Streamline Spotlight: Sabine Ong, Project Manager for Streamline Studios

Welcome to Streamline Media Group’s ongoing blog series where we interview a Streamliner from one of SMG’s business divisions.

I spoke with Sabine Ong, a project manager at Streamline Studios (SLS), to discuss what exactly a project manager does, especially for a studio such as Streamline Studios.

Streamline Studios is Streamline Media Group’s business division that covers a multitude of aspects of games development, from pre-production to post-production, and everything in-between. Since its founding in 2001, SLS has worked with international clients of all sizes to help them achieve their vision and accomplish their game dev goals.

 

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Can you please introduce yourself and your role in Streamline Studios?

Hey there! I’m Sabine, a project manager here at Streamline Studios. I have always loved video games and film since a young age so it’s a privilege to have been given the chance to work here.

 

How long have you been in this role? Approximately how many projects do you estimate you have worked on since becoming a project manager?

I’ve been here for a little over two years now and have worked on approximately fourteen-to-sixteen projects. Some projects are long-term while some can be as short as a month. In fact, there’s a project that I’ve worked on since I joined and it’s still ongoing!

 

Prior to becoming a project manager, did you have any other roles at Streamline Studios?

Nope, this is my first role in Streamline Studios or even in the video games industry.

 

What does a project manager do? What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

We do many things! Ultimately our goal is to make sure that the projects run as smoothly as possible on all fronts. Some examples are making sure that information is being communicated to and from all parties involved, keeping tasks on schedule or rescheduling if necessary, making sure the team has the hardware or software they need, and troubleshooting. We’re the bridge that connects and facilitates everyone in the whole process.

On top of all that, we’re working with teams that are made up of complex individuals in many different roles. We’re very entrenched with running the company so we also get involved with reviews, promotions, acclimatizing new employees, and even performance issues.

 

What tools and software do you use on a regular basis?

Here at Streamline, Streamframe is our go-to project management tool. We use it every day to keep track of all progress and communicate within the organization. It really helps that we have a central tool considering the number of projects we work on.

Other software we mainly use to help with our work is Microsoft Office: Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. We do occasionally use other tools which are project dependent and based on what the clients need.

 

What are some of the skills that are needed to be a good project manager?

The most important skills are people and communication skills. We’re constantly having to interact with all kinds of people across different languages, cultures, and regions. It’s important that we know how to listen, to communicate, and to relate to others, from clients to artists to managers on a professional level. We also need to effectively convey vision, ideas, goals, and issues as well as produce reports and presentations.

Other essential skills would be leadership, time management, planning skills, negotiation, risk management, and subject matter expertise.

The most important skills are people and communication skills.

 

 

How is the role of a project manager different when working for a studio that does co-development?

We have multiple projects and shorter timeframes. We tend to be involved with several projects at any one time so keeping a cool head is important. The pace at which we work also greatly differs; some things are more urgent and need to go at a faster speed. Because of that changes happen very often, we have to be constantly on our feet and adapt quickly to the changes that happen. This means we gain experience faster by going through more project cycles.

We also have better insight into the market as we work with multiple clients. We can see what they are doing and how different each company manages their projects. This gives us the opportunity to take the things that work for us and implement it into our own workflows.

 

How does your role change throughout a project, from pre-production to production, to wrapping up a project and submitting the final assets to the client?

I’d say that differs with the working style of each project manager. For me, I like to get my hands dirty and get involved with the team in the pre-production and production phases. I love to collaborate with the art director, leads, and artists on the creative process figuring out new ideas or techniques to solve the needs of our clients. Everyone involved can have great ideas so it’s up to us to facilitate that and ensure we’re all contributing to make it better.

Nearing the end of a project, we must ensure that everything has been delivered to the client, so we’ll need to facilitate the submission process. You could say that we’re a collector at this point as we gather all the work that has been done, whether it be documentation or source files, and deliver it to the client. At the same time, we would have to work on finalizing various reports and analyzing the results. It’s the time when we can look back to see what went right, what went wrong and how we can improve for the next round. Think of it as a kaizen process where we are always continuously learning and improving.

[Editor’s note: Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement.” In business terms, it refers to the practice of continually improving one’s business processes.]

 

What have you learned about being a project manager?

