The Importance of Positive Collaboration
Over the years, my ideas on collaboration have remained mainly unchanged: Positive collaboration breeds success. Noncollaboration and territorialism breed divisiveness and often result in painful and detrimental outcomes. To me, it’s almost cut and dry: If you don’t collaborate, you stagnate.
I’ve worked within multiple teams as a business owner and now a film commissioner in Ohio. To illustrate what I mean by positive collaboration, I will give an example using the principle of film tax credits, as it’s what I know very well.
In 2017, the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit (OMPTC) had an annual cap of $20 million. I worked closely (i.e., collaborated) that year with other film commissioners around the state to successfully double the tax credit to $40 million. But after that initial increase, stakeholders were divided when we attempted to increase it again to grow the industry.
To give a little insight into tax credits: Almost all films will chase them. It’s part of the current business model. Tax credits come in many forms, such as rebates, credits, marketing credits — the list goes on. So, to be competitive as a location for filmmaking, as in Ohio, you need an incentive. In Ohio, once the credits per fiscal year are offered to productions, no more applications are approved. My position becomes one in which I need to raise the credit limit and use the existing credits we have more effectively. Doing this takes years of government affairs work and legislator education on the impact that film and the supporting industries can have on a state.
Now back to our example; not surprisingly, not everyone aligned on a plan to increase the OMPTC. While many stakeholders around the state (including legislators’ constituents, colleges and universities, and most importantly, industry workers) saw a need to increase the credit, there were multiple strategies to do that. Some parties around the state didn’t seem to want to work together toward our common goal. They were more interested in putting together a tax credit that benefitted only themselves.
We probably all know the phrase “a rising tide raises all boats.” After continued bickering amongst stakeholders, in 2019, the state removed the tax credit from the Ohio House budget. This naturally caught everyone across the state off guard, and it divided many film industry workers around the state. While we eventually saved the tax credit, it was a lot of work for the status quo. Fortunately, new film commission leadership in Ohio has brought about some positive collaboration we desperately need to bring the industry closer to our shared goals of more jobs, opportunities for students, opportunities for underserved communities and economic growth.
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In my opinion, collaboration begins with checking your ego at the door and listening. There is no way you can not listen to someone and hear what they’re saying. Think about that.
In almost every situation that calls for collaboration, there will have to be a compromise. (Maybe we can say collaboration and compromise go hand-in-hand?) How can you compromise if you always think you’re right and don’t listen to the other party? It can be a difficult line to walk, and I’m certainly guilty of not listening and forgetting to check my ego. But I’ve been trying to be very self-aware when I begin an initiative or project that will require working together with a specific person or organization.
I challenge you the next time you sit down with someone at the beginning of a collaborative project to talk about the process, talk about how both parties expect to listen to one another and fully understand what each is trying to achieve. I’m sure we all know that spelling out expectations at the beginning of any collaborative project is one key to success. I recently sat down with a state legislator who wasn’t a big fan of the tax credit to talk about it. After only a few minutes, we realized we had the same goal: job creation. We both disagreed on the process but had the same ultimate goal. If there is a common goal, there has to be a solution.
But what happens if those discussions with your potential collaboration partner begin to sour? Or a party continues to be increasingly challenging to work with? Or you’ve made multiple attempts to work together? Should you stop listening when an individual or organization becomes too challenging? I would say yes. When the effort you put in to collaborate with someone far outweighs the benefits, you should probably move on.
As business leaders and film industry professionals, let us exemplify how we can work together to accomplish a goal. We may have different ideas of success and we may have other ideas of how to get to that success, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a solution that would not only benefit everyone, but allow everyone to test and implement their ideas.
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