10 (Plus 5) Tips to Success in Business


Dear Friends:

We all choose our careers and jobs because we have something to contribute and we want to make a difference.  We’re passionate about what we do, and we are all committed to fulfilling our dreams.  

I have coached thousands and thousands of people over the years and regardless of how talented or how passionate we are there are times when we hit roadblocks, let rejection get to us, lose faith in ourselves or the business we’re in, or just plain get stuck.  These tips will help get you back on track, giving you that boost of enthusiasm you need to get you up and running. 

In addition, I will touch on a few areas that tend to be more intangible, but certainly no less important.  In other words, I’m going to incorporate the ‘doing’ with the ‘being’… what you want ‘to do,’ with who you need ‘to be.’

So, if you’re looking to jump start your career, reignite your passion or get educated in the basic business practices to help move your career forward, these “10 (Plus 5) Tips to Success” will do the trick.  

Even though the tips are designed for the entertainment industry, you can map this on to any business.  Enjoy – “Ten (Plus Five) Tips to Success”




  1. WHAT’S YOUR ATTITUDE?:  How are you occurring to others… really occurring… in meetings, on the phone, on set, in your sales presentation and well, pretty much anywhere and everywhere?  Are you having fun? Is your commitment, passion and talent coming through loud and clear? Do you ‘play well with others’? And please know that I am not being trite about this.  This is an essential element of success. You want to raise money for your film and yet you’re standing in front of a group of investors and you’re in your head and not in the room, not present.  That’s a problem. I want to invest in and work with people I trust, so if you’re coming across as inauthentic and not present, I’m sorry, but I’m moving on. In Amy Cuddy’s book “Presence” she talks about a study she and her colleagues did in over twenty-two nations.  “When we meet someone new we quickly answer two questions,” she says. “Can I trust this person, and can I respect this person. Trust is the conduit of influence and the only way to establish real trust is by being present. Presence is the medium through which trust develops and ideas travel.”  Are you being authentic, real, present? Because, trust me, anything else is not good enough. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.” So, if this is a weak area for you, begin to strengthen it now. The rewards will be well worth it.
  2. BE IMPECCABLE:  I used to love to volunteer for Landmark Education workshops and events years ago.  It was the first time I’d ever heard the words ‘impeccable and integrity.’ Or if I had heard the words before I certainly had no idea as to their meaning.  We were trained (really trained!) in these distinctions. Prior to that, in the business world I’d come from, the attitude was “it’s good enough.” I didn’t resist these new distinctions.  In fact, I welcomed them and decided to implement them into every aspect of my life. It was all about raising the bar. Paying attention to the little details would in the long run lead to the success of those big goals. Taking on a challenge and knowing it was okay to fail… learning from those failures and getting back up to bat, made me stronger, bigger and more confident than I had ever been before.  ‘Good enough’ was no longer acceptable. It was all about being 100% impeccable with 100% integrity. Michelangelo said, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.” I heard this quote for the first time when I watched Jon Bowers TED talk on “Perfection.” As producers managing hundreds of thousands of dollars and in many cases millions of dollars, and being responsible for casts and crews, we really have no choice but to be 100% impeccable, standing in ultimate integrity at all times.  When people took my Flash Forward workshops years ago, I told them that during the next thirty days of the program (and hopefully for life) they were to act as if they were working for NASA. If you’re sloppy and standing in anything short of impeccability, you go to work and press the wrong button, people die. So be present, conscious and on purpose.  
