If you’ve followed me for some time now and actually have a good memory, then you know what this time of year is. For those of you who don’t know, it’s my birthday time. My birthday was on Tuesday and every year I do a blog about my birthday or at least something I learned about myself.
This year I had some reflection on failures that I’ve experienced in business that have allowed me to improve upon my processes. It all came about while I was brushing my teeth. I started thinking about a few instances that caused me to either laugh or just shake my head.
For instance, when I first started my photography business, I never used to provide a complimentary consultation. Basically, I just spoke to them on the phone or via email, we agreed on the time, date and location. That was it. Oftentimes, I would show up at their home without really getting to know anything about them or even prepare them. Let me tell you, it was so uncomfortable meeting these people and then being expected to just start photographing them. Usually, it took some time for all of us to get warmed up. Also, they would be wearing outfits that I didn’t think were conducive to beautiful images but I had to photograph them anyway. After a few times of this happening, I realized that I needed to change things up. That’s when I instituted the consultation and started providing guidance on outfits, style and what they were looking for in their session.
Next, I openly trusted people to be where they were supposed to be. With that said, I allowed people to pay me for the session after the session was over. Meaning, they didn’t have to pay prior to my arrival at their home. Basically, it worked until it didn’t. One day I was supposed to photograph a woman and her son at her home but didn’t ask her for a retainer. Well, you guessed it, she wasn’t home when I got there. I waited for her for 45 minutes and she never showed. At that point, I decided never again. When a commitment can be made without anything to hold them to it, people tend to be rather lackadaisical about it. Sometimes people need to pay money to pay attention. Now, in order to even be put on my calendar your retainer has to be paid. This insures that you will be where you are supposed to be so that I can create beautiful memories for you.
The last lesson that I thought about was one that made me chuckle. This too was in the early days of my photography business. I had a really good client who made a wonderfully large order. I was so excited that I went home and immediately ordered all that he wanted. I think a few hours later or the next day, he contacts me and decides that the large canvas he ordered he no longer wanted. All of this was prior to him paying me. He paid me for everything else in the order but not the canvas. I was just kicking myself. What I learned from that was to never order anything for the client until they pay for their order. It also taught me to put in my contract that once the order has been placed there is no changing or cancelling of said order.
Lastly, from the same session where part of the order was cancelled, I learned something else…persistence. When I went to deliver his order to him, I also took the canvas he cancelled. Because it was in the afternoon right after school got out, I had to take my son and his friend with me to the delivery. It was late spring which in Georgia feels like hell’s front porch. So, it was, as a southern friend of mine put it, “hotter than cow spit”. I had them wait in the car with the windows down and the doors open.
I took the order in the house and then asked my client why he chose not to keep the canvas. He simply said that he didn’t think it would look right. I said, “Hold on. I’ll be right back”. As I was walking out the door, I saw my son and his friend playing in my client’s dry fountain. Trying to be quiet and be professional, I motioned angrily for them to get out of the fountain. That’s when I lost my balance and fell face first down the steps like a long, lean tree. It wasn’t funny then but it sure did make me crack up when I thought about it the other day. Fortunately, I didn’t hit my face on the stairs but I did scrape up my hands, side, hip and broke some toenails (open-toed sandals). Aside from that, I was alright. As I laid there, my son asked what happened and his friend whispered loudly that I fell down the steps. LOL.
Anyway, I got up, limped to my truck and pulled out the large canvas. Acting as if I didn’t just fall down this man’s stairs, I brought the canvas in for him to see. At that point, he said, “You know I can’t let you leave with that.” He asked me the price, I told him and he ran upstairs to get his credit card. Now, had I not showed him that canvas, I would have lost money on it and he never would have had the pleasure of hanging it in his home. What I learned from that experience is to make sure the client actually pays when they place their order and if they have an issue, try to find out the why behind it and address it. Be the expert that they need.
I know that was a lot but I hope you got something out of it.
~What is done cannot be undone, but at least one can keep it from happening again.” – Anne Frank