I recently shared some emails with Jeff Faulkner, former owner of deepPlay, partner in ParisFrance, and currently the Executive Creative Director at BlastRadius in Vancouver, B.C. I’ve always looked at Jeff’s work with a combination of pride and envy… pride in the fact that I know Jeff and think the work he’s doing is really pushing clients forward, and envy because at the time I wished I was doing the same kinds of things. Jeff has provided me with inspiration, lunch (I still need to pay him back for that), and knowledge. He was generous enough to provide some insights on how he started and ran his own businesses, and continues his generosity by allowing me to share his experienes with you. Jeff’s been an influential person for me, if he knows it or not. He’s one of the trailblazers in the industry… those who have created their own path instead of following everyone else.
Oh, and just because Jeff is at a “big company” now, it doesn’t mean he’s stopped thinking and evolving. His blog is a great read of ideas and experiences. Hopefully by calling him out here, he’ll continue to contribute to it.
ME: What drove you to start your own business, instead of joining a larger corporation that shared the same ideas? And now you’ve found a larger company in BlastRadius… so obviously things changed from when you started DeepPlay (or even Paris France).
JEFF: I started it because at the time I felt I knew more about the design, development and relevance of websites than formal interactive company on earth. Hubris? Yes! But that’s true for ParisFrance and even moreso for deepPlay. I told myself I would only work under conditions that would allow me to do optimum work – I also realized the currency of my career was about my output and was afraid of being buried in a large company.
But honestly, I was hungry for my next adventure and so was my wife so it worked. The interactive CD is gold right now… the hottest professional role on earth. I chose BlastRadius because I love Vancouver and they gave me plenty of material to work with. I miss Portland but I had exhausted all my options there. I needed a shot in the ass. Portland is very sleepy, but its also ripe for someone to really own the market.
ME: Ideas and philosophy are great ways to form a company, but I’m sure people have concerns about money when starting out… what struggles did you have?
JEFF: DeepPlay was cash positive from Day 1. DeepPlay made a buttload of money. Always. But I never slept.
ME: Did you write a business plan for yourself to help guide you? Did you stay true to this plan?
JEFF: No. Not a formal thing anyway. DeepPlay had one but it was essentially this – do good work fast.
ME: Did you start deepPlay by yourself, or with a partner? Pros/cons to either?
JEFF: Jason Davis came along eventually and was part of the early successes as a producer but he was spreading himself between his own biz and deepPlay and it got pretty difficult for him so we put an end to that. I was bad partner material at the time – too much fear and ego and too much to prove. Jason was great but simply too busy. I was at a strange point in my life and needed complete freedom. He’s a very intelligent and gifted individual and we are better friends than partners.
ME: Beliefs. Did you feel you had to compromise your beliefs in order to pay your mortgage, salaries, etc?
JEFF: That is a hard question, yes and no.
ME: What am I forgetting? What’s the obvious stuff I’m missing?
JEFF: Get a solid biz plan and realize you are a commercial designer – on earth to help others. People deserve great design because it makes their lives easier.
Don’t put your family in jeopardy. If a happy dad = a better dad then do what you have to do, but if a big risk puts your wife on the ropes and strains your life it’s not worth it. Its all about peace, love and the kids. On the other hand, security is a joke. You fight for your supper everyday and no one else is going to care for your girls – only you are.