    1. BE SMART: When I was producing my first few films, I all too often would say, “Oh they know more than I do, so I’ll let them do that part of the job.”  I didn’t read my attorney’s paper work over, I’d leave my sales agent’s deal memo to my attorney to address and never even discussed it with him.  I’d let my film partners do some of the deals and wouldn’t check in on what they’d done. After all, they (he/she) knew what they were doing, right?   The results were devastating. I wasn’t being diligent and smart. I certainly wasn’t being 100% responsible and I wasn’t fully taking on the job of producer.  I lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I made mistakes that could have been easily avoided. Being smart is not hard. It just requires some research, reading and responsibility.  I’m not saying you have to micromanage everything and everyone, but know how to read a contract, know what the union requirements are, know exactly what your producing partners are doing and communicate constantly. Set up clear lines of communication with your partners and team.  Read every deal memo. Once again it means being smart and being 100% responsible, 100% of the time. 
    2. WHO’S ON YOUR TEAM:  Speaking of being smart, this is another important area to take a look at.  If I could go back in time I would certainly focus a lot more on this. It may mean investing some time and money, but every business person in the world does this and for some reason many of us in the entertainment industry think we don’t need to bother.  Set up your team and create your brand. How are you representing yourself? Get a proper headshot (yes, even though you may be a producer) to use on your website, imdb page, etc. Hire a PR person to do press releases when you have signed a deal with name directors and actors.  When you’re in production (even ultra-low budget films) have your PR and/or social media expert working to make sure you’re visible. Have an attorney look over your deals and hire a personal coach for those times you get stuck. Make sure you have a mentor or two who you can go to for advice.  Join organizations of note (i.e. PGA, BAFTA, WIF) and get involved. Team up with a partner who has more credibility than you have. Consider getting an agent or manager… something I wish I’d done years ago. No matter who you are or what level you’re in in your industry, you are the president and CEO of your company.  Every president and CEO in every other business has a team, so put your business hat on and start putting your team together.  
    3. SET A GOAL: This can be exhilarating and even life altering.  So why don’t we do it? I think one reason is that we get scared and think we might fail.  So, try thinking of a goal as a way to expand. When you think bigger, desire more, raise the stakes for yourself, you get bigger.  That makes it more fun. Be careful not to set your goals based on your past. Setting your goals based on your past is like driving your car looking in the rear-view mirror.  Start with the big picture. That way you’re creating a context for your life and career. Dream big! What have your accomplished 25 years from now? Then back time it to 15 years and then 10 years and 5 years.  From there you can now set your one-year goal. Given where you are in 5 years where do you need to be in 1 year. “By December 9th, 2020 I will ______________________________________________________________.  Then break it down into quarterly and monthly milestones:  Creating a timeline and tracking your progress is a great habit to get into.  Take a big poster board and back time the entire process. Then you can begin to break it down further into weekly and daily action plans. 
    4. DESIGN YOUR PITCH:  Do a killer logline for your project and/or yourself depending on whether you are selling your script or services.  Then prepare a two-minute pitch to expand on the logline.  If you are pitching yourself be sure to design your pitch drawing from highlights from your career and your personal life.  I usually make a list of 5 to 10 highlights from my career and personal life and then I choose the ones I want to use in my pitch.  As producers you should always have a great pitch ready that is about you because you will constantly be enrolling people in YOU, whether they be financiers, agents, directors, etc.  I did an entire article a few months back on pitching, so take a look at that if you haven’t already.
    5. RELATIONSHIP DISPLAY:  Who do you know?  This is an excellent business tool.  In the Flash Forward Institute, we called it a Map of Relationships (MOR).  Categorize the names of everyone you know in your industry. For me, it could be. producers, writers, casting directors, directors, DPs, entertainment attorneys, etc.  It will let you see clearly who you know, and just as importantly, it will let you know who’s missing.  You will be weaker in some areas and without the visual display you were (no doubt) unaware of that fact. It’s not a bad thing, it’s actually a great wake up call. I suggest you do a bit of color coding as well. For instance, for the people you know well put a red dot beside their name; for those you don’t know as well, a blue dot.  And for those whom you may have met only once, at a Women in Film breakfast for example, put a yellow dot. Be creative. Come up with your own idea for the display. Once it’s complete you can begin looking at who you know who may know that person you need to get to at DreamWorks. Who on your display can support you with that? Who do you know who may be able to give you referrals and even help set up meetings.  Then, call everyone on your Map and tell them what you’re up to and make a request. Of course, end every call with, “And what can I do for you?”
