About This Episode
EPISODE 8 features Todd Hoffman the CEO of storied media group and founder of storyscout.com. Todd has helped redefine the way stories are sourced through technology. Founding story scout as a way for directors, producers, and writers to find original IP’s. Todd gives us a great look into changing the way people think about sourcing ideas. Diving into his Top 5 tips on leading with decisiveness in order to cultivate change.
Todd’sTop 5 Leadership Tips:
Below is a summary of the Top 5 Leadership tips shared during the interview this week. Take a listen to the episode to learn more about the thoughts behind these tips –
- Never Stop Moving Forward
- Get A Coach
- Take Swift And Decisive Action
- Think About The Gap
- Practice Gratitude
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find even more Full Stack Leader episodes here:
Ryan: Welcome everyone to the full stack leader podcast. This week, we’re here with Todd Hoffman, the CEO of storied media group and the founder of story scout.com where the world’s best stories are discovered. And what we mean by that is it’s an amazing tool that helps directors writers. Producers anyone who’s looking to transform stories into entertainment and media, that allows them to discover from all kinds of sources, like news outlets, books, graphic novels, a variety of different types of media that can be transformed. Todd, we’re really happy to have you here today. Welcome. And, I’m excited to.
Todd: Thanks for having me.
Ryan: Awesome. It’s great to have you here today. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background and where you come from. You have a really unique entry into the tech industry. Maybe give us a little.
Todd: Sure thing, the irony is four years ago. I didn’t even know what the term full stack meant. So here I am talking, on your podcast. My entry point into this world is really through story. Producer by trade and produced a number of independent films back in the nineties, became a literary agent, and was, ultimately running the media rights group at ICM, on the literary side where I was packaging stories and ultimately. I decided I saw an opportunity and I saw a dysfunction in the way that Hollywood was selling intellectual property stories, books, et cetera. And I thought that there was a way to create a better business model. And so I jumped out, now about eight years ago to start a straight media group and out of, The success that we started having by representing more and more publishers around the world, out of that, business story scout was born. And I don’t want to say I’m a reluctant techie, but I really learned, quite by chance and I’ve been learning, these aspects of the business, for the last four years.
Ryan: Yeah, I made a similar jump out of entertainment into technology probably a little before you but Really saw a very core difference in the way the industries worked and what they did. And it was a little bit of a leap for me to kind of transition between the styles of the businesses. Do you feel like that you had that same kind of transition or really you straddle the both simultaneously now, right?
Todd: We do straddle both and yet, I think the reason why our company is thriving is because the employees that we have for the most part are still based in Hollywood. They’re more story people than techies. We do have a couple of people that are minding the website and running the business with me. But the majority of the people I say. Would label themselves story people, not tech people.
Ryan: And that brings up an interesting question for you. Would you consider your company, entertainment story company, or would you consider it a tech company or some kind of hybrid? How do you describe it?
Todd: I would describe us as a hybrid. What we’re doing is. We found a way to make Hollywood work better through technology. And through this, through story scout, which is ultimately a SAS product, for the entertainment business all around the world. So we’re using technology to help people discover stories. And to that extent, we are a tech business. We are rooted in story. And, so I would say we’re a bit of a hybrid,
Ryan: Right? That makes sense. Do you think that Hollywood’s adopted technology at the highest possible level? Or do you still think there’s a lot of room to grow in the industry itself?
Todd: Hollywood is so slow on the back end to embrace technology. When it comes to making movies and television, I’d say they’re on the forefront. They’re always on the cutting edge of digital effects. But when it comes time to run the back office, if you will, of the business, Hollywood is incredibly slow. To embrace change. And I don’t know if it’s fear based or what, but when I started talking about the possibility of creating stories, scout, the reason why everybody sold IP, the way they did it is because that’s the way they’ve always done it. And that’s when I knew there was a space to disrupt it.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s a great point actually, for all tech leaders, is that they’ve always done it the way they knew it is a great opportunity. Because that means that there’s room for potential growth in the way people do things.
