If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts—Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
One of the advantages of being a small photo studio or a single entrepreneur is that you’re small enough to make a quick U-turn. One look at the bloated bureaucracy of a company like GM (“let’s kill Pontiac”) is that it takes too long to make changes in the way the company operates. Photographers can make a complete circle in less time and space than a Mini Cooper. That’s the good news, but if you know me you know there’s must be some bad news too.
One of the insidious affects of success is complacency; the idea that the same amount of money you made last month will come in this month. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Let’s start with business cycles: Every business has them, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with the situation. One successful local portrait photographer operation was busy six months a year and used the rest of the year to plan marketing strategies for the next cycle and take it easy. But the owner had other ideas; she wanted to extend their busy seasons and looked for seasonal products and services to sell existing customers and maybe even a few new ones. The idea was built-around low-cost, no brainer items and within one business cycle, these new offerings had become a staple of the firm. These new products didn’t return the same per unit profit as her regular work, but provided income at times when there was none. Along the way, she picked up a few new clients who liked the cheapies and came to her when they wanted to spend more.
When my wife Mary and I were struggling in the early days of our business, our accountant, asked us. “What,” she asked, “can you do right now to make some money.” Step one was to become more aggressive in collecting past due invoices. Step two was to expand the services we offered. At a photo conference, Mary heard a speaker talk about the profits that were possible in school photography. Up to that time we has focused on working for corporations and large non-profit organizations, we established a school photography division that was headed by Mary under a different name to differentiate it from our bread and butter business. While slow starting, the division became so successful, that we were ultimately able to sell it (and make a few bucks) separately from our main business.
Change is inevitable; you must plan for it by being aware of what other directions you can take your company to survive.
Joe Farace is author of “Studio Lighting Anywhere” that’s available from Amazon and your friendly neighborhood book or camera store.