How to Grow Organically (ft. Noravera) | Creatives Grab Coffee 27

Welcome to Creatives Grab Coffee, a podcast on the business of video production, hosted by Dario Nouri and Kyrill Lazarov from Lapse Productions.

Our goal is to make the video production industry smaller by creating a sense of community. Whether you are a creative, an entrepreneur, or a professional there is knowledge for you to learn. Join us as we have industry professionals from around the world come on the show and share their insights on the industry and business. Welcome to Creatives Grab Coffee. Welcome to Video Production.

Today we’re joined by Geoff Livingston from Noravera, a video production company based out of Vancouver, B.C.. His video production company focuses on creating beautiful, emotional and engaging stories.

Watch or Listen to the Episode


00:00 – Intro + Slow/fast season/growing organically 
11:30 – growing the team / team structure 
24:00 – Client discovery / ROI / Time spent on client work / Pre-Production
30:00 – Partnerships / Creative Differences
40:25 – Buying out your partner / Future Plans / Shying away from retainer projects 
46:45 – New marketing initiatives


Kyrill Lazarov: Welcome everybody to Creatives Grab Coffee. Today we’re joined by Geoff Livingston from Noravera, a video production company based out of Vancouver, B.C.. His video production company focuses on creating beautiful, emotional and engaging stories. Welcome to the show Geoff.

Geoff Livingston: Thanks for having me.

Kyrill Lazarov: So how is it over in B.C. right now? Are you experiencing any slow and fast cycles? Because we thought we had them. Every December to March was very slow for us. But then this year was the total opposite, we were busy right from the start.

Geoff Livingston: Yeah, it’s something that we’ve been trying to figure out, and we’ve had numbers tracked for like a few years now, like four or five years. And some years it has stayed busy right through. We tend to work with other agencies, so they’re usually starting their conversations with clients, like once the New Year kind of kicks off and then once those plans of how to move forward, then they’ll reach out to us to start planning the video opportunities in the video side of things. So it tends to slow down for a month and a bit.

Dario Nouri: So Geoff, why don’t you give us a little background on yourself and Noravera?

Geoff Livingston: Basically, it has always been a passion of mine. Growing up my dad always says I was more engaged with the TV commercials than I was the actual shows. And I’ve always really paid attention to the creative. I grew up filming skiing and mountain biking with my friends. 

And then I went to Capilano College at the time then Kaplan University Tech Interactive Design where I did a little bit of web design and graphic design. My graphic design teacher told me that the business card I did was one of the worst that she’s ever seen. So it’s like, okay I’m going to stick to the video side of things as that was always that where I excelled in things. 

Then I ended up working for a company called Rip TV, which was an action sports online television network. It was a YouTube knockoff but they ended up running out of money. I got laid off, I went to the city and I’m getting my business degree and from there I did four years with my longtime friend Brian.

He was super creative with the camera and I was more on the business kind of side of things.

We started doing real estate videos and then did weddings for about four years and we’re just like, let’s just, let’s give this a shot and see what can happen.

Dario Nouri: So how tell us about the transition from real estate videos to wedding videos to corporate videos. Because I feel like that’s probably something that a lot of production companies that are just starting out are trying to figure out.

Geoff Livingston: For us, it was just like continuing to work at it and like meeting different people, like doing free work to get in and create opportunities and network. And for us, we worked for another wedding company for like four years and we just really wanted to start creating ideas versus capturing a day and filming something that’s already pre-planned and then putting something together. We wanted to create, have an idea, pitch it, create it, and then be able to market it and work with companies that way.

Dario Nouri: How long did the transition take? Did you implement a lot of cold outreach?

Geoff Livingston: We never did cold outreach. Even till today. I always hate receiving cold calls, so I never really want to do cold calls. I’m continually trying to figure out other ways to approach people and make new connections. It’s always been word of mouth for us. You get connected to one person that connects you to another who connects you to another. 

It’s a slow process, but it just kind of evolves over time. It’s quite surprising. And we’ve always done good work and haven’t been jerks about things, to try to make it as enjoyable and fun for our client as possible and just being as open and transparent as we possibly can for all of our projects.