Todd: Yeah. And then you have to get, you know, Henry Ford, had to convince people not to use horse and carriage, and Travis Kalanick, to use your phone to summon a taxi cab, getting people off the dime to change their consumer behavior is oftentimes a real challenge.And it’s something that we face every day as well
Ryan: So do you think that Hollywood has been open to embracing some of the technical changes? Or how has that been for you in getting the adoption within those types of companies?
Todd: Getting people to adopt changes has been difficult. And we do it through instruction. We do it through pleading sometimes, which generally doesn’t work. But we have to ultimately lead by example. And that means that we sometimes have to even use the product for them. And so customer service is a really big part of our business. and until story scout is fully automated. That the human element is going to be really paramount to having success.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think that having to guide people into new systems is a big, huge challenge with technologies as a whole.
And there’s kind of an art to the whole thing. I wanted to go back to the point you brought up a few minutes ago, which. Even just guiding people towards the idea, being valuable in the first place from the conceptual level, that seemed like that was a big moment in kind of your initialization of tech leadership. How do you get them to buy into things like, this is even worthwhile? Maybe tell us a little bit more about what that was like.
Todd: Well, I think the most important thing is I really believe in it and my vision, for. The future of Hollywood is that story scout really is the place where you will go, when you want whatever kind of IP, whether it’s, you know, video game rights or you’re looking for a particular kind of story that it is, a high. Place of curated IP and it should be really, really easy. And so I really believe in it. And now given that we’ve come a long way on the customer service side, I 100% believe in the product. And if you use the product, it will save you time. It will save you money. It increases your efficiency. You will sell more projects and ultimately you will make more movies and television shows, and it’s not terribly expensive. So the value prop I think, is really high and all we have to do is just get people to buy in. But if I don’t believe in the product or if there’s any lingering doubts that I might show, I think we would have difficulty convincing others. I think it’s great. And so the challenge is also, and always getting people to free up their minds, to think of the chance that there might be a better way of doing things.
Ryan: That makes sense. Yeah. I mean, it sounds like they have a learning curve to get engaged in the project, or to get engaged in the product as a way of augmenting or improving their workflow.
Todd: But the good news is, the area that we’ve made better, it has up till now been just a real mess, sourcing quality IP, and, is difficult enough. And then when you find something, it takes another week just to find out who represents it. And then once you get there, it’s probably sold and you also have to compete with others. And so what we’ve done is we’ve. We’ve kind of flipped the script. We’ve democratized IP flow so that you can find exactly what it is that you’re looking for and then you can buy it. And there’s no, razzle-dazzle, agenty stuff it’s just simple, ineffective
Ryan: as, as a leader. Have you found that moving from kind of the razzle-dazzle agent style into this more kind of democratized experience like that, there’s a different way to guide teams through. So for instance, how you may have been a leader. I know you were a very important figure, ICM for quite a while. So that, for those that don’t know as a huge literary agency here in Hollywood, and then you transition and you’re now doing more tech leadership, but really working with those different types of teams is very different, right?
Todd: Well, working on the development of. The product that definitely takes up a different part of my brain. But as you know, because we worked together. I generally love hiring people who are much smarter in their chosen field than me. And then I articulate a vision and then I give them the space to go and create and therefore I don’t have to be an expert in everything. And I think the story came out so great because you and your team just got it, conceptually, and then it looks like you had fun, designing the product.
Ryan: I will say one of the best parts of your leadership style is that you really are. Someone that empowers your team and gives a lot of really great feedback along the way. So people feel good working with you. And again, like you mentioned, I’ve worked with you. So I know that experience. How important is that aspect, to having some success in your career, do you think, have you leveraged it the whole time?
Todd: I try and be a good leader and a nice guy and a good guy at the same time. And it’s not always, they’re not mutually exclusive. I think you can lead And be good, positive and cheerful. While at the same time, making sure that, , that there’s still a vision and people are moving things forward.
Everything about our business has to succeed based on teamwork. No person can be an island at our company and hoard information. It has to be a team effort. And so I applaud teamwork , in addition to individual achievement and, and I try to do it vocally and, financially, but it’s even more challenging today in this new remote office setting where everyone is fairly isolated.
