Now, most animators I know have dreams of someday starting their own studio, and "doing it right, darn it"! But what I have in mind is a little different, specifically because most of the differences WAT will have are based on the fundamental business/organization/financial model of the company - NOT on the method or subject of the cartoons it will produce.
We Animate Things is a worker-cooperative.
Put simply, the company is owned collectively by its employees (or member-owners), at a one-person-one-vote level of control. I originally stumbled upon this form of business trying to answer the question "What if I don't want to make a non-profit OR for-profit company, I just want a company to let me do animation for a living?" I'm happy with the company not being a monument to me, but worker co-ops go a step further and say that the company isn't a monument to anyone, unless everyone wants it to be.
Worker Cooperatives plug the "money hole".
In a privately-held business, the owner(s) needn't be involved in the business at all - and any profits earned by the company are paid out to the owners. In a publicly-held business, this is especially true- which is why most retirement plans nowadays are investment funds, and most public companies are largely owned by investment banks. Either way, this constitutes a huge leak in the company's bottom line - if the company earns a LOT of money, it leaks out the side, and those involved in making the company successful see relatively little of that improved income. In a cooperative, those funds have nowhere to leak to - the co-op is owned by its employees, so the extra profits can be either reinvested in the co-op or distributed to the member-owners. In effect, every dollar the co-op earns has a far larger impact on the co-op than its externally-owned cousins.
Worker Cooperatives are democratically-run and typically flat organizations.
All cooperatives generally run according to a set of principles called the "Rochdale Principles" - and among those is democratic control by the members. While this can take many forms, it means that this type of company has been doing 'flat management' before it was a popular thing. Remember Valve's amazing handbook outlining their operating structure? Fifty years or so ago, the W.L. Gore company (makers of Gore-Tex, Elixir Guitar strings, Glide dental floss, and many cardiovascular grafts) did exactly the the same thing - and are still wildly successful. Something to be said for joining a company and instead of being told "here go do this", hearing "Go find yourself something to do. People will tell you what's available to be done but there's no-one 'in charge' of you." And while most corporate corporations try to push their employees into "owning their work", in a worker-cooperatively this is literally the situation the employees are in - no pushing required. To facilitate democratic operation in WAT, we're currently running project management on BetterMeans which lets us see all the things available, and pick up work tasks - as well as collectively voting on what's important to do, and how much work value it ought to be worth.
Worker Cooperatives grow organically, according to the Dunbar Number.
It's not often mentioned in the literature I've been able to find, but it's most clearly mentioned in the documentation of how Gore grows its company, and I suspected it was true of the MASSIVELY successful Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain - 256 associated cooperative groups with 83000+ people seemed to match the numbers correctly. Recently I discovered that sure enough, Mondragon does it too. The basic idea is this: Dunbar's number is an estimate of how many people the human brain is capable of having in its 'social network' - and when monolithic groups grow beyond that many people, they tend to destabilize into politics and feuding. The trick that Gore and Mondragon have so successfully implemented is, once a "single cooperative" passes that threshold (200 for Gore, 500 for Mondragon), it is a matter of practice to split it along natural divisions into two separate groups, that both work under the same brand. These aren't arbitrary splits - "Half of you go here, half of you go there, and figure out what to take as your side" but rather according to logical divisions already extant in the group.
So for example, an animation studio could split into
- Crews working on show A and show B
- Preproduction, production, post production
- original content, and commissioned work
- animation and merchandising
- 2D and 3D production
- television and mobile gaming
- art and IT
Worker Cooperatives are generally more egalitarian about pay.
One of the really neat things is that most worker-cooperatives flatten their pay structure significantly - most small ones have one wage or salary that -everyone- makes. Even the big co-ops and companies like them (like Gore), keep the ratio between their least-paid employees and their highest-paid ones between 1:4.5 and 1:6. It's a matter of course - since the companies are run democratically, often pay information is available to everyone anyways, so it makes sense to keep everyone held to the same expectations. Not everyone makes the individual wages accessible within the company - Gore hides them, not to be able to short people on wages but to prevent people from assuming that "paid more" means "better than everyone else". But the point is, regardless, you don't have the massive income disparity like in traditional companies, where the board or CEO may be making millions a year and the lowest person on the org chart is getting minimum wage. Besides, with democratic organization, the leaders are ordinary employees their peers have elected to do the organization and metadata jobs, not specialists pulled from Wall Street to "whip the peons into profitability" - and often lead for one project, then step back into an ordinary work role when the work being done by their group changes.
At any rate, this is what I want to do to revolutionize my industry, and build my (soon to be 'our') animation studio. I'm not particularly concerned about sharing this idea here - because unlike corporate business concepts, this (a) has been around for a long LONG time, and (b) encourages cooperation rather than competition. If I make my studio and get it to work this way, great! If you do it first, I'd love to work at yours. But the point is, I'd love to work with people to make this happen. Right now, I'm working with six other people on a small pony short, to get us used to working with a team - but I hope to move on to making original cartoons once that's done (and probably some more pony stuff just for fun, because hey, it's fun.) So if anyone else out there is a talented artist/animator and would like to help out with this project, or building the future of WAT, let me know, hit me up on Skype or whatever.