I was honored to be featured in a recent article in the Lake Forester, a division of the Chicago Sun-Times. Due to space limitations, the article had to be trimmed.


Here is the complete interview.

How did you first become aware that you had the skills to create a business based on something that you were very interested in working on?

I think it was gradual. When I was younger, this industry didn’t exist. At least not to the extent that it was 25 years ago, and definitely not to the extent that it is today. I always had the personality and drive to be an entrepreneur. All the jobs I had leading up to starting Blue Sky Video Productions, we’re building blocks to becoming a business owner. I’ve held a number of positions since high school, including selling motorcycles, manager, accountant, stock broker, photographer and video producer.

How is your work with Blue Sky different from what you anticipated when you started?

From the time we started Blue Sky Video Productions in 1986 until about 2000, our business was tape based. Meaning that we shot on tape formats such as VHS, 8mm video, Hi8 video, DVCam and miniDV. In the beginning we shot a lot of wedding and event videos as well as corporate communication and training videos. In 2001 we started editing with Final Cut Pro, a computer based editing system that allowed us to compete with the big production houses in the city. Over the years we have moved from event video to more corporate and local business videos. We have also phased out tape all together in favor of reusable cards, similar to the ones used in the iPhone, capable of recording HD video.
In a great majority of our jobs, we are using renewable resources from production to delivery where we shoot on the HD cards, edit on hard drives and deliver to the web. These projects are made with 100% reusable bits.

What is the toughest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

My toughest obstacle was becoming a sales person and selling my own service. Coming from a background of video production and marketing, it was difficult going out and talking about myself. Like many people, I hate making cold calls. One way I’ve managed to reduce the amount of selling that I have to do is by providing a great service and having a network of raving fans who “sell” for me via word of mouth and social networks. Today, I use social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube to make connections. The online networking works as a first introduction, so when I meet with my “contacts” or “followers” in real life, we’ve already built a relationship. Social networking has also helped us expand our business nationally as well as internationally.

Is it helpful, and why or why not, for your company to be located in Lake Bluff?

I think the benefit of our location has more to do with the community than on our business. Given the nature of our business, we could have been located almost anywhere and still be successful. Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to work with many of the large businesses located nearby as well as many or of the local retailers and fellow Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce and GLMV Chamber members. At the same time we’ve been able to work with clients from New York to California as well as Melbourne, Australia and to have traveled to England, France and Italy in addition to many parts of the US. And now that we’ve been here for 25 years, it’s hard to picture our business anywhere else.

How is managing a company like yours in a recession different than how you were able to work when the economy was stronger a few years ago?

Back when I was doing wedding videography, I though that the business was recession proof. But, lately many of my friends who are wedding & event videographers are saying that business is down. Surprisingly, we had our best year ever in 2011. I attribute it to the explosion of video on the Internet. Next to social media, video is the fastest growing sector of the web. These days it’s not enough just to have a website. Businesses need video, not only to engage visitors to there website, but it also helps in search engine optimization, or SEO. A website with video is 53 times more likely to be ranked in on the first page of a Google search than that same site without video. We often tell our clients that they can’t produce just one video and be done. There are thousands of hours of video being uploaded to the Internet everyday. So, discovering a single video is like finding a needle in a haystack. But imagine that haystack containing hundreds or thousands of needles. And then imagine that all of those needles are tied together with a string. That is how businesses can get noticed on the web. Instead of putting up one long video on YouTube or other video sites, they should produce shorter videos or a variety of videos. It then becomes easier for a potential client to find one of those videos during a web search. On YouTube, at the end of the video, the viewer is given a selection of related videos. If that business doesn’t have more videos on the web, those related videos could most likely be from their competition.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you graduated from school and started a career?

In high school I was on track to become an accountant. My father is a CPA and my grandfather & uncle founded Himmelblau & Associates, a prestigious accounting firm in Chicago back in the 40’s. However, in my junior year at New Trier, I discovered the high school radio station. I then went on to study radio & TV and communications at SIU. After SIU, I transferred to ASU and got a degree in advertising & marketing. After graduation I pursued a position as a copywriter and eventually landed a job at a Chicago advertising agency. As my interest in the production grew, I decided it was time to start Blue Sky Video Productions.

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