profit and making smart creative investments.

But most Canadian entertainment companies either:

A. FAIL to turn a profit, and thus go broke or…

B. FAIL to pursue their passion projects because they’re a slave to commercial work

BOLDLY has succeeded in striking a balance between:

A. Being profitable on ALL projects AND

B. Pursuing their creative projects for critical acclaim

Here’s how they did it…

The “Blockbuster Award-Winning” Formula

(Courtesy, Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

You’re seen the “Blockbuster Award-Winning” formula time and time again from Hollywood stars, as they:

1. Make a blockbuster movie to make the BIG MONEY

2. Then make almost no money to star in an indie film to get the critical claim

Take for instance the uber-talented and gorgeous Scarlett Johansson, in 2019 she starred in:

1. Mega blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame” ($2.8B in ticket sales, making it the highest grossing movie of all time) for a $15 million salary and $35 million back-end payment.

2. Oscar-nominated “Marriage Story” for an undisclosed amount (most likely a nominal amount as the film’s entire budget was only $18 million), but received an Oscar nomination for best actress.

(She also received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for “Jojo Rabbit” – slacker)

BRILLIANT formula that made her Forbes’ highest grossing actress in 2019 earning $56 million.

Check out how ScarJo’s co-star applied the SAME formula…

(Courtesy, Disney/Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker)

Adam Driver, ScarJo’s co-star in “Marriage Story” also applied the same “Blockbuster Award-Winning” formula, to make:

1. “Stars Wars: Rise of Skywalker”, which earned him a low to mid seven-figure paycheck

2. “Marriage Story” for an undisclosed amount (presumably nominal), but also received an Oscar Nomination for best actor.

I know what you’re thinking…

“But how does this apply to an emerging Canadian production company?”

How BOLDLY Applied the “Blockbuster Award-Winning” Formula

Like most production companies, BOLDLY does commercial work (commercials are their “blockbusters”) throughout the year for profits.

They then take their “profits” to invest in their passion projects that make may not make them a monetary ROI (return on investment), but yield them a ROI through:

1. Critical acclaim and awards

2. Industry clout

3. Satisfying their creative and community vision

Here’s how they applied the “Blockbuster Award-Winning” formula…

In 2019, BOLDLY teamed up with one of their top Directors, Farhad Ghaderi, and acclaimed Vancouver-based recording artist  Jordan Klassen, and won a grant from the RBC Prism Prize to produce a video for his hit song “Virtuous Circle”. One slight problem, the grant didn’t quite cover the cost of Farhad’s stunning vision.

BOLDLY had a decision to make:

A. Pare back the vision or…
B. Invest more of their own money to achieve the vision

Most struggling producers we talk with go with “B” and say “to HELL with it! Let’s just spend the money!”

But rather then BLINDLY spend the money based on what’s in their bank account or rely on instinct/feeling (a very common mistake), BOLDLY first got financial CLARITY by figuring out:

  1. How much money in their bank account was actually profits (not expenses and/or taxes that would need to be paid later)
  2. And how much of their “profits” were they willing to invest

Having a CLEAR financial picture, they were able to confidently invest in the project without going broke, while knowing this video had potential for an “award-winning” ROI.

The end product is an astonishing visual and emotional journey:

And a UK Music Video Award (UKMVA) for “Best International Alternative Video” (shortlisted)! 

PLUS, all the satisfaction of elevating the Vancouver indie entertainment community, which is something BOLDLY is very passionate about and committed to.

Best of all, BOLDLY was able to invest in an “award-winning” project without overspending, which has allowed them to continue to invest in more creative projects.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Get financial clarity on what are actually “profits” in your bank account BEFORE deciding to pare back your vision or to invest.

But this formula falls apart if BOLDLY fails to turn a “profit” on their “blockbuster” commercial work.

So get this:

How to Turn a “Profit”

Turning a profit doesn’t just happen, it takes:

1. Fiduciary discipline

2. Accurate financial data

3. And a skilled finance professional to analyze the “data”

BOLDLY had the financial discipline, but despite being a team of university educated creatives, they quickly discovered that applying the finance lessons learned in school in a real world business setting was far more complex than imagined. No one on their team was an accountant.

