The Entrepreneur: Phil Blundell, The Edge Picture Company Limited
The filmmaking mogul discusses "professional schizophrenia", avoiding bulls**t, and a love for Pret A Manger, with Growing Business
Founder: Phil Blundell
Company: The Edge Picture Company Limited
Description in one line: Leading international corporate film production company
Previous companies: Barford Productions, Infovision
Turnover: Circa £9m
12 month target: Circa £11m
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- The Edge has gained a reputation for utilising the power of film to change hearts, minds, attitudes and behaviours of businesses, governments and corporate employees across the world.
- We have grown the company from within, enabling largely homegrown talent to become steeped in the company’s unique DNA for creative filmmaking.
- We have avoided ever having one client being responsible for more than 10% of annual turnover.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Maintaining our creative leading edge throughout the prolonged downturn and having gained an amazing awards profile – real testimony to having nailed it! Awards include Production Company of the Year at The New York Festivals for the past nine years, Top of Televisuals Corporate Top 50 Poll and 36 NYF & EVCOM Screen awards in 2015.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Cashflow, billing, sales pipeline and staff resourcing.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
We have burgeoning offices in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and South Africa as well as significant clients in the USA and Europe. We’re looking to expand further as the right opportunities present themselves.
Describe your growth funding path:
Bootstrapping and bank borrowing. We have always been very blessed with insightful and industry aware bank managers to support us which has helped the bootstrapping bit be a little less painful than it might have been.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
The huge changes in the technology around film editing which have enabled us to afford and establish substantial in-house post-production facilities. Technology is now so much more flexible and immediate which results in great benefits for all our clients and keeps costs down within the business, which has to be better all round.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
- Turnover – circa £20m
- Five to seven global hubs
- Still pushing the boundaries on creativity
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Staying positive whilst the world was going completely mad all around us – austerity being the new growth! We have developed a policy of professional schizophrenia; protective reality when dealing with the now, and liberating dreaming and scheming when planning for what comes after the now. Some of that dreaming and scheming is now beginning to pay off so it’s exciting times!
What was your biggest business mistake?
Over reliance on one particular market sector – banking! Being a proven specialist in the making of films for the banking sector, when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, many of our major banking clients stopped working with us literally overnight. Very scary times indeed. We are now constantly vigilant of any vulnerability.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
Difficulties in setting up a business abroad. Although I have to say we have found support from UKTI and the local UK Embassies to be really first class.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Believing their own bulls*t! Sometimes you need to deploy it to get through but never ever believe it! Entrepreneurs of all people need to know what reality is.
How will your market look in three years?
For a leading film making company like us, the explosion of digital channels with social media, streaming channels and the internet offers an extraordinary chance to communicate with target audiences like never before and be able to evaluate the response.
Instigated properly, this will have a profound impact on the proven effectiveness criteria of campaigns. Our business has never had an opportunity like it. With the lines now fully blurred between what was broadcast and non-broadcast television just a few years ago, the advance of digital technology will continue to give rise to an ever increasing amount of content being bombarded at us. The real trick for all communicators now is how to make your content stand out from the rest.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Admit what you don’t know and can’t do, and surround yourself with experts that do know and can do as soon as you can afford it.
An endless daily supply of organic cappuccino’s from Pret!
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Try and do both if you can – every day has something new to teach you.
What would make you a better leader?
More time! I would love to have more time to spend sharing war stories and experiences with the team, and more time to recharge batteries would be good too!
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
XE currency – always on it, what a crutch…
WalkJogRun – freedom and ‘me’ time.
Currently working on Creativity by Ed Catmull; part of the team behind the amazingly successful Pixar. The book strapline says it all “Overseeing the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration”.