- The choice to start a small business is not due to failure in a large one, but rather vision and drive to pursue one’s individual dream.
- The pursuit of that dream is a lonely one and success is rooted in an effective support system.
- Small business people are visionary experts in their chosen field of practice.
- The only effective way to serve small business is through connection and collaboration.
- Small business people don’t need tools, they need solutions.
- The internet creates leverage-able crossroads for efficient communication.
- Readily available, best-of-breed solutions are more than sufficient to serve most small business needs.
- Time is any small business person's most important asset.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The news is true. As of the end of this month, I will no longer be the CEO of Pictage. That doesn't mean though that I won't be involved with the company. In fact, I'll be very involved. The investors who have stepped up to take a controlling position in the company have asked me to take an active role as Chairman of the Board and to maintain my less formal role as spokesperson. I'll be speaking at the uberpug in Nashville next week, at the PUG in Maine the day after Labor Day and at the New York City PUG during the second week in January. I'll also be continuing to interact with Pictage's amazing customers on the Pictage Forums.
I've loved the time I've spent with you all. I can truly say that as an industry you're an amazing and inspiring group of stunningly talented souls. The photography marketplace has great character (and great characters). While I had my hands on the reigns I did my best to move Pictage into a place where it could serve the industry as it changed. We succeeded in some places, we failed in others. That's how life is. I'm immensely proud of what the staff accomplished during these three short years, for themselves and for the legacy of the company started so many years ago.
This blog existed before Pictage and it will exist after. While many of the posts here have been directed at the photography marketplace specifically (for obvious reasons) the undercurrent really works for all small businesses and helping small businesses succeed has been my real passion for many years.
I always say what's next is what's important. I really mean that. I don't know what's next for me yet. At least through the end of the year I'll be pretty busy around here. When I know I'll probably say something about it here. Both of my readers will be relieved.
I'm still just me.
Friday, July 27, 2012
- Review all of the available information about the reason for the decision so you have a thorough understanding.
- Take the time to think of the downside risks of the decision. What bad things are going to happen because you are making this decision?
- Bring in the person who is most likely to disagree with the decision. Tell them the decision. Listen to their view. (this is what you pay them for). BTW - The benefits of this are too many to list but high among them is that it is really a form of torture for the person you are listening to. They know that most of the time you’re going to go ahead and make the decision anyway. However, they also know that every once in a while, due to some miracle, solar flare, etc. you might actually listen to them. They don’t know which circumstance this will be until they’re done. (or until your eyes glaze over and you fall backwards over your exercise ball - if you happen to sit on one as I do - and hit your head on the window sill).
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Monday, July 23, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
“Choosing to be a professional photographer because you think it will be fun is a little like choosing to be a plumber because you like to play with water.”
Let’s get down to basics:
Monday, July 16, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
- If you write an email in frustration don’t put anything in the “To” box until you’ve had sufficient time to review. That will keep you from sending it before you’re ready. The harsher the email the longer you want to wait before you send it. This can be anywhere from 10 seconds (and after a very thorough proof read) to 4 days for me. I just leave them sitting in my ‘drafts’ folder.
- If I want to vent about something publicly I take a long time to think about it first. I’ve found my public rants rarely accomplish much. They make me look unstable. They make my customers nervous. When I’ve done this in the past I get the most random notes from people trying to help me. Then I have to reply to all of them. I worry more about the people who didn’t send a note.
- For bigger frustrations and even big decisions I invoke the 24 hour rule. I actually learned this from my good friend, John Zdanowski, easily one of the smartest guys I’ve ever known (though if you know him you have to get him to tell you the stop, drop and roll story). When we came up with a great idea or when we were greatly frustrated he would say, “OK, mandatory 24 hour cooling off period is in effect.” I still say that now. It works. In the end it saves me so much time.
- The 10 second rule works for me in conversations. When I’m starting to get frustrated I make a decision to slow down the cadence of the conversation. I hate saying things I don’t mean. I hate apologizing for things I’ve said. There is nothing more frustrating then being wronged and then having to apologize to the person who wronged you because you said something stupid. So now, I actually sort of lump all of this into one basic rule that we all heard growing up. Count to 10. I can count to 10 really fast. If I stop myself and actually have to think, 1 1000, 2 1000, 3 1000, 4 1000, etc. then that makes me think of something besides my budding anger. It’s amazing when I do this how often the anger subsides.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
- Pictage does not charge photographers per image. We charge per page just like everyone else.
- New Sequoia and Aspen Albums do not warp. They can’t. In reinventing this line we searched high and low for the highest quality materials. We’ve tested them in ways you couldn’t imagine. They come with a 100% no-warp guarantee.
- New Sequoia and Aspen Albums are not expensive. In fact, Sequoia 2s are among the lowest priced, highest quality albums you can buy. (this leaves room for you to make money).
- You do not have to use Pictage Album Design. Obviously you can if you like but we built the easiest album ordering tools available for folks who want to make their own designs their own ways. (Seriously - like 3 clicks).
- Pictage does not take commission on wholesale albums. We don’t take commission on any wholesale sale.
- Once you add in the subscription, etc it’s the same price as everyone else. Not likely. You have to see the prices of these books to believe that.
Monday, April 23, 2012
- Listen to the message, not the tone. It takes a mature soul to be able to see or hear a perceived insult and not take it personally. I try to determine the origin of the complaint and decide if it is worthy, if it is something I’m already doing something about and if it merits a response.
- People are going to complain. Make sure they complain to you. You’d be amazed how often a ‘grumbler’ can become a stalwart defender of your character, most often because you took the time to listen to what they have to say and respond in a way that honors their opinion.
