Friday, December 21, 2012

What's Next is What's Important

Many people have asked what the next thing may be for me.  While I am not yet ready to name it specifically I will say that I’ve made some pretty big decisions and that it’s time to return to my roots in serving small business and rather than taking over an existing company, this time I am working with some like-minded friends to found our own.

We had a long meeting a few days ago and those who know me know that if I am going to stick around for a long meeting the subject matter will be something that is near and dear to my heart.  It is true.  I have a deeply rooted respect for the folks with the courage to found and stick with small businesses of all kinds and have successfully built companies whose specific focus is to find ways to help these businesses succeed.  This new company will capitalize on what I and the folks who are partnering with me have learned along the way.

In our meeting we came up with several core assumptions describing why we are doing what we’re doing.  These assumptions are:

  1. 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.
  2. The pursuit of that dream is a lonely one and success is rooted in an effective support system.
  3. Small business people are visionary experts in their chosen field of practice.
  4. The only effective way to serve small business is through connection and collaboration.
  5. Small business people don’t need tools, they need solutions.
  6. The internet creates leverage-able crossroads for efficient communication.
  7. Readily available, best-of-breed solutions are more than sufficient to serve most small business needs.
  8. Time is any small business person's most important asset.

The business built around these assumptions will leverage today’s workforce in ways that directly address the characteristics of the emerging working generation.  The founders understand and respect the desire for flexibility and the opportunity to pursue one’s own dreams while at the same time creating meaningful value for the company and its customers through focused and efficient contribution at work.  Rather than having to change an existing culture to address these needs we have the benefit of establishing a culture that leverages them.

The business built around these assumptions understands that it’s path to success is directly tied to the success of its customers.  It is built to leverage the recommendations of its existing customers as its primary new customer acquisition channel.  It is built to be responsive to customer feedback, with an understanding that our customers know their needs better than we ever will.  It is built with ears to hear and eyes to see these challenges as opportunities for the creation of new and better solutions and it is built with a core belief that relentless refinement, invention and reinvention will pave the way to success.

I am excited about the coming year.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When the good things come to an end ...

If there are good reasons why some people die and others live I would love to know what they are.  Too often in my experience it isn’t just the good people, but the best people who seem to go young.  With too much of life before them they’re gone.  I have to admit, it makes me wonder.

Don Rhymer is such a man.  Giving without needing thanks.  Funny, but always in a self effacing way.  I wish I’d known him longer.  Knowing him made me a better person.  He’d hate hearing that.  It’s how he was wired.  It was never about him.

Just a day ago or so my friend Don lost his battle with cancer.  In the end he was with his family and his closest friends.  Everyone says it is better that he is gone.  In one sense it is.  His suffering is ended.  In another sense it isn’t.  Death is so final.

Don would say we’ll see him again and I believe that.  He was that good a man.  If there is a heaven Don is there.  No question about it.  I think though that somehow he’s probably still thinking about us.  Looking down and wanting to give, help, laugh, touch, listen, live.  That's the way Don lived his life.  If there is a way to help, Don will find it.  That’s how he is.

Sadly, the power of life and death was not bestowed on me.  Mine is simply to wonder.  I know though that if I am to truly honor Don then what I need to do is stop focusing on this thing that I can’t change and start finding the things I can.  Don found humor in the worst of circumstances.  From the depths of his pain he also found and exhibited real love.  There are lessons in that and, perhaps, it is these lessons that I am meant to ponder.

I nearly always say at the end of these things that what’s next is what’s important.  Today I don’t think that’s the case.  Just for now, what’s past is what’s important.  I can leave what’s next for tomorrow.

Goodbye my friend and thank you for the time we shared.  I’ll miss you along the way and will love and help those you loved as best I can.  It’s what I know you would have done for me and, I guess, that’s going to have to be enough.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

An Update for Don's friends.

My friend Don is battling cancer.  Many of you know him and many only know him through the blog he keeps, “Let’s Radiate Don,” a sometimes hilarious, always poignant account of his battle.

Lately things haven’t gone as well as anyone would like.  Most especially Don, and right next to him Kate, his lovely and amazing wife and of course, right behind them their equally wonderful children.  Don and Kate and their kids are known to many, many people and we all want to help.

It’s hard isn’t it?  At least it is for me.  What can I do?  How can I help?  It’s especially hard when the fact is that there isn’t much to do.  I am not equipped to give the help that is needed.  

For those who want to know how Don is doing I will tell you that he is resting comfortably and he has been with the people he loves the most, his family and his very close friends.  He isn’t in much pain and he is able to converse at times and not as much at others.  I don’t think he would want to share much more than that.  It’s funny.  When we really think about it, we don’t need to know much more than that do we?

Kate is also with her family and with her closest friends, including, much of the time, Don.  Classically, one of her big points of stress is an inability to answer all of the loving offers of help she gets via text, voicemail and email.  I think she wants those who know her to know that she knows you are there and she is grateful and she needs time and space, if for nothing else than just to give as much of both to Don at this point as she can.