The key is communication. We often say that this is important but it’s also the hardest thing to do or make happen on all levels. It is the thing that drives the work and makes sure things are running smoothly. Whenever a breakdown happens, a problem tends to pop up and time is needed to fix it. One must have lots of endurance and discipline to avoid that as much as possible.

Another thing would be that to it’s okay to make mistakes. To err is human but it’s more about how we turn things around and do better. If we make a mistake, we should own up to it and avoid excuses or lay blame. We deal with the facts, see what can be done to avoid this happening again or to mitigate it as much as possible, and move forward.

 

Are you working on any projects that you can talk about publicly? If so, can you elaborate on what those projects are, and when we can expect to hear more about them?

Unfortunately, not now. Most projects I’m involved in are in the pre-production phases, so it’ll take a few years before I can even talk about them. But I can say I have worked with clients from all over the world like Japan, USA, and China, so that’s what’s exciting!

 

What’s the best part about being a project manager at Streamline Studios?

The diversity. Diverse cultures, people, and projects. I’ve worked with many people across different cultures and many different projects in scale and genres. There’s never a dull moment!

 

Anything else you would like to add?

It all sounds rather stressful, but I want to say that it’s been a very rewarding experience working here as a project manager. All the blood, sweat, and tears are worth it when I see what the team here at Streamline has constantly achieved and continues to strive for.

 

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Special thanks to Sabine Ong for her insight on being a project manager for Streamline Studios.

Sabine is just one of the many experienced creative team members at Streamline Studios who dedicate themselves to helping bring their clients’ projects to completion.

If you’re interested in knowing more or would like to work with Streamline Studios, please reach out to us -- and we are hiring!


Streamline Studios' attends the largest Level Up KL to date

Level Up KL 2017 brought together an amazing collection of video game executives and talent. An array of compelling speakers, a hall of young eager developers, and food! What would a big event in Malaysia be without food?!

Networking opportunities were well organized and plentiful. The Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) worked hard to deliver networking opportunities and to showcase the rapidly growing Southeast Asian games industry. “It’s about letting people do their thing,” said Hasnul Samsudin, MDEC Creative Content & Technology Vice President, the godfather of Malaysian Games.

The opening keynote was delivered by Luis Cataldi, Director of Education Learning, Epic Games, who took us on a quick tour of the technology available in the Unreal Engine. Other speakers included Danny Koo, Senior Producer at Marvel Entertainment, Hector Fernandez, Director of International Third Party Relations at Sony Interactive, Shota Nakama, CEO of SoundTrec, Alitt Khaliq, Art Director at EA Ghost, and of course, our very own CEO, Alexander Fernandez, Streamline Studios.

This was the biggest Level Up to date. Every year this event grabs space on the busy video game show calendar. But this year marked something else. The world is beginning to take notice of the SEA games market. More media traveled here from the US and Europe. More developers arrived from faraway shores. The SEA games industry has arrived.

Cataldi said in his talk “great ideas come from happy accidents.” He was talking about the flexibility in the Unreal Engine. But what happened at Level Up was no happy accident. It came about as the result of hard work on the part of dozens of dedicated MDEC workers. Streamline stepped forward with a Platinum Sponsorship, but without MDEC, the SEA games industry wouldn’t be evolving as fast as it is and for that we thank them.

Streamline Studios opened its doors to a parade of visitors. The studios are located right across the street from the event, so it became a major stop for visiting developers, writers, producers, composers, all the great talent of the video game world. A special treat for us was a chance for our Streamline team to quiz Marvel Entertainment, Senior Producer, Danny Koo on the challenges and decisions that go into developing games at the iconic brand. “Do you know how many characters Marvel has in its universe?” Danny asked the team. “8000!” I guess it is a while before they run out of game ideas.

Thanks again to MDEC for Level Up 2017. See you next year!


Streamline Studios presents VR fishing game to the PM of Malaysia.

On Thursday 19th October 2017 Streamline Studios did something momentous; we joined our partners Square Enix to present our co-development VR project ‘Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV’ to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

That is not an ordinary sentence for us. Or many others in our industry. Government support is not a common theme in the gaming industry, but Malaysia is at the fore-front of this unchartered venture. Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is the lead agency in driving the digital economy in Malaysia. They work directly with the government to ensure the tech industry is appropriately represented, talent is nurtured, and the growth strategy is sustainable.

