Dominic Pandolfino | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Dominic Pandolfino


Founded in 1996 by Dominic Pandolfino, Nice Shoes is a New York-based post-production company that offers editing, color grading and visual effects services, among others. The company has helped produce commercials for such companies asGE, Pepsi, McDonald’s and American Express.

The Mistake:

We started our first company [Manhattan Transfer] in 1983. By 1986 that company was in a free fall, because it had gone public, and it wasn’t about the content we were producing, it was about the numbers for the public. By ’96 it was apparent it was going in the wrong direction, and we felt New York deserved better than that. So we left and started Nice Shoes.  

Our goal was to show New York we could do a better job, but the mistake we made was that our only goal was to outdo our previous company. We fulfilled that within five years—we were by far the best post-production company in New York. The problem with doing that is it’s not a long-term goal, it’s not really a goal set in a positive way. It’s almost a negative goal. It’s like showing somebody up rather than showing how well you can do something. By 2001, there was an influx of companies from England and from the West Coast, and that competition made me realize we were not properly focused.  

When a business does really well, and money is plentiful, it covers up a myriad of sins. So from 2001 to 2008, even though we saw lots of competition come into New York and do really good work, financially we were doing so well we could almost ignore it. In order to get into my business, it costs a lot of money, millions of dollars, but by 2008 and the Great Recession, the price of entering it had really fallen dramatically. So we were getting competition at the highest level from these great companies from London and Los Angeles, and on the lower end from the young kids just graduating college who can do work for much less money. That was the beginning of my realization that we needed to compete.

And how did we want to compete? Did we want to compete on that low level, did we want to compete on that high level? We had to rediscover our core purpose. I realized that what got me up every morning was, I wanted to be part of a company that created really compelling content. 

Swing for the fences ... and the score will take care of itself.

The Lesson:

We have now spent almost three and a half years trying to hire the right people and put them in the right seats on the bus. It’s about hiring really great people who are also extremely talented, and it’s about having a great client experience. Nothing puts a smile on my face more than when I hear people talk about Nice Shoes, and what a great experience they had at the company. Every client that works here, I look at like it’s a partner of mine. I want them to trust completely that we are a company where not only will they have a great product, but they’ll have a great experience. That all starts with having the right people. This is New York City—there are tons of people who can do that work, but in order to work at Nice Shoes and be a part of the team, they have to be a really outstanding individual as well.  

Why do we get up in the morning, and who do we want to be with every day to be able to do the end-to-end production and post-production work at the highest levels possible? It’s not about the money. There’s a book by Bill Walsh, the old coach of the 49ers, called “The Score Takes Care of Itself.” That’s kind of how I run my business. I tell people all the time, swing for the fences. Sometimes you’re going to strike out, sometimes you’re going to pop out. But you’re great at what you do, just keep on doing what you do, and the score will take care of itself. You’re not going to win every game, but you’ll do really well.

Follow Nice Shoes on Twitter at @NiceShoesOnline.

Pictured: Dominic Pandolfino. | Photo courtesy of Nice Shoes.

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