Ryan: Yeah. That’s a good point. I know in your in-office setting, you always brought a really good sense of humor, playfulness, and enjoyment. Do you think that’s easy to do in this new environment? Has it been something that you’ve been able to kind of transition over?
Todd: My jokes don’t translate as well on zoom.
That one works really well. There’s a lot of crickets when I’m acting. I think our general philosophy at the company is we take our jobs really seriously, ourselves, not so much. And I believe that you can still be an effective leader and have a sense of humor. And ultimately, it’s super important for me.
And that to me is it says a lot that, that people like what we’re doing, they’ve bought into our mission. But the day to day is also gratifying.
Ryan: Appreciate the rundown. Todd, are there any other moments that you can think of in this kind of transition from. Being a non-technology business into becoming technology focused that were like challenging or big learning experiences.
Todd: So I never got a traditional MBA. I got an MFA at some school at USC. And every day I am blown away by how little I know about running a business and. I have to fight my demons to not immediately become discouraged because I don’t know something. I try to flip it and just think of the positive version, which is why I get to learn this. I joked about not knowing what full stack was, three, four years ago. And now I know, and to me, I’ve really spent. For years, getting my MBA through running this company and that part’s been fascinating for me.
Ryan: Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it.
Todd: And also in terms of leadership, I had a nice title and a really interesting and quasi powerful position in Hollywood and the optics look great. However, we joke that at the same time, I was. Co-head of the media rights group at ICM, which is a division of three and a, the one person that my partner and I had to manage, was unmanageable. And so it took a different kind of leadership style. And so creating a company and learning how to lead didn’t come. Naturally or easily to me. I realized as the company grew that people were looking for me for direction, people were looking for me to create and set and grow a culture, a way of doing business. And that part was what was really interesting. And I really learned by doing. And also learn by listening to other entrepreneurs. And I love another podcast called how I built this, which is really, really, really interesting about founders and their visions for their companies.
Ryan: Love that one. All right. Well, Thanks so much. We really appreciate you giving us some perspective on your career, on your path, in this kind of transition from one industry to becoming a hybrid of two, like it’s really an amazing story. And we’re excited to hear what your top five tips are.
After a successful producing career, Todd got into tech leadership to help solve a problem in his industry. The business side of film and television also known as whole. Well, many techies and entrepreneurs enter the software space from the paradigm of engineering. First, Todd came into the leadership position as someone completely new to the challenges and protocols of the industry. Instead, he saw an opportunity to bring a group of experts together, to help facilitate his vision, to disrupt a business that is traditionally behind the software curve. As he brought that team together, he learned that a big part of leadership was about quickly developing an understanding. For how to work with this new type of team. Additionally, he realized that his own domain expertise had to find a way into the understanding of a tech team, software engineering focus. And this is never as easy as it looks.
Alright. Welcome back again. We’re here with Todd Hoffman, the CEO of story media group, and he has his top five leadership tips for us. We’re excited to hear them. So Todd, let’s not waste any time. Let’s start with number one.
Todd: Well, in, in no order, because I think they’re all important for me. I think the first one is.
Don’t stop moving forward. And especially if things aren’t working, if you fail, don’t get down, if you fail, do it quickly and course correct. And somebody once told me, stay on the bus, the scenery will change. And I think that’s really important for me as well. continue to grow, and at least exist during these really challenging pandemic times. Sometimes it feels like it’s too hard to move forward, but we have to embrace that every day. So that’s the first one. I
Ryan: I love that. Stay on the bus. The scenery will change as a really good phrase. And I think also too, you know, I hear that earlier story you’re telling us too about hearing nos, and kind of continuing forward, even, within all these notes that you had, the conviction that you wanted to move forward on it
Todd: That part was really interesting. And unique because I profess the other side of the coin, which is something I learned in film school, where I had an instructor say, if you walk into a room and three people tell you’re drunk, lie down. And I listened to that. But in that situation, when I was asking a bunch of people if I should create this tech product, most of the people said no, and I. Just had a feeling in my gut. So I trusted my gut in that. And that instant
Ryan: tip number two, tip
Todd: number two, get a coach. Many leaders told me that they really heavily rely on an executive coach. They’re not cheap. If you can’t afford having a coach, make sure that you have a group of similar. Situated peers who can help share the burden of leading a company. They say heavy is the head that wears the crown and it is very lonely. And so you really need to have a peer group that can help share the burden.