We never know quite what to do in these times do we?  Prayer seems such a hapless pastime.  Is God really there?  Does He really care?  Don would say yes.  Perhaps that should be enough for all of us.  What His response will be is, as in all things, up to Him.  That is not a reason not to pray.

I also know Don well enough to know that the last thing he would want is for everyone he knows to be sitting around worrying about him.  If you truly want to help I think he would say, find an excuse to laugh.  Hug someone you love extra hard.  If you need a little encouragement read one of his classic blog posts about his oncologist who hated him (but turned out ok) or swallow therapy.  

Don’s not gone.  He’s here among us.  He’s fighting. What tomorrow will bring is tomorrow’s business.  For today I choose to celebrate my friend and to say a prayer and focus love and strength on Kate and Dave and Kathy... And it’s my birthday, I should get at least one special wish.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to Grow Your Small Business

Understanding the options and uses of the various social media channels is a challenge for any small business.  In this area pretty much anyone from my generation (those over 35 to be sure) would strongly agree that younger folks have an advantage.   Those (damn) kids grew up with Facebook so they know how to use it.  For anyone who’s a little older, no matter how long we’ve been on we always feel a little like we’re visitors in a foreign land.  (this is actually good, and I’ll get to why in a minute).  Here’s the thing.  The biggest mistake any small business can make is to ignore this important new channel.

If the bridge to success in new world marketing is connection with customers, social media channels are the elements on which these bridges are built and sustained.  Most of today’s small businesses get this.  The problem is figuring out how to pull the strings to get the results you seek.  Many make the mistake of simply putting up a quasi promotional Facebook fan page and establishing a pithy twitter ID and then wonder why no one cares.  

The biggest thing to understand is that the connection that occurs when social media is used best is not a connection between a customer and a business.  It is a connection between people.  Businesses post quasi advertisements on Twitter all the time promoting specials, new products, etc.  While in very rare cases these announcements may have an impact, in most they won’t and so the business decides that Twitter doesn’t work.  That’s a little like deciding a cordless drill doesn’t work when you try to use it with a dead battery.  You did nothing to ‘charge’ the audience and so the audience doesn’t respond when you attempt to connect.

To build an initial following it is a much better idea to enlist highly connected customers as your allies.  If you are releasing a new product, release it to them first.  Get them to tweet about it if they love it and then re-tweet their love for your product.  These ‘tweets’ (after while you get used to the vocabulary) will inevitably spawn questions from others and the power of your social web increases dramatically if you are vigilant and transparent in responding to those tweets, not as THE COMPANY, but as an individual connected with the company.

Some restaurants are beginning to learn how to use this to their advantage.  Imagine a customer’s surprise and pleasure when after tweeting that they are headed to the restaurant that night for dinner, the restaurant responds and lets them know that their favorite table has been reserved for them.  (and imagine what that says to everyone who follows either the restaurant or the individual).  The same can be managed in a connected world of Facebook where an image of a newly purchased pair of shoes from a local store can be followed up with a comment from the store letting the customer know how much they loved seeing the customer.  

Note that in neither case would I recommend following up the initial comment with a promotional offer of any kind. Doing so is a pretty major violation of the unwritten etiquette of social media.  You are essentially hijacking their comment and that’s a no no.  However, dropping them a note on their thread as any friend might changes the dynamic of your relationship.  You are no longer a faceless business.  You are their friend.  It is on these connections that social media gains its real strength.

In my next post I’ll give you some tips on effective ways to manage all of this (so you have time to actually run your business).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Social Media for Business. Demystifying a Powerful Channel

There are a lot of folks who purport to be experts in new world advertising.  There are few who really are.  The reason for this is simple.  Saying that you’re an expert can get you paid a lot of money by people who are trying to figure it out, and, no one has really ‘figured it out’ yet.

There is no question that for any business the process of getting your message across has become a much more complicated thing than it used to be.  When I first started in marketing, advertising was a pretty simple equation.  We used variables of reach, frequency and CPM to determine whether our message was getting to the people we wanted to hear it and we used tracking variables such as unique phone numbers, promo codes and sales incentives to determine whether the people we wanted to hear the message were moved by the message.  On that basis we could pretty easily determine whether we were making money or losing money on our advertising dollars.

Then came the internet and then came social media.  The internet by itself didn’t change much.  In fact, for savvy users it made things even easier.  I no longer had to rely on consumer behavior to know if my adds were working, I could track clicks.  And then came social media.

Personal recommendation is the true power of social media and engagement is the fuel that drives the bus.  The trick is that in most cases the way engagement is driven must be subtle and active.  Consumers should be invited to participate but they should never feel forced to participate and any sense of manipulation is death.

In order for social media to truly work, companies must establish an online personality and they must interact with consumers in their (this is to say, the consumer's) chosen media.  When a consumer complains about poor service via twitter, respond.  When a consumer posts an image of a favored product on Instagram, respond.  Encourage consumer information sharing and story telling via heavier media such as blogs.  

