Stephen Francis was originally from the UK, but moved to the US in 1995 for a dream in song writing. When he first came to the states he began working as freelance project manager for an internet search engine co.about.com. He rented a space in China town only to do song writing which led him to start recording and producing music (Francis). Below is a summary of his business profile based on information gathered between me and him.
From the interview conducted, I was able to establish when and how the business started. According to Francis, he started this business in 2001. Even though the main aim of the business startup was to make a private studio where Francis would write and produce songs, plans changed. Due to the financial hardships the entrepreneur faced in running the studio, he soon decided to advertise the business for song production services. Once he has clients, he was sure to raise cash enough to sustain the studio and its operation costs. The shift of purpose was not really a challenge since Francis had already acquired sufficient equipments required for the recording and production process of a song. The change to Francis felt just like a switch.
When we asked Francis why, unlike majority of youth, opted for self employment rather than an employed job, he explained that he is not the “routine” kind of a guy. He further explained that he did not really like the habit of being told what to do and when to do it. He said that self employment gave him the opportunity to set own goals and means of attaining them and thus giving a higher chance of satisfaction. According to him, self employment made more sense to him.
In the quest to understand the nature of his business, we posed a question to him and according to him; his business is a recording studio and independent record label. To clarify on the form of organization of his business, Francis was not sure where he would classify his business on this basis. However, he explained that even though the business was a corporation, he was the sole proprietor and therefore worked alone without any other employees.
Further, the interview held provided the history of the business with regards to growth. As at the time of the interview, the business had expanded twice in so far as location and premises were concerned. According to Francis, the business had started as 175 sq ft in a basement in Chinatown. Later, the business moved to the Flatiron District in 2003 to 600 sq ft. At the time of the interview, the business occupies 1000 sq ft in midtown on the 24th floor. The next immediate expansion plans include building a new separate “budget” studio to attract business that was lost due to the recession. As mentioned earlier, Francis, the proprietor remains the only employee in his business.
We probed to know any facilities of the business, where they were located and why. From the response obtained, the studio was the only facility to this business so far. The studio is located at 37th and 8th avenue. It is right in the middle of Penn Station and Port Authority and just a few blocks away from Times Sq. The choice of the location is influenced by its accessibility by interested customers. Francis said that he has clients from all over the 5 boroughs and Tri State Area, so it makes sense to have the studio so close to so many transportation hubs.
Asking about the product strategy, Francis explained that the businesses product strategy is to provide quality recording and mixing in the quickest possible amount of time. Moreover, the business intends to advice its clients about the music business and the industry at large. Even though the business does not have a credit strategy, Francis confirmed that the business has a pricing strategy which is basically to keep pricing as competitive as possible, considering that there are numerous studios in New York, there Stush Music is located. The business also has a promotion strategy. According to Francis, promotion is all word of mouth at the current stage of the business. Francis explains that when he first started, he had an advert in the Village Voice which ran for a year. The advertisement bore fruit. Francis owes most of the clients he works with today to that very first advert. He says that these clients have also been helpful in spreading the word and thus bringing in new clients. One of such clients is Heather Park. Heather is Korean and is a gifted R&B singer and they have been working together for the past 10 years since she had walked into his studio. She is now doing tours and has an album released whose success they both attribute to the company’s efforts.
Quality control is almost not an issue as the client is present when the recording and mixing takes place. Concerning management and human resource tasks, Francis informed us that being the sole proprietor and lone worker he is, he manages everything. He sets up appointments, to organize events such as promotional parties and assumes all tasks in between He works non-stop with little time for himself just to keep everything up and running.
Considering that this is the age of rapid technology development, I asked Francis what his business does to keep up with technological trends. According to Francis, it had been a challenge keeping up with professional audio technology as it moves so fast. However, Francis has a strategy to keep to the basics and do it well. Francis explained that he only bought the essential new technological applications whenever necessary.
I further sought to check how learned Francis was. Francis, the proprietor says that he holds a college diploma. He said that since childhood, his mind and passion was set to music. In fact, he said that he wrote his first song at a tender age of eight. However, it was not until he was nineteen that he produced his first record. Francis said that most of whatever he knows in the record and production process in the music industry was learned or gained through experience by being around producers and engineers. However, he attributes his experience in running a studio to his former job.
Given chance to start over again, Francis said he would join the SBA (small business association) and got a low interest loan to fund the studio and the label separately instead of using my own money. However, he would maintain his good services to customers as it had earned him reputation in the field. Whenever Francis fails or is rejected, he says that his plan is to take a day off, rejuvenate, draw a plan and move on!
In his view, for one to succeed in music industry entrepreneurship, then they have to know how to communicate with all the clients differently. One has to know when to be firm or lenient and recognize when someone is trying to take advantage. One also has to be prepared to work when everyone else is playing or sleeping. His advice for budding entrepreneurs, “Have a plan. Do not embark on any business without a plan and some kind of reliable research to suggest that your plan will work.
One of Francis big lesson in his operation in business is not to get emotional. Today, Francis says that his business focuses on up and coming rappers because there are so many of them and it’s easy to record and mix thus the turnaround is fast. Francis keeps in touch with his clients mainly via phone calls to texts, Face book, IM and Twitter. Since Francis runs the business alone, whenever necessary, he refers his clients to outside sources like a company I know who clears samples in music.
From theinterview conducted concerning this business, it is clear that Francis exhibits several entrepreneurial characteristics. We view Francis as a risk taker for going out to start his own business as opposed to taking up employment opportunities. The fact that Francis runs the business on his own portrays him as a hardworking person, a character necessary for successful entrepreneurs. Francis has been and plans to grow his business and this is an element of innovation.
Francis concludes the interview by giving an account of the history behind his business name. In his words, he says he was into reggae music and therefore developed some interest in Jamaican language, “the language of reggae”. Stush in Jamaican means “fly” and in his view, his business is all about “fly music” and just to add flavor, he coined the name Stush Music.