Ryan: That is a great tip. And I think it’s one that’s really undervalued because. Sometimes you feel like, do I even have time to talk to a coach? Do I even have time to connect with peers on these things? And when you do take the time insights opened like crazy, right?
Todd: Like crazy. I work with a coach. I see him every Monday. I see him on screen every Monday at one o’clock. He’s part corporate coach, part psychologist, and helps me continue to move forward. Even on those times when I feel so, so way down, he’ll continue to move me forward. And our company has made quantum shifts based on the work that I’ve done with him.
So I’m, I’m now a big fan of getting a coach.
Ryan: Love that. All right. Tip number three.
Todd: Always take swift and decisive action and get, especially within your organization, get rid of toxicity as quickly as possible. Yeah.
Ryan: Why is that important?
Todd: Toxic personalities can metastasize incredibly quickly within an organization and pull people down.
And as a leader, you want people to always do that, do their best. And so if there’s somebody who is preventing it. The staff from achieving that you have to get rid of them and telling people that they don’t have the privilege of working with you anymore is not easy, but it’s the best thing that you can do for your company.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s amazing how fast things can metastasize and spread that can hinder the productivity or hinder the spirit of the organization and being able to not just react to it, but even spot it is a skill unto itself as a leader.
Let’s jump to tip number four. What are you?
Todd: Think about the gap, where you want to be versus where you are now and then move. You can look at, and this is something I’ve learned through my coach, which is, no, where you want to be. And then. Agree where you are.
And the difference between the two that Delta is known as the gap. And I think it’s important to identify that there is a gap so that, the distance you need to travel. And so I look at the gap, not as something that could pull me down because we haven’t yet achieved where we want to be.
I look at the gap as, how can I get there? How do I use my team to, , to climb up to getting to our,
Ryan: goals. Yeah, that’s really great. And I think it requires you to really develop that vision so that you can know where you’ve got to get to, to even define the gap too.
And that’s sometimes a challenge unto itself.
Ryan: All right. Last tip number five. What would you like to share with us?
Todd: Well, practice gratitude. This is also something that doesn’t come easily to me. So it’s great to, as a tip, but I use it as a tip to just remind me how lucky I am to be in the position I’m in.
And, How lucky I am to have such a great staff. I acknowledged this past week with a friend that the government has really saved our company through financial lending programs. And, as a startup, we’re burning through cash and PPT allowed us to stay in business and, taking out loans from the SBA, allowed us to stay in business, getting an employee tax credit, allowed us to stay in business.
And so I’m very grateful for that. And I think it just makes everything better. It’s just looking at life through a different prism and it’s something. Is not always so easy for me. I don’t always wake up on that side of the bed. And so I have to remind myself to practice gratitude and it’s, it just makes everything so much better.
Ryan: I love that. And gratitude’s infectious as well, right? Because if you’re practicing it, it will get picked up and be felt across the organization. And I think the effect of that multiplies.
Todd: It’s just, you know, as a leader, people don’t want to follow somebody who’s negative and who is kind of driving or condescending. It’s much easier to get people to follow you if you’re looking forward.
And, you’ve got a bright smile and you’re excited and you’re thankful.
Ryan: That’s a great
Todd: way at least that’s what I’ve found.
Ryan: Yeah. That’s a great way to end it. All right. And I have some gratitude for you. Thank you for coming on the show today, Todd. It was amazing having you here today, and we look forward to seeing how the story scout grows.
Failure is just a chance to course correct. And as Todd points out, the ability to fail quickly and learn is often bolstered by having the support of trusted coaches and advisors. This is especially true when you’re initially navigating an unfamiliar space. However, it’s important to remove. That as a leader, you have to be aware of the destination so you can help the team close the gaps and work together to pull off something that may have felt impossible at the beginning.