The real key to engagement is a sense of connection.  Connection is fed by acts of transparency.  Transparency is fueled by authenticity.  Trust is built through consistency.  For these reasons it is just as important for companies to “fess up when they mess up” as it is to celebrate when something is great.  Frankly, it’s MORE important.  What is really interesting about the emerging communications marketplace is that consumers understand that companies are going to mess up.  They’re even willing to forgive when it occurs.  In my experience, companies give consumers too little credit. So it isn’t whether or not you are perfect, it is how you engage when you are not.  I was always fascinated by the fact that I gained far more twitter followers when things weren’t well than I did when things were good.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting a series of social media oriented how to’s designed to help small businesses understand the value, nature, and use of today’s media channels.  Please feel free to ask questions, debate, etc., directly on my blog.  After all, that’s engagement, right?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's Not About Me. A Note to the Pictage Staff

It is humbling to read so many comments with regard to my departure from Pictage and the differences so many see in the company over the last few years.  To be honest these things aren’t easy for me to read.  I’m my least favorite subject.

Yesterday when I had a chance to address the team at Pictage there were some things I tried to say.  As hard as I tried when it came down to it I couldn’t hold back the emotion and I’m not sure they heard what I wanted them to hear.  

These two thoughts are connected.

It’s not about me.  

When I arrived at Pictage I had a fundamental understanding of business and a love for photography.  I knew nothing about the pro-photo space or what “pictagers” expectations for the company might be.  There were a lot of misconceptions.  These things are normal.

Many people asked me early on how I knew what to do.  My answer was always the same.  It still is.  I didn’t know what to do.  The team at Pictage did.  I listened to them and I listened to our clients and I found that I was hearing the same things.  All I really did was set them free to do what they wanted to do.  

In my first speech as CEO to a bewildered and deeply concerned staff I asked them for two simple things.  I wanted them to be honest with me about the challenges they faced and I wanted them to be willing to work hard to solve the problems we faced.  They didn’t just rise to the challenge, they killed it and in doing so created a groundswell of appreciation between our customers and the team that fostered true community.  There are few things I love more than seeing the personal connections they’ve made and understanding the shared passion to work together to create something great.

In my tenure I was unable to solve all of the problems we had.  Far from it.  To be sure, we changed the perception of the company in the marketplace and in doing so we greatly simplified customer acquisition.  In 2012 over 95% of new customer signups are referrals from existing customers. We have no overt marketing activities.  The service either works or it doesn’t.  When it doesn’t, no harm, no foul.  We move on.  But the fundamental challenge created by industry change remains.

Many people who have commented on the blog, on the Pictage Forums and in so many touching and heartfelt personal messages have expressed the same sentiment.  “Will the new guy keep it the same?”  Frankly, I hope not.  I think he’s smarter than me.  I think he’ll figure things out that I couldn’t.  I think he’ll make changes that will make the company even more successful and in doing so, bring even better services to our clients and to their clients as well.  I’m going to be doing my best to help him.

But as smart as he is, we won’t succeed on our own.  True success will simply build on the patterns of the past.  The people who will drive it are the people who DID it when I was the head cheesebag in charge.  (the title that most Pictage staff know is truly mine).  After working alongside of them for the last three years my faith and confidence in them is immeasurable.

It’s not about me.  It’s about them.  It’s about the unique relationships they share with each other and about the unique connection they (we) feel with our customers.  It’s about listening and studying and being willing to risk and change.  It’s about being open to being wrong and being willing to fix it when this is the case.  It’s also about standing up when you’re right and having the courage to say so.  They have all of that.  They had it when I arrived.  They have it as I leave.  I may have fed it but I didn’t create it.  All of that is on them.  They’re still there.  I’m hanging around to help them and to continue to be inspired by them.

That’s what I was trying to say yesterday.  Maybe it’s better to have said it this way.



Wednesday, August 22, 2012

All Good Things ...

Change happens.  It's kind of a theme of mine.  Many of you have heard me say it.  Still waters are dead waters.  That really applies to everything.  If the granite face of Half Dome is changing every day why wouldn't everything else also be changing?

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

Do You Have SDS?