Dario Nouri: Trying to grow your network organically seems to be the most effective method but it’s also the slowest and most challenging. Cold outreach also depends on how much time you have because its essentially a full time role. So its not something that you can implement if you are running multiple other aspects of your business. 

Kyrill Lazarov: What’s your current team structure?

Geoff Livingston: We started 10 years ago with just the two of us and now we’re currently at nine people and we’re looking to bring on a couple more. The team’s growth has been organic. We started it with just Brian and I and as we got busier and busier we added more people. During the pandemic we had to restructure our teams and let internal roles like cinematographers go. We still hire them as freelancers for our projects. So it’s worked out well for them to just be able to work with other clients and continue continually improving that skill set. 

Kyrill Lazarov: The biggest challenge is finding talent where they come in with a diverse background and experiences and skill sets that you don’t necessarily have. This is something a lot of companies and entrepreneurs need to be thinking about. 

Geoff Livingston: Absolutely. We’ve just brought on two senior producers this last fall that have really elevated our game and experience from an agency standpoint.

Dario Nouri: Lets move on to pre-production. Do you get very granular in terms of how you charge for pre-production? Like down to the hours spent working on it. 

Geoff Livingston: We don’t go that granular and we’re even thinking about dialing back the time tracking on the pre-production side of things because it is such a granular thing. It’s If you’re spending 50 minutes on emailing this client, 15 minutes emailing this client, are you spending too much time internally versus just actually doing the work for clients? But if you guys are just starting to charge for a pre-production now, I would increase your hours on that side of things for when you’re pitching projects. Its  a significant amount of time and we’ve always kind of undervalued that. And we usually would put a number out there and it would often be double the amount of hours that we estimated for the pre-production side of things.

That’s the more time you can put in upfront to be sure of what you’re going to be shooting, the more time that it saves you later and the happier the client will be because you’ve all agreed upon something at the start.

Kyrill Lazarov: Have you had to deal with push back on charging appropriate pre-production figures on projects where the client has already completed most of it on their end?

Geoff Livingston: Yeah, it just comes down to experience I think, and how you have that conversation. We definitely have gotten pushback on budgets and even though they have put together a script and concepts it may need some tweaks and changes and then you still have to plan the location or if there is talent or all of these other things that do take time to put that together, even if it is presented to you fully written and scripted.

Dario Nouri: Let’s talk about buying out your first business partner. How did that go? 

Geoff Livingston: It was definitely more pressure and then some intensity. But I enjoy that and because I no longer had someone that I had disagreements with I was able to make decisions faster and quicker. It was like let’s make a decision, move forward, see if it works. Yes. Great. No, why not? OK, let’s make that adjustment and let’s move forward again. So it’s it’s been good. But then seven months later covid happened. So it was a whole new thing to figure out.

Dario Nouri: Interesting. And in terms of the future of your company, where are you headed?

Geoff Livingston: The plan is to stay the course and take on bigger and bigger projects. We’re shying away from smaller projects and retainer models just based on the skill set that we have, the team that we have, the interest that the team has and what they’re wanting to, to do with their creative skills. So trying to find bigger clients allows us to do more creative projects. 

We’re doing the opposite of what most companies are doing, which is trying to chase the retainer clients. Retainer clients offer the safer and more consistent paycheck but its usually not as much as what a big budget project will offer or sometimes its just as much but you don’t have to lock yourself in for all those months. 

And what we find is that working with smaller clients there’s a lot of management, a lot of time management versus just having like time to focus on a few, few larger clients.

Kyrill Lazarov: Geoff, thanks again for joining us on the show. You know, we really like we really appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences. You know, and you know, especially some of those very personal stories that you mentioned, you know, and honestly. Thanks again.

Geoff Livingston: Appreciate it, guys. Thanks so much for having me. And I hope you got some value out of that. And I hope viewers and listeners get something out of it, too. So I appreciate it guys. Keep doing what you’re doing.

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Produced by LAPSE