Streamline Studios was lucky enough to partner with MDEC early in our arrival to Southeast Asia. In MDEC we found that elusive, often mythical creature, a partner that brings out the best in us, expands our vision, and shares our values. Through this partnership we continuously work towards building the SEA gaming hub, right here in Malaysia.

Our collaboration with SQEX is a major part of this work. Bringing one of the largest game developer and publishers to these tropical shores, and showcasing the talent available in this region is one of Streamline’s greatest achievements. Having this recognised by the Malaysian government shows the commitment of our partners to showcase the regions progress, and ensures we continue to move in the right direction.

As our CEO, Alexander Fernandez shared the stage with SQEX (Shinji Hashimoto, and Wan Hazmer) and MDEC (Hasnul Hadi Samsudin) the message was abundantly clear: Together we can make great things. The irony of this event culminating in a fishing game experience was poignant; the skills of a successful fisherman are patience, resilience, and determination. All traits we and our partners have drawn upon in the process of creating this game. And all lead towards the big win; catching the big fish. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was coached towards his big catch in the ‘Monster of the Deep: Final Fantasy XV’ demo. We’ll take this as a good omen for the future of #MYGameOn.


For more info check out News English video:

(Tip: we’re featured at 00:49)


Recapping DNA Serverware – A Gathering of Gamers

With hundreds of participants flooding the scenes of Four Points by Sheraton Puchong, DNA Serverware achieved their set aims to reach and unite key players of the gaming scene in Malaysia by showing strong numbers at the second edition of the gamers’ gathering.

The event united prominent game developers, exotic cosplayers, famous gaming personalities that brought vibrant energy to the event. Some key players in the games scene shared their journey in games and provided interesting perspective citing where the industry is headed to. Among the participants, Streamline Studios was represented by Learning & Development Manager, Azlan Ismail who rocked the stage with strong energy while he shared about key opportunities that exist in the games industry with an attentive audience.

All in all, the event served as a great platform where many business relationships were built, great ideas and knowledge shared. More importantly, we witnessed a strong sense of unity between the different players in the industry that came together to grow, play and share which was the big win overall.


 


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https://www.streamline-studios.com/events/


Streamline celebrates Deepavali!

Streamline Studios is one big family with over 32 nationalities, so when it comes to celebrating our differences and culture, we do it the Streamline way! Recently, Streamliners celebrated Diwali or Deepavali, a Hindu festival of lights celebration all around the world that signifies victory of light over darkness.

Many Streamliners dressed up in Indian traditional clothes, adorned the office with cultural decorations and celebrated the occasion with a potluck style get-together to share a great variety of scrumptious, mouth-watering Indian cuisine. Here’s a sneak peak of what went down:



It was a fun experience for everyone!


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Recapping Gamescom 2017


With hundreds of thousands of gamers, journalists, developers and exhibitors descending on Cologne, Gamescom is a must-attend in the video game industry. This year was no exception.

We love going to the convention. It’s great place for us to take the pulse of the industry. And this year we sensed something exciting.

Games are in full dev. Incredible titles are in the pipelines of studios worldwide. Technology is advancing in huge leaps. An industry is rapidly evolving right before our eyes and rising to new heights.

Europe’s development scene is in full-up mode, including a strong focus on mobile. Products are starting to flow into the marketplace. As the complexity of games increases, co-development projects are starting to become the norm, partnerships forming to create solutions from multiple levels of expertise.

We’re also seeing the emergence of new players entering the space. Brands and industries are sensing opportunities to use games to forge connections with consumers and expand the scope of games in multiple directions. The focus is not so much on how to get into games, but how to join game projects as a multi-touch experience, increasing a game’s value by creating experiences around a game. An example would be Rockstar’s promotion tie-in with Gears of War.
As these ideas flowed across our Gamescom meetings, the idea of co-development emerged as a logical response to industry trends. There appeared no better way to alleviate risk and promote participation than by redefining partnerships in the external development space. Streamframe, our development management software system, is custom built to ease the workflow in the co-development process and response to the platform at the show was terrific. It confirmed our thinking on the evolution of the industry and made us excited at the possibilities on the horizon for the entire industry.

