Our Studio Makeover with PPA (Warning: this is kind of long)
One of the easiest things about photography is well…the photography. Granted, it’s come with a lot of studying and practice but for the most part it’s all learned and can be very methodical. For years the aspect I’ve struggled with is the business side of the business. There are so many areas you handle as a small business owner that if you miss a step or get focused on only one part of it you are left with an unhealthy business and possible a business that will fail. The Small Business Association noted that 50% of all small businesses close their doors within the first 5 year. What a scary stat! For years I had heard similar stats and with no backup plan to replace the income, it made me question my business practices…what was I doing wrong and right?
I want to be honest here. After I left my job and started doing photography full time I struggled with running the business. I had never run a business, held a position where I oversaw a business, and even though my degree was for business it was specific to finance and being a stockbroker. I didn't handle my books correctly (so thankful for my accountant), I didn't know marketing and even now there are things I'm learning. So if you’re like me, hang in there. There have been times where I have been so discouraged because things weren't happening the way I was hoping and funds where tight. I can recount one time (although there have been many) about 5 years ago where I lay in bed awake at 2:00 am praying and journaling on my phone, asking the Father to help me run this business and to provide someone to help me learn it.
Something you should know about the Photography industry is that everyone is full of knowledge and there are photographers everywhere that will sell you their knowledge “this is how I made $100k and you can do it too”. As someone who doesn't know the in’s and out’s this is super attractive; quick fixes for cash and you gamble sometimes big hoping it will work. If it doesn't work you’ve lost money that could have fed your family and there are many photographers that fall into this…I was one of those. I noticed a trend I was heading down. I’d see this and that and think it would work but all the while there was something missing. I was missing the foundations! There are certain things that every business is built on and if you don’t know them then you will fail eventually.
Let’s fast forward 5 years. I am part of PPA (Professional Photographers of America) who is a big advocate on knowledge in both the technical side of Photography as well as the business side. I had heard and read about an arm of PPA called the PPA Business Consulting which is geared at teaching photographers how to run their businesses and to learn where they are at on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. After months of debating and wondering if this is just another shiny object with not benefit, I gave them a call and set through an online weekend business class for beginners. It was so full of info that I was able to start working with but I felt the need to take it one step further. I wanted to sit down with someone on a quarterly basis and give me advice, a consultant if you will. What better time to do this than when Meg and I decided for her to stay home and work with me? So I touch based with them, filled out and gathered a lot of info about the business and set our first meeting.
The night before the meeting the full weight of everything was hitting me; Meg was leaving her job which meant that our livelihood was on the business, Eli was about to be born in a couple of weeks and I had no idea what to do if I failed. The idea of failure just railed at me…would we lose the house, would I be humiliated, would we…? So I took it to the Lord and poured out my heart; He reminded me He would meet our needs no matter success or fail and that I only wanted to give Him the glory and I simply asked for His help. As the meeting began it was a little unnerving; I was showing these people how I run my business, my practices and how little I knew. Think of it like this, you are giving complete stranger’s unrestricted access to see your “house”, and it’s a complete mess. By the end of my meeting I felt comfortable with my decision. I felt like I was on the path to learning the foundations and establishing Wes Roberts Photography as lasting brand. At the end of the meeting the consultant asked me a question that just floored me. PPA was doing a new project called Studio Makeover which would team up 2 studios with top studios and photographers around the nation to mentor them for a year and would I be interested in participating in it. The mentors and PPA would evaluate the studios current stance and what their goals were and help formulate a plan, all the while teaching the studios the foundations of business operations. I nearly burst into tears and told her what I had prayed about the night before. I was so blown away and still am at what The Lord is doing.
So now! We are two months into the mentorship and learning tons in each meeting. I’m sure there will still be ups and downs and that there will be many lessons learned. Stay with us as we give updates about how things are going and what we are up to. If you're a photographer reading this, I’m going to advise you to call PPA and look into their Business Consulting; it never hurts to have help from those who know. Keep in mind, we should be business people first and then a photographer
Here's the article about the makeover. http://www.ppa.com/ppa-today-blog/2-studios-are-getting-a-full-b.php?utm_source=click_thru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ppatoday#content