by Skip Cohen
I hate long posts, but now and then, it's necessary. However, I've written this first round with numbered bullets to highlight each point. I will have accomplished my goal if you only read the highlights.
While the Internet is partly responsible for many of the challenges, social media can't be blamed for bad behavior. Wannabe trolls hide behind the anonymity of their computer screens and send out a barrage of negativity they'd never have the nerve to share in person. At the same time, we tend to react quicker, especially when somebody challenges something in which we deeply believe.
There's nothing like the imaging industry. While we have our share of challenges with technology, the economy, and the changing face of consumer trends, with the exception of modern medicine, there isn't another group of people on the planet who have given the world more.
So, while I'm calling this the "Rules of Engagement," it's also my personal wish list of how I'd love everyone in the industry to interact with each other!
1) Follow Through: I'm tired of people and groups who promise us one thing and then never follow through. We're all guilty now and then, but a few people out there just don't stay focused. There's a big difference between forgetting to do something and never following through on what you promised. It's one thing if it's just between business owners and staff, but it's critical when you don't keep your promises to your clients and target audience.
"It takes roughly 40 positive customer experiences to undo the damage of a single negative review." Inc. Magazine - now think about that in terms of a customer who's upset that you missed getting back to.
2) Never Compromise on Quality: Whether it's an image posted on your website or just one of the hundreds in an album – if it's not your best work, don't show it. Nobody ever hired a photographer because of the number of images in their galleries! But QUALITY goes beyond just your photographs and videos - it's time to review all aspects of your business, from your website to your social media presence to your involvement in the community.
3) Don't be afraid to ask for help! It's one of the most important on the list. You're part of an incredible industry, and so many people are willing to help you through the challenges. But we can't help if you don't ask! So stop thinking everything you do needs to be a solo flight!
4) Don't be afraid to experiment! Now and then, you will have to go with your gut and try something new. If it doesn't work, you've got the opportunity to change and start again. But if you wait until everything is right, you'll never get going! Zig Ziglar is responsible for one of my favorite quotes,
"If you wait for all the lights to be green, you'll never get started on your journey!"
5) Call people back! If somebody has left you a voice mail, they deserve a response. Even better, use your phone now and then instead of email! It's called the back to your roots plan. I've blogged about it in the past, but a phone call rather than an email to a client or just about anybody can have an incredible impact. And if you've called somebody and they've returned your call, but you weren't available - don't let that return call slip through the cracks. Sometimes it's hard to avoid a volley of phone tag, but don't make it a habit.
6) Don't be greedy - but don't undervalue your work either: Price your products and services at a level in line with your market. Share the profit and the accolades with those people who have helped you grow. If you want to be a miser, realize you'll spend most of your life alone, even when people act like they're with you. However, at the other end of the spectrum is ensuring you don't undervalue your work. Remember ALL of your costs and price your work with a respectable margin.
7) Make your handshake mean something! The pandemic is behind us, and we're all back to shaking hands. But sadly, the younger generation seems to have forgotten how to do it right. My grandfather and father did business their whole lives on a handshake. I realize thousands of attorneys out there will tell me I'm nuts, but for the most part, I'm still doing business the same way. Sadly, we live in a litigious world, and you need contracts, but the symbolism of eye contact and a firm handshake still speak volumes. The same goes for the tone of your voice on a phone call or with Zoom, Skype, etc.
8) Smile More Bitch Less: It's that simple. Everybody has challenges, and there will always be somebody who can top your story about being miserable. But, even more important – if you're miserable, think about a plan to change whatever is dragging you down. And smile when you're on a call - it really does make a difference - you can usually tell when somebody you're talking to is having a great day or simply doesn't want to talk to you.
9) Surround Yourself With People You Respect. My grandmother used to say, "You're judged by the company you keep!" Photography and business are just like playing tennis with somebody better than you. Your game gets better as well. Look for people to bring into your network who complement your weaknesses. It'll give you a stronger "game." Success isn't exclusively financial - it's about your personal and family values, integrity, and keeping your skill set at the highest level.
10) Never Stop Learning: Technology constantly changes, and consumer trends are only a short step behind. You need to attend every workshop and convention you can. Take the time to watch webinars and listen to podcasts and READ. You've got to be on top of every change in your profession to be the very best. Never let your skill set stagnate, and remember - you'll always learn more outside your comfort zone!
I know it's a long post, but I'm still going tomorrow with Part II, which will get a little more personal. Here's my point: We're in an incredible industry - the job of helping people capture memories. If we work together, we can raise the value of that process and have more fun at the same time.
"Fun" is one of those words that's too often lost today in business. It's buried under the baggage of stress and poor communication. But it'll take so little to raise the bar and increase how often we smile each day. And as simplistic and naive as that sounds - what a kick if we do it!
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