Their previous accountant really just dealt with their end-of-year taxes, and was unavailable to advise BOLDLY on their day-to-day financial decisions.

So they engaged us at Flow CPA. We pitched BOLDLY on the modern business benefits of having a:

1. Cloud-based accounting system, which simplified the process and would get them more time to create (and less of the boring stuff: bookkeeping)

2. Financial reporting framework, which would get them more money via profits, job costing, cost containment, grants, and more…

3. On-demand financial advice, which would help them grow the business of their dreams!

For a nominal monthly fee, we became BOLDLY’s “Cloud Accounting Department”, and immediately got to work on our 3 stage process:

1. FRAMEWORK. Simplify their financial processes with technology and automation so they can have more time to focus on their company goals and see in real-time whether their profits are profitable on; as well as, set most profitable pricing for upcoming projects.

2. PROFITABILITY. Next, we work on the cash flow of the company to give more earnings to the business owners – far too many owners make sub-minimal or NO wage working in their businesses.

3. STRATEGY. Then we help companies strategize to achieve their short and long term business goals. We meet with them every quarter to review their performance and make sure they are still on target, and then if anything seems off target we formulate a plan to get them back on track.

Depending on the size and maturity of the business, steps 1 and 2 can take up to 1 to 2 years to implement.

BOLDLY is presently evolving in their stage 2, where we have started the strategies for the business profitability and the earnings for the business owners.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Less than 10% of businesses in North America have adopted cloud accounting technology, to get a competitive advantage by becoming an early adopter and reap the automation, real-time financial data, and cloud collaboration.
If you don’t have the expertise in house, then hire an accountant that help from set-up to profitability to strategy.

You could probably try to create the above framework for yourself, but you’d be missing out on…

Secrets to Increasing Your Productivity & Performance by 300%

Did you know only 51% of businesses plan and set their annual goals, and only 6% revisit those goals on a quarterly basis?

That’s far too low! No wonder approximately 50% of small businesses go out of operation within five years (according to Statistics Canada).

By contrast, according to Xero’s “Make or Break” report, 85% of businesses working with an accountant on their cloud-based accounting platform succeed five years and longer. 

The report goes on to share that those who “revisited” their goals quarterly had an increase of 300% on their productivity and performance. 

WOW! What a HUGE advantage.

But who has time to review business plans?

Moreover, if you can only get accurate financial data in April when you file your taxes, how can you accurately REVISIT your business plan on a QUARTERLY basis?!

The answer is simple: You don’t. You can’t. 

KEY TAKEAWAY: On quarterly meet with your trusted financial advisor like a CPA (Certified Professional Accountants, a designation requires an University degree and takes 4-12 years to obtain), if your CPA fails to offer this service, then meet with a mastermind group, mentor, or executive coach quarterly to review your numbers and goals to ensure you achieve the success you and your business deserve.
Doing so will improve your performance and productivity by 300%.
(Courtesy, Xero | Flow CPA Founders Cecilia Gordillo, CPA (left) and Natasha McLaren-Doerr, CPA  (right) speaking at a Xero Canadian Roadshow with 2,000 attendees)
(Courtesy, Xero | Flow CPA Founders Cecilia Gordillo, CPA (left) and Natasha McLaren-Doerr, CPA  (right) speaking at a Xero Canadian Roadshow)

At FLOW, we are a team of CPAs that meet individually with EVERY ONE of our clients EVERY quarter to review our clients’ financial data, vision, and annual business plan.

Because quarterly reviews ensure our cherished clients are aligned with their vision and can take the appropriate actions to achieve their goals.

Plus, who isn’t looking a 300% increase performance and productivity by 300%?

Like the saying goes  “where focus goes, energy flows”, so what we do is help clients RE-focus, which I believe is 100% tied to their success.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s what BOLDLY had to say…

10 Benefits of a Cloud Accounting Department

In our interview with Geoff Manton (Partner of BOLDLY) for this article, he shared what he finds most beneficial working with Flow CPA:  

1. PLUGGED IN. “Flow is plugged in to our business. Almost instantaneously, they can share the overall BIG PICTURE OF TODAY (RIGHT NOW) and advise us on what the best course of action is.”