With the games industry heading north of $100 billion dollars, the technologies and stories to be told are boundless. And so was the palpable sense of excitement on the floor of Gamescom 2017.

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Gamescom Official Website: http://www.gamescom-cologne.com/gamescom/index-9.php


Are Video Games an Art Form? Consider Rez HD

You can draw a direct line from Fantasia to Michel Gondry to Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Some games rise to art. Rez HD is one example.

The techno pulse of the game draws you in, creates a compelling vortex, the geometric grace of the game design spins you through a tron-like trance. This is the idea. To engage the emotions, like the pounding experience of the dance club floor. Flashing lights. Bright colors. Four on the floor. You get lost in this game.

"With Rez, it was more about conveying the joy of listening to music through a game. The two titles share a common denominator in that they’re based around music, but they have a very different sort of expression. One aims to make you happy; to make you want to get up and dance, while the other aims to create a deeper response to the creation of music itself." Tetsuya Mizuguchi gaming.moe

It was the Russian artist Wassily Kadinsky that thought to pursue the concept of sonic vibration in an art. He called it Synaesthesia.

"Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul." Kadinsky

 

Mizuguchi followed this inspiration from the techno clubs to his game.

"I was reminded of that and Kandinsky's concept of synaesthesia. I thought, 'If I could bring this kind of feel to a game, what kind of game can I make?' I didn't have any answers at that time. I needed time. So maybe three or four years later, I had a very funny image of something - visuals and sounds, a spark like that. Then I was getting the music. We tested many types of this kind of process, and that's how we made Rez." Wired

It's difficult to see art when it first arrives. Time is the ultimate arbitrator of what is and what is not art. Are video games now considered a legitimate art form? What Mizuguchi is seeking is an emotional response to games that has proved elusive. Someone might walk through the Louvre and break down in tears at a beautiful painting, but can that happen with a game? And is that even a fair benchmark to distinguish art?

"The experience is getting greater in the games industry. Just 40 years ago, we started from black and white dots. No sound, just beep sounds. Then we got colours, 2D then 3D… but we will have a much greater evolution in future games." 

Rez HD first dropped in 2008. it's closing in on a decade. And the game still resonates in a unique way. It conjured a future for us

"Maybe we won't be able to tell the difference between real images and generated images. Maybe we'll be able to see a movie and stop to change the point of view in the future. We need to prepare all the time. We need that kind of inspiration." 

 

Check out our portfolio here


How Do You Become A Video Game Designer?

How to be a video game designer? Play games. Don’t play games. A contradiction? No. Here’s why.

Play

First the yes. Playing games is where you begin for a very simple reason. You’re going to be designing games people play. So a basic understanding of what is good gameplay and what is bad gameplay is critical. An ugly game with great gameplay will do a lot better than a great looking game with mediocre gameplay. So understanding the difference is step number one and the best way to learn is break out the controller and play. And play. And play.

Okay, you played all the way through school and became a game ninja, and now you have to pay the rent. Bummer. What are you going to do? Become a video game designer, right? Okay, but what does that mean?

Well, in a very fundamental sense it means stop playing video games.

Confused?

Let me explain.

Don't Play

The goal is not to become a video game designer, but to become the absolute best video game designer you can possibly be and to do that you need the very broadest range of skills you can possibly get.

But not only skills, knowledge. Knowledge of art, design, architecture, music, writing, planning, thinking. Thinking is the most important thing, understanding conceptual thinking, how artists think, how filmmakers think, how they pose and answer conceptual problems. How business people think, how they budget, forecast, work financial deals across global borders. What don’t you need to know? You need to know everything, so start opening yourself up to all sorts of things. If you can do that and play games be my guest, but most likely you can’t, and increasing your knowledge base is critical if you ever hope to conquer the world of video game design.

Trust me. Every skill you acquire will be put to use in your career. Nothing is ever wasted. It’s just the way it works. So put down the controller and experience things, travel, sing, walk, run, learn what is meant by the phrase abstract thinking. It separates the bees from the wannabees.

That’s what I meant by yes and no. Play games and don’t play games. You need to do both.