Do You Have SDS?
The hardest part of being in any business, large or small, is decision making.  Different people handle this differently - no real surprise there - but depending on your personality type, where decision making is concerned, you can be guilty of one of two bad practices.  You either make decisions too quickly and live to regret them later or you become paralyzed and live to regret it later.
I have SDS.  (Snap Decision Syndrome).  Apparently there are pharmaceutical (kind of proud of myself for spelling that right on the first try!) products that can help me. I don’t take them.   Anyone who has worked with me for any length of time knows this.  I know this about myself and for this reason I surround myself with people who are smart and confident enough to tell me I’m wrong, to rethink, to wait, etc.  In really tough situations these people have to be adept at locking me in a virtual box for a while.  John Zdanowski, who I had the distinct pleasure of working with while I was at Affinity, used to walk into my office and say, “you’re not allowed to answer this question until tomorrow morning,” and then he would go on with his idea.  (That “Z” is also afflicted with Snap Decision Syndrome is the root of the 24-hour-cooling-off-period practice that we instituted when we were working together.  Those were fun days.)
I’ve had SDS for long enough to have spent plenty of time thinking about it.  (Usually when I’m trying to figure out how to get myself out of some challenge that I wouldn’t be in if I didn’t have SDS in the first place - but I digress).  I know that I have SDS because my greatest fear in business is indecision.  Makes sense, right?  I’m so afraid of not making a decision that I will make decisions too fast in order to make sure that my teams can keep moving.  The idea that there is some smart person sitting on her hands awaiting a decision from my office can nearly drive me insane.  She knows what must be done.  She’s provided a recommendation.  For whatever reason it needs my approval.  Make the damn decision and let her get moving!
If you have SDS know you’re not alone.  If you’d like you can stand up and say the following out loud (I do not recommend doing this in a cubicle).  “My name is _______________ and I have SDS.”  You’ll feel better.  Despite the existence of various depressive drugs that might help, the only real way to slow yourself down if you have SDS is with the help of smart, trusted others.  (The ‘smart’ part is important because if you have dumb trusted others they’ll just always agree with you or they will disagree with you for dumb reasons and when this happens your SDS will actually get worse.)  Your Smart team will help you avoid the downside ramifications of your SDS.
Here is a simple, three step process that should keep you (and me) out of trouble.  When you are about to make a decision ask yourself if you’ve done the following.
  1. Review all of the available information about the reason for the decision so you have a thorough understanding.
  2. 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?
  3. 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).
There is no cure for SDS.  One can only mitigate its effects.  Mitigation is a good idea because many of your ideas are bad ideas.  Don’t let that depress you.  You’re only human.  Not everyone can be as smart as me.
(By the way.  To my knowledge, SDS doesn’t exist.  I made it up.  There are therefore no drugs for it.  If someone reads this and then makes up the syndrome and then makes money on curing it I want a piece of that.  Good luck selling me something though.  People with SDS are notoriously hard to sell.  We’ve decided the answer is no before you even walk into our offices).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Clients are My Friends

“You talk about your clients like they’re your friends.”
It had been a while since I’d seen this friend and we were catching up on where we were and what we’re doing.  He’s way smarter than me, lives in the world of finance, makes more money, works less, etc.  He’d asked how things were going at work and I’d told him a series of fun stories.  The company’s doing fine.  Let me tell you about our members and some fun stuff they’ve been doing.
I told him about our member, Paul Morse, who so generously asked us to help deliver something very special to the wounded warriors who road in this year’s W100.  I told him about the chance we’d had to deliver some albums earlier this year, nearly overnight, so a newly married bride and groom could enjoy their wedding again on the night before he underwent life threatening cancer surgery.  I told him about our members who shoot for charities like Operation Love Reunited, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and so many others.  I told him we’re so deluged with amazingly beautiful imagery that the images that grace our walls, submitted by our members, are not their most beautiful, but their most meaningful.
I told him about the conferences I go to and the people I see there and the stories I hear.  He said, “you talk about your clients like they’re your friends.”  I thought about it for a minute and said, “more like family.”  
You see, the unique thing about Pictage is that more than any business I’ve ever run there is a symbiotic relationship between the company and its members.  Our success is tied together.  If you are failing it means we’re failing.  If you are succeeding we all celebrate together.  There are times when I get pretty frustrated with our clients.  There are times when I know they get pretty frustrated with me.  Some get fed up and quit.  I don’t blame them.  We’re far from perfect and we can’t serve everyone.
I get notes all the time from photographers who say they can’t believe that I stepped in myself to help to resolve a situation, make sure they’re taken care of, provide some general business help, etc.  I always tell them the same thing.  It’s my job.  It’s true.  It’s also my privilege. 
I may be the CEO of the company.  I may have a big desk and sometimes I feel like I have a big job.  None of that compares to the dedication that my clients have to have to their business.  If they don’t get up in the morning the work doesn’t get done.  Sometimes it feels like it’s all on my shoulders.  It IS all on their shoulders.  How could I not want to help someone who’s chasing that dream succeed?
My clients are my friends and I couldn’t be more honored to serve them.  I know many of them feel the same way about their clients.  I think that makes us all pretty lucky.  Even if we do bicker every once in a while.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Momentary Philosophical Diversion