2. IMPACT. “Feels like when we ask questions, we get answers, make decisions, which DIRECTLY impact our growth.”

3. ALIGNMENT. “More awareness makes for more informed decisions, which helps us align ourselves with successful projects.”

4. FRAMEWORK. “They created a framework, and made it a no-brainer for us because they engaged and guided us in the process, which made it EASY to participate in. NOW the framework is that we learn and work in.”

5. CLARITY. “Having a clear financial picture helps when making informed decisions, so we can confidently invest in a project and know we will get the ROI in one way or another (profitability or clout).” 

6. OBJECTIVITY. “They look objectively, and advise us on how to improve efficiencies and grow profit margins.”

7. EASE. “They made it very easy by removing all the mystery. No one teaches accounting in film school, so accounting can be daunting, but Flow lays it out very easily.”

8. ACCESS. “I love the access. Feels like we’re their only client. They’re great at keeping in touch and staying on top of everything. Any question is welcome. I can call at any time and I have access to their knowledge.”

9. TECHNOLOGY. “Their approach to accounting is very contemporary: it’s modern, in the cloud, and it’s flexible. They are accountants for the modern business.”

10. LOVE & CONFIDENCE. “Main benefit is we get to do what WE LOVE and do it with CONFIDENCE, which is: Filmmaking as well as reaching out to NEW clients and NEW markets.”

As you can see the benefits are very tangible to media production companies, I hope you get to experience the advantages of having a cloud accounting department. 

KEY TAKEAWAY: “Do your best and outsource the rest.” Leverage cloud-accounting technology and outsource your accounting department, so you can focus on DOING WHAT YOU LOVE.

Taking Your Business to the Next Level 

Initially, we were just working with Sebastien Galina (one of four Partners at BOLDLY) to:

1. Set up their financial framework 

2. Help him interpret their monthly, quarterly, and annual financial reports (profit/loss, balance sheets, etc.). 

Then seeing the “benefits” of our work, we began working with ALL four of the partners at BOLDLY. Sending all of them the “monthly, quarterly and annual reports”.

But what makes BOLDLY great, is when they see a business benefit they take it to the NEXT LEVEL! 

In this case, they took COMPLETE financial ownership and are now having meetings without us (on their own) to discuss their reports and evaluate our suggestions.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Get a financial expert to help you with your finances, but TAKE COMPLETE ownership to take your business to the next level of success.

Do you have the financial system and support to have a breakthrough 2020?

Seven Takeaways From BOLDLY’s Breakthrough Year 

When it comes to striking a balance between profitability (commercial “blockbusters”) and creative projects (“award-winning”), BOLDLY knows what they’re doing.

And now that I’ve lifted back the curtain and shown you how to do the same, it’s time for you to pick a tip and test it out yourself. 

Here are the seven takeaways:

  1. Strike a balance between: Being profitable on ALL projects AND pursuing creative projects for critical acclaim 
  2. What are your profitable “blockbuster” projects and your creative investments with an “award-winning” ROI? 
  3. Get financial clarity on what are actually “profits” in your bank account BEFORE deciding to pare back your vision or to invest in a project. 
  4. Hire an accountant to help set-up your cloud accounting solution. 
  5. Revisit your annual goals with your CPA to improve your performance and productivity by 300%. 
  6. Outsource your accounting department, so you can do what YOU LOVE! 
  7. Hire a financial expert, but TAKE COMPLETE ownership to take your business to the next level of success.

BOLDY is a SUPER cool, fun, and easy client to work with! They have a vision, and they show-up with a positive “let’s make this happen” attitude, and we in turn we just want to help. 

We’d love to work with 50 more clients like BOLDLY! 

If that’s you, book a call to chat with us now because we’d love to help you become a more profitable and award-winning Canadian company.

About The Authors

Natasha McLaren-Doerr
Cecilia Gordillo

Natasha McLaren-Doerr and Cecilia Gordillo are the founding partners of Flow CPA, a cloud-based accounting firm specializing in Media, Film, and Television production accounting. For over 10 years, they have been helping Canadian businesses improve efficiencies and grow their profits.

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