    6. NETWORK:  Continue to expand your Map.  Network, Network, Network.  Get out there and meet people.  Put out your hand and say hi.  Sometimes to push myself a little I will set a goal like “I will meet 10 new people this month”.  I did an entire article on networking and creating relationships in business, so have a look at that one again.  I think one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you are the president and CEO of your company. It doesn’t matter if you’re the director, DP, writer, make-up artist, etc. you are the person in charge.  Given that, what actions would you take, what body language would you have, how would you speak to people, what requests would you make? This one distinction alone will have you taking charge and being more powerful and assertive in your speaking and of course in who you’re being.  When you do create relationships be sure to keep in touch with people. We often forget to do this, but if you do, the folks you’re meeting today will be the people you’re working with in the future. Well worth the time it takes to stay in touch.
    7. MAKE REQUESTS: Make requests (not favors) of people on your Map.  For example, “I’m really committed to meeting 3 new directors for my thriller indie film project.  Do you know any directors you could introduce or refer me to?”  Requests are common practice in every business in the world… except show business. It’s crazy. It can mean the difference between getting the deal or not, the audition or not, the job or not. Here in the entertainment world, we tend to feel like we are interrupting, interfering or over-stepping our bounds.  Instead of making requests we end up asking for favors. Favors don’t work in business. A request has power in it and it keeps the power in your hands… the ball in your court. So, if you’re in a meeting and the exec says, “Yes, I’d really like to read your script,” don’t think they are doing you a “favor” – they are doing their job!  Your script could be their company’s next Oscar. You have every right to make a clear specific request. “Thank you so much for agreeing to read my script. I believe it’s a perfect fit for your company. Can I call you two weeks from now to get your response?” Your direct request gives them the opportunity to say yes, no or counter offer.  They may counter offer and say, “No, I am on vacation for a week, so three weeks would be better.” So, you agree to call them in three weeks for their response. Keep the ball in your court and use the language of business… make requests!GO THE EXTRA MILE:  Successful people go the extra mile.  I am a big fan of Jack Canfield and in his book “The Success Principles” he suggests that “to really excel in business and in life, go the extra mile… give the people around you more than they expect.”  When we first moved to Los Angeles my husband sat by the phone and waited for his agent to call. His agent never did since his agent was busy working with and looking after his clients who were working.  So, my husband took my Flash Forward workshop and set a goal to have ten relationship and pitch meetings. When he was asked to come in to pitch his TV ideas for specific shows, instead of creating two or three ideas like most writers he had a binder he created with nearly forty ideas (depending on the show).  He got an episode on two different show within a couple of months and when they asked him back, they referred to him as “the guy with the binder.” His other meetings and pitches were just as successful and within three months he was on staff! He also became known as a trouble shooter because he had mastered the art of ‘listening’ and being calm and present.  He handed in his scripts early and never missed a day of work. He was all about going the extra mile and he still is… over twenty years later!  