Kind of a weird philosophical post today.  (and half my readers just ran for the hills - rightly so - don’t worry I’ll get back to my usual slightly acerbic self shortly so both of you will be ok.)
I think one of the things that happens to us as we get older is that more and more of who we are seems to be constructed of something hard, like girders and bricks or something, inside of us that can’t change.  When we’re younger it’s more flimsy.  The wind blows one way we bend that way.  When we’re older when the wind blows the ‘wrong’ way it’s just irritating.
A while ago, and I don’t know what drove it, I decided I didn’t really care about other people’s religious or political views.  I don’t care about their race, sexual preference or proclivity.  I don’t care if they’re tall and thin or short and fat.  (or tall and fat for that matter - short and thin is just creepy (-: ).  I really only care about one thing.  My internal barometer’s view of whether they’re authentically who they say they are.  People who are comfortable in their skin are people I like to be with.  People who are super insecure and people who are always trying to prove they’re somehow better tire me.
This doesn’t make me a great person.  Frankly, it’s an indication of how seriously flawed I really am.  I have my own views, my own political perspective, my own religious affiliations, etc.  I just don’t know that I’m right about anything and I guess the older I get the more I wonder about people who do know they’re right.  (this may freak out my pastor but honestly I think that’s a good thing every once in a while and it won’t be that big of a shock to him!).  I think sometimes people get so wrapped up in being right and trying to convince everyone else of their rightness that they forget the point.  I think that’s ironic.
This doesn’t mean that I’m some wishy washy soul who doesn’t have a view.  It means that I don’t care whether your view and mine are in alignment.  I’d prefer you didn’t either.  No matter how much you may belittle my view, insult people I admire, praise people I may or may not, espouse a social change program, etc., you’re unlikely to change the way I think.  You’re just the wind blowing in the wrong direction.  The harder you blow the more likely I am to decide you’re no longer worth my time.  Harsh?  Maybe.  True?  Absolutely.
I don’t think I’m a minority either.  Even though this more or less centrist view is rarely heard, I actually think there are a lot of folks like me.  These are people who tend to walk away when the shouting starts.  They tend to judge the judge as harshly as the judged.  I often wonder what makes people so great that they seem to believe they have a right to make others feel small.  Perhaps some are that great.  I dunno, the greatest people I’ve ever met don’t think of themselves as all that great.  They are the opposite of today’s social stars.  They are rarely famous for having sought fame.  They are famous for what they’ve accomplished.  Perhaps we should get back to that.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Professional Photography is Fun!

“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.”

This quote from yesterday’s post is the root of a lot of the challenges faced by new photographers taking the “professional” step.  The idea that professional photography is all about fun is an easy one to come by.  It’s fun to take pictures.  It’s fun to share them on Facebook, see our friends use our images for profile pics and the like.  All of these things are fun.  And there is certainly fun to be had in the business of professional photography.  Even the crustiest pro (and there are some really crusty ones) will smile and glaze over a little when you ask them about their last great capture.
With that said it is important to remember that the business of professional photography is first and foremost, a business.  Success demands hard work, investment, frustration, disappointment, humility, and determination.  And once you have success, the business isn’t likely to be what it may look like from outside.

Let’s get down to basics:

How a pro spends their time.
On average, around 90% of the time a professional photographer will spend in their business is spent without a camera.  That’s right.  The process of actually taking pictures amounts to about 10% of the total time spent.  While this ratio will change over time and photographers with more business (or larger businesses) tend to get more time behind the viewfinder, the simple fact is that the basic requirements of the business demand time.
What are these demands?  Marketing, scheduling, invoicing, accounting.  Researching product and pricing.  Selling.  Note that these are all non-shoot related activities.  In the digital era, editing has become a huge time suck.  For time, read money.  You can hire outside firms to edit for you and some do a pretty good job, but it’s expensive.  The average photographer spends about 125% of the shoot time editing.  Many spend much longer.  In general, the better you are behind the viewfinder, the less time you will spend in front of your computer.  However, many photographers choose this path, preferring to create solid work on screen rather than in camera.  Each to his or her own.
Add to all of this the fact that most photographers are very gregarious.  In fact, one of the keys to success in wedding and portrait photography is the ability to instantly connect with new people.  But the business of photography is, for the most part, a pretty solitary pursuit.  You have to be ok with that.  Sometimes it’s downright lonely.  To be sure, in time you will make friends of other photographers and I can personally attest that they are among the world’s greatest people, but you will spend much of your time alone, in front of your computer, working.
This may come as a shock.  You may not love all of your clients.  They may not all be great looking (and there is no corollary between the two).  Heavy folks will expect you to make them look thinner.  Women with worry lines will want to look worry free. Every man and woman knows every one of their foibles and that’s the first thing they’ll look for when they get their pictures.  If you’re good their foibles are there but they’re not front and center.  Are you that good?  Sitting down to edit images for clients you love can be fun and very rewarding.  Sitting down to edit images for clients you never want to see again is a chore.  Both paid for your services.  Both paid for your professionalism.  Both will give you good or bad references - the life blood of this business.
Here’s the last thing.  Every year brings the same challenges all over again.  Every year requires hustle.  Just because you have a great year this year doesn’t mean you’ll have a great year next year.  The marketplace changes.  Tastes change.  You’re a sole proprietor.  A marketing department isn’t figuring out where you should go next.  That’s on you.  There is little nest egg, no business to sell, no pension.  You simply have to keep going.
Pretty depressing huh?  Here’s the thing.  To a certain extent I’m most certainly writing this to discourage you.  To be honest, I want you to go and do something else.  If you choose to do this I want it to be more than a whim - more than a decision you’re making because you think it might be fun.
I can point you to a thousand photographer’s blogs where they talk about the work.  Sweat pouring down their bodies as they lug equipment around outdoor receptions on hot summer days.   Clients with unreasonable expectations.  “What do you mean you can’t accomplish my 653 shot list in 45 minutes while we’re having cocktails?”  “Why CAN’T you get a picture of my kids looking peaceful and serene?  I yelled at them and told them that’s what I want and after all that’s what I’m paying you for!”  “My fiance hates taking pictures.  Please make him look like he’s having fun even though he would rather have his thumbnails extracted than spend five minutes with a photographer.”  All of these things tend to grate on one’s soul.  
If you want to do this after all of that.  If you really think about all of it and you want to do it.  If you have that kind of passion.  The passion that makes you say, “screw what Jim thinks, I’m going to do this anyway,” then you’re on your way.  It’s not going to be easy.  It’s going to be expensive.  It is a lot of hard work.  If you’re willing to do all of that and you’re ok with not being rich, then you may find that professional photography is among the most personally rewarding of careers.  And if that’s the case I’m happy to help.  In fact, it’s my job.  So long as you’re willing to do the work.

