“The most important part of a race car is the tires.
Good tires will always beat bad ones.
The most important part of a cup of coffee is the beans.
The grinder, the machine, the barista pale in comparison to the quality of what you start with.
And the most important parts of an organization are the people you begin with.
Not the systems or the policies or even the real estate. Great people make everything easier.
And yet we spend money on 4 wheel drive instead of snow tires.
And yet we upgrade our coffee maker instead of buying from a local roaster (or roasting our own).
And mostly, we run classified ads to find the cheapest common denominator employee and spend all our time building
systems to protect our customers from people who don’t care…”
I started noBs photosuccess back in January 2001 with James Hodgins. Back then, my busy studio was converted 100% to digital using a 3.2MB Canon D30.
I was shooting about 700-800 sessions a year, including families, babies, kids, commercial and over 30+ weddings.
All digital. No one was shooting or printing digital in those days. Except one older dude I met at a workshop.
He showed us how the pixel count mattered not so much. He inspired me in a big way.
Him, and Craig Minielly. Pioneers.
I was an early adopter. They helped point the way.
The industry told me:
“You can’t get anything bigger than an 8″x 10″ with those files.”
Meanwhile, my studio reception walls were covered with 20 inch, 30 inch and 40 inch samples.
All digital. I still have those images. One photographer walked in and said one of my images of a two day old baby looked like it was shot on a 4″x 5″ medium format film camera.
So needless to say, we called ‘bullshit’ on their claims.
There’s no point to this historical meandering, except to point out the underlying story that I believed in, and still believe in to this day…..:
That a business is an exciting adventure and a personal vision that expresses itself to the world like a drive-in theatre at night.
It is an expression of who we are.
And like any business, there are layers of struggles, challenges, skills (both innate and learned) that on average takes 3-5 years before you start to make some serious ground, lay a solid foundation and start reaping profits.
Sadly, in today’s day and age, many newbies don’t get beyond 1.5 years in photography. That’s the latest statistic I heard from reliable sources.
The truth is, and this is something I believe with all my heart and soul, is that business is a creation, a work of art, built on a matrix of marketing, selling, and personal vision.
For me, learning marketing and selling is everything. These qualities, like lighting, posing, composing images that sell, are all skillsets. We get better with time.
And, a constant on-going self-improvement regiment is key.
I believe in freedom. Freedom to basically choose what and where we want to go in life.
And I believe it is my obligation to improve myself constantly, everyday, every year, forever until I die.
Like I said, it’s an adventure. Sometimes crappy things happen and it seems like the entire universe is conspiring against me. Other times, everything flows, and events, opportunities fall into my path.
Assuming I am open, willing to spot these, and pick them up, then, and only then will progress be made. I said it a million times. It’s an inside job. We have choices.
When I look back at my life (I’m 58 now….busy, busy shooting still…running my studio) and I see the shit storm of events (much of which was self-imposed) I try to focus on the good stuff.
I came a long way and it wasn’t easy:
- I sobered up 25 years ago. That period was HUGE for me. It’s when I really, really started to make change. Facing my demons head on and taking positive steps was by far the best thing I could have ever done….yea, sometimes I wished I didn’t have to go through that. Or, that I could have done it sooner. But alas, one cannot live in ‘should haves’. Regret is poison.
- I started Toastmasters 25 years ago and honed my public speaking skills
- I started an obsession with marketing and became, and still am, the proverbial info-junkie
- I cleaned my messes, including my friends, finances and health
- I got married to an amazing woman and we had a child Danielle
- I believe that in order to stay healthy, both physically and mentally, I need to constantly be learning.Learning never stops. Learning how to get better, as a person (I still have a long ways to go in that area!), how to stay active, how to be the best human I can be. The best marketer I can be (marketing IS everything), have the best friends I can have, and be prosperous and creative
We seem to be living in crazy times. Everyone, it seems, is full of anxieties and more stress than ever before.
I believe social media, the interweb and a general inner drive to finally reach that elusive state of “I made it” (which is a big lie) is the root cause for many of us.
I still have a lot to do and a lot to give. The way I see it, as we get older, and hopefully wiser, it’s our, my responsibility to try and help others as best I can.
For me, there is no better path in life than self-improvement. This is the key, both personally and in business.
And, working with a group of great people (this point is really brought home if the quote by Seth Godin above…if you skipped it, go read it now…..)
Yours in photography and success,
P.S. On that note join us tonight with Chad Pennington’s presentation:
“How to interact with clients and get killer expressions in your portrait photography.”