- Don’t respond when you’re mad. I’ve probably written a thousand emails that I never sent. I have a simple rule. If I’m mad I don’t press send. I make sure that I don’t by leaving the “to” field blank. I save it as a draft and come back to it the next day. Sometimes I send them and sometimes I don’t.
- Teach your people to listen, too. The single most destructive thing a leader can do is tell the leaders in an organization that they should not listen to criticism, whatever its form. No one person will ever be smarter than the collective view. Good ideas nearly always come from criticism. This doesn’t mean you always have to do what a critic says. In fact, the opposite is almost always true, but the problem with not listening is that you turn off the information inputs and that will ultimately kill an organization because the people who contribute will stop caring.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Every presentation isn’t perfect. The presenters aren’t always cute or funny (at least not intentionally). Sometimes their delivery is downright boring. And these are all of the best reasons to be at conferences like Inspire Photo in Boston. I know what you’re thinking ... Huh? Here’s what I mean...
The speakers at Inspire_Photo weren’t there because this was another stop on the tour. Few of them ever do workshops and almost none have ever traveled to teach. Every single one is a working, professional photographer with a successful studio. They may not have been polished, but every presentation was chalk full of very practical advice. Note pages were filled. The time went too fast.
As great as the teaching was it wasn’t the only reason to attend the conference. The reason to attend was the breakfasts and lunches and dinners and after dinners. The karaoke and the dancing (mostly very bad!) and the laughter and most importantly, the connection. These are the reasons to attend Inspire. (well - maybe not the Karaoke ...)
Inspire is different. It is a conference put on by photographers for photographers. While Pictage is a financial sponsor, along with Adorama, Shoot dot Edit, and a number of others, we have little voice in the organization and no voice in who speaks and on what subjects, let alone what they say. Frankly, I think that’s how it should be. It’s one of the reasons I love this conference.
I wish there were more Inspires. To me, this is the conference format that works. Regional conferences put on by photographers in that region to teach and discuss topics that are important within that region. Thanks so much to all of the great folks who did the hard work to make it happen.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
Someone asked me the other day what the most surprising thing about serving the professional photography business has been. Truthfully, it has been that so much time and effort is spent by so many on so much that has so little to do with capturing great images. Think what would happen if a contractor spent all of her time online commiserating with others about how little framing business there is since all of these new contractors came along or if an accountant chose to offer marketing seminars for accountants instead of doing accounting? It’s funny. Do you know who teaches marketing seminars at accounting conferences? Marketing professionals. Do you know who teaches accounting seminars at marketing conferences? Accounting professionals. Doesn’t that make just a little more sense?
With those things said let’s talk about the problem - the thing that really seems to drive the established photography community batty. In a nutshell that boils down to, ‘why do all of these people who really know nothing about photography teach photography seminars?’ Why do people pay for them? (I also wonder when I hear these relative diatribes if there isn’t a little, ‘those people should be paying ME.’)
So with the preamble out of the way, let’s talk a little about seminars. This is meant both as a qualifier for attendees and a heads up for teachers (and those who wish they were teaching).
- Seminars and workshops are a buyer-beware world. There are many great teachers in this marketplace and there are many people who shouldn’t be teaching at all. As a rule, if someone tells you there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to capturing great images or that there is a sure-fire “if you follow these steps you will be happy” method they’re leading you down the garden path. If you don’t know what that phrase means you may be easy to lead there. If you take everything they say literally and apply it to your shooting or your business and you fail, it’s your fault. Not theirs.
- Before you pay someone to consult for you make sure that the person you are paying is qualified to teach. Just because they are well known or have a lot of twitter followers doesn’t mean they are an expert. Getting bad advice for free is bad enough. Paying for it is worse. If the person is going to give you business advice what are their business qualifications? If the person is going to give you marketing advice what are their marketing qualifications? Did they REALLY build a great photography business? If so, why do they have time to teach? How much of their time is spent on each thing and how is what they know relevant to your business, your shooting style, your target clients and your region?
- The hardest part of this business is keeping the fire. The only thing that drives me battier then new photographers bellyaching about how hard the business is is old photographers bellyaching about how hard the business has become. There is no easy path. This is a business, not daycare. To continue to be successful over time you must continue to grow and change. It wasn’t easy when you started and it’s not easy now. Are you going to get up and get moving? If you don’t your failure is on you. Seminars aren’t the reason it is hard and ‘lots of new photographers‘ isn’t either.
- If your photography business isn’t giving you the living you want, teaching photographers to be in business should not be the thing that does. There are a few notable exceptions but these are all people who came from teaching in the first place. There must be somebody out there teaching you all that the way to make a living in the business of photography is to spend a year or so spinning up a brand and then go on the road and teach photographers how to do it. This business model is unsustainable. If you have to ask why that’s a problem.
- Your greatness is capturing beauty through the lens. It is not speaking or teaching seminars or in anything else. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but the best of you are mediocre speakers. If you don’t believe me then you’ve never heard someone truly great. Many of you know your subject matter well and that has value and I commend it, but you still aren’t ‘speaking’ stars. At your best you are image-capturing superstars whose work inspires less talented souls like me to wish we had the skill and vision you have. Why isn’t that, and a solid business built on that, good enough? Why do so many of you want to mess it up with ‘fame?’
Just because this business has an art as its basis doesn’t mean it isn’t a business. To be successful in business you must be great at what that business is. Anyone can get into a business, but only those with the skill to satisfy their customers can stay. Do you have that skill? The only person who can truly answer that question is you. (and your clients). And that’s something to think about.
ETA: Folks. I deleted the comment thread attached to this post. Frankly I think we all wanted it to go away. Breathe. Eyes Up. Move On.