    8. CREATE YOUR TARGET LIST:  Target who you need to talk to or meet with.  Make a list of 5 to 15 names and start calling.  This could be one of the requests that you make to people on your Map.  For example, “I am looking to set up a meeting with Casting Direct, John Smith.  He is on my Hitlist as someone I really want to meet.  I know you have worked with him before and was wondering if I could use your name when I call him.”  Your goal will determine who is on your list. If you’re a TV writer whose goal is to be on staff on a sitcom, you may want to be targeting the exec producers, show runners and co-execs of those types of shows. For an actor wanting to get more work in the indie film world, I would recommend meeting the five producers and five directors from that arena who you most admire. Be pro-active. Who do you need to know? Who do you need to meet?  In addition, take a look at your MOR and look to see the areas in which you are weak. I would focus on some of these areas for my target list as well. Don’t forget, a great way to meet the people you want to meet is to volunteer to moderate a panel. I’ve done it… it works!
    9. PRACTICE BRAINSTORMING:  Get ideas outside of what you alone can come up with.  So often we try to do it alone and it’s crazy.  In the Flash Forward workshops over the years we had a built in one-hour exercise called “Brainstorming” where we divided into teams of six or eight people and then divide up the time equally.  Then one person would state what they needed and then they would be quiet and just listen and take notes as everyone threw ideas at them.  They were not allowed to comment on the ideas at all.  They just wrote everything down and then took from the ideas what they wanted.  It was extremely successful.  So, what do you need help with?  For example, how do I get to A-list directors?  How do I finance my $10,000 short film? How do I double my number of auditions?  How can I move from the low to the bigger budget films as a makeup artist? How can I meet five show-runners in the hour long Sci-Fi world?  Or you can even be more specific… how do I get my script to actor/director Kenneth Branagh? 
    10. KEEP STATS:  I know this doesn’t sound like fun and we all get a bit squeamish when we think about statistics.  However, it is such a great wake up call to what actions you are really taking as opposed to what you are just talking about doing.  Make a list of 3 to 5 categories you want to track and then add up the actions you have taken on a weekly basis.  In the workshops I have led I always include this as part of the program and I find that people are always shocked at how few calls they have made compared to what they thought they had.  Categories could include: number of production companies contacted about my project; number of meetings set; number of auditions; number of scripts sent out; number of networking events attended, number of referrals, number of pages written, number of new relationships made, etc.
    11. GET A MENTOR:  There are people out there who have done what you want to do.  They’ve done it, they’ve made mistakes, they’ve learned along the way, they’ve mastered it and they can’t wait to share it with you!  No matter what level you are at it’s important to have a mentor or two. Make it easy for them.  Request only a little of their time over a very specific period of time.  For example, three ten-minute conversations over the next four weeks, or a half-hour coffee meeting, or a lunch together.  Also, please be prepared with your questions ready and it is important that you generate the conversation.  It is not your mentor’s job to generate it.  Don’t ask them to read your script, watch your demo reel, listen to your composer CD.  They are not a coach, there are a mentor. Their job is to give you advice, tips and suggestions on your strategic plan and target list. Remember it is a business relationship so always acknowledge them and thank them for their time.
    12. TAKE ACTION:  The more you take on having every action, every milestone, and every goal as FUN, the more people will want to play with you and the more you will attract into your life everything you want.  So, make sure you’re taking inspired action.  If that means getting back in touch with the possibility of that job you’re wanting, or your script being optioned, or raising the funding for you film, then do that.  Or call a friend and share with them your vision and purpose and why you want to accomplish that goal. Do whatever it takes to get you inspired and excited and then and only then take action.  Also, if you’re anything like me, you may want to consider being held accountable for your promises and commitments.  We’re only human after all and sometimes when the going gets tough the tough get going.  Don’t let that happen.  Be held accountable for your word and your actions.  At the moment, I am part of a MasterMind group of five people and we have a Zoom video call for one hour on the first and fifteenth of every month and on Fridays we email each other a brief check in as to what we’ve accomplished and what still needs to be accomplished.  Or you may want to have one colleague to check in with each day or each week for a few minutes. Do whatever is going to work best for you. 