Monday, July 16, 2012

So You Want to Be a Professional Photographer!

Yet another friend called me.  So excited.  His son has decided that he has found his calling.  He is going to be a photographer.  Do I have some time to meet with him to talk to him about it?  He would so value my opinion.
I called my friend.  I asked him, “What do you think?  Are you happy about this?”  He said yes.  Their son graduated from college two years ago with a degree in social studies.  He hasn’t been able to find work as a teacher.  They were at a wedding and he watched the photographers and decided he could do it.  He found out what the couple had paid.  He decided that was his calling.  Dad wanted to talk to me about what gear they should buy.  Son wanted to talk about how to get clients, marketing, etc.  I’ve been putting off the conversation with them.  This is my answer.
Deciding you want to become a pro photographer because you think it will be fun is a little like deciding you want to become a plumber because you like to play with water.  Photography, the business of photography, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, is rooted in a skill. It is the skill of taking pictures.  I know you’ve taken a couple of pictures that you and your friends think are good.  I know your Facebook friends compliment your pictures.  Woo hoo.  Get the ribbon out and run around the pole.
You have no concept.  No skill.  No understanding of light.  No training.  None of these things matter when the pictures don’t matter.  They all matter the first time you get paid.  They matter even more the first time you get paid by someone you don’t know.  They aren’t paying you to take the pictures their friends can take.  They’re paying you to capture something special.
I’m intimately aware of this because I run Pictage.  Our rather quirky place in the universe is that we serve as a sales agent.  A marketing system that promotes images captured by pro photographers to their clients, takes their calls, etc.  When it works, we see the good and great side of this industry.  We hear from happy clients who want to know just the right size for their wall art, etc.  We see stunning, amazing, images that, with 30 years of looking through a view finder under my belt, I know there is no way I could take.
When it goes wrong the calls usually start with a question like this, “Do these images look good to you?”  There is no call our customer service team fears more.  Especially when the answer is an honest, no.  (They never say 'no' by the way.  We serve our clients whether their work is great or not.  We just know if it’s not they’re not going to be around for long).  
Want to be a professional photographer?  Start by learning everything you possibly can about taking great pictures of people in all situations.  This will take a year if you can work at it full time and are really willing to really put yourself out there.  Buy gear slowly, and only buy once you know why you’re buying what you’re buying.  Then worry about marketing, finding clients, etc.  (and know that that’s going to be at least as hard as learning to take pictures.)
Tomorrow I’m going to write a post about the other major misunderstanding in this young man’s mind...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How Do You Know Your Creative Doesn't Suck?

There is a thread on the Pictage Forums where someone was asking for critique of a print ad.  I see questions like this all the time and this one got me thinking that it’s time for me to do another practical, ‘how to,’ marketing related blog post.

