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Friday, May 17, 2024

Staying Connected

Mike Cavanagh has spent nearly every step of his career wading through a technological leap. He and his team have guided clients including the City of Burbank, Nike, and nearly every major studio through the changes in post-production technologies and digital outreach to audiences. The founder and president of KeyCode Media said one thing has kept him at the forefront of digital media strategies: finding ways new technology can make things better for clients. “One of the things I like doing most with KeyCode Media is really picking and choosing best-of-breed innovations that can uniquely transform people’s business,” Cavanagh said. “And then actively leverage that to empower them to have a competitive edge.” In the 11 years since its founding, KeyCode Media has expanded to include offices in Santa Monica, San Francisco, Irvine and Seattle, with most of the 54 staff members based in the company’s Burbank headquarters. Last year, the technology consulting and resale company reached $33 million in sales. Cavanagh, 50, graduated in 1984 from the University of California, Los Angeles after studying business and economics, but soon knew that it wasn’t for him. He went to work as a salesman for a small South Bay copier company, making cold calls along the streets of SouthGate, Bell Gardens and Cudahy. Soon after, he found himself working at a printing and prepress facility, where he learned how computers were changing desktop publishing. After learning from a friend that the post-production industry wasn’t yet optimizing ways that technology could make their work easier, Cavanagh saw an opening. Question: What is your philosophy about packaging systems for clients? Answer: It’s really about aligning them around technologies that can help people to do things better. And if that exists, that becomes a reason for clients to look at changing what they do and disrupting their existing processes to benefit by more advanced technology that allows them to do things much easier, faster and cheaper. Q: How did you come to your forward-thinking approach to technology? A: I had the opportunity to move into the pre-press business and that’s where I found my calling. At the time, the technology for desktop publishing was coming about and I worked for a company that had a high-resolution image center where people could eliminate the paste-up boards. From ’86 to ’94, there was a complete transition of how you did production for print. What I liked about it was it was disruptive to existing models. Q: During that experience, were businesses resistant to technological changes? A: Certain clients were very stuck in their ways and they wouldn’t address this new innovation. You know, they’d say things like, ‘My clients would never accept the limited font choices,’ which in PostScript, you didn’t have as many, although it now does. I sat back and said… ‘Well, what do you think from the trade off levels of the ease and speed of turnaround the clients can get? What if they do accept it? What happens to your business?’ Q: What was the thinking behind your rebranding last year? A: We were approaching 10 years, and my friend asked… ‘Have you thought through how people view your business?’ He had been hearing messaging from me — very excited about how people are transforming how they communicate — but then he’s looking at the logo and he’s saying he doesn’t see what I’m saying in that logo. So he asked me to have a look at the congruency of how our internal messaging is being projected externally. We created the tagline ‘Keeping you ahead of technology.’ Q: How do you change your services depending on each type of client? A: The post-production side of the market, which is basically Hollywood, is a completely vertical integration with a concentration on media. Yet at the same time they use the exact same tools we do for City of Burbank or Microsoft or Nike or different clients that we have. Q: What is an example of a recent project that demonstrated what you do? A: A large thing we did was Trinity Broadcasting. Their normal business model was changing. People weren’t just sitting down, watching the program on television. So we sat down with them and talked to them about the Internet, the multi-screen deployment, and we developed a pipeline for them to take both the old footage and the programming that is happening right to their website. We walked them through the whole concept of communication, and that’s what I try to have my whole company focus on — how we can enable people to either tell their story better, or communicate their messaging better. Q: How have you been able to develop your team to know what you have learned all these years? A: I have to train them. Some of them have instinctual skills, but I find that going from a sales rep to a business consultant is a jump. So I’m a big believer in teaching people. We do weekly training sessions for the sales team and our key technical people. I do company meetings twice a month and really talk about the business. Every book I read has underlines here, dog ears here, and then I teach it. Q: What do you see yourself doing in the next few years?A: The margins don’t support that I can sit back and just be in a room with a waterfall. A few years ago, I made a financial and a strategic investment in a company called Storage DNA. I ended up lending them a lot of money to get them through (the financial crisis) and we ended up going through a lot of business iterations. Fortunately, we were able to get through, and in 2011, sales started to go up. This year, we’ll finish 2012 with around $2 million in sales and will be profitable. I’m their COO, so that’s my night job. Q: How do you juggle the responsibilities? A: I’m out of time. And I have a family. I have a great wife. My oldest just got into LMU. My middle daughter is a sophomore in high school and my youngest is 10. He’s in fifth grade. Q: What was a great piece of advice someone has given you in your career? A: I went to Pepperdine and got my MBA, and a little while ago, I went to one of their breakfasts. I was sitting next to one of the top accounting management people from AlliedSignal, when that existed, and I turned to him, because I always like to learn something from everybody I meet, and I said, ‘If you were to give me one piece of advice from a business perspective, what would it be?’ And he said ‘Cash is king.’ And to this day, that’s a mantra, internally, at this company and other companies I’ve been affiliated with. Q: I see triathlon photos in your office. Do you still do triathlons? A: Yes. I’m doing one soon, but I’m not in shape for it this time. I’m on the Pasadena Masters Swim Team. I’m in the water by about 5:30 every day. I swam in high school. I love it. It evens me out. When you swim 4,000 meters, which I do three, maybe four times a week, I try to get some running in and maybe get on the bike.

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