BONUS:  HAVE FUN AND ACKNOWLEDGE YOURSELF AND OTHERS DAILY!  We are here to have fun (no matter what business we’re in) so keep that in mind at all times.  It’s all a great delicious adventure and, as Abraham-Hicks tells us, “Like the dog who sticks his head out the car window and risks getting bugs in his eyes… it’s well worth it for the joy of the ride.”


Suzanne Lyons is President/Producer of Snowfall Films, Inc. (snowfallfilms.com) having produced/exec produced 12 feature films to date.  She co-founded the Flash Forward Institute which focused on teaching the tools of business needed to market oneself in the entertainment industry.  Her book titled Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking was published by Focal Press  www.suzannelyons.net/indiefilm).  She’s hosted over 125 informational videos for the industry (www.youtube.com/suzannelyons).   When time permits, she does private career and business coaching as well as indie film producing coaching.  Suzanne is originally Canadian and lives with her husband in Los Angeles.


Suzanne’s Past Speaking Engagement Include:

Directors Guild of America ~ UCLA ~ USC ~ American Film Institute ~ Film Independent Network ~ Women In Film (Los Angeles) ~ Women in Film and TV (Toronto) ~ Women in Film and Video (Vancouver) ~ Producers Guild of America ~ California Governor’s Conference for Women ~ Latino Entertainment Media Institute – Cinematographers Guild – Alameda Writers Group ~ IWOSC ~ The Table ~ Chapman College ~ The Actors Network ~ BAFTA ~ National University ~ Pepperdine Law Class ~ Creative Actors Alliance ~ Sherwood Oaks College ~ Academy of TV Arts and Sciences ~ WGA ~ SAG ~ Filmmakers Alliance ~ Cinema Arts Tech ~ New Brunswick Film Industry Summit (Fredericton, NB) ~ Filmmakers Collaborative (Boston) ~ Latino Producers Academy (NALIP) (Tucson and Santa Fe) ~  Learning Annex (Los Angeles) ~ Scriptwriters Network ~ Great American Pitch Fest ~ Action/Cut Filmmaking ~ IFP West ~ California Institute of the Arts ~ Hollywood Film Festival ~ Film Specific ~ REEL Ladies ~ Gary Goldstein Podcast ~ AFCI Cineposium (Association of Film Commissioners International) ~ New Mexico Filmmakers Conference (Albuquerque) ~ The Black Film Festival ~ InkTip Writers’ Summit ~ Columbia College Chicago Film Financing Townhall (IIFF) ~ Sandra Lord’s Women Helping Women ~ Braveheartwomen.com ~ ScreenwritingU ~ International Family Film Festival ~ NATPE ~ AIA Actor’s Studio ~ Breaking Into Hollywood ~ Curry College (Massachusetts) ~ American Film Market (Producer’s Program) ~ Singapore Media Academy (Singapore) ~ AFM (American Film Market) ~ Columbia College Graduate Film Program (Associate Professor Spring Sessions) ~ New York Film School ~ IFH Podcast (IndieFilmHustle.com) ~  Indie Film Academy ~ Hollywood Entertainment Industry Meetup ~ Sisters in Crime Conference ~ The Other 50%-A Herstory of Hollywood ~ Lawrence Harte’s Internet TV Podcast ~ SoundMindBodyPodcast.com

Some Topics Have Included:

The Six Stages of the Pitch; How to Market Yourself and Your Projects; The 10 Secrets to Success in Hollywood; How to Jump Start Your Career; Four Stages to Closing the Deal; Networking and Creating Relationships in the Entertainment Industry (& any Industry); Where Do You Go From Here; How to Get More Work (Thinking Outside the Box); Putting Your Career in High Gear; How to Get a Mentor; Active Listening; Act Now and Sky Rocket Your Career; High Powered Career Strategies; Booking the Job; Launching the Future: How to Have Your Best Year Ever; How to Create a Paradigm Shift; Funding Your Indie Film; and Indie Film Producing (Full day program based on my book: “Indie Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking” as well as private sessions or segments (from one to four hours) covering aspects that include “Creating a Killer Sales Presentation,” “How to Fund your Film,” “Wearing the Business Hat.” and many more)

To book Suzanne for a speaking engagement, keynote speaker, panelist, moderator or for more information on her workshops, contact Suzanne at 818-516-9781 snowfallfilms@aol.com   

Books She’s Been Featured In Include:

“Complete Production Handbook” by Eve Light Honthaner. Check out this great book here.



“Hollywood Drive” by Eve Light Honthaner. The Amazon link is here.




Michael Hauge’s “Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read”. For more info on what Michael has in store check out www.screenplaymastery.com.



Another excellent book Suzanne had the honor to be a part of a couple of years ago is “Birthing the Elephant” by Karen Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman with a forward by Bobbi Brown. A great book that features a number of women entrepreneurs giving advice on starting and maintaining a business.


Another excellent book Suzanne had the honor to be a part of a couple of years ago is “Birthing the Elephant” by Karen Abarbanel and Bruce Freeman with a forward by Bobbi Brown. A great book that features a number of women entrepreneurs giving advice on starting and maintaining a business.

“Create For Cash” by Julie Austin. Check out Julie’s Website at www.createforcash.com.

A few years ago, Suzanne was also featured in “Make It Happen”, the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business annual magazine.