How To Start A Company And Achieve That Coveted Work/Life Balance

by Tim Jahn on August 6, 2010

Todd Tue loves producing videos and creating films, so much so that he and some buddies decided to start a company to do just that.  They didn’t have business degrees and knew nothing about taxes, business licenses, etc.

And like many entrepreneurs, Todd works from his quiet home in Chicago, where work is always just down the hall.  So how did Todd and his buddies with film degrees start a successful company doing what they love?  And how is Todd managing to achieve that coveted work/life balance?


Todd Tue:
My name is Todd Tue.  Milk Products Media is a company I started.  We incorporated a little over a year ago.  And I have two partners, Jeff Haddock and John Stevenson.  And yeah, it was a company that we started after doing a bunch of years at freelance in Chicago and deciding that we would like to not work other people and not have day jobs.

So we started Milk Products Media.  And yeah, we do a lot of music videos and documentary work and web content and stuff; so promotional book trailers and things like that.

Tim Jahn:
What is your favorite part, to kind of work for yourself, and steering the ship a lot more now?

Todd Tue:
I mean, I guess there is, and again, this is going to be sort of a cliché.  But I think there’s a satisfaction, there’s definitely a satisfaction in producing something on your own or producing something directly for somebody else.  As apposed to when you’re working for somebody else, you’re producing it and then it’s going out to this person and then this person is giving it the client and like this person is selling it.  It’s still your work, but I think you get lost in there a little bit.

So there is a satisfaction of when Milk Products does something, we put it out and its, here’s Milk Products production.  It is, I guess its really self satisfying which is why I got into – when is why I got started a business because I wanted to feel important.  No, but there’s – it feels good I think is the biggest thing like and its your hard work is paying off to satisfying you and like – because you can work just as hard for somebody else and in the end they’re going to get the credit and they get – its not just credit but they get the satisfaction of being like, “We’re not presenting this to viewers and whatever.”  When Milk Products does something, it’s a bit more pride I guess involved.  And –

Tim Jahn:
Are there any big challenges along the way?

Todd Tue:
Yeah.  I mean, everything I guess is a big challenge.  Like I said, I was not – the three of us that initially started the company, we’re all film graduates which means we knew very little about business.  I mean, we had an idea about – we have our ideas about new media and how I think video and film works into new media.  But we didn’t know anything about taxes or business licenses or know anything about that at all.  So that was a big challenge.

And I feel like we got over that big hurdle.  And yeah, there’s always – and there’s also time management is a big issue especially when your office is your house.  Suddenly your work kind of becomes 24 hours a day and it sort of happens without noticing.

But that’s a big thing too, is trying to separate work and regular life.  Especially when you do something that you love, like I love producing video, I love making films, I like shooting music videos.  It’s really difficult to not do that when that’s so associated with your work.

Tim Jahn:
Are there any techniques you use for that to try and separate that more, make it I don’t know, maybe make working at home a little bit more non 24 hours?

Todd Tue:

I’m working on it.  I’m work – I’m trying to figure out a way or what the best ways are to separate work and normal life.  Like I said, when you’re working on a project that you’re really into, you’re really excited about, its hard to kind of put that down for a while because it’s a really blurry line between like personal project, or art project, and work and business because so much of our work is super creative stuff, like writing music video treatment and all that.

And I don’t know exactly the best way to separate those things.  I try a little bit to have like into the office by eight in the morning, out by six if I can be.  And then maybe back in again later after dinner just for a little bit.  I don’t do a ton of work on the weekends I guess.  I don’t know, it’s tricky.

I’m about to have a daughter though and so I think the excitement about that is going to make it very easy to separate work and life.  I think it will be a lot – so hopefully that will help me figure out some techniques to separate the two.  I’m sure that it will.

Tim Jahn:
So looking back at what you’ve done since you kind of went on your own, is there any advice you’d give to someone that was where you were back then?  Ready to venture off on your own and make this legit business?

Todd Tue:

Yeah, take a business class, take several business classes.  Yeah, I mean, I guess, its ridiculous but that is honestly take lots of business classes.  And especially, in Chicago too, so much, they really do offer so much help for small businesses.  There’s free workshops and the community resources are sort of endless as far as small business goes.

And I can’t say we’ve taken advantage of all of them.  But it’s definitely something to know about.  Chicago Artists Resource is a huge help and yeah, I guess it’s just be as prepared as humanly possible, like business plans, they’re a good idea it turns out.

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