I had a job in college with a well known producer named Ralph Winter.  Ralph has become a good friend over the years but I learned a very important lesson from him (well, actually I learned a bunch) but one applies to creative analysis; Content, Structure, Style.  Ralph didn’t originally apply this to advertising, but when I got into advertising school at Pepperdine, this method saved me more than once.
For most creatives this is exactly backwards.  Most creatives start with style and then work backwards to structure and content, trying to figure out how to shoehorn the words they need into the cool graphic they created. That is a recipe for a bad movie and it is also a recipe for a bad advertisement, website, blog design, logo, etc.  Here's a better method.
Content, Structure, Style works this way.
What do you want to say.  By this I mean, what is the single most important point you wish to convey?  Take some time to think about that.  In an ad of this size you get to convey one, maybe two messages.  What is the single most important message for your target?  What is most likely to drive the outcome you desire?  Before you start on your creative, write this down.  Pin it somewhere.  You’re going to need it later.
What are the principle elements you will need to tell the story in a complete way?  Do you need an image?  A logo?  A graphic design?  Do you need words?  Take some time to really think about this.  I know you like your fancy pink scroll logo underscore thingy, but does it need to take a lot of real estate in this piece?
The actual creative process of developing your piece.  Obviously your style should fit your brand and be consistent with your site, blog, etc.  (so the consumer knows they’ve gotten to the right place when they go there from the ad).  The images you show should show the people you are targeting, or at least their archetypes.  The piece should be different (differentiated) in the context of the environment in which it will be placed.  If it’s a magazine and there are lots of businesses like yours how will your target market know you’re different?
Critiquing your ad.
If you started out understanding your most important message then your critique is pretty easy.  When you show your ad to someone else and ask them what it communicates to them is the first thing they say on target?  (Making sure the ‘critiquers’ are as close to your target market as possible helps.  I often wonder why photographers ask photographers what they think.  If you want to shoot photographers this is a good idea.  Why not ask past clients?)
When you first look at a graphic where does your eye go?  This is called ‘read order.’ Your eye will naturally go somewhere first.  Where does it go?  Does it go where you want it to go?  Read order applies to both text and graphics.  For a multi-element piece there remains only one read order.  Your eye goes to the graphic first and then the main text and then to the phone number and then to the secondary graphic and so on.  Does the first place your eye goes begin to convey your message in a clear way?  That's good.  What's great?  When the first place your eye goes conveys the whole message.
Obviously there is a lot more to this science then this.  I’ve found through the years though that if I just go back to content, structure, style, and develop a very clear idea of what I want to say ahead of time and then evaluate the creative with that in mind it’s pretty hard to go wrong.
I think you will to!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The 10 Second Rule is in Effect.

It’s funny but most people have no idea that underneath this calm, sedate exterior is a guy who can be temperamental.  Folks close to me know that I rarely lose my temper.  That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated.  When I do my sense of humor can get very acidic.  I can easily say pretty hurtful things.  I’ve learned over time though that doing so only causes more frustration.  Most of the time it’s better to not say anything at all.  Here’s how I do that.
Emotions are flighty.  They come and they go.  I meet some people who seem to live on a high, emotional plane.  They are either super happy, super mad, or super sad.  I think that would be exhausting.  They probably think living my way is exhausting.  Perhaps it’s just how you’re wired.
A few years ago I got mad about something and sent off a short, to the point, very direct email to a group of people.  Quite literally no sooner had I pressed ‘send’ then my inbox chimed and it was one of the people emailing me to say they were sorry and that they would make the wrong right.  Then they got my email.  Those folks and I never really got over it.  It damaged our relationship for the rest of the time we were working together.  While I felt my temporal emotion was justified, expressing it wasn’t worth the cost.  But how to keep from doing it again?
Here’s how.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

Luckily most people aren’t wired like me and so this is really idle advice.  Some are though and if it helps in any way that’s great.  Writing it this morning has helped me. Now I’m ready to get on to the next thing.  After all, what’s next is what’s important.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Proud of My Team Today

I rarely use my blog to talk about company stuff.  Lord knows we have plenty of outlets for that.  But today is different.  We’re launching Aspen today and Aspen is the culmination of a lot of work and ‘what if’s.’  I’m very proud of my team because they’ve worked very hard.  More importantly they’re proud of themselves.  In a very real way, Aspen is their dream, their vision, their sweat and it is, 100%, their creativity.
First off, since this is outside of the walls of Pictage let me kill a bunch of rumors.
  1. Pictage does not charge photographers per image.  We charge per page just like everyone else.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. Pictage does not take commission on wholesale albums. We don’t take commission on any wholesale sale.  
  6. 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.
Ok.  Enough of that.  I sat down with my team last year and asked them what they would do if they could go ahead and do anything.  They scratched their heads and thought about it (for the uninitiated, head scratching is a metaphor) and they came back and said they wanted to build exceptional products and sell them for low prices.  It would seem like you couldn’t do that.  We can.  The reason that we can is because we don’t spend lots of money marketing.  We already serve 10,000 photographers.  Their subscription subsidizes our product development efforts.  We can (and do) pass that savings right back to our clients.
Since then we’ve been on the product development express.  The Gallery Series was launched last August, featuring innovative print treatments like Acrylic and Bamboo prints, framed fine art prints, etc. Earlier this year we released Sequoia 2.  A simple, well made album for price conscious customers and today we’re releasing Aspen, an entirely new line of handcrafted books made with the best materials available but priced in a category that allows our photographers to make real money reselling these products.
Aspen albums are made right here in Los Angeles.  We’re excited about the product line we’re releasing, with new Leather, Acrylic and Silk cover options and lots of fun new colors and combinations.  We’re more excited that this is just a beginning.  We have plans for many new options including photographer-branded packaging, mat/flush hybrids, high relief cover leathers, all ‘green’ books, fine art books, etc.  All of these options are being put together to allow our photographers to create a book that is unique to their studio and their preferences and 100% branded to them.  None of our books carry any Pictage branding at all.  (Frankly, I can’t understand why anyone would ever sell an album by its brand.  Very few consumers will ever have heard of them and something that is branded to your studio can only be acquired from you.) 
When I say “we,” I really mean “they.”  For our team here this is probably the most exciting new product release in years.  This team is justifiably proud of the work they’ve done and they are excited about creating these books.  (I think they’re also excited about ordering them with their employee discounts - but I love that too!) Aspen is a real example of what happens when management gets out of the way and lets the smart people do what they think is right.  Congrat’s y’all.  Great job!
(and remember... what’s next is what’s important).

