In February, Nice Shoes turned 20 — something of a landmark in such a fast-paced, ever-changing industry. During those two decades I have seen many companies, with very impressive work on their reels, come and go. How — in such a fickle industry that seems driven by youth and the next hot thing — has Nice Shoes shown such staying power?
In short, Nice Shoes has always had a really strong identity that is built around a core of non-negotiable tenets while at the same time it has pushed to reinvent itself and the industry at large.
As a privately-held company, Nice Shoes has always celebrated our independence and has not felt the constant pressure to grow revenue, to cut expenses, or to keep our shareholders happy. We do not squeeze every penny of profit out of the company for our own benefit. We have consistently chosen to reinvest those profits in three things: top talent, the client experience, and in building trust between ourselves and our clients, employees, and partner businesses.
When I say we’ve invested in top talent, I’m talking about all of our people, not just our artists. We’ve always worked to provide our employees with the tools they need to grow in their careers, whether that has been through internal training programs, mentorships with senior employees, or through continuing education programs. In a service-based business like ours, if you want to improve your product, you have to help your people improve. Balancing that with a careful curation of outside talent has kept us fresh. And anytime we strayed from this goal, our culture suffered.
Having the right people has been the foundation of providing a great client experience. Experience is a word that’s thrown around a lot, but it isn’t just a buzzword at Nice Shoes. When we were founded, we wanted to provide a superior client experience to what we had seen throughout the industry at that time. Being greeted with a smile. Importing coffee from a small shop in Hawaii. In-studio massages. Food served on china with silverware. An office designed to feel like home. These were all innovations when we launched, but became common throughout the industry after we had set the standard. Providing a great client experience is at the core of who we are, and it is something that we constantly evaluate in order to continue to improve. Being content is wonderful, but it can sometimes lead to stagnation, so assuming there’s always something to build upon is vital to being fresh.
Within the post production space, it seems a given that a company would stay up on current technology, and attempt to stay ahead of the curve, but I have seen many studios attempt to fight an inevitable future. Successful post studios have the ability to recognize change, and will take the lead in implementing progress throughout the industry. We at Nice Shoes have always strived to educate ourselves and our clients, and when possible, have worked with manufacturers to evaluate and test new technologies. We have to, or we would buckle under the weight of cost and critical decisions.
Eleven years ago, when a lot of our clients had questions about producing content in high definition, we went to their offices, with an HD display, and presented our work while illustrating the dos and don’ts of the new format. It left a lasting impression with people because we weren’t just showing the latest and greatest project we had done; we were taking the time to listen to their questions and helping them to understand a new storytelling tool. Now, with Ultra HD and HDR content on the horizon, we’ll be looking to provide the same level of understanding as the industry evolves once more.
It has been validating to see our values reflected in other companies as we’ve established partnerships with other independent post studios. Our success in expanding Nice Shoes beyond New York to Chicago and Minneapolis, as well as to 12 remote partners throughout North America, has been due to finding partners that share the same culture, the same dedication to the client experience, and the same drive to deliver a superior product. We see this as a key shift in our industry; where potential competitors unite to provide an even stronger offering to clients. Collaboration, not isolation, is where the industry is headed. Understanding both your strengths and gaps, being honest about who and what you are, takes equal parts conviction and courage. Aim high, but don’t presume that you are better than everyone else.
As my team and I have been looking back at what has made us successful over the last 20 years, we’ve also been doing so with one eye towards for the future — at what will make us successful for the next 20 years. A constant drive to evolve and improve while holding true to our core is what will get us there.
Dominic Pandolfino is the CEO and partner at Nice Shoes (www.niceshoes.com) in New York City.