All through my professional career I have been inspired by other photographers and accepted guidance on creative and business direction from other professionals outside of photography. It is very rare that a talented creative is also a talented entrepreneur or business leader. Some people say that the two don’t mix and I am inclined to believe them. That is not to say that great photographers can’t make a lot of money, of course they can, but it takes the business brains as well as creative talent to enable that to happen.
In the late 90’s I wanted more profit from my photography and I enrolled on a training programme from CPT. Contemporary Photographic Training was run by Annabel Williams and Catherine Connor. Annabel, like me, is a flamboyant, confident, artistic photographer with the knack of making it all look easy. Catherine on the other hand is a business guru with a thorough understanding of retail. Catherine was the missing ingredient from my business at that time and with her help, Julie and I created a very successful career in wedding photography. We put together a formula with a fabulous profit margin and all we needed to do was duplicate it 350 times :) Very little changed in our product offering over the 9 years or so that we shot weddings. It didn’t need too. Years of sustained growth in the economy provided us with a constant supply of city bankers, stockbrokers, and lawyers to be our clients.
Throughout the wedding years we needed to monitor the finances very carefully. We also had to keep efficiency at its peak and keep our costs to a minimum. We pulled out of all competitions, kept our heads down and got on with exceeding our clients expectations. Catherine had taught us not to aim to please other photographers or stoke our ego but to put customers first. We delivered a consistently high quality product in quantity, over a sustained period of time.
By year seven of shooting weddings we had to plan an exit strategy (for personal reasons) and Gregory Haddock came into our lives. Gregory is a top business coach. Like Catherine, he is an inspiration and has very good people skills. Julie, Gregory and I immediately got to work developing both a portrait business and a training business in parallel. I learned a lot about life in the process and the handover was not without its moments. Going from one very profitable business to another takes hard work and gritty determination. We tested and measured everything. I became an expert in using Excel and for a while spreadsheets ruled our business life. We had targets, 90 day plans, cash flow forecasts, product price calculators, project analysis reports and so on. This was absolutely necessary as I usually had my head in the clouds. I also had an air of optimism and a penchant for expensive kit that had to be curbed. Gregory understood our operation inside out and gave our life and business a new direction. He identified the route to the loot, and established a working pattern to give us every evening and weekend off.
Top advice comes at a price and it takes a serious amount of action on the part of the recipient for a good return on investment to happen. Spending an inspiring day with a mentor can leave you with ideas buzzing around your head. You need to act fast (within 24 hours if possible) to formulate a plan to implement the ideas and strategies generated.
Here are a few truths about business coaching:
The givers of the advice don’t do the work, the receivers do.
The more the advice costs the more drive the recipient has to act upon it.
The price of the advice is no guarantee of its value.
Not all business strategies work for all people.
A few dos and don’ts:
Do seek advice and guidance rather than bury your head in the sand.
Don’t employ a business consultant who is not successful in their own business.
Don’t employ a consultant if you don’t have the determination, the drive and the time needed to succeed.
If your life is well balanced, the mortgage is paid off, you have plenty of family time, great holidays and true happiness, you don’t need help either. Enjoy it.
At my last meeting with Gregory, we discussed the state of our industry as a whole and I asked him if he would consider delivering a powerful session of valuable advice and expertise to a room full of photographers. I told him we needed to get the price point below £100 including a good ‘Lovegrove quality’ lunch and he said okay. So we booked a hotel, near Heathrow, arranged the lunches, planned the event and now it’s up to you. This guy is a genius, like no other I’ve come across and will leave an impression on you and your business forever. Click here for more information.