36 hours in the remote life of Studio Co-founders

It took us a few years to figure it out, post-hyper island, post-internships and post-working-for-big-ass-agencies, before we finally founded our own motion studio and suddenly came to the realization that all this time, we’ve been working in the service industry.

– “What do you mean by that? You have a motion studio, aren’t you motion designers?
– Well yeah, in the sense that motion design is something we happen to be good at. Yet, our core business is all about good service.”

Anyway, we’ll get back to this later.

We’re Alex Grolleman and Maxwell Reed and we graduated in 2013 from the Motion Creative program at Hyper Island Karlskrona. Today, we’re running a motion studio together called Kingdom of Something.

This is what 36 hours in our remote lives as two Studio Co-founders look like:

Wednesday 01.54 (Maxwell, Amsterdam)

Don’t mind me, I’m just working on some very last-minute feedback for one of our clients. The deadline for the final deliverables is tomorrow by noon and when running your own biz, late-night shifts like this is the status quo, and you’ve just got to suck it up.

Wednesday 09.03 (Alex, Berlin)

I just left the gym, riding my bike to the office simultaneously as I’m talking to Maxwell on the phone. We’re having a quick chat to make sure we’re aligned regarding yesterday’s pitch request from a potential client.

As a small agency, every chance to acquire new clients can make a huge difference and you can’t really afford to let anything slip between the cracks in terms of expectations, communication, objectives, and many other important words. When the rest of the team comes in at 10-ish we (as the supreme leaders) need to know how to approach this ask and get going with it!

Wednesday 09.49 (Maxwell)

With my doggo FYI, not me…

Wednesday 10.37 (Maxwell, again)

Finally at the office and together with two of our animators, Radek here in Amsterdam and Johanna in Berlin, we’ve started structuring up the pitch deck that we’ll be presenting for the potential client mentioned above. On the agenda is some basic character exploration as well as finding the right references that help the client envision what their project could look like when coming to life.

Wednesday 14.04 (Alex)

Wednesday 15.47 (Maxwell)

In 13 minutes we have a final call with the client whose feedback I was working on last night. They’re presenting the whole project to the end client tomorrow morning and as a routine when working on larger projects, we do a quick run-through together with the agency we’ve been working with to make sure every detail is on point.

Wednesday 17.00 (Alex)

A wild team development session appears. Being six people located at two (sometimes more) locations, having these sessions somewhat regularly (at least every 3-4 weeks) makes all the difference for our sense of closeness and trust. And, after running Kingdom for 3 years, we’ve learned that the internal culture defines the company.

The agenda of today’s session is to reflect upon how we handled a creative debriefing from last week where the whole team experienced a lot of frustration, and therefore we need to make sure we learn from this situation and act smarter next time.

Thursday 10.02 (Maxwell)

Thursday 11.50 (Maxwell, again)

Heading over to one of the bigger agencies here in Amsterdam that we’ve been collaborating with for quite some time now. I’m going to present Kingdom to some more key people in the company (that we haven’t had the chance to work with yet) and open up opportunities to work on more things together in the future.

Again, as a small studio, it’s really common to partner up with bigger ones. Simply put, working together with big agencies is a way for you to get to work with big brands (aka big budgets). All anyone ever wants to do is something big, right? We are however seeing a shift where more and more big brands are building internal creative teams, removing the need for the traditional ad agencies. This allows smaller production firms like us to work more directly for brands.

Thursday 13.54 (Alex)

We just got an email from an agency we’re working with. They’re asking if we could join them in a call with the end client to help reassure them about the creative production process. The only thing on my calendar for the rest of the day was an internal meeting with a colleague, so, I told them I would bike over to their office and join the call from the agency’s office.

Thus, we’re magically able to circle back to the point we were trying to make at the beginning of this article. Here it goes. When running a creative studio of any kind, you’re working in the service industry. The only real task you have is to provide the best possible service to your clients and help them solve their problems. Maybe you happen to love animation (like us). Maybe you’re the best motion designer that ever set foot on this planet. That frankly doesn’t mean sh*t if you don’t realize that what you’re really being paid for is making your client’s lives easier, solving their problems and making them shine in front of their clients.

3 (+1 bonus) things you’ll want to do or know before starting your own studio:

  • Learn to live in the now and stop worrying about the future. Do yourself a major favor and read “The Power of Now” by Eckart Tholle right away. Living in the now includes leaving your ego behind and develop as a person. There can’t be an ego present if you want to work with other people and have them help you reach whatever you are trying to build.This goes for anyone who is not in an isolation cell in the dessert – start practicing reflection on a regular basis. And if you’re already reflecting, reflect more. Even if you’re a bunch of happy co-founders, running your own company can be quite a confusing and even lonesome experience. Therefore, you must make sure to have tools for self-development at hand all the time.
  • The most important characteristic in yourself and in the people you bring into your company is the mentality that there’s always a solution to anything and everything. This personality trait triumphs all others when it comes to working in a small company where you constantly need to find a way forward.
  • A lil’ bonus advice for when you’re starting to bring more people on board: You are here to serve your employees, not the other way around.


If you didn’t get enough of the knights yet:

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And of course, send us an electro-magical raven anytime to roundtable@kingdomofsomething.com if you’ve got any questions, answers, thoughts or other intriguing inquiries.