Lauren Cole, Founder and President, Cole Media

1. What is your role at Cole Media?

Cole Media is a consulting group that does business strategy work for companies who want to set up or evaluate media-related businesses. We do work in digital media, including broadband, mobile, and video-on-demand, as well as traditional media such as television, both in the U.S. and Internationally. Lauren Cole is the Founder and President of the company, and the sole full-time employee. Cole Media is a unique “virtual company” with various subcontractors with specific skill sets and knowledge bases that are brought in for different projects as needed.

Cole Media’s clients are a mix of large and medium-sized companies and start-up companies. Clients include: TV Guide, E! Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, GSN, HBO Latin America, World Championship Sports Network, Withoutabox, Technicolor, Ovation TV, TV One (African-American targeted cable channel launched by Comcast and Radio One), Network Live (broadband concert company launched by AOL, AEG, and XM Radio), Granada America, and ADV (largest Russian advertising agency).

In a typical Cole Media project the client has an idea for a business idea or strategy that they want to pursue. Clients will hire Cole Media to investigate the business opportunity, figure out the launch plan, and often to help launch the business. First the company kicks the tires on whether an opportunity exists. Next it checks on who are the potential customers. Then it checks if other competitors are already in the space. If so, are they making money, how would the business work, how much would it cost to run it, and overall what is the potential revenue vs. return.

Assuming there is an opportunity, the company then works closely with the client to develop a launch and strategy. That covers issues like customer acquisition; staffing needs; content sources and costs; business management options; marketing strategy development; distribution and partnership agreements; and many other business issues that arise. “Since my background is being in-house at companies such as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., and PacketVideo, I’m used to preparing realistic operating plans that reflect achievable levels of revenue and costs.” says Cole. Cole Media also helps clients figure out their financial needs by preparing detailed financial projections for the business. The company also writes business plans and sales presentation that clients can use for investors or for corporate management. “We also sometimes help launch the business, as kind of an Acting COO or General Manager role for the business.” states Cole.

2. What are some of the barriers and challenges for your company?

The biggest challenge faced by Cole Media, as well as other small businesses, is managing the workflow and staffing for it properly. As a small business owner, you don’t want to turn down projects that are interesting, that are with clients you want to work with, and that make economic sense. “I work with many subcontractors who have specific expertise in different media areas and put together teams for many my projects. This means that I need to balance my time between servicing my existing clients while doing enough business development work to bring in new clients. I also am continually on the lookout for talented subcontractors so need to spend time meeting people on that side as well.” says Cole.

“The goal is to bring in enough work to Cole Media that the subcontractors that I want for a given project can make themselves available because I’m giving them interesting work and Cole Media is a regular source of business for them.” states Cole.

Another challenge is time management. “The biggest challenge in managing my time is to find the right mix of time to spend on existing work vs. future work, particularly when I’m busy with existing projects. There are only so many hours in a day so I need to use my time efficiently. ” says Cole.

Most of Cole Media’s projects come from word of mouth and usually from senior executives so most of the business development time is spent in one-on-one meetings.

At the same time, the company is always trying to think of new ways to market such as by moderating panels at conferences or talking to the press. A challenge is that often the people who are able to hire Cole Media are either not at the conferences or don’t have time to sit in on panel discussions. So finding the right balance between individual meetings and being at conferences can be challenging.

3. What are the plans for Cole Media?

The goal is to position Cole Media as the leading boutique strategy firm for media-related businesses, similar to a boutique law firm. “I find that given my industry background I can compete against much larger, more general consulting firms for projects. I think the law firm analogy is fitting because I’m getting projects based on my specific knowledge base and the knowledge base of the people I use for specific projects, similar to what a boutique law firm does. I am not competing against the big firms for projects that are going to need dozens of people.” says Cole.

There are two things that the company needs to do to achieve that position:

First, is to continue to develop a pool of experienced subcontractors that can be a part of projects and that will allow the company to bring in more work and grow. Having a larger pool of people also allows me to put together bigger teams and bid against larger firms on projects. Second, is to raise the profile of the company, and to find ways to get the company name out into the market. This might mean speaking at a conference that may not lead directly to a project but which gets the company name into the market. It may mean developing more relationships with journalists. “I’ve kicked around ideas like hiring a PR firm, but even they have told me the best way to get new clients is the sort of one-on-one word of mouth meetings that I’ve been doing.” states Cole.

Cole Media’s website is http://www.colemediala.com.