Now and then Facebook hits a home run. This morning I signed in and up popped "Your Memories on Facebook." There was a post I shared in 2013. I usually don't bother to go back and see what I wrote, but this morning's topic seemed even more relevant today.
As I read the post from four years ago, I decided to share it this morning, because there's such a good lesson here.
As you close the door on 2017 and kick off a new year, it's the perfect time to modify your attitude regarding your business from, "If it ain't broke don't fix it," to "If it ain't broke you haven't looked hard enough!" The holiday crunch is almost over and you're going to have time to think about this past year. No matter how good a year it might have been take a look at what you could have done better.
In 1987 I took over as president of Hasselblad USA. It was an incredible job and opened the door to the world of professional photography. One of the first projects on my plate was a new advertising campaign. I inherited a concept that senior management in Sweden had already approved.
The program was to drop all the photographic magazines and go after the serious hobbyist by advertising in National Geographic, Time Magazine's top zip code edition and the Father's Day issue of the Sunday New York Times Magazine. It was incredible, and it sent my ego to a new height, as I got credit for bringing Hasselblad's advertising to three of the most impressive publications in the world.
There we were in Time, National Geographic and the NY Times, but we only had enough money in our budget to run once in each of them! When the money was gone, if sales didn't come in, we were dead! Even more damaging was when we pulled all our advertising from the photographic magazines for the new campaign, the magazines cut off editorial support. Plus, this campaign was directed to high-end consumers and "Uncle Harry" only represented 25% of Hasselblad's business. We were no longer reaching our primary target. The ad campaign was, in short, a costly, ego-driven disaster!
A year later with a new plan of attack on the market, I was interviewed by one of the trade magazines. Every question about our new marketing plans I answered. We were reaching out to photographic schools, doing more dealer training, creating new promotional programs. The interview was published, and there were multiple headshots of me with members of our senior staff. I loved the article until I realized something...
It was nothing more than an ego trip. I was broadcasting every move we wanted to make in our business to our competitors. I couldn't have helped them more if I'd invited them to our planning meetings!
Okay, here comes the segue to your life as a photographer. Don't let your ego run your business. When you start to believe your own press releases you're in trouble. I'm not saying don't have an ego, but when you make decisions with your ego instead of your head, at some point you'll be buried in a sequence of bad events.
Think about your marketing efforts now. Start with your home page and your "about" section. Is it being driven by ego or customer service? It's critical for you to share why you're a photographer and open your heart, NOT all the awards you might have won. Awards are significant, and you earned them, but your client is looking for images that come from the heart and needs help deciding if you can be trusted.
How about your charitable efforts in the community? Don't be afraid to be an unsung hero. It's okay to be behind the scenes and not be the chairperson running every event. It's okay to give and expect absolutely nothing in return. The first time I heard Napoleon Hill's expression, "Whatever you give will come back to you" was in a presentation from Clay Blackmore twenty-five years ago. He talked about the importance of just being able to help people, and he's lived by that code his entire career.
Most important of all, when you get involved in any of the online forums, discussions at the various conventions or just conversations with friends are you able to check your ego at the door? Or, do you stay on a subject, and beat a dead horse? This might be the hardest lesson of all to learn, not just in business but in relationships as well - and yes, I'm speaking from personal experience. It's hard to recognize there may be another path when you're so convinced your viewpoint is the only direction to take. Don't be a "right fighter"!
And, when you're on the receiving end of negative comments about your images, follow my reminder in a tweet I shared this morning from my old buddy Dean Collins, "Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!"
The last thing I mean to do in this post is sound like I'm preaching. However, those Hasselblad experiences were some of the most important life/business lessons I've ever experienced. I'm sharing this so you can learn from my mistakes and leave room for new ones of your own!
You don't have to bury your ego, just keep it in check.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.