The Entrepreneur: Derek Moore, Coffee & TV

The founder of animation and VFX studio Coffee & TV talks expansion, maintaining company culture and the importance of learning as a CEO...

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Founder: Derek Moore
Company: Coffee & TV
Description in one line: Independent animation and VFX studio
Previous companies: Clear
Turnover: £4.5m
12 month target: £5m

Business growth

Within three bullet points, describe your business model and what makes your business unique:

  • An independent business run by creatives for creatives, offering clients incredible quality at reasonable rates with exceptional service.
  • World class artists with expert abilities to deliver effective visuals, on time and on budget.
  • Unique company culture which transcends and retains clients and talent.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

For the last two years, our five-year-old company has made the top 10 in an industry survey of best UK commercial post-houses. The other finalists all have a turnover of more than £10m and have either private or public equity backing them.

We’re so proud of all the company has achieved. Coffee & TV has gone from a micro startup in 2013 to over £4m revenue and £1m profit in 2017.

What numbers do you look at every day in your business?

Employee engagement. We use OfficeVibe to help monitor the mood of the artists. I’m always keen to catch up with them and keep across the projects they’re working on.

At Coffee & TV it’s all about the team; we couldn’t function without their talents or expertise so it’s important to make sure they’re happy and working to the best of their ability.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?

Coffee & TV is a global business; we have produced and delivered campaigns for clients in numerous countries including China, India, Africa, America, Australia, France, Sweden and Germany.

London is a recognised centre of excellence for creativity and design, so we’re really proud to be one of the companies highlighting the capital’s incredible expertise on the world stage.

Describe your growth funding path:

We have a significant amount of profit saved to fund and support Coffee & TV’s next phase of expansion. We are working very hard to remain independent and support ourselves so we don’t have to seek external funding.

What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?

Flame, our VFX software. We couldn’t have started Coffee & TV without it. When this kit was made more affordable, my partners and I saw our opportunity to start the company.

Plus Slack for internal comms, Xero for cloud-based accounts, Pipedrive for sales and CRM, Trello for project management – all of these drive efficiency and effectiveness.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

We have almost doubled in size every year since we began, so it is not unrealistic to expect to double in size again over the next three years. We’re currently on the hunt for bigger premises in Soho so we can meet current demand and hire new talent.

Growth challenges

What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?

Making our first MD redundant. He was a good guy, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What was your biggest business mistake?

To assume everyone ‘gets’ your culture. Not long after starting up, it was going so well that we decided to open a second studio in another UK city. The business case was sound, but the people we recruited for it hadn’t spent much time in our culture, so couldn’t totally integrate.

In the end we let them take that business over. But if we had recognised that new people need a good few months living and breathing your values, there would have been a much better chance of alignment, and therefore success.

Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:

Business Rates. They are horrific in Soho and really make you think twice before expanding and taking on additional cost.

What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Expanding too quickly when it’s all going well. Scaling up with more staff or bigger premises doesn’t always mean more profits, but does mean more risk. Bigger does not always mean better! We are always careful not to become ‘busy fools’.

How will your market look in three years?

Our market is full of fantastic innovators and is really quite specialised. So I’m not envisaging a dramatic impact after Brexit. Companies both at home and abroad will still require impactful visuals, and we are best placed to deliver that.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Don’t stop learning! I stand by a theory that no company can successfully grow any faster than the growth of its people. As CEO, my own learning and growth is really important, both to the company and to me personally.

I read A LOT. I watch TED talks, listen to business podcasts, go on courses, and I try to spend time with interesting people and understand their challenges. This is to further my knowledge and prepare myself for what might be around our next corner.

Personal growth

Biggest luxury:

Apartment in Mallorca

Executive education or learn it on the job?

Both. Over and over. You never stop learning.

What would make you a better leader?

Having more time! As mentioned, I’m always trying to further my knowledge and skillset to make me a better CEO and leader. I’m also focused on developing my relationships with the team.

I’m tremendously busy but I work hard to maintain excellent relationships with everyone in all departments as we grow. When we were smaller this was much easier but I still try hard devote time to regular catch ups and monitoring staff satisfaction.

What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?

That Coffee & TV would be a success! Like most people who run businesses that support people and families, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility that the business had to be profitable for us all.

I wish I could tell myself about the stability and security we have achieved today. It would still have been extremely hard work, but at least I might have slept at night!

One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:

Blinkist – Little bites of learning from the best books
Zwift – How to stay cycling fit during our horrible winter weather

Business book:

Mindset by Carol Dweck – the fact you get to choose your outlook and can work on improving it is a revelation. None of us have to stick with the skills, attitudes or hang-ups that we have grown up with. We can do the work to become better learners, better leaders, better people.

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