We had the good fortune of connecting with Joe Monahan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joe, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
At many times in our careers, especially early on, we were told that we didn’t have the experience or resources to pull off high profile jobs. Perhaps we didn’t, but had we listened to those folks, we never would have accomplished some of our biggest projects. We made a habit out of succeeding at projects we had no business even taking on, according to our experience level. That taught us that all we really needed to succeed was the opportunity, and to always seize it when it comes. Others may have done it before, or have more experience, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more capable. Sometimes, being inexperienced is a gift, because if you really knew what you were up against, you might not do it at all. Never be afraid to try.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
We believe that a desire to produce superior work and not knowing when to quit is what sets us apart. That might sound cliche, but it seems to be a common theme among anyone who’s ever achieved any degree of success. Honestly, when we decided to start our studio, we had no idea what to do first, or even how to get business. We had two Super-VHS cameras and a single edit system. With that, we just went to work. We did anything we could get our hands on, and began meeting people along the way. It was very difficult. Finding business isn’t easy when you are starting out, and no one is going to hand you a big contract. Most days, we worked very hard and had little to show for it. We did our share of free or discounted work trying to get noticed. Early on, it’s hard to overcome the feeling that you’re just spinning your wheels. We were doing great work, but it seemed like no one was noticing. Someone was, however, and our reputation slowly began to build.
Eventually, we found ourselves in the right place at the right time, and an opportunity for a large contract presented itself. The contract was for an event known as The Mock Prison Riot, and the subject matter was law enforcement and corrections. The organization running the event wanted a demo from us to see if they thought we could handle it. We had nothing to show them of any relevance, and I mean nothing…certainly not anything to do with law enforcement and corrections. At that point, the majority of our paid work was weddings…so…we sent in our best wedding work. Looking back on it, that should have been the kiss of death. In a thousand other scenarios, it would have been, but as luck would have it, one of the decision-makers was a young woman, and she was impressed enough by what she saw that she decided to meet with us. During that meeting, she agreed to lend us some raw footage of a past event, so that we could show what we could do with it. We proceeded to put together a minute and a half demo using their footage, and they were blown away. We got the contract, and that put us on the map. That contract led to other contracts from sister organizations clear up to the National Institute of Justice itself. After that came a holiday themed concert that got nationally syndicated, TV advertising awards, music videos, award winning corporate and product demos, and a decade of government contracting. We can trace all of this back to a superior wedding demo…for real. Today, it seems unreal.
The valuable lesson here is the conventional wisdom we’ve all heard our entire lives, and drilled into us by our father. No matter how small or insignificant what you are doing seems…give it your all. You never know who is watching, or how it might serve you later. Pat and I have always cared about our work, It didn’t matter if it was a wedding, a TV ad, a corporate piece, or a child’s birthday party. Our mission was to make it a cut above, and we honestly don’t believe you can produce effective creative unless you care. Now, 22 years into our professional careers, we’re both employed by a creative agency, Wheelhouse Creative, that shares our overall philosophy, and that is a wonderful thing. My good friend Don Feenerty once told me, “It only takes about 15 years to be an overnight success.” My brother and I can attest to that, and by the grace of God, it has all worked out.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We live in a rural area, and the biggest city around is Wheeling, WV. So, if friends were visiting, I’d definitely have to take them to Oglebay Park. Depending on the time of year, there’s a lot to do there, and the park transforms according to the season. In the summer, there’s swimming, golfing, fishing, and the like. If animals are your thing, they have a nice zoo. There’s always something happening there…live music, fireworks shows, and special events. In the fall, there are many festivals, and during the holidays, Oglebay boasts the largest light display in the Ohio Valley. It’s definitely the place to hang out. For shopping, the Highland complex just outside of the city is growing by leaps and bounds…all manner of restaurants, shopping, and a great movie theater and sports complex. Beyond that, since it is more of a rural setting, you develop an appreciation for nature. When I wasn’t showing them around, I’d have them experience hanging out in my own back yard, surrounded by the trees and a great view of the hills.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many who deserve credit. First, of course, is the Lord God for giving us our gifts. Then come our parents for all the love and support through the years. Our many clients who gave us all of our opportunities, and last, but not least, our good friend and mentor, Don Feenerty, for taking notice believing in us so early on, when no one else in the professional world did. We are truly grateful to them all.
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