So, you’re cramming all this wide world of things into your head (that never stops, btw) now what?

T-pose

Let’s talk t-pose for a sec. T-pose is a concept that in any career you need one fundamental skill you can build on and rely on as you go forward. See? Like standing on one solid leg and all your other skill spread out from there. It looks like the letter T. So you begin there. Master one thing. Art. Programming. Producing. Writing. Wherever your career takes you (and if you’re talking video game designing it can bring you to a million different places,) you have that one core skill that anchors your entire career. Whatever that skill is master it. Not only will it provide stability in your career, but it will also serve as a key to get you going, to get you in the door, and ultimately, that’s your first goal: To get a job.

I guess that’s another way of saying master your tools. Learn several code languages, find out how to use Unity, learn how to build a budget in Excel. Like I said, what do you need to know? Everything.

 

The Magic Tool

I like to end with a little story. I met this guy at GDC earlier this year, nice guy, an old hand like me, and we were talking about designing, the difference between working in games and maybe something else, like graphic design. This guy had done both and more. In fact, at one point he’d been a draftsman in the Navy. He’d done a lot of stuff, so I asked was there one fundamental thing that worked across all designing disciplines? He thought about it a moment and then grabbed a pad out of his bag and threw a pencil on top. “Always start by working things out with pencil and paper.”

Don’t get hypnotized by technology. Great design is more fundamental. The most awesome design tool ever invented is a #2 pencil. Master that first.


Using Video Games To Change The World

Is it crazy to think video games might save the world? Read on.

There’s only so many hours in a week. I think about this stuff all the time. Tick tock. Life slipping by. So what do we do with all this precious time? Well, for one thing, we’re spending billions of hours a week playing games. Nice. Really. Why not kick back with a good old video game and conquer the world? Or the galaxy? We all love a good romp through the Outback in Horizon or embarking on a journey, as they say, without limits in Final Fantasy XV.

Remember the 60s? I didn’t think so. But between Beatles and Dick Nixon they started doing something no one else but a research scientist would find interesting. They started tracking our leisure time. How did they do that? I have no idea, but Jane McGonigal does. Check out her TED talk here. Cool stuff. I do know since that time we’ve gained about 8 hours a week. Does that sound like a lot? Research scientist say yes and who am I to argue with them?

Hey, you know what? I bet in the entire history of everything we’ve never had this much leisure time. Think about it. You can slay a wild slurpie any time you want at the local 7/11 (or global equivalent.) Try that in the Stone Age. We had bigger things to worry about back then. Or even the 1940s. They weren’t playing games. But now? The state of the art VR game almost defies imagination. And where it’s going is beyond belief.

But wait a sec. We’ve got big problems in the world, right? Hunger, obesity, poverty, wealth inequality, climate change, climate denial, the god and the godless, a world of clashes, and we collectively spend almost 20 billion hours a week playing games? You look at that long list of global woe, and you go, yeah, let my pull out the RPG and get lost. Reality sucks. I get it.

But the point McGonigal makes is this: We harness all that insane focused gamer-power and use it to do good. I mean if you can work your way through Dark Souls you might be able to work on world hunger. Or climate change.

People get into games. They take to them in a profound way. They connect with them; the stories, the characters, the environments; the subtexts, the colors, the music. It all matters. And it’s a fantastic opportunity.

I'm not suggesting mind-control. I’m suggesting mindfulness. And focus.

When people enter a world of games, when they begin the journey you’ve designed for them, the experience, they are surrendering to you. They are yours. And something else. They are leaving the real world behind.

Online they are entering a world of co-operation, problem-solving, and challenge. In many ways, in the world of games, they raise their game beyond what they do in the real world. And this becomes an opportunity to raise their awareness. Game playing, in a very fundamental way, can affect life playing in a very positive way. What if there was a way to harness gamers’ superpowers?

The team McGonigal worked on, Institute for the Future, put together a game called Superstruct. They got 8000 gamers to play. Their job was to ‘invent the future of energy, the future of food, the future of health, the future of security and the future of the social safety net.’ The solutions they came up were ‘insanely creative.’

Can video gamers save the world? Why not? Somebody has to.


What's The Entrepreneur's Secret Sauce? Ingredient #5 Sets You Free

They're the wizards of the business world. Striking out on their own and flipping companies like a short order cook at the pancake grill. But what's their secret?