Monday, April 23, 2012

Grumbling is Good. (Even when we don't want to think so!)

Grumbling is Good.
“If you are grumbling then you aren’t a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”  “Don’t listen to people who grumble, they just tear you down.”  “All that guy ever does is grumble, I’ve gotten so I don’t even listen to him anymore.”  “She used to be really involved and now all she does is grumble.”
The hardest thing for any organization to do is listen to criticism.  In this day and age criticism is rarely offered in a straight forward, “you need to improve this,” statement.  Most often it is in the form of an email complaint, a social media comment (or conversation) or a third hand conversation.  However, successful organizations know that listening to the “grumbling” undercurrent is one of the most important elements of driving positive change.
Leaders often make the mistake of telling their constituents not to grumble.  After all, grumbling often focuses on the leaders.  It questions their skills, talents, motivations and efforts.  It’s insulting!  I’ve always found this kind of funny.  It doesn’t stop the folks from grumbling, they just stop grumbling in a way that you can hear.  (and when this happens you lose the positive input you might actually be getting from those who grumble).
There are two forms of grumbling.  Grumbling from people who just generally grumble and grumbling from people who genuinely care.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.  I don’t try.  Here’s my recipe for handling grumbling.  I’ve had a lot of practice so if you’re in a position where you are “hearing it” this might help.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
Ultimately, someone who grumbles compliments you.  It can be hard to see this when you’re in the line of fire.  (Again, trust me on this, I know this well).  Here’s the thing.  If they care enough to grumble it means they care.  If they stop grumbling it means they’ve written you off.  You may not care when things are good, but if you maintain that perspective for long enough you will regret the things you didn’t change.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Do You Refill Your Tanks?

Will Jacks corrected me every time I called it a conference. He corrected me again when I called it a workshop. Rebirth is neither. What is it? I actually don't know that I can really define it even after having been there. It's sort of a retreat, but with projects.


Rebirth is a different experience for everyone who attends. There were folks who were there this year who were there last year. I can see why. I, too, want to go back.

I made it clear that I wasn't coming either as a photographer participant or as Jim Collins, CEO of Pictage. I was just coming as Will Jacks and Chris Williams and Sarah Hodzic and Jess DelVecchio and Chris Pike's friend. I also had to admit to myself that I needed a break. We've been going 10,000 miles an hour around Pictage for about the last 7 months and my creative energy was getting really low.

There was nothing convenient about going to Rebirth. I'd been in Massachusetts for 10 days, flew home on a Monday, spent the night on Monday and flew to Memphis first thing Tuesday morning to drive 1.5 hours to Clarksdale. On Hwy 61 between Memphis and Clarksdale I drove through near biblical rain. I loved it. It was like a curtain that separated the baggage I'd brought from the experience I was there to absorb. What came next was what was important.


For me visiting Mississippi is always somewhat mystical. My Dad grew up on the coast just outside of Biloxi, 'dirt poor' (his term), and the son of an english teacher and a writer. I visited Mississippi when I was in high school and got my first real introduction to the deep south in a little town called Mendenhall. It is somehow appropriate for me that this is the place to go back to.


Will, Chris, Sarah, Jess, Chris Pike, Thom Bennet, Euphus (Butch) Ruth were this year's teachers. But in real ways everyone there learns from everyone else (present company perhaps accepted). While I was there I was reminded that it is in the doing of new and different things and sometimes in the act of being quiet that our mind has a chance to soar.


Friday, March 30, 2012

The Best Photo Conference... The One YOU create.

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

No More Anonymous

On my last blog post there was an anonymous comment. It was the only comment that mentioned a workshop by name. I find that interesting. I'm not going to allow anonymous comments anymore because I think the unwillingness to tell someone you think their workshop didn't work is a big part of the problem. There is the distinct possibility, however farfetched you might think, that they don't know. Hearing it might help them get better.

There is also this. The same experience may work great for one person and not work at all for another. I think it's interesting that the first person may become a dedicated evangelist for that experience and the second a vitriolic rock thrower. Frankly I don't think either extreme is all that healthy. It's a little like the Canon vs. Nikon discussion. One works for one and one works for another. Live and let live.

There is a respectfulness and conviviality in truthful discourse that makes us all better. In the end I guess that's what I'd love to see. If something works say so. If it doesn't work say so. Say it like this -"Yes, that experience didn't work for me because I didn't think the examples were applicable to my business." Don't say it like this, "So and so and so and so suck."

You'd think I wouldn't have to write this... Right? I probably don't. Now you can say I suck! Ha! But it's something to think about on a rainy Saturday morning with my dog on my feet.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Why is This Person Qualified to Teach ME Photography?

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).

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.