They get up in the morning, stretch, brush their teeth and head to the local coffee shop, but that's where they change into a different being. Entrepreneurs approach their day with an entirely different perspective. Here are five ways the entrepreneur is different than the rest of us.

Why are they important? Because even if you don't own a business, these things will help you out in your life.

1. WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?

Here's a little nugget: Working as an entrepreneur you learn to never, ever discard any idea. I can't tell you how many times I've worked on an idea, said this idea sucks, it's wrong, it has no merit, then at the end of the process of refining it, I suddenly realize it's an excellent idea. In fact, my crappy idea mysteriously morphed into a winning idea.

How's that?

Why is that?

I don't know. But I do know it happens, and I do know talking to other entrepreneurs they do the same thing. Never make assumptions until it becomes abundantly clear you're down the wrong path. And even then, months later, you may discover, hey, that's where you want to be.

It's likely you're reading this post on a smartphone with a touch screen. Well, Hewlett-Packard invented that technology 30 years before it was put to use, and that was by another company. An idea they discarded as impractical was just an idea decades before it's time.

I have this thought that the brain doesn't come up with bad ideas. Another way of saying our brains are a lot smarter than we are. Our goal is to get out of the brain's way. Follow your gut. That's a way of saying a bad idea is just an idea that might not be understood yet. Give your ideas time. You might surprise yourself!

And when you get the idea going take the next step.

2. 30,000-FOOT VIEW

If you want to get a view of what's going on, take off to the clouds. Do you know that detached view of things you get when you're gazing out the window of a jet? The world is down there, but in an odd way it has nothing to do with you. Entrepreneurs learn to develop that detachment. Not every moment of the day, but now and then it helps just to float above a situation.
From 30, 000 feet you get to the long view. The little things disappear and the big things remain and your focus naturally drifts to the decisions that matter, the ones that make the difference. This helps in business, and it helps in life. And here's something else that helps.

3. DON'T TIE KNOTS, UNTIE KNOTS

I've been in production for almost 30 years, and I've seen two types of producers. Those who cause problems and those who prevent problems. Like most things in life, I think it boils down to a kind of fear.

Entrepreneurs see problems as opportunities. You get to strut your stuff. You get to rise to the challenge. You get to try out new ideas, uncover new techniques, discover new paths. Problems are anything but problems, unless you don't have the skill set or temperament to deal with them, then your approach is probably to cause more problems.

Ego comes into play as well. Real entrepreneurs are happy to find answers wherever they find them and give credit too. A great business is a place where everybody is working together, and that's the entrepreneur's ultimate goal - a functioning, well-oiled machine. Which brings us to this:

4. ALL TOGETHER NOW

This is the no man is an island part of our program. You can't do it alone. You need your family. You need your friends. Your team. Your need your network. Your clients. Your competitors. A lot of business focuses on financials, time-management, asset deployment, P&L sheets, planning, but the critical component in any business, big or small, is people. If I've learned anything after years of running a business and doing deals it's this: take a long hard look at the people involved, and if there's any doubt, any hesitation about their behavior or character, walk. Life's too short. You can work with good people just as easily as you can work with jerks. Be careful. But always remember this next bit.

5. THERE IS NO LIFE OR DEATH DECISION

Okay, sometimes there is, I'll admit, but most times, most days, most decades there's not, and certainly life or decisions in business are rare. Why is this important? Entrepreneurs make hundreds of decisions, big and small. We all do. Heck, deciding what pants to wear is a daily decision, but entrepreneurs recognize the most important thing is to make a decision - good OR bad. Decisions lead to momentum, and lack of momentum is more critical to the life of a business than a bad decision. Most bad decisions don't turn out all bad. And bad decisions can often be transformed into a learning event.

Make the decision. Don't hem and haw endlessly at every fork in the road. Make a decision and move one. Sometimes the best decision is the wrong decision. I learned a valuable lesson from golf: never spoil a good shot with a bad mouth. In other words, after you swing, keep your mouth shut until you see the result. That way if the ball went someplace you didn't intend, but it turned out to be a good place, you can still take credit for it! Be decisive: the entrepreneur's creed.